Dozens of San Luis Obispo residents voiced concerns about what might happen to their property rights should a proposed ordinance defining standards for preserving historic properties within city limits be adopted by the City Council.
The council had not yet reached a decision at press time but was expected to give instruction to staff about changes they would like to see in the language of the ordinance, which would be brought back for adoption in coming months.
Several community members expressed apprehension about penalties that could be levied against homeowners for neglect of their properties, calling the ordinance too punitive.
San Luis Obispo financial planner and former state Assembly candidate Matt Kokkonen, who occupies a 100-year-old house, called the ordinance a “travesty of private property rights.”
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One resident threatened to sue the city should the ordinance be adopted.
Supporters of the ordinance said that preserving San Luis Obispo’s historic properties is important enough to institute the new law.
San Luis Obispo resident Robert Pavlik said that he thought the ordinance to be in line with other California communities and valuable because “we are only stewards of our historic built environment.”
Fellow resident Dean Miller agreed with Pavlik.
“I am aware that we live in a time where everyone has rights and no one has responsibilities — and I am not a supporter of that,” Miller said. “I think this city needs a strong conservation ordinance. ... It won’t scare me.”
The proposed historic preservation ordinance would be the first of its kind for San Luis Obispo.
The ordinance, drafted by the city’s Cultural Heritage Committee, 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.
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.
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.
About 175 properties are included on San Luis Obispo’s master list of “historic resources” — those structures that are deemed the most important. 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.
Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.