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SLO resident rocks the boat of front yard parking ordinance 

The exact location of a boat kept on a driveway at the end of a San Luis Obispo cul-de-sac is the subject of debate between the boat’s owner and city officials. That feud has been appealed all the way up to the SLO City Council, which will hear the matter on Sept. 1.

On May 11, 2014, the city received a complaint regarding a boat parked on the side of the driveway at 598 Princeton Place. That boat, which is kept covered and parked on a cement extension of the home’s driveway, was determined to be in violation on the city’s front yard parking ordinance.

click to enlarge A SLO BOAT TO CITY HALL:  The location of this boat on a residential property has led to a dispute between the property owner and city officials. The issue will be heard by the SLO City Council on Sept. 1. - PHOTO FROM CITY OF SAN LUIS OBISPO PUBLIC DOCUMENTS
  • PHOTO FROM CITY OF SAN LUIS OBISPO PUBLIC DOCUMENTS
  • A SLO BOAT TO CITY HALL: The location of this boat on a residential property has led to a dispute between the property owner and city officials. The issue will be heard by the SLO City Council on Sept. 1.

The law, enacted by the SLO City Council in May 2012, is designed to minimize eyesores like a cluster of cars parked in a dusty front yard or a line of cars hobbled half way up the curb, said SLO Community Development Director Derek Johnson. The law requires that vehicles be confined to the proper boundaries of a driveway or in appropriate street-side parking spaces.

“We have cases where cars will park cheek to jowl in front of the garage, so there might be three or four cars in an area that was designed for two cars,” Johnson told New Times.

The city’s issued several warnings, which are essentially fix-it tickets for parking violations. Johnson said the issue’s often resolved before it escalates to a citation, simply because most people don’t know the law exists.

“They move to SLO from Clovis, where you can park your Jeep on the front lawn,” Johnson said. “Once people know, they change their behavior.”

This is the first time that such a notice has been appealed all the way up to the City Council.

According to the staff report for the City Council’s Sept. 1 meeting, the boat’s owner, Joseph Gambucci, received a notice to correct on May 22, 2014. Gambucci then appealed that notice, which Johnson denied the following month, saying that the law was “intended to preserve the residential character of streetscapes in the city’s neighborhoods.”

Gambucci continued to leave his boat in its spot—the same place it has been since he bought it in 1994—and was issued a $50 citation after the city conducted a follow-up inspection in December.

Gambucci appealed that citation, and in May, the city Planning Commission voted 4-3 to uphold the citation. During that decision, the commission chatted about alternative legal places to put the boat and whether the cement slab beneath the boat actually qualifies as part of the driveway, according to Johnson and minutes from the commission’s May 13 meeting.

Now, the five-member City Council will be tasked with interpreting an issue enshrouded with technicalities, such as what exactly the ordinance was intended to regulate, what is and isn’t a driveway, and whether the boat should be grandfathered in.

“This is highly complex, and it shouldn’t be, but this is how the world of land-use has evolved,” Johnson said.

Gambucci declined to comment.

-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay

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