The issue: Measure H-14 in Pismo Beach
The election result of Pismo Beach Measure H-14 would directly affect all county residents’ quality of life. Its passage would lead to a new land use designation for land in Price Canyon. If annexed into Pismo Beach, the land would be used primarily for agriculture, parks, schools, trails, public buildings and limited housing; any large development project would require approval by the registered voters of Pismo Beach. If the measure fails, most likely there would be large developments on the land annexed into Pismo Beach. This means deterioration of air quality, traffic congestion on Highway 101 and local streets, exacerbation of existing water problems and urban sprawl.
In June 2013, the Pismo Beach City Council approved the environmental impact report (EIR) for Spanish Springs, a gargantuan development project. The council also approved amendments to the Pismo Beach General Plan to accommodate and facilitate Spanish Springs.
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Pismo Ranch, another developer, had its own development plans for land contiguous to Spanish Springs. After certifying the Spanish Springs EIR, the council directed the two developers to coordinate their planning process.
“If we are going to do this (development), we shouldn’t do it piecemeal,” Councilman Ed Waage declared sagaciously.
The Spanish Springs developer was directed by the City Council to expand the scope of the project by exploring the feasibility of increasing commercial space, and changing the golf course from nine-hole (in the submitted plan) to 18 hole. By certifying the EIR, the council all but ensured that it had decided to approve the development project.
Approval of the EIR and amendments to the General Plan created a convulsive public reaction that led to the petition circulation by Save Price Canyon — a group against the mammoth project. With lightning speed, it collected many more than the required number of signatures for a referendum on the General Plan amendments.
Marcia Guthrie, an active member of Save Price Canyon, stated that group membership underscores the fact that it is not a partisan issue. Democrats, Republicans, independents and people from other ideologies are united to defend and preserve their quality of life. Sheila Blake explained that Save Price Canyon group is not antidevelopment.
“We just want the decisions on large development projects to be made by the voters,” she said.
The Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit against the city claiming that the approved EIR was deficient; it did not address traffic, air pollution and water concerns. The lawsuit forced the City Council to decertify the Spanish Springs EIR.
The coda was the rescinding of the amendments to the General Plan by the City Council in September 2013. That was done to avoid the Save Price Canyon referendum.
Had the City Council chosen a different course of action in June 2013, Measure H-14 would not even be on the November ballot. The actions of four (out of five) in the City Council can only be described as dismissive of the public sentiment and antithesis of constituents’ wishes.
Three of the incumbents are running for re-election. They (and Councilman Waage) had vigorously espoused the Spanish Springs project. Now all of them blatantly and vehemently deny their past actions.
For example, the councilman who had made both motions (to certify the EIR and to amend the General Plan) told the editorial board of The Tribune that as a councilman he is neutral on Measure H-14, but personally he is opposed to the development. Perhaps only a chameleon can change colors in such manner. It demonstrates that maybe he would take any position that would serve his best interests in a given situation.
Do the incumbents running for re-election have the requisite integrity to be elected for another term? It will be decided by the Pismo Beach voters soon. How they vote will have countywide repercussions.