Code Enforcement

The Department of Planning & Building's Code Enforcement Section is responsible for enforcing local land use and environmental laws, sometimes called zoning laws, in the unincorporated areas of San Luis Obispo County. The Section has developed several programs to address common enforcement issues ranging from rental home inspections to stormwater discharge system monitoring in a more proactive manner.

Services

Environmental Investigations Program

The primary focus of the Environmental Investigations Program is to prevent the loss of natural resources due to illegal activities. Unauthorized grading is one such prominent illegal activity, which often leads to increased runoff, stream bed siltation, habitat loss, and loss of vegetation and wildlife. Code enforcement staff work alongside other regulatory agencies as part of the San Luis Obispo Environmental Enforcement Group and as part of the San Luis Obispo/Santa Barbara Federal Environmental Task Force to investigate these illegal activities and prosecute all responsible parties.

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems Program

Under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems (NPDES), code enforcement staff enforce grading and illicit stormwater discharge requirements.

Neighborhood Preservation Program

Through the Neighborhood Preservation Program, code enforcement staff develop community-government partnerships with the goal of educating and empowering community residents, resulting in safer, cleaner communities with a lower threshold for what are considered "acceptable" violations. Successful partnerships have been developed in the communities of Los Osos, Nipomo, Oceano, San Miguel, and Shandon.

Public Records Act Requests

The Department of Planning & Building provides access to the records it maintains in accordance with the California Public Records Act.

Short Term Vacation Rental Hotline

The County of San Luis Obispo has established a hotline for reporting an unlicensed vacation rental or for making a complaint about a vacation rental. Reports can be made online or by calling the hotline at (435) 787-4357. Reports can be made 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.

Tenant Services Program

Through the Tenant Services Program, code enforcement staff will inspect rented homes at no charge if the tenant believes that the home is substandard. The only requirements are that the tenant has notified their landlord, in writing, of the problem and given their landlord a reasonable amount of time to address the problem and that the tenant is current on their rent (or the rent is being held in an escrow, savings, or trust account if it is being withheld).

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I convert my garage into living space?

In many areas, garages may be converted into heated (living) space, but only after a permit has been issued. Residential building standards differ from storage building standards and school district taxes apply to living space.

Can I hold a garage sale on my property?

Yes, you may hold two garage sales per year for two consecutive weekends a time.

Can I run a business out of my home?

You can run a small business out your home if you first get a home occupation license. You cannot sell retail out of the house, but you can have a small sign with external illumination. You cannot change the residential character of the neighborhood, nor increase traffic, noise or odors to be more than would be expected for a residential use. No employees are allowed unless they are also residents of the home. A home occupation cannot take away from the required two off-street parking spaces, so you must be able to park two cars on your property, either in a garage or on the driveway.

Can I store fuel on my property?

No more than 5 gallons may be stored in a residential area except in a self-propelled vehicle. In other areas, special permits are required for underground or large above ground tanks.

Can I store vehicles on my property?

On residential properties, you may only store two vehicles outdoors, and those vehicles must not be visible from a public road. A stored vehicle is one that is not used for two consecutive nights. You may have as many vehicles as you wish stored in a garage. Vehicles under active repair (minor car work such as tune-ups) are not considered stored. Commercial vehicles may only be stored or parked on commercial properties - there is an exception for moving trucks and vans, which may park on residential property for as long as it takes to complete the move.

Can I use my recreational vehicle as living space?

You may store one RV on your residential lot, but you cannot allow it to be lived in or used as an extra room. You must not store your RV in the front setback area, except for one self-propelled RV which can be stored in the driveway. RVs are not designed for long term living as they are made of very lightweight materials, have light gauge electric and plumbing and usually are heated with propane, a gas that is heavier than air and can puddle in low areas. Many deaths and injuries in this county have been attributed to people living in RVs.   If you want to live in an RV, you may only do so in a State approved RV or mobile home park.

Do I need a permit to remove a tree from my property?

The tree ordinance is different in the Coastal and Inland zones. There are also special area and tract standards. The information below is general in nature. It is safest to contact the Department of Planning & Building first with specific property information before cutting any tree on your property.

  • Coastal: no tree over 8” in diameter at 4’ from the ground may be removed or killed unless a permit is first issued.   A permit can only be issued if the tree meets certain criteria. If you feel you have a hazardous tree, or one that is damaging utilities or your house, please call us for an inspection.
  • Inland: within urban or village reserve lines, trees may only be removed or killed if they are on residential property, improved with a residential use. Permits for qualifying trees may be issued for proposed development and commercial lots, but inspections are first required.
Do storage sheds require a construction permit?

Storage sheds that are less than 120 square-feet, do not include any utilities, and are under 12 feet in height do not require a construction permit. Storage sheds that are 120 square-feet or larger, include utilities, or are over 12 feet in height do require a construction permit. Storage sheds of any size are required to comply with required setbacks. There may be additional design review requirements based on applicable plans and/or standards.

Do temporary events require a permit?

All commercial temporary events require a special permit unless the event is donation only, and for a tax exempt charitable or public benefit organization. It is best to call us before scheduling such an event. Even if it is for a charity, if you are serving food, County Environmental Health may have regulations you will have to follow.

Does the County have a sign ordinance?

Yes, the County has a sign ordinance. It's purpose is to prevent the proliferation of signs and to help reduce visual pollution. In general, a sign is a device that directs attention to a product, service or organization. It can be a hot air balloon or a mural with a depiction of the product or service, even if there is no writing on it. No off-site signs are allowed. Commercial business are limited to the size of sign, and many developments have special sign requirements as part of their permit. Small real estate signs are exempt, as are political signs (small yard signs) for 30 days before and 2 weeks after an election. If you are starting a business that needs a sign, please check with Department of Planning & Building staff first to determine what kind and size of sign you can put up (some areas of the County have regulations on what kind of material the sign can be made from).

What are the regulations regarding outdoor storage?

Most violations of county code involve improper outdoor storage, and most of these occur because the outdoor storage can be seen from the street or neighboring properties. It is strongly suggested that if you have a lot of items you wish to store, you put them in garages or sheds (sheds over 120 square feet require a construction permit). If you wish to storeitems outdoors, then screen the material with a wood or masonry fence that does not exceed 6’6” in height, with none of the stored items exceeding 5’ (except for single vehicles). You may not have any accessory storage on a lot that does not have a principal use (such as a house).

What constitutes a substandard home?

A substandard home is one that does not meet the minimum standards of the Uniform Housing Code or may be dangerous for other reasons. Typical health and safety issues include:

  • Lack of weatherproofing;
  • Lack of heating in habitable rooms;
  • Lack of adequate plumbing or sanitation;
  • Failed septic system;
  • Hazardous electrical connections;
  • Broken or missing banisters on a staircase with 3 or more steps;
  • Lack of smoke detectors;
  • Broken or sagging floors and ceilings;
  • Lack of a secondary exit (such as a window that can be easily reached) in a sleeping area;
  • Installation of a pressurized hot water heater in a bedroom;
  • Unpermitted structural work

If you are renting a substandard home and the landlord refuses to make repairs in a timely manner, please document all your contacts in writing, save all correspondence and inform Department of Planning & Building staff. Do not withhold rent without first contacting an attorney or consulting a tenant rights handbook.

What kinds of animals are allowed in residential areas?
Animal Keeping Provisions (Partial List)
  Land Use Category
Animal Type RMF RSF RS RR
Birds, other than poultry (< 20) No permit required No permit required No permit required No permit required
Birds, other than poultry (> 20) Minor use permit required Minor use permit required Minor use permit required Minor use permit required
Fowl or poultry Not allowed 1/500 square-feet (1/3000 square-feet for turkeys), no roosters except on sites greater than 2 acres surrounded by properties of greater or equal size 1/500 square-feet (1/3000 square-feet for turkeys) 1/500 square-feet (1/3000 square-feet for turkeys)
Cattle Not allowed 1/acre 2/acre 3/acre
Goats and sheep Not allowed 4/acre, minimum site of 1 acre 4/acre 4/acre
Hogs and swine Not allowed Not allowed 4 maximum on sites 5 acres or greater (2.5 acres or greater with permit) 4 maximum on sites 5 acres or greater (2.5 acres or greater with permit)
Horses Not allowed 1/acre 3/acre 3/acre; 4/acre on sites greater than 5 acres

 

When do I need to obtain a grading permit?

Grading is complicated. It is always advisable to consult with a registered professional (architect or engineer) prior to grading. In general, 50 cubic yards of cut or/and fill, or 3 feet of fill or 2 feet of cut requires a grading permit. No grading or grubbing should be done within 50 feet of a creek or stream. No riparian vegetation (such as willow, cattails or other such vegetation) should be removed from a creek, stream or wetland. There are many other standards, so please consult with a registered professional or contact the Department of Planning & Building first.

When is a business license required?

A business license is required for all commercial operations (even home businesses).

When is a construction permit required?

With few exceptions, any structure over 120 square feet in size requires a construction permit (even if it doesn’t have a foundation). Unless you are doing minor repairs (fixing small amounts of drywall, replacing the glazing in a framed window, replacing a sink, commode, door, or installing a low deck without a open or closed roof) you will need to get a construction permit. Plumbing and electric work is very tricky and can result in damage, injury or death if not done properly. If you are working on your own house, you do not need to be a contractor. Our plan checkers and inspectors are very used to helping owner-builders, so don’t be intimidated by the process - in fact for many small projects, you can get a permit in an hour or less.