SLO County's rules for outdoor events need update, grand jury says

dsneed@thetribunenews.comJune 13, 2013 

The San Luis Obispo Symphony's Pops by the Sea concert is among the numerous outdoor events that take place in SLO County every year.

DAVID MIDDLECAMP — dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

The San Luis Obispo County civil grand jury has weighed in on one of county government’s most vexing issues — how to regulate open-air events.

In a report issued this week, the grand jury found the current ordinance “outmoded, brief, vague and obsolete.” County planners and the Board of Supervisors have been struggling for eight years to update the ordinance, which dates to 1980.

The ordinance governs a variety of outdoor events that take place all over the county including weddings, concerts and festivals. A successful ordinance must deal with a complex range of issues including crowd size, hours, parking, public safety and alcohol use.

“The fact that a revised events ordinance has taken over eight years to produce and is still not adopted is testament to its complexity,” the grand jury noted in its 32-page report.

Further adding to the complexity of the issue is the fact that such events are a vital component of the county’s economy, but they also generate complaints from neighbors of the outdoor event venues, the grand jury found.

County planners say they hope to have an updated events ordinance ready for supervisors sometime this summer. The county has until Sept. 5 to respond to the report.

The grand jury made the following recommendations:

  • The Board of Supervisors should adopt an updated events ordinance this year.
  • The permitting process should be streamlined.
  • An ordinance should mitigate specific impacts of events such as noise, dust, traffic and parking.
  • All types of events should have same regulations regarding environmental impacts, public safety and community relations.
  • Code enforcement should monitor all large-scale events, particularly during the night and on weekends.
  • A nominal code compliance fee should be charged.
  • A system is needed to recover the costs of code violations.
  • The planning department website should provide more information about the complaint procedure and contact information.
  • A policy governing how long it takes to respond to a complaint should be adopted.
  • The planning department should keep a log of all code enforcement complaints.

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