Oak trees and grassland cover parts of a 182-acre property abutting Pismo Beach that has sat undeveloped for years despite a developer’s best efforts.
Three years ago, a county board denied a plan for a 312-home project on the property amid concerns about the plan’s water supply. Since then, developer Larry Persons of Pacific Harbor Homes LLC has been searching for another source of water.
He’s now secured a block of water that could allow the Los Robles del Mar project to move forward. The project, however, still needs approval from a county board, the San Luis Obispo Local Agency Formation Commission, to be annexed into Pismo Beach.
But some local residents question whether the amount of state water Persons plans to purchase is enough. They’re also concerned about traffic, air quality and the overall impact of the project on their quality of life.
On Tuesday, the Pismo Beach City Council will consider approval of an addendum to the project’s environmental documents and decide whether to forward a request for annexation to the LAFCO.
The council in 2004 approved the project, which includes 252 single-family homes and 60 senior citizen residences on a site bordered by Oak Park Boulevard, east of James Way.
In 2008, LAFCO denied Pismo Beach the ability to annex the land because, the board determined, the project didn’t include enough water to meet its needs.
Persons started searching for other sources of water. Last December, he offered the Oceano Community Services District more than $2 million for 100 acre-feet of water. The district board rejected the sale in February.
In June, he received City Council approval to receive a transfer of water rights for 100 acre-feet of water from another property owner. That property owner, Pismo-98 LLC, had been paying the costs of 140 acre-feet of state water since 1992, but the water has never been used, nor has it been counted in the city’s overall water supply, said Pismo Beach Public Works Director Dwayne Chisam.
Pismo-98 has fallen behind in paying the city for the water and owes $172,938, according to a June staff report to the council from city attorney David Fleishman. “We’re going to get paid one way or the other,” he said this week.
Seven years ago, it was estimated the project needed 151 acre-feet of water for the homes and a private school, with the water drawn from on-site wells. An acre-foot is generally enough water for a few homes for a year.
Since then, Coastal Christian School has received county approval to use an on-site well for its project. Persons has also worked with the city to reduce the amount of water needed for the project through conservation measures.
According to an addendum to the project’s environmental impact report, those factors drop the annual water demand for the homes and parks to nearly 100-acre feet per year.
Persons could not be reached for comment.
Chisam said he’s analyzed the water usage of all single-family developments in the city and applied that figure to the Los Robles del Mar development. He’s also used a more conservative estimate of water usage and come to the same conclusion: “We’re very confident that the 100 acre-feet is going to be effective and sufficient to meet the water demands on the project.”
But some South County residents aren’t convinced.
At a July council meeting, Pismo Beach resident Dave Cowie urged the council to ask for an independent study to show whether there’s enough water for the project to move forward.
“The next meeting on Aug. 2 is not just another vote for you,” he added. “It is a road map for the future of our city.”