San Luis Obispo City Council may crack down on noise

The San Luis Obispo City Council is scheduled to review and possibly adopt an ordinance that will crack down on excessive noise in residential neighborhoods in the latest town-gown battle to come up at City Hall.

The ordinance is aimed at noisy gatherings and is scheduled to be discussed at the council’s meeting at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

In September, the council expressed support for tightening up such noise rules, but also for getting tougher on partying and the landlords who own homes where noisy parties take place. Further action on unruly gatherings and punishing landlords who own houses that repeatedly have noisy parties is expected later in the year.

Specifically, police Chief Deborah Linden is presenting an ordinance Tuesday that would call for more punishment sooner for residences where there is excessive noise between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Currently, a residence can receive up to six warnings in a year, and be placed on the “premises list” leading to bigger fines for more noise complaints only if there are two violations in a 60-day period. The new proposal would put a home on the “premises list” after it receives just one disturbance advisory report.

But there is still some debate about whether such a home would remain on the list for a year, as staff suggested in September, or just six months, as student leaders have asked. Being on the list sharply increases the cost of additional noise citations.

Staff is now recommending a residence be on the list, which can lead to expensive administrative citations, for just six months. But the recommendation is being strongly opposed by Residents for Quality Neighborhoods, which wants a year-long list.

“We will see what the council wants to do,” Linden said. “That will be their decision.”

Issues of partying were discussed before a packed crowd in September, when the start of the year at Cal Poly was still fresh in everyone’s mind.

The start of school in the fall led to increased reports of excessive drinking, partying and large crowds roaming the streets late at night near the campus. Campus police reported making 42 arrests and writing 43 citations over the 10-day period between when dorms opened and school started, while city police made 30 arrests and wrote 95 citations.

The noise issue illustrates the perceptual, and seemingly perpetual, rift that exists in some neighborhoods between college students and the more established residents who often are longtime renters or own their homes.

Other adjustments to noise rules recommended by staff include: Creating a process for early removal from the problem list if new tenants move in; allowing the issuance of citations to property owners; and creating more consequences if residents refuse to answer the door when officers or student assistants hired by the police respond to a complaint.