Pismo Beach has more than seaside issues

Pismo Beach leaders will continue to face issues ranging from long-term growth to pigeon poop after the November election.

Bluff erosion concerns, improvements to sidewalks and other infrastructure, and ensuring the city remains fiscally sound on a long-term basis will also be on their agenda.

City Manager Kevin Rice said the council will discuss what it might do about the pigeon flock at the Pismo Beach Pier in late December or early January.

A report presented to the council in August by Cal Poly’s Environmental Biotechnology Institute found that the pigeons are responsible for a large share of the water-quality problems in the immediate ocean and nearby beach.

Other ongoing projects include repaving city streets and repairing or replacing its storm water drains’ outfalls, Rice said.

Three seats are open in Pismo Beach — two for council and one for mayor.

Incumbents Mary Ann Reiss, currently mayor, and Councilman Kris Vardas are running unopposed for the two council seats.

Councilwoman Shelly Higginbotham will face Pismo Beach resident Rodger Gillespie for the mayor’s seat.

The Pismo Beach mayor receives a monthly stipend of $814.80; council members receive $514.80 per month. All also receive a monthly allowance of $55 for phone, $40 for Internet access and $150 for expenses.

Here’s a closer look at Gillespie and Higginbotham.

Rodger Gillespie

Gillespie, who moved to Pismo Beach in 2001, is a substitute teacher in the Lucia Mar Unified School District.

A former U.S. Naval officer, Gillespie served eight years on active duty during the Vietnam War, and later joined Mobil Oil as a public relations executive. He then founded a public relations firm, Fisher & Gillespie in Encino, and has published two novels.

His highest priority is “to resolve the downtown summer traffic mess.” He proposes the city hire a professional traffic engineering firm to review the summer gridlock and recommend a permanent solution.

Gillespie also suggested that Pismo Beach could benefit financially from a marina located along a stretch of the city’s waterfront and suggested soliciting and considering proposals from marina contractors.

A marina could be built at a low cost to the city if a developer was offered a long-term, low-rent lease to build and operate the facility, he said.

Shelly Higginbotham

Higginbotham, who has lived in Pismo Beach for 26 years, was elected to the City Council in 2004 after serving three years on the Parks, Recreation and Beautification Committee.

She currently chairs the South County Area Transit board and was appointed in 2008 by county supervisors to the Homeless Services Oversight Committee.

Higginbotham said she has heard concerns from residents throughout the city about the preservation of open space and future development. They’ve mentioned two specific projects: the 182-acre Los Robles Del Mar proposed housing development and the potential development of 1,700 acres of rural land in Price Canyon, outside current city limits.

The Los Robles Del Mar project stalled when water supply questions arose, causing the Local Agency Formation Commission to reject the city’s plan to annex the property. The project developers sued the city in 2008, alleging breaches of contract, fair dealing and implied good faith.

Higginbotham said she’d like to see more people become involved in the city’s advisory boards. She hopes city officials can work more with neighborhood groups, such as the Shell Beach Improvement Group.

“I’m really excited to have this opportunity,” she said of her campaign for mayor. “It feels like a privilege.”

Higginbotham mentioned other goals for the city, such as beautifying some of its entrances, improving sidewalks and preparing residents in the Pismo Heights area for a project to replace water lines in the spring.