Foes of Price Canyon development petition for election

Pismo Beach residents gather enough signatures to put general plan changes on ballot

clambert@thetribunenews.comJuly 17, 2013 

This view looking south shows a portion of Price Canyon in 2011 where 961 acres could eventually be annexed into Pismo Beach and developed.

JOE JOHNSTON — jjohnston@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

Some Pismo Beach residents opposed to a proposal to develop in Price Canyon have filed a petition to try to force a public vote on one of the City Council’s recent actions related to the large development called Spanish Springs.

After a lengthy hearing in mid-June, the Pismo Beach City Council approved some amendments to its general plan to guide development in the Price Canyon area east of Pismo Beach, outside city limits.

The council delayed action, however, on other documents, including a specific plan and development agreement that would have allowed Spanish Springs — a plan for hundreds of homes, hotel rooms and a golf course on 961 acres off Price Canyon Road — to move ahead.

At the time, some project opponents had implored the council to reject growth in the canyon, citing concerns about traffic congestion, water availability, and how the development would impact their quality of life.

After the June meeting, more than a dozen local residents started gathering signatures to force the council to either rescind its vote on the general plan amendments or put the issue before local voters. They needed 546 signatures but submitted 865 signatures, Pismo Beach resident Sheila Blake said.

City Clerk Elaina Cano now has 30 business days to determine whether there are enough valid signatures to proceed.

Marcia Guthrie, one of the Pismo Beach residents who gathered signatures, said it was important for opponents to seek a referendum on the general plan amendments because they form the foundation for the Spanish Springs project’s specific plan and other planning documents.

“Going door-to-door (showed) that people are paying attention … and they have the same concerns as everyone else,” she said. “I think there’s plenty to do in Pismo right now without having to go back in the canyon, which should be kept at arm’s length unless absolutely necessary.”

Community Development Director Jon Biggs said staff is looking into what the referendum petition means for the city’s ongoing efforts to update its general plan (its long-term blueprint for growth).

Carol Florence, a project representative for Spanish Springs, couldn’t comment “until we are able to review the documents ourselves,” she stated in an email.

The Spanish Springs proposal includes 416 single-family homes, 73 apartments or condos, 120 senior units, a 150-room hotel, a 10,000-square-foot conference center, a nine-hole golf course, parks and vineyards.

At its June 18 meeting, the City Council decided it wanted the developer to work with one of his neighbors — a property owner who also wants to develop his land with a project called Pismo Ranch — to coordinate their projects and develop new plans to cover the entire area.

On Tuesday, Cano said that if there are enough valid signatures on the referendum, she’ll bring it to the City Council on Sept. 3 for direction. If council members choose to hold an election, the soonest that could happen is December.

The council could also choose to combine the election with the June primary or November general elections next year. If the council decided to hold a stand-alone election, it could cost $90,000 to $100,000, Cano said, because the county would not assist the city.

But if combined with the June election, the cost could drop to $30,000 to $40,000, or to $15,000 in the November election, she said.

Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.

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