The San Luis Obispo City Council will consider a new ordinance tonight that enables the city to fine owners of historic properties for flagrant neglect.
The historic preservation ordinance is the first of its kind for San Luis Obispo. It was drafted by the city’s Cultural Heritage Committee, an advisory body to the council.
San Luis Obispo has long had preservation guidelines, but not the ability to enforce them — which city planners say has led to the demolition of several historic structures over the years.
The proposed ordinance defines procedures and standards for preserving historic buildings within city limits and sets penalties of up to $5,000 a day for ongoing violations and the possibility of a one-time fine up to $10,000.
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Some community members have expressed concern that the ordinance unfairly targets owners of historic homes and will give the city too much control over their properties.
About 175 properties are included on San Luis Obispo’s master list of “historic resources” — those structures that are deemed the most important and unique properties. There are 500 or so additional properties on the city’s list of “contributing historic resources,” a designation that can be applied to structures at least 50 years old that are publicly visible.
All of those properties, including buildings located in San Luis Obispo’s five historic districts, fall under the proposed ordinance.
The measure allows the city to qualify as a “certified local government,” giving it the ability to apply for grants to assist homeowners with preservation work.
The proposed fines were purposely set high to deter owners of historic properties from extreme neglect that might lead to demolition because of safety concerns, such as buckled roofs and cracked foundations, said Kim Murry, the city’s deputy director of long-range planning.
The Cultural Heritage Committee reviewed similar ordinances in more than 20 California cities, Murry said, adding that penalties proposed in San Luis Obispo are higher than most but not all of those they reviewed.
In Fresno, people who violate the preservation ordinance face penalties up to $10,000.
“This ordinance is about preserving structural components and character of historic properties that are in danger of disappearing because of neglect or a lack of maintenance,” said John Mandeville, San Luis Obispo community development director.
Enforcement of the ordinance will be done largely on a complaint basis, Mandeville said.
The San Luis Obispo City Council will meet at 7 p.m. today in the council chambers at 990 Palm St.