SLO planning guest house rental ban

July 4, 2014
The view of San Luis Obispo from Bishop's Peak

The view of San Luis Obispo from Bishop’s Peak


The San Luis Obispo City Council has given initial approval to an ordinance that would ban many property owners from renting out their guest houses.

The council voted 5-0 in support of the ordinance, which contains several changes to residential regulations in the city, including a new definition of a bedroom. City planners say the ordinance is intended to ease overcrowding and parking issues in residential neighborhoods, as well as to combat the growing trend of property owners converting areas within homes into bedrooms without obtaining city permits.

San Luis Obipso municipal code distinguishes a guest house from a secondary residential unit primarily based upon whether a kitchen, or something resembling a kitchen, exists within the structure. Guest houses do not contain kitchens while independent residential units do.

If the council passes the ordinance upon its second reading, it would prohibit property owners from renting guest houses to tenants separate from the ones occupying the primary residences. The ordinance would likewise prohibit anyone from sleeping in guest houses unless the homeowner is living at the residence.

However, the ordinance grants exemptions to property owners who have already obtained permits and city approval for their guest houses.

A second section of the ordinance redefines bedrooms to include offices, studies and other types of rooms often converted into sleeping quarters. By changing the definition of a bedroom, planners aim to prevent property owners from exceeding density requirements through unpermitted bedroom conversions.

The change will not affect properties currently in compliance with city code, but it will likely impact new apartment and condominium developments. Apartment buildings in San Luis Obispo are limited to a certain number of bedrooms, while single family homes are not.

Last year, illegal conversions of dens and lofts into bedrooms displaced 40 college students from their residences at the Pine Creek condominium complex. The conversions violated several city codes, including the density limit for the complex.

Between 2008 and 2103, city inspectors caught 61 unpermitted conversions of spaces inside homes into bedrooms. They also discovered 57 unpermitted conversions of guest houses into independent living units and 153 conversions of garages into living spaces.

But, city staffers say many more illegal conversions are taking place, and they are struggling to catch violators. Often property owners submit work plans to city staff for approval with the idea in mind of altering the project after inspection, planners told the council Tuesday.

The planners said that the unpermitted conversions create safety hazards and parking issues in neighborhoods, in addition to, at times, violating density limits.

It is unclear, though, whether the new regulations will make it any easier to catch offenders.
The San Luis Obispo Planning Commission rejected the ordinance last year, arguing that it was too unclear and difficult to enforce.

The city now has code enforcement officers patrolling neighborhoods, but legal restrictions, such as the Fourth Amendment, prohibit them from merely entering properties out of curiosity.

Councilwoman Kathy Smith said the city should aid its code enforcers by encouraging residents to report property owners who break the rules.

“No matter what we put in any of these regulations, we’ve got to encourage people to call us and tell us when they see something going on in a house that they feel is an inappropriate conversion,” Smith said. “People take for granted their right to change their household anyway that they feel, especially when they can get some rental income out of it.”

The ordinance will likely return for final adoption on a council consent agenda.


  1. Willow says:

    All these ordinances, fees, fines, etc. have absolutely NOTHING to do with ‘safety’, but are more about establishing a means by which they can cough up the $$ to pay for their nice fat retirement packages – and keep you workin’ to pay for their nice retirements until the day you die.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  2. Willow says:

    It’s none of their damn business what you do with your property anyway. As long as no one is harmed, it’s no one’s concern.

    All ‘government’ is, is a bunch of busy-body control freaks out of control.

    The people of SLO need to show up at the next reading and let them know that under no circumstance will they ‘allow’ the council to impose such an ordinance. It’s none of their concern.

    And if they do impose the ordinance anyway, then remove them from office IMMEDIATELY!

    People really need to stand up and take their communities back from these control freaks … who do these people think they are …. they want to even change the English language and redefine what constitutes a ‘bedroom’! Really!

    “People take for granted their right to change their household anyway that they feel, especially when they can get some rental income out of it.” Councilwoman Kathy Smith


    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. rogerfreberg says:

    I have yet to see the city in the past 30 years do anything for the benefit of its residents, owners or otherwise.

    One has to really wonder who this really benefits?

    Is this a way to fill up Cal Poly’s long anticipated student complex??

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  4. LAH says:

    Oh, the NARC on the Neighbor campaign! Seriously, what tenant unless otherwise disgruntled, will jeopardize their own living space? Then if they are disgruntled, the city encourages revenge? Typical government snoggery.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  5. Rambunctious says:

    I can’t rent out my guest house? well at least I have a place to hide my trashcans from the trashcan police….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 2

    • kayaknut says:

      Clearly you are not on the city council or one of the protected class, because we know those people don’t worry about those rules, they are only for the little people…..

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 4

  6. pigsrule says:

    Silly people. You don’t own your home. The government owns it … and you. Property rights? Heh heh heh.

    They should just take the homes away from these socalled owners and be done with it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 6

    • obispan says:

      I’d love to get the property next to your place and start converting storage sheds into housing. See how you like it.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  7. achillesheal says:

    Have cal poly build another dorm or two for the additional demand.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 3

    • obispan says:

      No! That is government competing with the private sector. More garage conversions. Property rights! I should be able to rent RV and tent spaces in my back yard. “Neighbors’ rights” implies a “collective”, aka COMMUNISM! Please re-read your Ayn/Rand Rand/Paul and understand that Mad Max anarchy is the only “free” system.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      • obispan says:

        And freedom doesn’t stop at property rights, it includes free trade, international free trade, of all commodities, including labor.

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  8. hijinks says:

    This is great news. Finally the city seems to be moving to do something about the sleazy speculators and real estate operators who are ruining its neighborhoods and have driven city-wide owner-occupancy to Isla Vista type percentages! Let’s hope it works.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 13 Thumb down 33

  9. LameCommenter says:

    Quoting the article: “People take for granted their right to change their household anyway that they feel, especially when they can get some rental income out of it.”

    Yes, we do. And generally in a safe, responsible, though efficient manner.

    That’s the thing about us pesky property rights owners, the government can never completely keep us under it’s thumb, try as it might.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 43 Thumb down 15

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