County failing to properly re-pave Los Osos

November 8, 2013

OPINION By BARRY LE BEL

During the last year as the Los Osos wastewater project has moved forward, it has become apparent that there is a real problem with the quality of the re-paving throughout our community. While getting any adequate response from the county is all but impossible, citizens are left with little recourse when we feel we are being wronged by our own representatives.

We the land owners in Los Osos are not only paying their wages, we are paying for every penny of the substandard work that they are either allowing or mandating done; I choose the later.

If this work was not acceptable to inspectors hired by the county, at least one being a former Wallace Group employee with his own company now, it would not be authorized to begin with or would be torn out and done over. With work being authorized and done against county standards the contractor is effectively being released of future liability for any new pavement failure.

This could mean that the future repairs might fall on the people of San Luis Obispo County as a whole; not just Los Osos. Why would the county need to spend our money hiring outside inspectors to inspect and approve work that is not to standard? Why even inspect to begin with?

Streets are marked by these inspectors as to what pavement to take out and what to leave. It is a fact that many blocks have been left with degraded pavement with jagged edges causing new pavement to meet with broken pieces of pavement 1-2” thick over sand or very little base. The new pavement is specked out at 3” thick with 6” of crushed granite base. Where these dissimilar edges meet, we are left with gaps so water will run right into and under both new and old pavement and our driveway approaches causing failure.

los osos road

The bid package from CDM Smith is specific on how these patches are to be made.

“All pavement cuts shall be neat and straight to provide an unfractured and level pavement joint for bonding existing surfacing with pavement replacement. Pavement cuts shall be parallel or at right angles to the road or area centerlines. All cut edges shall provide clean, solid, vertical faces free from all loose material.”

This is a problem in Los Osos where many of our streets have been left in disrepair by the county for more than 20 years with only potholes being filled in a substandard way. Since the condition of the streets was no secret, I am left to wonder what the reason is for paving in this manner. It was obvious that many streets would need to be repaved entirely from side to side.

With heavy equipment driving over our streets, in many instances nothing adequate was left to patch to. If public works couldn’t figure that out before bids were taken on this project, there is something wrong. It isn’t rocket science. Maybe they just thought they could get away with it? After all it’s just Los Osos, the home of the vocal minority; right?

We the citizens of Los Osos are being harmed financially once again by the powers that be. I don’t remember authorizing our paid employees or our paid elected officials to do substandard work on this hugely expensive project so that we will be left with streets that are falling apart with no recourse on the contractor because the county is having them take shortcuts.

I realize that many of our streets are to have top treatments after this patching is complete. This is no answer as to why the patching itself does not meet county codes. Top treatments will just be throwing more of our money away on substandard work. If the road itself is substandard, no amount of top work will fix it.

As citizens, we are all expected to follow the rules the county imposes on us at all times. My question is why would we or should we follow any of their rules ever again when we are being taken advantage of in this way and they are not following their own rules. Aren’t rules supposedly put in place to protect us from harm?

Who is left to pay for the results of all of the shoddy workmanship on these streets? I think I’ll take a guess at that one myself.

Once again, the property owners of the community of Los Osos are left to pay and possibly others in the county, not the petty officials that we are paying to represent us. To all of the officials in the SanLuis Obispo County, I think you forget who feeds you. We pay your hefty wages. It is your responsibility to protect us when spending our money. All of us that own property in Los Osos and drive our streets daily will be very aware of your wrong doing for years to come if you don’t step up and fix this mess.

Oh and you say the money’s gone? Whose poor planning is that? Heads should roll for this. What was that? Just do as I say? I don’t think so.

 


23 Comments

  1. SLOBIRD says:

    Not one more dime of County revenue should be spent in Los Osos on any project for the next ten years.. The people of Los Osos made their bed and should have to sleep in it. Your property is being spent on CDS (water, sewer, fire), the County is providing police protection, library, Grizzy Barn, tennis courts, park. You are being assessed for your sewer of 25 years in the planning, fighting, denial stage. Now, you pay for it, Add on additional assessments and pay for your own cleanup mess. We have wasted enough County revenue on your ignorance.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 16

  2. shelworth says:

    I think a worse problem is the clean, fresh water being pumped out of the ground and dumped into the bay. Aren’t we in a drought?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 13

  3. Julie says:

    Great piece Barry, please write one about the 800+ lateral (of the 4,200 laterals) change requests there have been and how many homes need grinder pumps (extra expense on those homeowners. I recall you have studies that subject in depth.

    As for the roads, each contractor only bid around $2M for asphalt, the Count is throwing in another $2.2Mfor Low Impact Development (LID) drainage projects and more asphalt of “County Road Funds” (this comes from everyone in the County. To date they’ve spent over $1.6M of that.

    They also lowered the standard at which the asphalt on lateral repairs need to be made.

    Dirt roads will remain dirt roads.

    Sadly, the slurry that will be “painted” on the roads AFTER construction is complete is merely a paint job over the mess left behind.

    Check out my Facebook group, Los Osos Sewer Sleuth.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 13

    • Pelican1 says:

      Do you accept any responsibility for this mess? If not, you should. This project should never have had to go to the county.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 7

      • Julie says:

        Really, Pelican 1, you want to blame me for 30 years of deferred maintenance on the roads?

        I advocated for STEP collection; a system that would have only left potholes down the streets (like are currently down 7th St.) for the whole system. The crappy roads would still be crappy, but they wouldn’t be blown to smithereens like they have been by the gravity system’s construction It looks like a bomb went off on some streets (including Lynette’s), this could have been avoided, along with the cost to repair, had we gone a different direction.

        The STEP system also would have avoided the dewatering issues that have plagued the project, also saving million$. Our leaders didn’t fight for that, instead buying into the conventional gravity system, an energy hog that was unfairly analyzed against STEP. No green house gas calculations were done for dewatering, which “green house gas” was supposedly the “scale tipping” definitive that took STEP out of the running (even though it was $10M cheaper).

        I was NEVER in favor of the County taking the project. They have it, that’s ancient history, but I am still fighting for what was adopted, asking for the Conditions of Approval to be adhered to.

        I don’t know who you are, but I’m sure you’re not at the BOS every Tuesday advocating for a better project, the one we’re paying dearly for. I’m certain you have nothing to offer in the way of solutions or compromise.

        The biggest and most important issue for Los Osos, way beyond its roads, is the fact that seawater intrusion can’t be stopped and the Basin Plan needs all of our attention right now. What comments did you submit on the Basin Plan? What do you have to offer? Are you satisfied with the options in front of us? Can you afford $67M more? I don’t know who can or is willing to pay those kinds of prices to “save the basin.”

        Criticize me all you want, there are shameful things happening with the project that shouldn’t be happening.Yet, I don’t see you advocating for what’s right. I,on the other hand, ALWAYS will.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 18

        • Lynette_Tornatzky says:

          I guess we all have different ideas on “what is right.”

          I’m thankful people did not want Step. The construction in the street would be in my front yard instead. A lovely crater would be dug up to replace the aged septic tank, which even Ripley said would require 95% replacement across the whole of the town. An electrician would be adding another box at our house as the current one is all used up. We’d need that new switch for the Step tank pump. (I’m sure glad the first thing we did in buying the house was remove the illegal room built inside of the garage. Think any other projects like that have gone on in Los Osos?) The three mature trees in the front yard would be gone. Sorry, I’d rather have my yard intact than the street. I believe the current project will be cheaper than those out of pocket costs Step would have imposed.

          “It looks like a bomb went off on some streets…” Really, watch the nightly news sometime to get some perspective on what a bomb actually does to a street.

          Julie, your board willfully lost ANY chance of doing a project, it went bankrupt after failing to hold the 218 vote that would have let you keep the SRF money and continue on. Really, you could have KEPT the money and continued to get that new location, but you didn’t. Do you not think you hold any responsibility for that even if you can’t muster up an apology?

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 13

          • Julie says:

            Lynette,

            It wasn’t always about ‘developers’ at war with ‘no growthers’ there were also heavy duty environmental habitat/ESHA issues at play. The Pismo site, advocated by Coy, was/is ESHA, the environmental community wanted it and the Broderson (sacrificing 8 acres for the leachfield to preserve the other 72 was a great trade) site preserved. They ultimately got both and in one case ($4M) was paid for by taxpayers ($2M grant) and PZ ratepayers ($2M 2001 LOCSD assessment).

            The RWQCB argument surrounding Nitrates never held water, Nitrates, as you well know, can be treated. As is the scheme of much of the Basin Plan, to treat and serve…yum. Deliciou$ and expen$ive.

            So, fighting a sewer altogether were a very few folks. But even they recognized there’s reuse potential in capturing the wastewater, treat and disposal where it can mitigate seawater intrusion. The only reason for a sewer. (Too bad this one doesn’t do it.)

            Lynette, what do you think your yard is going to look like after you hook up your house to the gravity lateral stubbed out in the right-of-way? If you try to implement just about any of the SLO Greenbuild reuse options for your septic tank, your yard will have a similar look to it as the one left by STEP tank replacement would have (your description reminds me of stories of the Boogie Man — BOO!).

            You also may need another electrical drop for the pump and filtration systems set inside the tank for reuse of rainwater or gray-water for your yard. Same potential impact as the STEP system — Boo!

            As for those mature trees, they’ll likely die without your/neighbors leachfield water as a nutrient rich source of water. Or of course you can haul your bathwater out there to water them.

            So, what’s the difference? The only way to minimally damage your yard on hook-up will be to abandon the tank in place, fill it with cement / sand slurry and miss out on the opportunity for its reuse. Otherwise, it’s ‘game on’ yards will be destroyed, all new irrigation systems, rain gutters (which may lead to new fascia or roof’s, all the homes are over 30 years old, the potential repair possibilities are endless.)

            The best thing I see coming from SLO Greenbuild is a recommendation to change the ordinance that requires septics be abandoned (filled) immediately. They may be able to amend it to allow for a grace period in which homeowners do not have to choose what to do with the tanks at the same time as hook up. Giving us time to design/fund a reuse option. Or, as the homes are sold due to bankrupting the longtime Los Osos families, the new owner can be given the choice of what they want to do with it.

            Just think how many people on 4th St. wouldn’t have been inconvenienced by FOURTEEN WEEKS of street closure for your gravity sewer construction. Or is that my fault too?

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 13

            • Lynette_Tornatzky says:

              Julie,

              The nitrate “argument” as you put it is about cleaning up water at the source of the pollution. You don’t get to “treat it” UNTIL you have stopped polluting it. And yes, the water here is polluted. Drinking out of the upper aquifer stopped in the 70s. It’s contaminated because we have peed into it for so many years from such a heavy population density with NO INFRASTRUCTURE. The only reason for a sewer is not to mitigate seawater intrusion! That’s absurd! It is to clean up the water!

              It may have been “few” folks fighting the sewer but with lawsuits that may as well have been an army. Remember CAWS? How about the obstructionism of TAPPS? Well, the list goes on: Coleman v. LOCSD, Keller v. LOCSD, CASE vs LOCSD, CCLO/CASE v. LOCSD, LOTA v, LOCSD, all with MORE than one lawsuit, just spread through the various courts. “Very few folks” as you put it, you among them, can do quite a lot of damage. The County project in 1984 was to have cost $48.5 million, in 1987 it was $86.4 million, in 2001 it was $110 million, in 2004 – well, we all know the rest.

              Mitigating seawater intrusion can be done with injection wells, and that was a possibility in the future with the old CSD’s project. But yes, the County cannot do that, nor was this idea in your favorite, the Ripley plan!

              The lateral trenches being dug are amazingly narrow, or did you not notice? None of my trees are hurt by that. We are having the rest of the trenching that we have to do done by hand, so there will be very little disruption in the yard. So your argument favoring Step does not compute. Digging a cavern (don’t you recall the giant tank in Mr. Bearden’s yard?) would wreck my yard and many others, with walls, walkways and driveways all needing to be replaced, never mind the landscaping.

              I wonder how many in the town will spend the money to do these things you mention that cost extra and wreck your yard? Moving rain gutters, redoing irrigation systems, electrical and graywater systems—that sort of stuff? THAT’S OPTIONAL, where a Step tank would NOT be.

              As for the mature trees dying, the Step system going to take the water away too.

              One street being disrupted was unfortunate, but that isn’t the issue. COST INCREASES DUE TO DELAY was the issue and you had PLENTY to do with that.

              Sorry to be so late to respond, but I was at the new Sweet Springs East planting native plants and raking up Eucalyptus debris. You remember that property don’t you? You and Jeff tried hard to not allow Audubon to acquire it, going after the Coastal Conservancy for giving Audubon the grant money for purchase and dissing Audubon’s stewardship of Sweet Springs Central.

              Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 5

              • Lynette_Tornatzky says:

                To clarify, the old CSD project had very clean water coming out of it because it was using MBR technology. But to really vigorously mitigate seawater intrusion you’d need injection wells which would require the extra step of Reverse Osmosis (like Orange County does). The old project had monitoring wells to make sure the water wasn’t getting to close to the surface, and would at a future date employ harvest wells if it did, say when buildout was achieved or the population cycled more water up to Broderson.

                And speaking of Broderson, you said, “So, fighting a sewer altogether were a very few folks. But even they recognized there’s reuse potential in capturing the wastewater, treat and disposal where it can mitigate seawater intrusion.” That is kinda hilarious. How many protesters were there against Broderson? Not a few! “Liquefaction! The houses will come down the hill!”

                Broderson was the only place water was ever going to go to mitigate seawater intrusion, both with the old County project and Tri-W. So from where was this mitigation going to take place that you speak about?

                Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 4

                • non_sequitur says:

                  Lynette, I just have to speak up. As a relative newcomer, you have no idea of the wonderful place that Los Osos once was, and could be again. Those of us who’ve spent the past 3+ decades here knew well the disaster that this project would create. Now you finally have it, a disaster. Enjoy your buildout.

                  Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

        • Pelican1 says:

          What you refer to as “ancient history” of which you were one of the key architects, is directly responsible for this mess. Shameful things happened BEFORE this project ever went to the county.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 3

          • Julie says:

            Prior to the coming back in June 2005 the pre-recall Board (of which I was one of) hired a consultant to do a pavement study. It showed and the bids reflected the repair costs for all kinds of interesting conditions out there. (In part this is why the collection system bids of 2005 were so much higher than those of 2012). Asphalt over sand, sand over asphalt, asphalt — in some cases only 2 inches above groundwater and the myriad of patches, potholes, all kinds of base and in some places the stripes painted on the road were holding the roads together. This study or an updated one (showing further degradation) should have been used by the county in their bid process.

            Pelican 1, you appear to be holding a grudge. I’m in the phone book, give me a call and tell me all about what’s the rub. I’m happy to talk to anyone at anytime about the sewer.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 9

  4. Pelican1 says:

    Imagine that, Los Osos being wronged by their representatives. This is certainly nothing new.
    When it wasn’t the county, it was the CSD.
    In the 70’s and 80’s when most of the residential growth occurred seemingly unabated, the county did nothing to improve the infrastructure of Los Osos. Only two subdivisions had paved streets, with curbs and gutters sidewalks ans streetlights… oh, and a sewer of sorts, while the rest of the rapidly growing community had to deal with dirt roads, potholes and septic tanks, annual flooding with virtually no infrastructure. And yet the construction continued. Then came the CSD’s and their desperate attempts to right the wrongs, only to make things worse.
    Only the citizens of Los Osos can right this wrong by coming together as one and demanding the representation of their elected officials without bias or prejudice.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

    • Lynette_Tornatzky says:

      You bring up a very good point Pelican1. The good-old-boys in the County of yore didn’t give a thought to infrastructure for Los Osos but looked more toward getting stuff built to gain tax monies. But you also have to take into account the fact that Los Osos DIDN’T WANT a sewer either, as it was felt that it would bring more growth. Well, we got the growth anyway and now we are FINALLY getting the infrastructure. A note on infrastructure: If you don’t do it BEFORE the houses go in, it will be tough on everyone, contractors and residents alike.

      Supervisor Bill Coy gave a sewer a pretty good shot, but Bud Laurent, not so much.

      Didn’t you see the old bumper sticker? “Los Osos Can’t Agree On Sh#t.” I don’t see that this sentiment has changed much, although the percentage of malcontents has dropped precipitously. Now, if we could only agree on what the “wrong” actually was….

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 6

      • Pelican1 says:

        The wrong IS, and always has been the fact that Los Osos has ALWAYS been considered the red headed, orphan step-child of the county. Once they turned their back on the growing community and ignored the obvious inescapable problems that surely would follow, then it became a red herring.
        The builders loved it…they made fortunes. And sadly, it’s now time to pay the piper.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

        • Lynette_Tornatzky says:

          LO is no step child (and thankfully no STEP child ether) of the County right now, more like #1 son. In the past, I wasn’t here, but what I have heard from long-time residents and read, you are 100% right. Of course you might also agree that LO had a mind of its own and some culpability in the sewer mess. The water mess however is 100% the County of old. And the Water Board for being lax in enforcing their own edicts played a part too.

          I feel sorry for the County of now who must clean up the mess.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 6

        • SLOBIRD says:

          Not anymore than Santa Margarita, Shandon, Oceano, Cayucos, etc. There is a reason to form “cities” versus “unincorporated” communities. The laws (like business tax, TOT, etc.) are not the same means of revenue as a City. A business tax is expense in Cities but $5.00 in unincorporated areas plus the lack of regulation. I guess you get what you pay for.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

          • Lynette_Tornatzky says:

            When Los Osos wanted to become a city like Morro Bay, LAFCO did not allow that to due to lack of business revenue generated in town.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  5. SpeakTruth says:

    So the streets in Los Osos are being re-paved poorly…
    C’mon, the crews are just putting them back the way they found them!

    I will no longer take my car to Los Osos, only the 4×4.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 28 Thumb down 0

    • Grrr says:

      SpeakTruth, quick question: Why do you find the need to go to Los Osos at all? Just cruising around to see how the other half live, or do you have business in LO? No matter. Why not just do whatever you do elsewhere instead of dragging your 4 X 4 out just to add to the LO traffic congestion?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  6. Lynette_Tornatzky says:

    Seems to me it would make sense to evaluate the conditions of the roads once the heavy equipment is done driving over it. No point in “fixing” anything when it might just get trashed again.

    I am not privy to why work gets part way done, then the rest is done later, but I suspect the bottom line (or possibly neighborhood pressure) is dictating working that way. Of course if we non-professionals want it “our” way, we could expect to pay a whole lot more.

    Also, the over-the-top rhetoric will get us nothing positive.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 11

  7. LameCommenter says:

    The heavy level of annoyance and suspicion is clear in this opinion piece. Our trips into Los Osos can largely verify that patch work is substandard in some areas. One hopes that the underbase will be good enough that a final cover treatment will be enduring. Are they going to finally pave the bay-adjacent street called Sunny Hill (which locals call Muddy Hill as it’s completely bare dirt).

    We would pose a slightly different attack on the contractors. Multiple re-excavations. Many streets were dug up for the main sewer pipe (about 8″ slip fit), closed, then re-dug just DAYS or weeks later for the laterals up to the homes, then final paved over days later THEN re-dug two weeks later for manholes and for clean out access ports. While they DID faithfully grind a water truck down most streets for dust control, and the crews were seldom rude or surly, I’m not sure I can figure the logic in re-excavating the street two or three times.

    No wonder the contract calls for “rock free backfill” soil when the pipe is first laid; they’re going to dig the same thing up over and over again.

    OFF TOPIC, so Dynegy is going to RETIRE Morro Bay plant in a few months. Morro Bay crazy mayor Jamie Irons used to work there. Can we make it a JOINT RETIREMENT with a very nice party for the plant and the woefully misguided nutjob mayor?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 4

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