LAFCO consultant to testify against commission

June 4, 2012

Bruce Gibson


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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The only thing surprising about this is that the property owner is fighting it. That’s why the Pacific Legal Foundation exists – to stop agencies from overstepping their jurisdiction, and this is a textbook example of this. The SLO Property and Business Owners Owners Assn. has someone coming to speak from the PLF later this month on this very type of thing – if this concerns you, you should go. Go to the website for more information (I think it’s .com or else .net).

I don’t see the date of the PLF visit on the site. Would you please provide more information? Thanks.

Where did Gibson get 25% as the amount of water that SWP could supply? SWP’s website states they can provide 60% of water requested. Gibson has become power hungry, which is obvious from the look on his face (look at the picture above as an example) and his aloof attitude. Between the cronyism going on with the City Planning Commission, the City, County Planning Department, and a local consulting firm, and now this, the environmentalists have no room to accuse anyone of questionable behavior.

Look at Karen’s donars to CCN…she took another controversial development related article on water off the front page…money and influence seeps into all the cracks-

Thank You for clarifying that-water is money though….

Huh? The city planning commission (Pismo) is so developer-dominated how could any intelligent person, enviro or otherwise, not have “room to accuse anyone of questionable behavior?” Pismo is a cesspool of cronyism and corruption. Thank goodness Lafco stood up to them.

As for 25%, its as good a number as any. You wouldn’t expect the SWP, an agency that has promised its customers far more water than it can ever deliver, to tell the truth about how much they can supply, would you? At least be a consistent cynic.

Pathetic, really. We do, indeed, have a new bloc of good old boys who care about nothing but their own political power. Of course this has nothing to do with water, responsible growth, or the environment. This same group of boys has no problem whatsoever shoving development into Nipomo or Templeton. You know Templeton – where water levels in wells are plummeting and our CSD is going broke after buying into a water project it can’t come close to paying for.

“Smart growth” is a complete joke. By design, the more rural towns have zero representation – thus it becomes “smart” to build there. I think in SoCal that turned out to be “sprawl.”

Sadly, I think these guys have themselves convinced that they are noble. I like Lewis Black’s take: “Do some of you really still ally yourselves with any of these politicians? Aren’t you precious!”

There are too many public planners on boards pushing their concept of how people should live. Look at the city of san luis obispo planning commission as an example.

I find it odd that the Gibo-Patto-Hill apologists are not out championing their boys on this one. Could it be this level of deception/gamesmanship is souring to their supporters as well as to the rest of us? What gives?

Would you buy a used car from this guy? Let alone trust him and his sidekick? I think they are both over the Hill.

Whether water is available or not, Mr. Parsons is still allowed procedural due process.

If Mr. Hill and Mr. Gibson are so smart, how come they couldn’t figure a way to scrub Mr. Parson’s project without putting massive amounts of LAFCO (taxpayer) funds at risk when Mr. Parson prevails with his lawsuit.

I guess the end justifies the means. If we weren’t governed by rogue supervisors such as these two, I believe there wouldn’t be such a huge local support for groups such as COLAB.

How do you know he’ll prevail? Developers sue all the time — it’s a form of influence peddling. Few win.

A few years ago, LAFCo. led by Gibson, stripped the City of Morro Bay of its entire “sphere of influence.” That means the city has no say whatsoever about the development of property one inch outside its city limits.

There was never an adequate explanation of why this was done. The only thing that came close was mention of an old ballot measure (Measure A? B?) which requires any annexations of land into the city be approved by a vote of the people.

I guess that LAFCo. has a crystal ball and can predict with absolute certainty that the voters in Morro Bay would NEVER, EVER, EVER approve of annexing one square foot more of land into the city.

It was complete horseshit and LAFCo. got away with it. Morro Bay now stands as the only city in the entire State of California with absolutely no sphere of influence.

So is LAFCo. corrupt? You bet.

Do I think this Pismo developer got sold down the river? Probably.

Do Gibson, Patterson and Hill play the political game like cagy veterans? No doubt about it.

Welcome to the new and improved, Good ‘Ol Boys’ Network.

Check your facts. Your whole rant seems to rest on the premise that the voters of Morro Bay can decide whether to annex land to the city, and Lafco stole that right from them. Since the premise is wrong — voters cannot decide on annexations, a fact definitively decided statewide in a local case, Ferrini v. City of SLO — your whole rant is nonsense. How amazing everybody “likes” it! Ignorance rides high.

Furthermore, your argument’s just weird. The people of Morro Bay get to vote on annexations, but one approved by the corrupt good-old-boy Pismo city council over the vocal objections of many, many residents who never got to vote on it is valid? So what sort of democracy do you really believe in?

The city of Morro Bay has a voter-approved Measure dating back to about 1990, that requires a vote of the people to approve ANY and ALL annexations of land into the city. Period. Maybe court cases have removed a like measure’s authority, I don’t know, but I do know that the Morro Bay law has never been challenged in court by the city or any developer. And my understanding is that measures passed by voters usually don’t get overturned by judges, especially after 20-plus years on the books.

It doesn’t mean the voters would automatically deny an annexation into the city, just that the voters must approve it.

No one in Morro Bay was trying to or even talking about annexing any land, yet LAFCo. led by Bruce Gibson, stripped the city of its sphere of influence. Except for a thin strip of land up Highway 41 to the big trailer park. That’s a fact.

That leaves the huge Chevron Marine Terminal property, the Tri-W property, all of Chorro and Morro Creek Valleys completely within the purview of County Supervisors. And now look at what the Board majority is going to be — pro development.

And YES it was Bruce Gibson who spearheaded the whole thing at LAFCo. He cut off testimony when Morro Bay officials protested the matter and rammed it through, mainly because the LAFCo. members from city governments didn’t give a crap about it and the other supervisors went along with him.

Whoever said the Pismo Beach City Council was corrupt? Just because they approved a project that included annexing some County land, that means they are corrupt?

People in this state do still have property rights, don’t they?

Now the county could drop that same project in that same place and there won’t be a damn thing Pismo can do about it, except maybe sue. The County after all, needs property tax monies too and the County controls the excess state water allocations that are available and there are private companies that can put in sewer package plants to serve the project. Put in a golf course to dispose of the waste water.

Hardly my boys. Doesn’t change the water situation any though,

The greens and no-growthers ought to be pleased that their boys will stoop to this level to do their biddings.

I don’t think they’re so pleased that their boys will stoop to this level…’s just that this is the best they’ve got.