Assault on the Stinkers

March 7, 2005

A new city ordinance in San Luis Obispo prohibits those with offensive body odor from hanging out at public libraries. This apparently has been the policy for some time, but now will be codified by the County. Irene Macias, Santa Barbara’s library services manager, acknowledges that the new ordinance could present questions:

“What is bad odor?” Macias asked. “A woman who wears a strong perfume? A person who had a garlicky meal?”

In Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, patrons who smell are not simply shown the door, McGee and Macias said. They are provided with a means of correcting the problem.

“We seldom have to ask someone to leave,” McGee (assistant director of the San Luis Obispo City-County Library) said. “It rarely happens. If it does we’re very careful to give coupons about where they can wash their clothes or take a shower. We do it in as humane a way as possible.”

Frankly, I can’t believe this is happening in California, where I thought there were constitutional rights for such things as a stench.