The Cambrian

Buildout Reduction Program committee may need more time than allocated

The Cambria Community Services District has charged a committee of citizens with formulating a plan to identify and deal with lots to be removed from the possibility of development.
The Cambria Community Services District has charged a committee of citizens with formulating a plan to identify and deal with lots to be removed from the possibility of development. Cambrian file photo

A standing committee charged with reviewing and revamping a plan to buy up undevelopable lots in Cambria may need more time than currently allocated to do that work, according to some members. And that may affect how soon a report can be completed on environmental impacts of the town’s Sustainable Water Facility.

The recently convened Buildout Reduction Program Citizens’ Committee (BRPCC) met Tuesday, May 3. Committee chairman Ted Siegler gave a lengthy report on his recent meetings with officials and consultants. The group discussed the need for their work, what it entails and what data they need to aggregate before issuing their own report, and various committee members volunteered to serve on some important subcommittees.

The water facility’s environmental impact report is a key component in the Cambria Community Services District’s plan to prove that the extra drinking water produced there won’t encourage more growth than the community’s resources can sustain. The plant treats a brackish blend of fresh, salt and waste water.

The plant is not running now but is expected to be turned on again sometime this summer. A second “tracer test” is to be done on the treated water that’s injected back into the aquifer. The test is to prove that the treated water has sufficient “travel time” underground to meet state regulations.


At the meeting, some members began to question whether they could complete their research and analysis within the 60-to-90-day deadline given to them by the CCSD.

The new subcommittees include:

▪  Lot data: Mel McColloch and Greg Hunter will combine data from various sources to determine how many undeveloped lots remain in Cambria, and how many of those the county and California Coastal Commission would consider “unbuildable.”

The aim, beyond determining the total number, is to produce a GIS map and list of those lots.

County planner Airlin Singewald and subcommittee alternate Bob Sfarzo also volunteered to assist McColloch and Hunter in their research, as needed.

Singewald said at the meeting that the list of undeveloped lots includes a number of variables.

Among those variables, he said, are so-called “underlying” lots, which are contiguous but legally unconnected lots owned by the same person, with one or more of those lots containing a structure, such as a home. Formally merging those lots into one parcel removes the risk of that person selling off adjacent lots and a home being built upon them.

Also, the committee wants to know the hard-and-fast rules for “meter” movement into or out of Special Project Areas 1 and 2, areas of special environmental concern, such as Fern Canyon and viewshed areas.

According to an FAQ posted on the CCSD website at, if a property “is smaller than 3,500 square feet (many single lots are only 1,750 sq. ft.) or is located in an area designated by San Luis Obispo County as Special Projects Area #1 (roughly Fern Canyon area to Romney Drive on Lodge Hill) or Special Project Area 2 … you cannot transfer water there.”

▪  Existing water connections: Siegler and Crosby Schwartz will verify how many water connections, residential and commercial, are being served by CCSD.

Cambria’s water master plan, certified by the CSD board in 2008, includes a hard cap of 4,650 connections. That number also has been included in county regulatory plans for the area. A moratorium on adding new connections has been in effect since 2001, but stats have been a bit squishy about how many new homes have been added to the water system since then.

The BRP committee also wants to confirm how many properties really are on the district’s official “water wait list,” which is part of the equation about how many of those 4,650 connections are supposedly already reserved.

▪  Background for the committee’s report: Allison Groves and Cindy Steidel will compile background data for the report.

Steidel suggested that the BRPCC also provide definitions for terms and acronyms used in the process (such as the legal differences between merging and consolidating lots). Groves had numerous questions for such advisers as CCSD counsel Tim Carmel, as did other committee members.

▪  Financing: Members haven’t yet been appointed to the subcommittee that will tackle researching the all-important options for how the district can pay for purchasing unbuildable lots.

Siegler reiterated during his report that some of the financing plans included in the original Buildout Reduction Plan have since proved to be impractical, too difficult or even illegal. So the committee has to find other ways to finance the plan.

If you go

The next meeting of the Cambria Community Services District Buildout Reduction Program Citizens’ Committee will be at 3 p.m. Tuesday, May 17, at the Cambria Fire Station, 2850 Burton Drive. Subsequent meeting dates haven’t been set yet.

The committee’s meetings are open to the public.