On June 18, the Pismo Beach City Council will vote on a proposed development called Spanish Springs. This meeting is the culmination of high dollar marketing by the developers versus hundreds of concerned citizens who have submitted views on numerous issues this project raises.
Issues such as the lack of attention to the more than 500 infill opportunities within the existing city limits; lack of mitigation for negative fiscal impacts; lack of mitigation for traffic congestion; lack of response to the PXP oil well expansion in the Environmental Impact Report; cost of the water treatment plant and water meter fee reduction incentives for the builder, etc. In addition, Pismo Ranch, a second project in the same planning area that has the same elements as Spanish Springs, will have its EIR before the City Council in as few as six months. We see all of these as valid points that should either stop this development or allow the residents to vote on it.
The developer promotes this project to the local community as a fiscally responsible enterprise that will add $2.6 million in annual tax revenue. Yet because residential development is typically recognized as a drain on city resources, the only potential financial benefit to Pismo would be the hotel, for which there are no requirements to build. The Fiscal Analysis indicates positive annual revenue to the city at buildout (estimated at approximately 20 years), however, during the construction phases there is an approximate cost to the city of more than $200,000 a year (developer’s estimate).
The city’s existing General Plan policy requires any proposed development to bring its own water. The developer is asking the city to change its General Plan, wants to use the city’s current water resources and has asserted that the project would bring water to the city in the form of:
1. Upgrading the city’s wastewater treatment plant.
The water treatment plant is a positive addition to the city, but at what cost? It will not provide needed potable drinking water.
There has been a reduction in developer fees for water meter hookups, which coincidentally matches the costs needed for the tertiary water treatment upgrade. Additionally, the small positive revenue assumed by the developers is eclipsed by the cost of running the tertiary water plant each year: an estimated $4 million-plus per year. Who pays for that? Increased sewer rates, which we are now seeing proposed? Curiously, in one city document the city of Pismo Beach is indicated.
2. To provide drought buffer water by buying 500 acre-feet per year from the state as an insurance policy. But according to the county, “deliveries could be reduced depending on how severe the drought becomes. you can’t deliver what you don’t have.” The water will be rationed and citizens will have to pay higher water rates.
The judge’s recent decision in the failed Los Robles del Mar project accurately states: “A careful review establishes that periodic drought is now a reality in California, and the probability of drought must play an important factor when planning for further development on the Central Coast of California ” “During drought years, when runoff from the Sierra is diminished, when there (is) a shortage of water in state reservoirs, and when drought results in reduced groundwater pumping, Pismo Beach may very well not be able to meet the needs of its residents.”
The increase in traffic generated by the development requires closer evaluation of the current faulty traffic study. Pismo’s General Plan policy states that no development is to occur until an inland arterial road is in place from Price Canyon Road to Oak Park Boulevard. This road will be difficult if not impossible to complete as specified. A large segment of the road crosses a ranch owned by the Mankins family, which has adamantly stated publicly many times that it does not want to participate in Pismo’s inland arterial road.
Furthermore, this road must link to Price Canyon Road by crossing Union Pacific Railroad tracks and Pismo Creek. The developer does not have to begin to engineer or obtain environmental approvals for the bridge until after the 75th home from Phase I is occupied.
The current plan is to use the quiet residential street Highland Drive as a thoroughfare for all construction (for many years). And, there is no guarantee the bridge will ever be built. During the March 5 City Council meeting, traffic engineers admitted that they assumed the inland arterial would be built, which affected the results of the study; the city’s own engineer conceded that taking the inland arterial road out of the study results in the need to restudy all major intersections in Pismo Beach. Caltrans has stated that even without this development Highway 101 will have an F rating (heavily congested).
To further complicate traffic on Price Canyon Road, PXP, an oil exploration and production company, is in the process of adding 350 new wells to its operation.
Exhibit A of the Spanish Springs Specific Plan as prepared by John Biggs and his (City Council) staff is exceedingly biased for approval of the project. One alternative is to “do nothing.” Another alternative is to leave the property “in the county.” While Mr. Biggs agrees that both of these options are environmentally superior to the proposed project, he has rejected these options as infeasible.
His exhibit states “the City Council makes this determination after taking into account economic, legal, social, technological and/or other considerations, including the provision of employment opportunities for highly trained workers. Any jobs created will be low-paying, minimum wage jobs that will not provide a financial boost to Pismo’s economy.”
Please plan to attend the City Council meeting on June 18 at 6:30 p.m., at 680 Bello St., Pismo Beach.
Only three people are needed to pass this request for approval. Two can vote “no” and the project will go forward as submitted. The interests of 7,675 residents of Pismo Beach should be included in this important decision. It is the future of us all.
The authors are members of Save Price Canyon and the Five Cities Action Coalition. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org