Piano teacher's permit revoked by SLO City Council

A San Luis Obispo piano teacher is no longer allowed to teach students from her home after a decision by the City Council on Tuesday night in favor of nearby residents who expressed concerns that she made too much noise.

The council voted unanimously to revoke piano teacher Deborah Marcus’ permit, upholding the ruling of both a city administrative hearing officer and the city’s Planning Commission.

The decision ends a more than yearlong battle between Marcus and neighbor Jay Chester, who share a common wall in the neighborhood near Laguna Middle School.

The dispute escalated from once friendly, then hostile exchanges over the fence to desperate pleas to city officials.

“I agree that the piano business is important to our community, but it is important when established in the right location,” said Councilman Dan Carpenter. “It is why we have zoning laws.”

The council gave Marcus until April 30 to cease giving lessons in her home.

Repeated violations of the stipulations attached to the home-occupation permit that allowed Marcus to teach there — including not limiting where her clients parked and doing more to mitigate the sound of the piano — were cited as grounds for revoking the permit by city staff.

At the center of the clash was the use of Marcus’ grand piano — an instrument she played mainly for personal enjoyment and which was used by some of her more advanced students.

The remainder of her 30 students are taught on an upright piano, farther from the shared wall, and which was noted by Chester as not as bothersome.

Marcus pledged to the City Council that she would no longer use the grand piano and even offered to remove it from her home as long as Chester lived next door in order to continue her home business.

In a letter submitted to the council, Chester wrote, “From the first notes that Mrs. Marcus played on her grand piano, I have been consistently bothered by chronic barrage of noise coming through the common walls into my home and outdoor living space.”

Chester, who also works from home, argued that the continued operation of the business prohibited him from the quiet enjoyment of his home that he is entitled.

After hearing the council’s decision Tuesday night, Marcus said she will begin exploring other options such as going to her students' homes to teach there.

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.