Deborah Marcus gently sways with the music as she sits at the grand piano in her San Luis Obispo living room and plays. A skilled pianist, she makes music flow through the house and beyond.
Next door, Jay Chester cringes from the sound. For him, it’s a constant barrage of noise — an intrusion on what he considers an otherwise peaceful refuge.
Both residents work from home: Marcus as a piano instructor and Chester as an Internet developer. They also have another thing in common: a shared dining room wall that connects their condominiums.
Coincidentally they both moved into their homes within months of each other in 2008.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The feud between neighbors has been escalating for years. It’s gone from friendly exchanges over the backyard fence to hostile encounters in the street and terse letters written to city officials.
Ultimately the fight led to the city’s revocation of the permit Marcus needs to teach piano lessons from her home.
But she’s not ready to give up. She appealed the decision to the City Council, which will decide later this month who will win the battle.
There is only one other permit issued for residential piano lessons in the city, and it has been held since 1999, said Brian Leveille, associate planner.
This is the first home occupation permit issued for home businesses to be revoked in the past five years, said Leveille, who called the situation “quite unusual.”
Both Marcus and Chester pleaded their cases before the city’s Planning Commission in December, which led to a 5-1 vote in support of revoking Marcus’ permit to give piano lessons from her home.
Chester argues that the “continuous cacophony of noise being produced by the grand piano on the other side of the common wall Mrs. Marcus and I share has been a constant nuisance.”
He’s made multiple short video clips — which he titled “piano pollution” — from his home to prove his point.
He also alleges that the continual coming and going of cars as students arrive and are picked up has proved to be a problem in their shared driveway and the nearby, narrow street.
Marcus says she has done everything she can to accommodate those concerns — including asking her clients to park in a specific location directly in front of her garage.
She claims that the cost of soundproofing her home, such as building an acoustical wall, is not feasible.
“On my side of the wall, there is a very large tapestry hanging,” Chester said. “I didn’t put it on my wall because I like tapestries. I went online to look for soundproofing options, and it said they help.”
But it still hasn’t muted the sound Chester is trying to be rid of.
Marcus is now offering to discontinue her use of the grand piano and use an upright piano on which to teach her students.
“It is a personal sacrifice for me as a musician to give up the use of this lovely instrument that I have owned for 45 years, but it is worth it to me in order to resolve the issue,” Marcus wrote in her appeal to the City Council.
Chester said that offer is not enough.
“This is just not the right environment for the business she is trying to run here,” Chester said. “The noise is constant and chronic. This is my home, my refuge, my sanctuary, and I should be able to enjoy it without piano music in the background.”
Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939.