Court lets Dalidio win stand

The state Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal of Measure J, the 2006 ballot initiative through which county voters approved a shopping center adjacent to Highway 101 just south of San Luis Obispo.

The decision, which the court did not explain, means “the litigation and appeals process in the state is over,” said James McKiernan, attorney for rancher-developer Ernie Dalidio.

Opponents could appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, McKiernan said, but the high court is notoriously choosy about which cases it will hear, and getting the justices to take this one would be like trying to “waltz a camel through the eye of a needle,” McKiernan said.

Dalidio told The Tribune on Wednesday that he felt “better than I have in the last six or seven years.” He said he would use the holiday season to decide what steps to take next.

He called the court’s decision “a positive step for us and for the people who voted for Measure J.”

The case to overturn Measure J was brought by Citizens for Planning Responsibly and the Environmental Center of San Luis Obispo County.

Russ Brown, vice president of CPR, said Wednesday he was disappointed, and the group would take some time to figure out what to do next.

On its face, the decision seems to end a decades-long dispute over Dalidio’s highly visible 131 acres of agricultural land.

The San Luis Obispo General Plan was updated in 1994 to allow for retail development on the parcel. The Dalidio land is not in San Luis Obispo, but it has been a long-standing goal of city officials to annex it, control its development and reap its sales taxes.

The city approved annexation and development plans for the Dalidio Marketplace during hard-fought City Council meetings and negotiations in 2003 and 2004. But city voters forced the issue onto the ballot in 2005, and voters narrowly denied the marketplace development.

Dalidio took Measure J to voters throughout the county, and won. The 2006 measure rewrote planning rules to allow for 530,000 square feet of retail space, a hotel, businesses, housing and other amenities.

CPR and ECOSLO filed suit in San Luis Obispo Superior Court, and Judge Roger Picquet ruled in their favor.

Dalidio appealed Picquet’s decision to California’s 2nd District Court of Appeals in Ventura, which sided with him and overturned Picquet. The state court’s refusal to hear the question leaves that ruling in place.

Whether it means a shopping center will spring up is another question.

While legal machinations have been taking place, the local economy has deteriorated, and there are big-box stores standing empty in the southern part of the city.

Some of Dalidio’s would-be tenants, such as Old Navy, have since opened on the west side of Los Osos Valley Road in the Irish Hills Shopping Center, which is owned by Madonna Properties.

Target has announced it will settle in another Madonna project proposed for the east side of Los Osos Valley Road.