At first, the young man sporting shorts and slip-on sneakers leaning against the doorway was apprehensive toward the two city code enforcers and police officer standing on his porch.
“Why can’t we have chairs on our roof?” he asked defensively.
Aside from being in violation of a city ordinance, the officer politely explained, several accidents involving people congregating on home rooftops in recent years have resulted in injury.
As the resident realized that the trio wasn’t there to cite him but rather to introduce themselves, make him aware of possible code issues and to offer their contact information, his apprehensiveness turned to appreciation — though he was obviously bummed about his chairs.
The exchange was one of many on Tuesday afternoon for San Luis Obispo police Officer Larry Edwards and Neighborhood Services specialists Danny DelRio and Dan Liddell.
The trio was going door-to-door, canvassing the neighborhood immediately south of Cal Poly’s Yosemite Hall off Grand Avenue as part of a weeklong neighborhood outreach effort to inform new and existing residents — many of them students — about code enforcement and free services available to them from the city.
The city has shifted to a more proactive approach to code enforcement in the last two years, including the outreach effort, as well as reducing fines for low-level violations and adopting a 10-day warning period.
In 2012, the city hired DelRio and Liddell as two additional code enforcement officers for the Community Development Department’s Neighborhood Services Program. They concentrate on smaller violations such as abandoned vehicles, garbage cans, furniture on porches, crumbling fences and excessive weeds. The city’s two general code enforcement officers handle all other violations.
Given the annual move-in of Cal Poly and Cuesta students to the city, Edwards tagged along to promote the city’s Neighborhood Officer Program, which went into effect in December 2013. The program split the city into 13 districts and assigned specific patrol officers to each as a way to foster better relationships between police and residents.
As the trio stopped at each house, DelRio and Liddell introduced themselves, discussed anything they found on the property that could lead to a citation, and handed out contact information for services such as garbage removal.
Edwards would follow, letting the resident know he is assigned to their neighborhood, while providing anecdotes from his time patrolling the area and urging them to contact him directly for non-emergency issues.
Edwards also provided residents with the number for SLO Solutions, a free mediation service that can broker disputes between landlords, tenants, roommates and neighbors.
Most residents have appreciated the city’s new outreach effort, Edwards said — even students not aware of the city’s myriad regulations and ordinances.
“Every year, it’s a whole new group of people in a neighborhood,” he said. “You can educate them and they can be completely cooperative, but then they’re gone and it starts all over again. So I think the residents are happy to see us doing this.”
Though the effort -- which the city calls a Neighborhood Wellness Program -- has been around for two years, this is the first year police have been assigned to tag along.
“The idea today is education. Especially in this neighborhood, many of these students are not aware of these services, and we can inform them and address any (code) issues while we’re at it,” DelRio said. “It’s a win-win.”
Though DelRio and Liddell had already contacted some of the neighborhood’s residents in the past weeks over potential problems, no citations were issued Tuesday afternoon.
“With new students coming in, they might already have their first impression of the school, of the city, but this contact might be their first impression of enforcement. And we want it to be a good one,” DelRio added.
The city is focusing on student-heavy neighborhoods through Thursday, but the effort will continue in different city districts throughout the year.
For more information on the Neighborhood Wellness and Neighborhood Officer programs, visit the city’s websites at slocity.org/communitydevelopment/enforce.asp and slocity.org/police/neighborhoods.asp.