Santa Margarita property owners vote down water reliability tax

May 25, 2012


Santa Margarita property owners voted overwhelmingly against a San Luis Obispo County drought reliability plan that would have required the creation of an assessment district, according to San Luis Obispo County Clerk Recorder Julie Rodewald.

The plan, spearheaded by SLO County Public Works Director Paavo Ogren and Supervisor Jim Patterson, would have turned  Santa Margarita into a drought reliability assessment district. If it had passed, property owners would have been required to pay a yearly assessment for the connection to state water.

Currently, the residents of Santa Margarita utilize ground water.

“Prior to importing costly state water, it would make sense to explore our local resources,” said Santa Margarita resident George Sullivan.

Ballots for the proposed drought reliability assessment district were weighted according to evaluations of each property. There were $146,947 in no votes and $49,533 in yes votes.

Proponents of the project said it would have provided residents of the area the ability to use state water in times of drought.

Opponents of the proposed assessment district questioned the reliability of state water during a drought. In addition, they said that the town is fully built out, and in more than 100 years, they have never had to ration water.

A similar measure in Nipomo, which would have required property owners to fund a $29.8 million dollar supplemental water pipeline from Santa Maria, failed earlier this month.

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As you may reconize by the name, I have been around Santa Margarita a long time. We have been blessed with affordable water which certainly adds to the value of all properties. No water no value, affordable water big value. Many here still have gardens, cut their grass and some even have swimming pools!

The biggest water problem for Santa Margarita has been too much water! So much that our Local Government gave up on our rights to 200 Acre-Feet of the Santa Margarita Lake. Santa Margarita Lake water was used to recharge our ground water basin in times of need, a drought reliablity measure for the old funky wells that once served this community.

Now we have new wells including a deep well drilled after the scare in the nineties. This scare was quenched by the miracle rain that recharged our ground water supply. Old leaky pipes have been fixed, low flow toilets have been installed and our water consumption is seriously less, seriouly so that a new revenue stream needs to flow. So good by to the annual 200 acre-feet and propose a revenue stream for the meager 5 acre-feet per year.

Thankfully most people are smart enough to vote down what some would call an association fee. Santa Margarita is not a new development with structured fees that partially pay some junior board to make it complete. We are an old subdivision with real property owners that already pay the real Board of Supervisors to allocate the tax dollars for the benifits that run with this land.

No, you have it wrong. Debbie Arnold says you have the right to do what you want with your land. There is no “build out” or “sustainability” you filthy hippie. Water will go to the highest bidder. Your well will go dry as Ayn Rand principles are applied. If you can’t afford to live behind a gate and pay top $$$ move to Bakersfield.

Bad form.

Now with over 1000 acres of grapes on the Ranch and more coming, wells everywhere-and more going in, and a 112 5000 square foot housing project reliant on wells in the pipeline, on the ranch,….the water is dwindling-you will see-Wet years , dry years, droughts …it has always come back…but now? the vineyard is depleting the creeks-There IS NOT too much water-that is a short sighted statement-

There is NOT enough water-unless of course you want to live without lakes, rivers and streams that survive year round? These will be a thing of the past unless they stop sticking more straws in the aquifer…Margarita IS NOT immuned-Just sayen-

Spot on observation, apparently one that was lost on the majority that voted no for drought reliability. Putting more straws in the same shallow water source as Santa Margarita’s existing wells is just a “feel good” thing. The definition of drought reliability is water from a source outside of the community.

Oh, and George Sullivan’s statement above ” it would make sense to explore our local resources” what George really means is that he’ll be perfectly happy to sell the community one of his existing wells in the downtown commercial district when the time comes.

Pity that Karen Velie didn’t ask George why he was so willing to comment. And I’d be quick to comment that “self serving” George does more than most of us when it comes to making our community more attractive, especially his new pomagranite orchard downtown.

And did you see his artist’s rendition of the large and fruitful orchard! LOL! They are one- nearly dead foot twigs, put there so he can appropriate water IN TOWN then, just as you say, then sell it! Just like the Santa Margarita mutual water Company”…a la The Ranch…”pipe dreams”

George does alot for the community, but also for the future benefit of yours truly-..

Margarita HAS No excess WATER…just wait for the mansions and lawns… ALL on that shallow alluvial aquifer-“Buy Buy” perrennial creeks-

Perhaps the No vote had to do with the Ranch being required to obtain supplemental water to allow the 112 mansion Ag cluster subdivision in litigation now….They don’t have enough water for existing uses, so perhaps the no vote reflects the communities disapproval of this sprawl into Ag land that destroys so much and gives profits to so few…while the community suffers the consequences. No road improvements, no sewer, no fire station-Some construction jobs and then it lines the pockets of the “famous farmers 3″…That’s why all the contractors are donating debbie-let the games begin!


Greetings NorCoMod and pasovino,

Be it Tequila or Whisky, both are for drinking and water is for fighting.

While I can read your comments I’d suggest you read the facts instead of pecking on someone who IS working on a non-smoking pipe dream. Dreams are the infancy of reality and our successors will choose their dreams too, if we let them.

As for suggesting that the County buy a shallow well surrounded by a heard of septic tanks, that is loco not local. Local would be somewhere upwind, read and stop squeezing the Charmin.

Is the vineyard being dry farmed?

As an aside, I noticed in county records that, between 2005 and 2010, 100% of the reported pesticides applied in the SMargarita watershed were in the Cypress Ridge vineyard. In addition, it seems that going back to at least 2003, the county has been pushing for SMargarita to import water from the Lake Naciemento project.

While it is true that, depending on the vineyard site and many other variables, at least some of the rainfall the dormant vineyard does not use supposedly goes into the aquifer, there is more chance of rainfall net loss when a crop which is dormant during our “rain year,” such as grapes, is grown over a large area. This would be especially true in areas where the soil types have a greater potential for erosion, as appears to be the case in the Santa Margarita area.

There are a lot of variables that impact the amount of supplemental water needed by a vineyard. The irrigation needed is, on average, figured between March and October. This is the time period during which residential water use peaks.

A vineyard, if it needs irrigation, is not a good crop for an area that is facing the need to bring in supplemental water for “drought reliability.” Most of the rainfall we get is during the dormant period of the grapes. That means that residential water use and vineyard water use will be peaking at the same time, putting humans and a luxury vineyard crop in competition for a limited supply of water.. Installing a vineyard in an already (according to the county) water-supply-challenged, is, at the very least, very poor water management planning.

Cypress Ridge is a golf resort between Arroyo Grande and Nipomo. I don’t think they have any vineyards there, just a few strawberries and greenhouses. Here is a map:

First post in a long time, as I get sick of the personal attacks. Stick to the topic of disscussion…

Anyone really interested in the history of Santa Margarita water or on this 218 vote should take the time to look at the facts, the real facts. Or even attend a CSA 23 public meeting, where this topic has been under discussion for over ten years…

I suggest picking up a copy of the Master Water Plan for Santa Margarita (which shows Santa Margarita has been using less and less water for the last ten years) and a copy of the Todd Report (paid for by SLO County Public Works and included in the Master Water Plan) which states that there is plentiful water in the underground alluvium and even recomends looking into additional wells for a sustainable supply.

and if you want to see what has happened with a potential water supply for Santa Margarita look into the State Water Resources Control Board Permit # 7253 which provided for 200 acre feet of water from the Salinas Dam (Santa Margarita Lake) for the town of Santa Margarita and was exercised from Feb. 26th 1947 through Oct 12th 1999, when it was pulled for “lack of diligence” by the county of San Luis Obispo. Guess who the only other applicant for this 200 acre feet was? The City of SLO.

The vote put on by the county(which failed) has already cost the rate payers (win, lose or draw) and it was for only a small amount of 5 acre feet per year( it takes approx. 1 acre foot per year to supply an average home and property according to county statistics) which the community could not use but was to be banked with an other agency, and could only be taken after 50 acre feet were accrued and in an emergency only.

The cost for the intertie to the State Water pipe was approx. $660,000 and $300,000 was a grant from USDA, the remainder was to be a lean on the property owners tax bill. The intertie would be a distance of 75 feet or less to well number 3.

Secondly, any future development on SM Ranch is conditional to the SLO General Plan which allows only 500 addditional homes(37 which have already been built) spread out on 14,000 acres.

Santa Margarita is only 330 acres and is already to build out, with only a few commercial lots left. Aside from remodeling or a tear down there will be no onslought of new homes.

No picking on people-just facts….But there is No dry farming and alot of of pesticide use-HUGE summertime peak water use and more to come with hundreds of new acres to be planted in the coming year-Irrigated ALL summer long-and large storage capacity too, also using creek underflow…Not sustainable during summer or drought without depleting creeks-

And this does not count the ag cluster -golf courses, amphithetres etc…if they proceed-It is a serious issue-No objective conclusive data has been completed on water use since the vineyard has gone in-Hopefully accurate studies will be done showing ALL wells to get a better understanding. The study done was not conclusive or over a ten year cycle as needed.

Just like putting 112 septic tanks (huge houses) next to a pesticide laden vineyard and all uphill of the newest town well by howard lowes-All that leaching downhill into the floodplain-next to the well MMMM MMM and grapes irrigated all summer long! There are well over 40 wells out there and enormous storage reservoirs-it is not good planning or sustainable….

NO dry farming..and…”Largely absent from the newspapers, especially local newspapers where new development is in the works, is any mention of the CSWP’s predicted ability to delivery only 50% of the water it has promised to deliver.”


Assuming “evaluation” means assessed valuation (“journalists”!), $147,000 yes and $50,000 no sounds like just 2 people voted. Did not those numbers look odd when you wrote them? Just like journalists not having a clue as to the difference between million, billion, and trillion.

Grumpy while speculating?

I knew as soon as I saw the headline, that this would bring out the crowd of the evils of development wanting all the water. I look at it differently. I remember years ago in my conservation class at Cuesta the point my teacher made. The majority of California’s population centers are located in areas that are classified as desert or close to.

His point being that for all of us late comers (yea all of us in the last 100 years) are overburding a state that is a lot of desert. It is TOO LATE (by about a hundred years). We have to much population already. Outside sources going forward will be the only way to maintain what we have in population. Sorry but that is the reality.

First time in print that I’ve seen votes tallied as dollar signs.

Prop 218, which governs tax assessment measures, requires the vote be tallied by dollars of benefit. The biggest beneficiaries of the assessment pay the most and get the most benefit. That is the way the law works. This is not a one-man-one-vote election. People who don’t like that process should get the law changed, and not fault those who administer the law.

This vote is the canary in the coal mine for Patterson. All the Oxygen is gone, and a third term seems out of reach.

Bring on Debbie Arnold and the apocalypse! No water, no regulation of development, no impact fees, pure profit up until the very bitter end, probably well after her voters, but not their children, are dead. I’ll be dead so I shouldn’t care, but oddly enough I do. The issue is county-wide. Hill will probably beat Waage, tho I’d throw Hill under the bus to save Patterson, so it’s all about the 5th. If you think this is about plastic bags or some APCD dude making as much as a firefighter with overtime you’re drinking the Tea Party Kool-Aid.

If the property owners wanted to vote this measure down, that was certainly their right and I have no problem with the outcome. I do have a problem with the lack of information provided about the measure in the above article.

This matter was not at all similar to the Nipomo issue. The water was available from Shandon’s allocation, and the pipeline already goes right by Santa Margarita. The financing was extremely favorable with low interest loans and grants being part of the project. The cost to the property owners would have been very reasonable.

Development is not a concern here. The best way to protect property values and quality of life is to make sure that a diversified water supply is available, if needed. And yes, there was water rationing in the early 90’s when their wells ran extremely low, and water had to be trucked in to the Park Hill area for homeowners.

The article could have explained these inportant details, unless the author had a reason to withhold them.

This issue IS like the Nipomo waterline project, in many ways.

1. Both are for communities who have continuously demanded there be no new development.

2. Both are for governing agencies which have continuously ignored the demands of the people in the community.

3. Both believed they could force, by using scare tactics, their residents to pay for an assessment to bring in new water.

4. Both greatly misjudged how the vote would go, and ended up wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars on efforts to get a measure–which their communities had already repeatedly said they did not want–up to the point of the assessment vote.

5. It will be the water agencies’ rate payers who will pay for this boondoggle attempt at shoving a supplemental water project down the throats of communities who had previously made it clear they did not want.

6. Both areas have the potential for increasing residential development and density of the residential development.

7. Both want to depend on extra water from another agency which gets part of its water from the State Water Project.

8. The State Water Project is unreliable. This year 50% was delivered to residential contractees and 22$ to 30% to ag contractees.

9. In both situations, the source of the supplemental water will get first dibs on the available water.

For more information on the State Water Project and the folly of depending on it as a water source can be found at:

Quoting from the article:

“Indeed, the Department of Water Resource’s “Final State Water Project Delivery Reliability Report 2009” forecasts continued decrease in the reliability of the CSWP deliveries. This report estimates future water deliveries to be about 60% of the amount contracted by the agencies.

It certainly appears that the two water agencies are trying to sell to their respective communities lipsticked-up pigs in a poke.

As such, the governing agencies of those two communities should not be surprised that the voters rejected the formation of assessment districts.

The Santa Margarita “water agency” you erroneously refer to is the San Luis Obispo County. Santa Margarita is in County Service Area 23, administered by the County. County Public Works brought forward this assessment vote, not some darkly clouded evil “water agency.” This County BOS, who you wanted to take over the Nipomo water project, adopted its Resolution of Intention for this Public Works improvement on March 20, 2012.

Are you saying your revered County Government “continuously ignored the demands of the people in the community” and used “scare tactics?” Are you accusing the Board of Supervisors of fraud by “trying to sell to their respective communities lipsticked-up pigs ina poke?”

Do you have the slightest idea of what you are talking about?

Yes, the county is the water agency.

A water agency is only as “darkly clouded” as their actions.

I think many people will agree that the county has continuously ignored the demands of the people…until election time rolls around. Then they “find Jesus” and become the voters’ friend…for the night or however it takes to get reelected.

The fact that the vote was so lopsided against the assessment measure indicates how clueless the county was in trying to get passed their boondoggle measure. Are you saying that the people in Santa Margarita have been telling the county they supported the assessment district all along, and then a “rogue” vast majority voted down the measure? That doesn’t make sense.

I never wanted the county to take over any local water project. If that is YOUR opinion, own it. Don’t try to shove it off on me.

The measure was dressed up as a “drought reliability” project. By the large majority vote against the project, it seems the voters believed it was something else. Why else would they vote down, by such a large margin, such a wholesome, benign-sounding project which supposedly was for the good of the people at the time of drought?

Why wasn’t the assessment district documentation worded so that any water imported, or any water conserved by the current residents, would never be used for new development? That should be an easy commitment to make by the measure’s backers if their intent was, truly, to provide “drought reliability.”

A standing ovation for the people of Santa Margarita! You are proof that people CAN vote out nonsense. We must ALL learn from this.

This kind of nonsense usually has a very specific purpose – to trick people into funding new water supplies for development. Whether or not Santa Maria is “built out”, someone most likely had plans to build something big in or near the town.

Thank goodness the people of Santa Maria and Nipomo are too smart to fall for the schemes of developers and their cronies in local government.

If Patterson was pushing it, I doubt it was a scheme of developers and cronies. Just sayin’.

Jim Patterson ain’t the Baby Jesus.

In my experience, one can never assume a politician will be consistent in what they support. It is certainly not unusual for a politician to go for the $$$ in the last few years before they decide not to run for office again.

I’m not saying Patterson was pushing it or not. What I’m saying is Patterson’s history of what he supported in the past cannot be assumed to indicate what he is doing now or what he will do in the future.

To begin with, the article is about Santa Margarita not Santa Maria. The town is unique, it is completely surrounded by the Santa Margarita Ranch, and other than a possible lot split or two, there is nowhere to grow. It’s the last place in the county that an experienced developer would consider.

And before you can say that the SM Ranch would want access to state water, the assessment district is(was) confined to the existing community boundaries.

No, rather than the people of SM being “too smart to fall for a developers schemes” they were too poorly informed to recognize a great opportunity for drought reliability, i.e. remaining surplus grant money from an earlier project, an available low interest USDA loan and all time low cost of construction because of the current economy.

You may be correct about Nipomo, I have no idea. But I would refer to the results of this 218 vote as simply lost opportunity.

The best way to obtain “drought reliability” is to keep development within what the region can support with basic water services in drought years.

There are only a couple of places in the County left that can be zoned for high-density residential development, and the County is required to produce this type of development. One of the areas is the Nipomo mesa, and the other is in North County.

So when we hear of an area in the North or South County region which is trying to push through assessment districts to bring in more water, we must be skeptical. While they say the water would be brought in for “drought reliability” or “save-the-aquifer” reason, only a gullible nincompoop would believe what the local and county government agencies are saying to justify the assessment district to bring in new water.

In South County, the NCSD board of directors continued to issue intent to serve letters even when saying there was a threat of saltwater intrusion. In Paso Robles, they pushed to get on the Naciemento water train to get water delivered–without having a water treatment plant necessary to bring the water up to potable standards.

In both cases, clearly it isn’t a fear of an interrupted water supply that drove those local governments to push through the supplemental water projects. If fear of running out of water was the issue, NCSD wouldn’t have continued to give ITS letters to developers, and Paso Robles would have had the water treatment plant ready to go online the moment the water became accessible to them.

I think it is quite ironic, and perhaps not coincidental, that the voting dates for both assessment-district measures were so very close together. The local agencies involved in the assessment-district efforts may have wanted to increase the momentum of their own project by having the voting dates close together.

If this is the case, it was a very, very bad decision by the local government agencies, and would confirm my belief that those agencies are disconnected from those they serve. NCSD assumed they’d be able to get the Mesa customers to rubber stamp their plans for the assessment district for the pipeline, despite the fact that, for decades, the community has given very, very clear signs that they will recoil in outrage and horror from anything that might possibly be related to more development.

As far as the 218 being a “lost opportunity,” if I lived in SMargarita, I would probably strongly disagree with you for two reasons.

1. There is no more State Water available for contracting from the State Water Project. The only way a city or agency would get state water is if they bought it from someone who has extra water (they think) to sell. And I bet the profit margin in that sale is astronomical.

Prices for water are skyrocketing throughout California. However, just last year the SWP said flat out that, in the future, on average, it would only be able to deliver 50% of the water contracted by its current contractees.

So any supplemental water plan that has state water in the deal should be looked at very closely.

I think there is going to be a lot of newly-available on-the-books-only state water up for sale, as profiteers want to scam the more gullible into buying water that falls in the “greater-than-50%” allocations they have on paper, contracted to be delivered, but which will never get delivered.

2. By a new state law, each water agency has to decrease its water use by 20% by the year 2020. While the state government may have intended that savings to allow them to take out of production some of the contaminated aquifers in the central valley, water agencies are looking at that 20% savings they have to produce as extra water they can use for development.

If Santa Margarita was to accept state water (which they didn’t), that would leave more water in the aquifer for Santa Margarita Ranch development. That’s exactly what they would claim when it came time to really push the development.

However, I do agree with you that SM residents missed a good opportunity to diversify their water supply.

If the board was serious about this just being a “drought reliability” issue, they would have had language in the assessment district proposal that stated none of the water imported, and none of the water conserved by the current residents, would be used to justify new development.

In that way, the people would have been guaranteed they were not paying the costs for development, use of, and maintenance of the supplemental water project for some slimy developer to profit from.

In the case of NCSD, residents have repeatedly asked for guarantees that the water would not be used for new development, and repeatedly the board and GM has refused to give them that assurance.

Voters really aren’t stupid, but I think sometimes those who govern them are.

In NCSD’s case, for a long time the board has acted like it didn’t need the input, support and assistance of the members of the community to make decisions impacting the community. The board has acted like its community members were disposable entities, to be used, like any other disposable commodity, when they are needed, and then discard and ignored as soon as the board got what they wanted form the people.

NCSD’s board has it backwards.

The board needs the community. Without the community’s support, those board members go back to being what they were before–jobless retirees and a one-class-per-quarter CalPoly instructor.

The community doesn’t need the current five board members or the general manager the board anointed. They can recall or vote out the current members, and install board members who will listen and respond to the needs of the community first–and the crony contractors last.

Maybe the article is about Santa Margarita not becoming Santa Maria. Well, not Santa Maria but maybe Rancho Santa Margarita, whoops, no that city was recently created in southern California and tried to steal Santa Margarita’s identity (Bush post office to reassign the name, all Santa Margarita addresses to be “Atascadero”) until stopped by Lois Capps (socialist bitch!). Maybe we can use “Mucho Bueno Santa Margarita” for Rossi’s wet dream. Got yer gate code?

Attempting to create this assessment district is an example of taxing where not needed. Has Margarita ever run out of water in a drought year? By the time the County takes its Admin. fee to create the district and build the bureacracy to collect the assessment, it would have been that much more money to assess to create more government to fix something that isn’t broken.

Mr./Ms. Bronson, you are correct. If Santa Margarita’s vote was handled any way like NCSD’s vote, it is likely Santa Margarita voters have already paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in public-relations, legal fees, and other associated campaign costs—for a project they didn’t want in the first place.

I think if the people of Nipomo knew how much has been paid to The Wallace Group for their work on the assessment district boondoggle, the people of Nipomo would be going after the board of directors with torches and pitchforks.

From the beginning of July 2011 up to 5/23/2012, NCSD paid The Wallace Group (for work on the assessment district alone) $170,537. And that is just what is documented in the public information in the board meeting packets, where the checks written are detailed in the warrants list.

Of course, the out-of-town public-relations group was paid around $75,000 for the assessment district propaganda.

I don’t know what Santa Margarita’s assessment literature looked like, but the high-priced, slick PR mailings from NCSD’s PR group focused mainly on thinly veiled scare tactics and intimidation.

To get an accurate dollar-number for what NCSD customers had to pay for NCSD’s attempt to force the assessment district on them, they would have to get copies of the itemized statements from their legal counsel, as I am sure he didn’t do the legal work for free.

It’s a mess, that’s for sure. I hope Santa Margarita has seen the last of this assessment business, but somehow I doubt this isn’t the case.

Wallace Group again? I suppose no one should be surprised. “The usual suspects” are generally right in the middle of these schemes.

LOL.. probably so. if not here he’s still trying to stick his schwantz into every deep pocket he can to keep up his lavish lifestyle that the public has been paying for for 25 years as the Wallace Groups pot is drying up one school district and municipality at a time.

Regardless of Wallace’s involvement an assessment district for SM is just another way of creating revenue for somebody that’s all. There’s more residents outside of Margarita proper than in town where water is needed and it wont help them at all.

NCSD is very, very loyal to John Wallace and the Wallace Group.

Inbreeding at its finest. LeBrun a former Wallace employee along with Ogren will see that we all have the finest in modern services. At least we have the Seitz brothers looking out for the public’s best interests. ha,ha,ha. Anybody else notice how the most law defying, tax fund robbing, $project gone wild$, under the spot light cities and CSD’s are all provided services and/or legal protection by the same handful of self serving loot whores? .