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A student on a skateboard hitches a ride with a bicyclist near the College of Charleston campus on Wednesday morning, Sept. 18, 2019. Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

Headphone-wearing college students pedal bicycles or coast on skateboards down St. Philip Street around 8 a.m. each weekday. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, they mill about downtown neighborhoods and local bars.

Though the number of students living in peninsula neighborhoods has decreased over the past 20 years, each fall still creates fresh tension between students new to the city and their neighbors who have lived here for years.

The city of Charleston's code enforcement and livability court stands at the ready to try and keep the peace.

Spurred by an outcry from residents in the early 2000s, Mayor Joe Riley created a separate municipal court for livability issues, such as noise complaints. There was a feeling those complaints could get short shrift if heard alongside cases of assault, domestic violence and possession of narcotics.

In 2002, Charleston leaders created the country's first livability court to handle quality-of-life issues. More often than not, college students were defendants.

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Recycling cans on Smith Street await the collections truck Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, in Charleston. Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

Some College of Charleston students said they hadn't heard of Charleston's Livability Court before. They weren't even told when to put their trash and recycling by the curb.

Charleston's Livability and Tourism officers enforce a number of ordinance pertaining to quality-of-life issues. For college students who live in neighborhoods off campus, running afoul of city ordinances can be expensive. A citation can lead to a $1,087 fine.

Livability and Tourism Director Daniel Riccio said enforcement officers issue tickets to college students for noise complaints, not tending to piled up trashcans, and having trash scattered throughout the yard.

Livability Court has also taken on new ordinance challenges, such as tourism ordinance violations for short-term rental issues. 

Since 2016, the city has issued four tickets for people failing to take out their trash but only one ticket stuck, resulting in a $50 fine. For overgrown weeds and unkempt property, the city issued 25 citations for unkempt yards pulling in almost $11,500 in fines. 

The issue of noise, Riccio said, is the most common complaint that livability enforcement officers face. And the numbers prove it. Since 2016, the city has issued 314 tickets and pulled in about $63,500 for noise complaints, data from Charleston's Municipal Court shows. 

Riccio said Livability Court is designed more as an educational opportunity for students to learn about being good neighbors and not a way to nickel and dime them.

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Students head to and from class at the intersection of Calhoun and Saint Philip streets on Monday, Sept. 16, 2019, in Charleston. Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

First-time offenses often result in a probationary period. If a student is cited for not bringing their trash out, livability enforcement officers will check the address after the ticket is given. If Charleston Municipal Judge Michael Molony doesn't see repeated issues, the fine is often dropped.

Molony often has explained from the bench that the court isn't designed to raise money for the city but to solve problems. 

"When you have four individuals moving in on one signed lease they may not understand that they have to take care of the property," Ricco said. 

Riccio said the city's Livability and Tourism enforcement officers work with city landlords to ensure students receive copies of city ordinances and are aware of trash and recycling collection days. Riccio said he asks city landlords to encourage students to meet their neighbors.

College of Charleston student Paris Stream-Dau previously lived on the East Side's Amherst Street before moving to Coming and Line streets in Cannonborough-Elliottborough. She has never heard of the Livability Court.

Stream-Dau said her landlord lives out of state and hadn't told her about garbage collection day or encouraged her to meet her neighbors. Because of a recent palmetto bug infestation, Stream-Dau said she's read through her lease "ad nauseam" and didn't see any mention of yard cleanliness or garbage collection. 

She hasn't had issues with neighbors, and doesn't think she's caused any either.

On the East Side, College of Charleston senior Martin Adkins said he hadn't heard of Livability Court either, and hasn't heard from neighbors about his get-togethers and acoustic band performances. 

Adkins, who lives on Nassau Street, said he hasn't had a lot of interactions with his landlord but that his landlord encouraged him to treat the space with respect, take out the trash and take care of the property.

College of Charleston Director of Media Relations Mike Robertson said the college tells students during orientation "the importance of being a good neighbor" and has an office that works with neighborhoods on those issues.

"We remind [students] that they need to respect their neighbors both on and off campus," he said. 

Charleston City Councilman Mike Seekings, who has chaired the city’s town and gown committee the last 10 years, said demographics in the neighborhoods surrounding the college has changed during that time. 

Ten years ago there were more students living in the immediate neighborhoods surrounding the college but they’ve since moved up into Elliotborough Cannonborough. 

Seekings said the town and gown committee has worked toward the building of a new raised crosswalk over Coming Street in the George Street area. He said the plans have been approved and funding should be in place with construction expected in the next year.  

Henry Golabek, president of the Radcliffeborough Neighborhood Association, said his neighborhood has seen a vast improvement within the past 20 years due to the combined work of the city's Town and Gown Committee, the College of Charleston's staff and the city's Office of Livability and Tourism. 

"Our relationship with the college, which may have been adversarial in the past, has come a long way to work together to educate the student body to be a good neighbor," Golabek said.

Golabek said the College's new president Andrew Hsu even attended a neighborhood association meeting in May. 

"The college has worked closely with us and the police do quell the parties," Golabek said. "They put the fires out when needed. ... The college does their best to try to educate the students who live off campus that they are no longer in the suburbs." 

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A vehicle on Saint Philip Street is ticketed on Wednesday, Sept 18, 2019, in Charleston. Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

A neighborhood resident since 1995, Golabek said he sees fewer College of Charleston students in his neighborhood but more passing through between the college and the Cannonborough-Elliottborough neighborhood.

He said some problem spots remain, such as Morris Street and Vanderhorst Street, where there's litter and partying. Weekend partying starts more at 3 p.m. and "goes strong" through 6 and 7 p.m. Though there aren't as many, some parties still rage into the late evening. Police have stepped up and issue tickets more often than they did in the past. 

Golabek said there's been more homeownership in the area and fewer student rentals.

Farther north, in Cannonborough-Elliottborough, past president of the neighborhood association and resident since 2012 Cator Sparks said the situation also has improved but that there's still a notorious house on Bogard Street with a stage in the backyard for keg parties.

Even if fewer college students live there, livability problems can remain if that house and others are used for illegal short-term rentals for bachelor and bachelorette parties, which can be just as noisy.

Even with fewer students in the neighborhood and more opting for new luxury student housing with pools and doormen, the summer break is still a welcome reprieve.

"Summertime is vacation for all the locals," Sparks said. "All the kids go back home, and we can kind of have our neighborhood back." 

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Reach Mikaela Porter at 843-937-5906. Follow her on Twitter @mikaelaporterPC. 

Mikaela Porter joined The Post and Courier in April 2019 and writes about the city of Charleston. Previously, Mikaela reported on breaking news, local government, school issues and community happenings for The Hartford Courant in Hartford, Conn.