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SLO City looks to get 'proactive' on codes 

Citing such instances as the March 5 house fire on Buchon Street, where an illegal porch couch caught ablaze, members of the San Luis Obispo City Council voted to implement a new enforcement regimen aimed at keeping neighborhoods tidy.

On April 10, the council voted unanimously to move forward with a new proactive code enforcement policy that, according to city staff, won’t translate into new regulations, but will mean more eyes to enforce existing rules.

Community Development Director Derek Johnson presented a “Neighborhood Wellness Update,” which will emphasize a new timeline and fee schedule to correct issues with building codes so that enforcement wouldn’t be “complaint-driven.”

“This is not a set of new regulations,” Johnson said. “These are procedural changes only.”

The new procedure lays out black-and-white timelines for administering fees for code violations, as well as other neighborhood services issues such as furniture in the front yard, overgrown vegetation, and trash cans in plain sight after pick-up day.

The council did, however, concede that the changes might result in a backlash from residents, but concluded such backlash could be mitigated with a public-outreach campaign. Officials emphasized that the new policy isn’t about raking in administrative fees; it’s about ensuring compliance.

Councilwoman Kathy Smith was in favor of the new procedure, but favored a reduced fee schedule.

“We don’t want to come on like the Gestapo,” Smith said.

Mayor Jan Marx emphasized the need for proper community outreach before any warnings are to be issued, citing the diverse landscape of tenants and sometimes absentee property owners.

“I think this will be change for the better, but we have to keep in mind that change is met with resistance,” Marx said. “But I think pride in your neighborhood is a good civic lesson, and I think it’s important for young people to learn that. That’s how we do things here.”

The proposal will go before the council May 1 for final adoption.

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