The Cambrian

127 vacant lots in Cambria still not cleared of fire hazards

A dead and downed pine tree in Cambria.
A dead and downed pine tree in Cambria.

Owners of 127 vacant parcels in Cambria did not complete weed-abatement tasks required by the services district’s Fire Hazard/Fuel Reduction Program.

At the start of this year’s program, the Cambria Community Services District and Cambria Fire notified owners of 1,838 vacant parcels about the requirement to remove the fire hazards in accordance with requirements set by the Health and Safety Code.

A CCSD-hired contractor will do the cleanup work within the next month, according to a unanimous 4-0 vote of the district’s board of directors during an Aug. 3 public hearing. Director Amanda Rice was absent.

Owners of each of the 127 parcels will be billed for costs to remove weeds, downed wood and other flammable debris from his or her property, plus a $100 administrative fee.

Lot owners who don’t pay their bills directly to the CCSD in a timely manner will find the costs tacked onto their 2016 property tax bill, with an increased $200 administrative fee.

During the Aug. 3 hearing, board members were told that the number of lots that hadn’t been properly abated by the deadline had dropped from 265 in 2015. That number may have been an anomaly, according to Ryan Maloney, engineer with the Cambria Fire Department. The number of lots left for the district’s contractor to abate in 2014 was 120, according to district records.

He said the program has various checks and balances to make sure lots are cleared thoroughly enough but not too far, and that native species have been protected.

Resident Laura Swartz told the board that a contractor had told her and husband Crosby Swartz last year that “I don’t care about habitat” after the worker had cleared a lot in the protected Fern Canyon area. She said later that she understood how that worker could have been having a bad day or a hard time, and might have learned since then not to harm the environment. But, she said, the end result of a too-severe trimming could represent a bad year or longer for that section of the Monterey pine forest.

Swartz, a member of the Cambria Forest Committee and the CCSD’s Buildout Reduction Plan Citizens’ Committee, asked the district board whether the forest group could be allowed to give a little input on the contractor’s selection.

In other actions Aug. 3, the board:

▪  Approved a 2016 salary range of $5,163 to $6,275.66 for the new position of wastewater systems operator III, replacing the budgeted position of wastewater systems operator II. The action, which increases annual budgeted costs by $7,485, mirrors a similar position and salary range approved in May 2013 for the water department.

The new wastewater position’s salary would rise to $5,343.59 to $6,495.17 in 2017.

▪  Approved upgrades to the San Simeon Well Field Control System and an $81,900.75 contract with Alpha Electrical Service for an automated data system that allows computerized remote monitoring and data recording at the district’s well locations.