Dalidio foes say court set a bad precedent

Opponents of Measure J, which gave the green light to the Dalidio shopping center, say the state Supreme Court opened the door “for well-funded individuals and special interest groups to circumvent local and statewide planning and safety requirements” by declining to review the 2006 ballot measure.

The state Supreme Court early this week refused to hear an appeal of Measure J, through which county voters approved the center adjacent to Highway 101 just south of San Luis Obispo.

Citizens for Planning Responsibly and the Environmental Center of San Luis Obispo sued to overturn the initiative, which won two-thirds of the vote countywide.

After prevailing in Superior Court, CPR and ECOSLO lost in California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal in Ventura. The state Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case left that decision — and Measure J — in place.

“The litigation and appeals process in the state is over,” said James McKiernan, attorney for rancher-developer Ernie Dalidio, who owns the 131 acres of agricultural land.

However, the effects of the decision are not, CPR’s Russ Brown wrote in an e-mail.

“The result of Measure J will have ripple effects for municipalities, counties and governing agencies throughout the state” by encouraging end runs around government controls, Brown wrote.

He proclaimed the organization “surprised and disappointed” at the court.

“We believe the petition (for review) has strong merit, and several agencies had voiced their support for review, such as the Aeronautical Division of Caltrans and the city of Carpinteria.”

Brown added that Chief Justice Ronald George’s “widely reported recent comments regarding the extremely negative effects of legislation by initiative gave us hope the court would review our case.”

Brown wrote that “CPR hopes that any project on that land will annex into the city of San Luis Obispo, and that the developers will honor Mr. Dalidio’s 1994 promise to preserve half the land in open space to mitigate the loss of prime agricultural land to development.”

The San Luis Obispo General Plan was updated in 1994 to allow for retail development on the parcel. The Dalidio land is not in the city, 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 then 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, housing and other amenities.

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