While I respect and appreciate Janice Peters for the years of service she provided to Morro Bay, I find many inaccuracies in her viewpoint regarding the Morro Bay/Cayucos Wastewater Treatment Plant (Aug. 8).
Unfortunately, she has disregarded numerous well-documented facts in an effort to defend a project that clearly cannot pass muster with the city’s own land use regulations, much less the Coastal Commission. I feel compelled to correct a number of important points.
Peters claims relocation of the wastewater treatment plant will result in a monthly sewer bill of an exorbitant $150 per month, but she provides no documentation for this figure. Had she researched the issue, she would have found a 2011 city report (Dudek Alternative Sites Evaluation) that clearly outlines the cost of relocation to Righetti. Even by the inflated numbers in that report, those costs are estimated to add only $23 per month to our utility bill, which is currently $41 per month, not the $45 stated by Peters.
In addition to grossly misrepresenting costs, Peters makes puzzling statements such as “our design puts the plant at a higher elevation to mitigate flood zone issues and have minimal impact on public views.”
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I, along with many residents and the Coastal Commission, fail to understand how constructing twostory buildings on elevated pads near the beach protects public views.
Certainly, relocating the plant now will add some cost. But, as I noted above, the numbers being quoted by Peters are wildly inaccurate. For instance, as The Tribune noted, the property identified as a likely alternative is on the market for $2.4 million, far less than the $7.5 million listed in the Dudek report.
In addition, the city’s proposal actually defers substantial costs into the future. Relocating the project today and addressing those costs now would result in a rate savings over the entire time period.
You may be surprised to learn some other facts about the cost of relocation:
The sewer rate after relocation would be less than federal affordability guidelines.
The relocation rate is consistent with the average sewer rate of other coastal communities in San Luis Obispo County.
The city’s rate structure could and should be restructured to assist lowincome and elderly ratepayers, by using a tiered rate system — common throughout California.
Relocation prevents ratepayers from incurring costs associated with the abundant coastal hazards at the current site.
A good bidding environment, grants and favorable financing could all reduce the impact to ratepayers.
The reality is that the proposed project is unpermittable for numerous reasons. The community has understood this since 2010 and advocated to the City Council to make the necessary changes. When the City Council chose to ignore the community, ignore the facts and ignore the permitting agency, they were all voted out of office in June.
The aversion by Peters to not acknowledge the facts are not surprising, as she admits she has been actively involved in the project since the beginning.
What benefits a city more —a sewer plant or recreational facilities located at the beach? Here are some more facts, which counter Peters’ prediction of economic disaster:
Seventy percent of real estate agents use trails as a selling feature, and trails positively influence sale price and time on the market.
High-paying employers are 33 percent more likely to relocate and/or remain in a community committed to quality of life through outdoor recreational activities, including walking trails and parks.
Products sold in communities with trees sold for 11 percent more on average than communities without trees.
A 1994 study found retirees seeking relocation ranked scenic beauty, recreational opportunities and mild climate as their top three factors for relocation.
Fruita, Colo., began marketing bicycle tourism and saw a 51 percent increase in sales tax revenue over a five-year period. Restaurants saw an 80 percent increase in sales tax revenue.
Outdoor-minded tourists have a higher tendency to overnight in your town and spend $107 per day, compared to $48 per day for non-overnight tourists.
These statistics are staggering and explain the recent effort to improve recreational facilities along the coast. Rep. Lois Capps was just in Morro Bay to celebrate the funding of the harbor walk extension and bridge over Morro Creek, which leads right to the proposed wastewater. The efforts to improve this beautiful stretch of coastline and strengthen our tourism economy are already under way and relocation of the wastewater treatment plant is completely aligned with these goals. Combined with the issues of sea water rise, flooding and recycled water, relocation becomes even more appealing.
Peters and I do agree about one thing: The Morro Bay economy is struggling. Thus, it makes sense to work together and develop a project that boosts Morro Bay ’s economy, protects the ratepayer from future costs and is capable of actually obtaining a permit. The only project that can accomplish all three of these goals requires relocation of the wastewater treatment plant.
Fortunately for Morro Bay, our newly elected officials understand the complex dynamic between these issues and are capable of moving Morro Bay collectively in the right direction.
John Diodati is a former Morro Bay planning commissioner.