LAFCO consultant to testify against commission

June 4, 2012

Bruce Gibson

By KAREN VELIE

A consultant hired by San Luis Obispo County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) will testify that the agency’s board disregarded expert testimony, and overstepped its authority in order to stifle a proposed development.

In March, LAFCO board members voted 5-2 to deny developer Larry Parsons’ request to annex the proposed 182-acre development called Los Robles Del Mar, into Pismo Beach. The reason cited by the board was an alleged lack of sufficient water supplies to support the project, and the developer subsequently filed a lawsuit. New developments are required to show they have an adequate source of water.

According to the lawsuit, several members of the LAFCO board abused their authority in order to promote their own political careers.

Several days before the meeting, on March 11, SLO County Supervisor and LAFCO Chairman Bruce Gibson held a fundraiser for SLO County Supervisor Adam Hill at Gibson’s ranch in Cayucos. Hill is running for re-election against Pismo Beach Councilman Ed Waage. Several vocal supporters of Hill opposed the project because of concerns of traffic, water, and limiting growth.

Three LAFCO commissioners – Gibson, Ed Eby, and Muril Clift – attended the fundraiser along with numerous opponents of Parsons’ project — many of whom donated money to Hill’s campaign. All three voted against the annexation three days after the fundraiser.

“Los Robles Del Mar is informed and believes and on that basis alleges that LAFCO chairman Gibson and Supervisor Hill improperly conspired together to deny the annexation in order to placate their anti-growth constituents and further their own political careers in an election year,” the lawsuit says.

During the March LAFCO meeting, Gibson led the charge against the future development of 300 homes, saying that state water is unreliable, while also promoting the controversial idea that seawater intrusion has put the groundwater supply at risk.

Gibson’s claims were in direct conflict with LAFCO’s staff recommendations, an environmental impact report, and a report by LAFCO consultant hydrologist Robert Shibatani that there was adequate water available to support the project.

Adam Hill

Shortly after the vote, Hill, who sat in the front row during the LAFCO meeting, posted on his Facebook page that the project’s annexation had been rejected and proceeded to take credit for the denial.

Parsons’ lawsuit also notes how members of LAFCO used Gibson’s claim that state water was no more than 25 percent reliable when voting against the Pismo Beach annexation, arguing different scenarios when trying to promote state water projects they favored.

SLO County Supervisor and LAFCO Commissioner Jim Patterson voted against Parson’s project following Gibson’s claim that state water is no more than 25 percent reliable. Less than a week later, Patterson said at a SLO County Board of Supervisors’ meeting – trying to promote a water reliability plan he spearheaded – that state water is at least 60 percent reliable.

LAFCO Commissioner Ed Eby from the Nipomo Mesa Community Services District also voted to reject the Pismo Beach annexation, citing the “unreliability” of state water. However, at the same time Eby was promoting the construction of a $25 million pipeline to bring state water from Santa Maria to Nipomo.

Property owners in Nipomo and Santa Margarita recently rejected Patterson and Eby’s proposals.

History of Los Robles Del Mar

In 1987, LAFCO voted to place Parsons’ property under Pismo Beach’s sphere of influence, making the city the lead agency regarding the property.

In 2008, LAFCO’s experts determined on site wells provided an adequate water supply for the project. Even so, LAFCo commissioners rejected the project saying the project would deplete the aquifer. The commissioners told Parsons to purchase state water and bring the project back for approval.

In conflict with their earlier ruling on Parsons’ property, in 2011 LAFCO commissioners gave a private Christian school on an adjacent property permission to build a campus, using underground water from the same aquifer.

In 2011, Parsons spent $3.5 million purchasing 100-feet of state water.

At the March 2012 meeting where the commission rejected the annexation, LAFCO’s consultant Shibatani told commissioners that even without the 100 feet of water purchased by Parsons, the city had enough water to support the annexation of Parson’s property.

In his lawsuit, Parsons asks for approval of the proposed annexation, permission to use groundwater, receipt of an unspecified financial award, and legal fees paid by LAFCO. The city of Pismo Beach is listed as an interested party in the lawsuit but is not listed as a plaintiff or a responsible party if the court awards damages.

Parsons’ lawsuit provides only one side of the issue. Several members of LAFCO and the SLO County Board of Supervisors declined to comment because of ongoing litigation.


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28 Comments

  1. hijinks says:

    “Gibson’s claim that state water was no more than 25 percent reliable”

    Gibson is essentially correct. “State Water” is paper water — you sign up for xx acre feet a year, and pay for that whether it arrives or not. Since the state system has signed more contracts than it can fill, even in a wet year, you always get less than you sign up for. In the recent past, they’ve been delivering about 20% to urban users, less to farms.

    Moral of the story: “state water” is not actual water, and it’s insanity to base any development on it.

    (-4) 16 Total Votes - 6 up - 10 down
  2. dante0182 says:

    Karen,
    Now that the election is final, look into the close relationships of certain people on the city planning commission, county planning department, a local consulting firm, and cal poly, and then follow the award of jobs and contracts.

    (16) 24 Total Votes - 20 up - 4 down
  3. OnTheOtherHand says:

    I don’t know who is right on the issue of water availability and it IS a critical issue. I can’t even say for sure that this article is fair and balanced in its presentation of the issues. But it does look to me like LAFCO has been acting in a manner that is, at the very least, prejudicial, arrogant and unfair to the developer.

    If the Supervisors involved and their LAFCO lackeys can’t come up with a more ethical way of doing business, I think that it is time for some changes. And that is a pity because I don’t want to see a return to a Board of Supervisors that goes too far in the other direction by giving any developer whatever they want either. I’ve thought that Jim Patterson was the best of the current lot and wished he was my Supe, but his association with Gibson and Hill on this makes me wonder. While I’m not in love with Waage, it is becoming more apparent that I can not support Hill in anyway in this coming election.

    (9) 13 Total Votes - 11 up - 2 down
  4. Alon_Perlman says:

    An odd story this, in terms of timing. But I have zero more to say about that. http://www.slocounty.ca.gov/Assets/CR/Elections/June+5$!2c+2012+Presidential+Primary/ZeroReport.pdf tomorrow will tell.
    As for the Morro bay LAFCO. That was in 2007. A good time to comment would had been then.
    http://www.slolafco.com/Documents/7_Appendix_A_Initial_Study.pdf it was presented to the MB City council. I was there – much to do about a thin strip along 41. Was Hill supervisor then? may had been, pretty sure that “Nope” is correct.
    State water? I told Morro Bay city that future State water supplies would be unreliable. In ’06 or in ’07. In fact I think that is why I was at the meeting, not the LAFCO item.
    What does reliable mean? What does 60% reliable versus 25 % mean? It depends. It depends on your alternative water sources and whether you have the capacity to store water. Or they may had messed up big time.
    So when did the information, that the LAFCO consultant was going to testify, come out?

    (2) 2 Total Votes - 2 up - 0 down
  5. TheRealPretender says:

    A quick look at the California Government Code shows that SLO LAFCo’s whole “wet water” policy is bogus.

    For example, Code Section 65352.5 states that one of the ways agencies can document the adequacy of their water by providing “… A description of all proposed additional sources of water supplies for the water supplier, including the estimated dates by which these additional sources should be available and the quantities of additional water supplies that are being proposed.”

    Notice the phrases “proposed additional sources”, “estimated dates”, “should be available” and “are being proposed”? This certainly doesn’t support like LAFCo’s “on hand and ready for service” mantra. This lawsuit is not going to end well for LAFCo or the taxpayers who’ll end up paying the bill.

    (5) 17 Total Votes - 11 up - 6 down

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