40 students displaced after safety violations found at SLO condos

acornejo@thetribunenews.comFebruary 12, 2013 

San Luis Obispo city officials tagged the Pine Creek condominiums for safety violations.

DAVID MIDDLECAMP — dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

Forty college students living at the Pine Creek condominiums in San Luis Obispo were displaced Tuesday after city officials declared their housing unsafe.

The majority of the two-bedroom, two-story condos had been illegally converted to four bedrooms. Students were found to be living in small loft spaces next to water heaters and forced-air furnaces.

Substandard housing for students has long been a concern in San Luis Obispo because of the safety hazards caused by overcrowded living spaces.

The city’s Community Development Department and the Fire Department’s Prevention Bureau inspected a condominium at 1185 Foothill Blvd. after a resident filed a complaint saying the clothes in her closet were getting hot.

Fire inspectors found that a loft, approved for storage, had been illegally converted to a bedroom.

The closet where the resident was storing her clothes was a utility closet housing the gas water heater and forced-air furnace, which posed a risk of significant safety hazards, such as carbon monoxide poisoning, asphyxiation or fire, according to city officials.

The room was also in violation of a building code requiring an emergency escape or safety window.

City officials inspected an additional 32 units over a three-day period and found similar violations at all of them.

In addition, the dens at many of the condos had been converted to additional bedrooms.

The city sent letters to the individual condo owners notifying them of the violations, said Derek Johnson, community development director.

Four more condominiums will be inspected this week.

Thirty-nine Cal Poly students and one Cuesta College student living in the loft rooms were told it was no longer safe to sleep there. The homes have been posted with notices of violations mandating that the students must vacate the unsafe rooms.

The city is working with Cal Poly and Cuesta College to find temporary housing for students who may not have any other place to go.

Those who were renting regular bedrooms in the units can continue to stay in them, the city said.

According to city officials, the landlord is financially responsible for fixing the code violations and paying any costs for temporary housing or relocation resulting from the substandard housing violations

Johnson said it was unclear when the lofts had been added to the units but suspected that it was more than a decade ago.

In 1994 a complaint was made to the city about an uninhabitable area being used as a living space at that same complex.

However, the case was closed because city officials did not have enough information to get an inspection warrant, Johnson said.

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.

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