Pismo Beach city officials are trying for a second time to grow the city by 182 acres and potentially more than 300 new homes.
Over opposition from a few dozen South County residents, the Pismo Beach City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to move forward with a request to annex a piece of property on the city’s eastern edge.
The proposed Los Robles del Mar development includes 252 single-family homes and 60 senior citizen residences on a site bordered by Oak Park Boulevard, east of James Way.
A request to annex the land was denied three years ago by the San Luis Obispo Local Agency Formation Commission, the county board that has to approve all annexations. The board determined that the project didn’t include enough water to meet its needs.
But recently, developer Larry Persons of Pacific Harbor Homes LLC received council approval to obtain a transfer of water rights from another property owner that city staff says is sufficient to serve the project. Now the annexation request will go before the commission again.
Some local residents — a dozen of whom spoke in opposition to the project Tuesday — question how reliable that water supply may be during a drought.
They’re also concerned about traffic impacts to surrounding roads, such as Ridge Road, a cul-de-sac that is proposed to be reconstructed into a through street.
Two residents asked the council to table the proposal and ask city residents what they want.
“Things of this magnitude that will definitely affect the life of the residents should be put to a vote,” Pismo Beach resident Larry Chanda said. He hinted that murmurings of a recall effort have begun.
Other speakers questioned why Pismo Beach is moving to add housing now, when the population in the city actually declined over the past decade — the only city in the county to do so besides Morro Bay, which lost just 1.1 percent of its population.
Pismo Beach lost more than 10 percent of its residents in the past 10 years, dropping from 8,551 residents to 7,655, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. The American Community Survey also estimated the city’s 5,857 housing units are more than a quarter empty — with 1,661 unoccupied — giving it the highest vacancy rate for a city in the county.
While it’s unknown how many of the vacant housing units are used as seasonal rentals, in 2000, more than 1,000 units were used for seasonal or recreational use, according to the city’s general plan.
Local resident Marilee Hyman said at the meeting that Pismo Beach has fallen short of building the number of units it can construct annually.
The project’s “stumbling block” was water, Hyman added. “It’s only fair to continue the annexation now that this item has been addressed.”
The Pismo Beach council also voted 4-1 to approve an addendum to the project’s environmental documents. Pismo Beach Mayor Shelly Higginbotham dissented, saying later the project doesn’t include a safeguard to guarantee it won’t use more than the 100 acre-feet of water the developer has acquired.
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, and Persons has worked to reduce the amount of water needed through conservation measures — both factors dropping the annual water demand to about 100 acre-feet per year, according to the environmental documents.
Pismo Beach Public Works Director Dwayne Chisam said he’s analyzed the issue and concluded the project has sufficient water to meet the demand.
Tribune assistant city editor Jonah Owen Lamb contributed to this report.