Dalidio ranch in escrow

May 23, 2013

Ernie_tractorBy KAREN VELIE

Ernie Dalidio abandoned his plan to create a 131-acre mixed-use-development on his land adjacent to Highway 101 near Madonna Road in San Luis Obispo, and put the property up for sale.

The property, listed at $19,750,000, is currently in escrow.

The proposed sale is the latest chapter in an illicit 20-year battle to prevent Dalidio from developing his land.

James and Thomas Copeland, the owners of numerous properties in San Luis Obispo, battled against the project in an attempt to protect their business interests, hiding under protection of an LLC.

In 2010, the California Fair Political Practices Commission levied $80,000 in fines against the Copeland brothers and former banker David Booker for committing 16 campaign violations in their secretive battle against Dalidio’s project.

The state’s three-year investigation into the funneling of cash and gifts to the campaigns to stop Dalidio’s project revealed the city’s mayor, Jan Marx, was part of the unlawful effort.

Dalidio says he has had enough, and wants to move on.

“I have been at it for 20 years,” Dalidio said Thursday. “It is time to move on with our lives.”

San Luis Obispo County voters approved Measure J in 2006, entitling the property to uses including 530,000 square feet of commercial/retail, 198,000 square feet of business/office, 60 residential units, an organic farm and farmer’s market and sports fields. The property lies within San Luis Obispo city boundaries, but it is unincorporated.


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The anchor is going to be Lowe’s or Macy’s. Period. Probably Lowe’s. If Paul Brown doesn’t get elected though, then it’s going to be a long time before this project gets built. The city of SLO ran Macy’s out of town with the high buildings costs, so we need a council that eases up on building requirements. Lowe’s will build just about anywhere. This project will never be built in the county. The county doesn’t have the funds to support traffic adjusments, build a sewage treatment plant, and provide services. The sewage treatment plan alone is way expensive. Measure J is dead and this why Ernie sold. No one would pay close to $20mill unless for a shopping center. The original project has REI, Whole Foods, Target, Lowe’s, 6 restaurants (Chilis, Johnny Rockets, Mimis Cafe, In N Out, Johnny Carinos, Pick Up Stix), Lane Bryant, Pier 1 Imports, and some other smaller stores. Macy’s was proposed back in 2004, but have since been trying to get into used buildings like the bid they made on Gottschalks back in 2009. JcPenney’s is doing worse than Macy’s, so I don’t expect to see them. I can’t see Sam’s Club coming here because we don’t have the population and we already have Costco.

I suspect there is a fairly good change it will be done in the county.

You don’t get it dude. The county doesn’t have cash to build the sewage treatment plant and nothing else. That has to be built first according to Measure J. The developer bought that land cheap enough, so the developer could fork out cash for any small lawsuits for being built in the city.

The developer can build a smaller shopping center in the city in a year with Lowe’s and a hotel or Macy’s and a hotel, but I suspect just Lowe’s and a hotel. I hear the buyer is the owners of SLO Promenade.

Actually “you don’t get it, dude.”

The sanitation system — be it a packaged waste water treatment plant or a matrix of septic tanks would be paid for by the developer, not the county.

I suspect that buying and operating a private waster water treatment system in the county would be a lot cheaper than paying for cities services.

I bet Lowe’s will be the anchor store. There is a possibility we could get a lifestyle center anchored by a movie theater, restaurants, REI, Whole Foods, and clothing stores. But it would be tough to sell that to the council.

I think the new owners are going to have a great deal more latitude than Dalidio did.

He agree to no restaurants, bars, theaters, etc. He agree to setting aside property for sports and a farmer’s market. In the mean time the mayor of SLO (or was she only a councilperson at that time?) conspired to throw a spanner in Dalidio’s development process. What a raw deal.

I suspect the current owner could propose a reasonable development with retail, offices, restaurants, bars, theaters, etc. and quickly take it to court (and prevail) if anyone tried to trip them up under the sordid guise of “protecting our downtown.” In simplest terms, that’s not sufficient reason to stop a development, particularly with all the crap now spread a long LOVR.

Screw the council. Keep it in the county.

Marx was only a council member at the time, and her turn at mayor was shortly after the “spanner” being thrown into the works. Mayorship was the reward for lying, cheating, and betraying the public trust. Nice.

In all sincerity what advantage does the new landowner gain by having the property incorporated into the City of SLO? Access to sewage service? Better tax rate?

Seems like it might be better to just deal with the county…

The advantage of being incorporated into the city boundaries would be the availability of using city services for whatever is developed there (city police officers responding to calls, not the Sheriff’s Department, fine officers no doubt, but city officers should have a much quicker response time, and the city fire department, again, nothing wrong with any other agency, but city crews would be much closer and be able to respond much quicker) and also having the water and sewer hookups be part of the city’s system. Then there are the issues of compatibility of traffic planning as well as building code enforcement, so on and so on. The property is mostly developed on sides inside the city’s sphere of influence, so to keep it isolated as a county property really doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Thanks, I appreciate your insight.

Water wouldn’t be an issue for that parcel — a well would work just fine as it now does for ag and it would be far cheaper. I suspect sewage would also be handled by a septic tank system or a “packaged waste water system” far cheaper than paying for city utilities depending on what form the development finally takes.

I suppose being served by the SLOPD and SLOFD might possibly be of benefit compared to the alternatives. Then again, maybe not. It would be interesting to understand the cost implications In any event thanks for your insight.

It will be advantages if the new owners can out bid the Copelands and get into Jan Marx and friends pocket book, Let the bidding begin. Top dollar will win.

Better to publicly gut Marx and company in court at the mere hint of further obstruction.

the fact he can build now vs some time far off in the future. the county doesn’t have the funds for the traffic and everything else…I heard he sold the project to SLO Promenade 2 owners.

That would make it the Copeland Outlaws!

My guess is — Super Walmart here we come!

I’d like to see the sports fields in his last plan turned into a sports stadium. We have two semi-pro baseball teams, a mens baseball league, a semi-pro football team, lots of socer leagues, and even a rugby club team here that could use a new stadium. Plus it could be built to also be an outdoor amphitheater for live music events, which SLO is falling behind the ball on (note, Paso has a new amphitheater).

If a multipurpose stadium were built, perhaps Cuesta too would consider bringing back its football program? Entertainment, something beyond college bars downtown, is something that our whole county is lacking. Perhaps a MLB-farm team could be brought to town.

I’d have to agree with some of you, more shopping centers are not needed now.

I think it’s a safe bet that with a $19.7 million price tag, it isn’t likelythe land continues in ag, unless of course the buyer is a conservation group.

But good for Ernie, he didn’t get to build his project but it looks like he’s still going to make a nice killing on that land.

The thing now is to find out who the buyer is. That should tell all.

Thankfully it’s not your call whether SLO “needs” more shopping options of not. It’s up to the owner of the land so long as they follow the laws of SLO County or City.

The days of setting aside property are gone with the sale of this parcel. The developer was have to utilize every square inch they can to get an adequate return on their investment.

Thanks again, Jan Marx you d.b!

“The days of setting aside property are gone with the sale of this parcel.” Not quite; the influence of the approach to the airport will definitely still have an impact on what is built, where it is built, and what sort of requirements will be place on any and all development. The developer will not be able to “utilize every square inch” due to the above mentioned influence of the airport, and one of the most stringent requirements will be in determining how many housing units could be built on the property.

I totally agree with the comment by Niles Q about finding out who the buyer is; it should be very telling in finding out who (or what) the buyer is, and that should probably answer a lot of questions about what will be proposed for the site.

By the way Sam, you really don’t have to infer that Jan Marx is a “dumb b*tch” with your comment; I cannot think of anyone who believes that Jan was smart in any way in her involvement with the Copelands in fighting Ernie Dalidio’s project. She was wrong, period- just leave it at that and drop the personal attacks, please.

Depends on the political strength and wealth of whomever bought the property. The new owners might very well be the type with the money and the influence to make sure people like Marx go to prison if they try any more shenanigans.

FWIW, “db” = douche bag…

Thanks for the clarification :)

traffic is like a WalMart. If you don’t like it don’t go there.

There is a reason Ernie couldn’t build his project. It’s no longer feasible to build in the county and Ernie probably doesn’t want to bring a project back to the city, so he is selling to some one who is willing to bring the project to the city. Not only that, but it’s going to be hard for him to get an anchor tenet. Lowe’s and JcPenney’s have been doing awful in this economy and Macy’s probably won’t build here. And I doubt the city would approve a second movie theater at the Dalidio Ranch project. Good luck to whoever bought the land because it’s going to be a fight to bring Macy’s and Lowe’s to the city especially when Home Depot is already in the area. It could be years until that land is developed.

Why is it “no longer feasible to build in the county”?

This was never about Ernie. It’s about what makes sense. Caltrans evaluated the Marketplace proposal and determined it would create 35-40,000 new car trips in a location without adequate roads to handle it, resulting in traffic “failure” or at 16 nearby intersections. The open space was a requirement of the state airport safety board calling for a crash zone in about 50% of the proposed development area. Most of the property is in a flood zone that is not appropriate for many of the proposed developments, especially the water treatment plant. There’s much more.

So stop all the BS ideology about property rights. The reason this project never happened was that it would be a disaster, creating so any negative impacts for the area it was STUPID.

I suspect most of the people shouting “poor Ernie” don’t even live in SLO and/or don’t know the facts. Developers who buy this property and think they can build it as drawn have a rude awakening coming.

16 intersections? Where did you get that magical number. I counted the intersection starting at Higuera and Madonna and counted all the way to and including LOVR, which are all the immediate area’s that are most likely affected. I come up with ten and isn’t that the reason for the interchange? I don’t remember ever seeing anything about what you are claiming with Caltran’s.

On the flooding? Where did you get that magic. I’ve lived in this county for thirty years and yes for a time in SLO and have never seen nor read of that properity flooding.

I have read about it being in the landing area of the airport and I’ll buy that.

Just because a word ends in “s” does not mean you need an apostrophe.

Well thanks for that. So do you have any opinin about what we are all talking about??

Just because someone misspells on the internet, does not require a comment.


I do remember the flooding back in the mid 90’s during an El Niño storm season… most of it was around Laguna Lake, not Dalidio’s property (as I recall).

I actually lived over there during it, and other than seeing some dude jetski down Oceannaire Drive, some of the water flooded up to Madonna road, but I don’t remember it crossing into Dalidio’s property (which is adjacent).

I also want to know about the “16 intersections” and is the “35-40,000” figure 35 to 40,000 or 35,000 to 40,000? Reminds me of an old bar bet, “Bet I can do between two to three hundred pushups…” (then do just 3 or so). Gotta love Engrish.

Again, look it up on the Caltrans reports. The traffic counts and number 16 came from them.

I’d LOVE to see where in the report. I pulled up a couple of the PDF’s this morning and couldn’t find anything in reference to that.

And, we all know CalTrans never makes mistakes, always does their job efficiency, and have all the answers. There are even cases of bribery, payoffs, and fake reports and inspections. Just ask the folks in the Bay area!

Stop defending this political nightmare. When the day is all over, there is no difference in the development between Madonna’s project on Los Osos Vly Rd and Dalidio’s on Madonna Rd except the name! A real kicker would be Madonna buys this site and then develops it…

As for the flood zone, anyone remember the boats going down Monterey St during the 1973 flood. There is an actual publication showing it (I have one). It included Higuera/Marsh St intersection, down Higuera, Chorro and Lincoln intersection, Laguna Lake, etc. Under the right circumstances, any disaster can happen.

Life has no guarantees!

How about the guy claiming to have read these reports give us a link instead of saying “you go look it up to back up my claims” (essentially).

And the Madonna developments have not adversely impacted traffic on already overloaded LOVR? Like all develpment Ernie’s project would pay into the City traffic impact funds. The airport safety zone was included in the development plans and the water plant unnecessary were it not for the illegal activities of the Madonna/Copeland Crime Families to crush this project so the tenants would be available for their competing projects. And the consigliere to the crime families is our mayor.

You make my point on the traffic impacts. Now picture the traffic with another million square feet of stores, business parks and houses trying to get onto LOVR or Madonna Road. The Prado Road overpass would cost $80-100M. Ernie offer $4M fixed. And if you look at Caltrans reports, the overpass requires a major flood control component all along 101! Because it’s a flood zone perhaps?

Again, just check the Caltrans studies.

Ah the misleading numbers game again. You’re pretty good at this. The last report I could find on cost was in the flier of the people against the development from ’06. They state a cost of 33-39 million. So let’s round off to forty million. That would be 10% that Ernie is kicking in. If you look at the long range forcast from Caltran’s back in 1996 they project a need for the overpass with or without the development, based on growth of SLO.

HENCE why the people of SLO would be asked to chip in also, because it isn’t just going to benifit Ernie.

Again, we get it, You don’t want or like development but PLEASE stop all your b.s. of this and flogging away with false numbers and information.

Let’s say it was $40M 7 years ago. The cost of road construction is way up compared to then And the flood control measures were a separate cost. The total was over $50M back then. And the marketplace fair share of this was set 54% by the county. So we are between $50M and $75M short. And if they should ever complete this as a county project, then people all over the county get to pay for it, not just residents of SLO. That would include you, BTDT.

You missed my point. To be FAIR with your comment about Erine paying 4 million you need to base it off what it was at that time. You are skewing your argument to make it sound worse than it is.

Measure J set the developer’s share as a fixed $4M regardless of how much it cost or when the Prado Road Overpass was built. That was patently unfair to the county taxpayers.

And you can blame Gov. delays for the cost run ups. If it was done there and then you wouldn’t have the extra cost. That isn’t Ernie’s fault, that is the Gov. fault.

The Dalidio project was the FIRST proposed, the Madonna project would have been in addition. Face it, this was straight up dirty SLO politics. And we know who the players are.

I think most of the traffic impacts along LOVR is from the expanded housing in Los Osos after they lifted the moratorium on building back when. People who do not live in SLO aren’t going to drive here for shopping, unless they’re tourists already here. I’m pretty sure that the north county folks will stick with A-town and PR, and the south county will stay in the five cities, or Santa Maria much of the time.

Congestion is either expansion of dwelling units, or expansion of jobs. The only things that grew were some housing units, cal poly population, and government. Those are your congestion cars. Adding another (un-necessary, IMHO) shopping center isn’t going to create THAT much more traffic than Costco and the LOVR stuff does now.

“Hey, I’ve been avoiding shopping at SLO’s Costco, Target, and Home Depot for some time now… but now that there’s a Wal Mart (or whatever) on the Dalidio Ranch, I’m there!”

If all that’s true, why did they justify the whole thing as a county-wide project?

Boy did you miss it? Yes it is in county now and MOST LIKELY will be incorporated into the city. If you remember Ernie was getting no where with the city, so he went the county route to try and get approved and get the city off the stick.

Sorry I’ve read and followed all of this for twenty five years, so spin anyway and revise the history anyway you want but FACTS ARE FACTS!!!

“Most likely” is not a fact. Measure J is only in play if it is built as a county project. That’s a fact.

Boy you must be on Copeland’s payroll or have a business in town, because you continue to find all kinds of fault with this.

REALITY, voters approved. REALITY, he has spend twenty five years going through the process. REALITY the whiners like yourself that don’t like, come up with every excuse under the sun.

I say BUILD IT!!!

Interesting that the Tribune finally broke this story 2 days after CCN. Boy, we know were to get are current trustful news. The Tribune article made a slight mention of the fine imposed on the Copelands but neglected to mention the fine for banker Booker and Jan Marx’s role are campaign chairwoman. Just bedfellows and corruption amongst friends.

So these 35-40,000 “new car trips” are not the same folk going to Best Buy, Sears, Kohl’s, Petco, Costco, Home Depot, Dick’s, Target, Old Navy. Bev Mo, Panda Express, TJ Max, Pet Mart, etc. These cars are just going to Dalidio’s site and back home?

So the above businesses are not in the same flood zone, using the same intersections, using the same water/sewer services, have the same airplanes flying overhead, using the same freeway entrance and exits, etc.

At least Dalidio was going to contribute to the freeway overpass and just look at the free ride Madonna got to build build build. Corruption at it’s best because of the sales tax dollars. Costco alone brings in One Million Plus a year, but still not enough for the City politician who will bring that 1/2 sales tax issue back to us for a vote. Money for the likes of Katie, the wonderful City Attorney, and all the other new department heads that have had to be replaced because the prior ones couldn’t work with Katie and Jan Marx. Stories from seasoned employees still working there are interesting.

Bring on the Wal Mart or better yet, a distribution center with trucks coming and going all day and night. That would be so perfect for Jan Marx, Copelads, and company!

Got thinking this morning about your logic. So what about Higuera? Back in early ninties it flooded between Higuera/Marsh and South St. About two feet if memory serves. Should we go down there and tear down that whole area now??

It’s always about Ernie and the Copelans and Jan and the Sierria Club. You don;t get to rewrite history.

The flood zone issue was known and handled as part of the projects, flooding was never going to prevent the project.

So stop all the BS. You can have your opinion but the history of this is done, stop trying to rewrite it.

But that’s progress, the core of progressivism… re-write history, or just ignore it long enough that no one will remember or know.

OK, Jan, Jim and Tom, we got it!

I – for one — wish him well in any venture he chooses to take… even a real retirement.

All I can say is you should read the Caltrans reports and flood zone maps. What I say is correct. Also if Mr. D had simply stuck to his originsl agreement to build on only 50% of the property he could have built a project years ago.

Mr Dalidio and the city had a signed agreement with open space both on site and in the irish hills. There also were other green space agreements as part of the project negotiated over years. Gardens, farmers market’s retail, housing.

Then Jan and the Sierra cabal/Copelands stepped in. Any one remember the SC board from those days’s?

Now we will get a couple of gray box super crap stores.

Thanks Jan.

I thought Jan was actually part of that agreement with the City… didn’t she arbitrate (or was involved in the arbitration), then as a sitting council member, vote against the very deal she helped orchestrate?

The original agreement called for 50% open space/50% mixed use. Ernie signed on to that. But the projects proposed never were below 75% development. Ernie backed out of his own agreement.

Measure J passed after the city reneged on the agreement.

Obstructionist’s hiding behind LLC;s continued the fight.

Correct, Jan Marx as vice-mayor signed the agreement for the city (Settle had a little conflict).

Yea like owning properity off Oceanair? Hehehe