Spanish Springs plan no good for Pismo

January 11, 2013 

It’s apparent that the proposed Spanish Springs Specific Plan was prepared by the developers and land owners to satisfy their purposes, with little involvement from city staff and no concern for the residents of Pismo Beach.

Other than required public hearings, no public review was solicited. The plan review process utilized by the Planning Commission was basically a “take it all or leave it” approach.

No systematic review of its individual policies was made, and as a consequence, no individual policy recommendations were proposed to the City Council. Public comments were limited to three minutes.

What’s more, the plan includes no assurances that necessary public improvements will be made. It does not, for example, contain statements such as “no building permit shall be issued, nor subdivision approved until a direct connection of the proposed development and Price Canyon Road is fiscally guaranteed or built.”

The plan basically proposes two sectors of development. One extends up a ridge that terminates at the Price House. Access to that ridge is via Rancho Pismo Parkway and Highland Drive. The plan proposes 390 single-family homes, 83 multiple-family homes, a shopping center, hotel and a nine-hole golf course in this sector. Development from Rancho Pismo Parkway would extend into the hills approximately two miles.

By extending along the ridge tops and with plant material growing along both sides of the hills, this development will be highly vulnerable to the ravages of wildfires.

The second sector is a smaller site of 13 acres and is proposed for a senior citizen complex. It is on the northeast side and contiguous to the back of properties fronting on El Viento. Primary access is proposed from Highland Drive. The maps provide no internal street patterns, nor land use proposals. The plan text, however, authorizes 320 housing units, continuing care facilities, convalescent facilities and dementia facilities. These would necessitate round-the-clock health care providers with attendant sirens and other warning devices.

If internal access streets are excluded (approximately 25 percent of the 13-acre site) and no land for various support facilities considered, the proposed housing density would be 32 units per acre, or 1,330 square feet per unit. At this density, the housing must be stacked. The zoning suggested for this site allows four stories to be built next to the existing single family homes fronting on El Viento. This arrangement would eliminate the privacy currently enjoyed by the homeowners of this street and change the character of the neighborhood forever.

In both sectors, the plan proposes a total of 833 new housing units. Assuming a daily trip generation factor of 10 trips per unit, per day and no trips to or from the 150-room hotel, the golf course or the group care senior facilities, that’s 8,300 additional trips a day that will use Highland Drive. While a connection to Price Canyon from the project is proposed, nothing has been established to fund its construction.

Water for the project is another major concern. The developers claim they can solve that problem. We will await proof of their claim. In the meantime, we should consider whether we want to see water resources squandered on the urban sprawl they propose. Using that water to help revitalize downtown is a better choice.

We also want to see an analysis of the interrelationship of the oil fields on Price Canyon Road and the proposed development, including answers to these questions:

• Are additional oil wells planned for the area?

• If so, what is the water source used to drill the wells and how much water is used?

• Will “fracking” be used in oil production and if so, how much water is required to “frack” a well? (The internet claims 4.5 million gallons or about the amount of water needed to serve New York City for about 6.3 minutes.)

• How would fracking affect the quality of ground water?

Parenthetically, it seems the city might be better off selling its wastewater to the oil companies on Price Canyon Road than approving a private, 9-hole golf course that will, in any event, probably be developed only when economic factors suggest that it’s warranted.

Leaving Spanish Springs unincorporated is the best option available. Development in the county would be limited to a very few units: those that can be established on a county approved access and that are on lots big enough to support both a septic tank and a well capable of drawing potable water. The developers’ inability to obtain utilities in the county is the only reason they want to annex to Pismo Beach.

We urge the City Council to dismiss the Specific Plan as not being in the interest of Pismo Beach.

The plan does nothing for Pismo Beach, physically or fiscally. The project is inconsistent with the adopted General Plan that envisions Pismo Beach as a consolidated, beach-oriented community.

Martin Storm is a retired city planner who worked for the city of Hayward for 28 years. Tom Hull is a retired physician.

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