The Cambrian

CCSD: Cambria apartments would not result in any net water use increase

The North Coast Advisory Council hasn’t yet decided if it will recommend approval of a 40-unit affordable-housing apartment complex proposed by People’s Self Help Housing on Schoolhouse Lane.

Members of the council aren’t apt to make that decision at their March 20 meeting, either, although that had been the plan.

According to council Chairman Tom Gray, Cambria Pines Apartments engineer Paul Reichardt had asked that the advisors postpone their action “until further notice, pending more work on the application, particularly in the traffic-study area.” Gray said he’d agreed to that request, as long as there’s no county deadline by which the council would have to make its decision.

The project would cluster the 40 two- and three-bedroom units on 2.46 acres of a 7.4-acre site, adjacent to the existing Self Help apartment complex of 24 units built in 1997.

When the Cambria Community Services District approved in January issuing “intent-to-serve” letters for 16 apartments — the last in the series of approvals to total 40 units in the new complex — the district’s counsel made it clear that the state provides few ways to deny service to affordable housing. Limited water supply isn’t one of them, according to attorney Tim Carmel. “The findings are very thin to not approve this kind of proposal.”

“We will provide water to all affordable housing,” Director Jim Bahringer said. “We have to.”

Also, the new project would be subject to the district’s new conservation measures, meaning it could produce no net increase in water demand on the district. Self Help would have to retrofit enough older fixtures and appliances elsewhere to compensate for the water used in and around the new apartments.

Reichardt said they’d start by retrofitting the existing 24 apartment units, changing out “toilets, showers, washers” and buying the rest of the credits “from CCSD at $50 a point,” until they’ve accumulated the required 4,000 retrofit points.

Each retrofit “point” equals the use of 1.47 gallons of water per day.

CCSD Director Muril Clift said the intent-to-serve letters granted to Self Help won’t affect the district’s water wait list for single-family homes, or the new “conserve-to-build” program, which is to be available for wait-list projects, because affordable housing is considered separately.

The new project was the subject of a long, occasionally contentious council review in January, encompassing issues as diverse as traffic congestion and speed and Cambria’s water situation to how often someone really does pick up dropped trash and how to keep students going to the neighboring Santa Lucia Middle School safe.

Concerns were expressed about the project, including about the complex’s design, which one member labeled “pretty ugly.”

Area neighbors Sue Robinson, Millie Sanders, Beth Cannon and Joe Prian said traffic already is dangerous on Eton Road, Burton Drive and Schoolhouse Lane, especially for students walking to school at the end of the lane. The new project would make it worse, they said.

“I’ve seen kids miss getting hit by an inch,” Robinson said. “I don’t want to see any kids die, or see people walking to church get hit.”

Sanders said she’s conflicted, because the town needs the project and “the location is the problem, not the concept."

Angry immediate neighbors Kathryn Clayton and her husband, Curtis Viets — who said they are frustrated by how they perceive Self Help has treated them — eventually stormed out of the meeting.

The couple has repeatedly said the project is being planned for the wrong site, their property values are plummeting, Self Help is trying to take over the only driveway to the Clayton-Viets home at the end of Schoolhouse Lane and, while the county may have irrevocable-dedication rights to use “20 feet of my property,” Clayton said, Self Help doesn’t have the right to take it.

John Fowler, Self Help’s executive vice president, said company representatives had tried twice to talk to the couple, once in December and once before the December CCSD meeting, and would “continue the effort.”