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.


This is so wrong. Just another way to keep the homeless out in the streets. Just that much more unafordable house for those among us who need a place to stay.


About time


Way to go Kathy Smith, encourage neighbors to tattle on neighbors. The government can’t see well enough into our lives so they recruit neighborhood spies!


Remember that scene in “Dr. Zhivago” where the Big government is able to micromanage individual homes thanks to comrades like Kathy Smith?


Yes, absolutely a great idea! I rented a place when returning to college (both my sons were in college in LA so it seemed the frugal thing to do). After 4 YEARS there was still no smoke alarm-and-the carbon monoxide alarm deadline had come….and gone. Then came the mice. And ceiling leaks. The place had no heater either. The windows weren’t even double pane. The place was crooked and you could roll a tennis ball across the room….but hey….it was cheap! (Until the electric bill came in the winter {another pain in the behind-because it had no meter….so HUGE conflict with those in front house}).

When it all came down….they condemned it. As they were poking up the dropped office ceiling in this converted garage with my broom handle….they got a really sick expression on their faces-and suggested I leave the premises immediately. Thank you owner Christine Kelley and David at REG Property Management for a nightmarish experience!


It was “cheap” so you continued to rent there. then you complain about it and endorse more government intrusion/control. You are what is seriously wrong with our society.


No, I am what is RIGHT with society! I raised 2 sons on my own and lived in that cheap place long enough for my older son to get through UCLA law school and my younger one to get through medical school in Irvine. And I do not regret a second of it. I made sure they have minimal student loans and that they never had to carry much stress-and that their textbooks were all paid for. Not bad for a widow left without any life insurance-if I do say so myself.

Yes, things were so tight then that a fire alarm was out of the question. But, happily those times are over. I am so proud of both my sons. I have always done good by my sons and encouraged them to shoot for the stars. I think I did a fine job minus a dad!


You were free to move and pay more . Did this place become so bad after you chose to move there.


Nice of you to blame the victim. I guess the sleazeballs who rented such a dump are nice folks?


“Victim”? Indigo is about as much a “victim” as Caren Ray is. Good grief…someone rents a dumpy place of their own free will, complains about it and applauds government intervention and they are suddenly a “victim”? Geez! More evidence of what is wrong with our society!


Was I? How much did I have budgeted then?


Let’s see, I suppose you were too poor to buy yourself a 9 dollar smoke alarm, and too mechanically declined to screw it to the ceiling. And you know that mice and roaches won’t show up unless you leave food lying around. Did it look perfect when you rented it but suddenly fall apart when you moved in? In my poorer days I have lived in some low rent places, but seems to me I checked them out pretty good before I moved in, and in the trashier places I certainly didn’t stay 4 years!


You can bet that a good share of these ‘grannie’ units and overcrowded residentials are by absentee landlords that seldom if ever claim the income, and thus avoid/evade any occupancy taxes.

I call people like that cheaters.


Ms. Smith, once again. protecting her special interest friends. Remember, Ms. Smith once owned the Garden Street Bed & Breakfast and had the City make all kinds of exceptions for her little operation like NO onsite parking, no evaluator, etc for guests staying there. But let the serfs try something and she wants neighbor to turn on neighbor, report them, pay money to the City coffers and we don’t want people to think they are free, no, they must knee, kiss the ring and donate to our political party.


It’s all about giving the city it’s cut… kind of like the mafia, only “legal” and “for the good of the people” I am sure.

I read this article and think, why not just pass an ordinance that we must bow down and kiss the government ring at every opportunity. However, I am sure this is to maintain our wonderful city and it’s high-quality infrastructure.


Maybe instead of bowing and kissing, you’ d like it if we just passed an ordinance saying we can all do just as we please with “our proppity.” That way some jerk like the SLO slumlords could put a homeless shelter — or maybe even a refinery — next door to your place. Then see how you feel about lack of government regulation!


Typically hysterical, unrealistic response.


Fun sponge.


Just keep in mind that enforcement of these new rules, as is that of existing ones, is extremely selective and discretionary. If you’re well-connected, pull it off while the City sits on complaints, and then say “it was that way when it bought it”, you get away with it.


Yes, Alan Settle’s house, with illegally converted spaces, near Laguna Lake was rented as was the small out building on the site, No where near legal but he was never fined or inspected even though many complaints were filed. Not need to wonder why, friends in high places…….


Not the case I was referring to, but another good example. The one I was referring to was the one where a covered patio and storage shed were converted to studio apartments, the City ignoring complaints during the entire time it was occurring. Daddy took care of everything down at City Hall, except of course, getting a permit.

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