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.



Simply put, Ernie got screwed! Screwed by those who oppose, or afraid of the American Dream.

to all of you…Karma is a bitch.


I can remember when all of Laguna Lake was nothing but marsh land. Had SLO had the same mind-set back then, it would still be a mud puddle. Let’s hope the new owners have enough financial backing to fight SLO and their “green” agenda. Their property taxes alone could exceed $190,000 a year. If SLO will not let them do anything other than plow dirt, then let SLO pay their property taxes.

slo Fact Finder

What a wasted opportunity to create something of lasting value for the entire region and the Dalidio Family.

I wonder if the current mayor of San Luis Obispo is still rejoicing as a result of the loss of a major retail/property tax revenue source for in the face of ever escalating city operational & pension costs?

What goes around, truly comes back around!!!


My gawd, so you believe a giant shopping center is something of lasting value for the entire region?. Seriously, have you ventured to Southern California or another metropolitan area and really thought to yourself, “they sure have created something here that is of lasting value”.


Oh my gawd, so you think that Costco, Home Depot, Old Navy, Target, Dick’s, Olive Garden, Bev Mo, etc. are beautiful and an asset to SLO but the Dalidio Project would be trash!. As a native, the only thing all these businesses provide is more money for SLO to spend and the fulfillment of all the re-locators who moved to Happy Town and left their smog, traffic, air polluted homeland and but still want their happy stores. I hope a big money corporation comes in and shows SLO how it is really done although Mayor Jan Marx has lots of experience in corruption and unlawful campaigns. Maybe the new owners will put in their own water (SLO had wells there during the droughts) and a sewer plant. Support for whoever is buying this land!


Actually, I’d lump all of those in the same category as whatever Macy’s etc…Ernie planned to bring in. Lasting value? Take a drive between Foothill Blvd. and Los Osos. Shopping is a religion to some people and, like all religions, the extremists have the upper hand. If the American Dream is to turn soil into shopping malls, then we got lost somewhere along the way.


Hmmm, I wonder how you concluded that I think the Costco, Home Depot, etc. projects are somehow beautiful additions to the community. I don’t. I also didn’t say that the Dalidio project would be trash. I said that I didn’t agree the project would be something of lasting value to the community and wondered if the writer believed that metropolitan areas had created something of lasting value. You seem to like to “read” a lot things into what I wrote.


Because those specific projects were realized largely because the Dalidios were tied up dealing with criminals like Marx, the Copelands, David Booker, etc.

It’s called an unintended consequence.

I too hope that a BIG MONEY developer comes in and develops ever square inch of that property! No more setting aside property like the Dalidios were willing to do. Develop EVERY SQUARE INCH OF INCH! A developer that can ethically BLOODY Marx, the Copelands, David Booker, et. al. in court if they try to play more of their criminal games.

Hopefully a development that would draw a huge amount of business from those stores on LOVR. A Sam’s Club would be a great start.


Also can you explain to me why you want more of the same thing that you rail against- “the only thing all these businesses provide is more money for SLO to spend and the fulfillment of all the re-locators who moved to Happy Town and left their smog, traffic, air polluted homeland and but still want their happy stores.” You do realize that is the type of project that was proposed. I also wonder what you mean by- ” I hope a big money corporation comes in and shows SLO how it is really done “. You’re not making any sense.


A well crafted mall would certainly beat the hell out of the crap that was thrown-up on LOVR while the Copelands and others did a number on the Dalidios.

Just what do you think should go on this privately held property and why do you believe it’s any of your business so long as the owners followed the law? Maybe some more “open space” like the vacant lot across the street from Ben Franklins or adjacent to the Alfano auto dealership? Both are eyesores and cost taxpayer $$$ to maintain.

The Dalidios were following the law. The should have been allowed to develop their property within said existing law and not based on the desires of some dilettantes. I’m still amazed that Marx, the Copelands, Booker, et. al. did not go to jail for their criminal activities.


Only the Copeland’s and Madonna’s are allowed to profit. Dave Romero wasn’t elected mayor for “nothing”.


Is wasn’t that Dalidio wanted to develop the land, it was that he wasn’t going to sell out to the necessary interests (the Copelands and Jan Marx quite specifically) and give up the profit. With City staff in their pockets Jan and the Copelands were going to teach Ernie a lesson about about politics.

fat chance

Just doesn’t seem right that he could never use his land the way he wanted. Not the America I remember…….


“Just doesn’t seem right that he could never use his land the way he wanted.” You are aware of what “zoning laws” encompass? His land was, and has always been, zoned for agriculture uses only; yes, there was commercial retail zoning right next door, and yes, he should have been able to comply with all of the regulations required of him to convert his property to the desired zoning he wanted. But to put the bulk of the cost of complying with the required off ramp onto the citizens of San Luis Obispo (in the first go-round, props A, B, and C that were soundly rejected by the voters) and to continue to try and weasel his way around the requirements of the water board for the sewer aspect of his proposed project, Mr. Dalidio could have made a go of his original project. All of you extreme property rights supporters who think that a landowner should be able to do anything with their property without regard to zoning laws, water and sewer issues, coastal issues if on the coast, you all really need to remember that allowing exemption after exemption for zoning requirements eventually comes back to bite that community back.


Hey Bob how about what is FAIR IS FAIR! Back in ’88 or ’89 the city was in the mist of a drought. They went to Ernie to ask to pump water from under his properity. They set up a system at the corner nearest the freeway and the hotel at the corner of Ernie’s properity.

Side note here that at the time the city pumped the ground water down enough that the Bear plaze over on LOVR across from it, had problems with settleing.

Anyway if I remember correctly Ernie gave them the rights to the water in exchange for working with him on developing his property. Well the drought ended and the reniging started.

So SPARE ME the properity rights crap.


Oh and P.S. it was a nice project with open space he GAVE to the city. So don’t act like it all worked in his favor.


Exactly how much was he trying to get away with paying for the freeway exchange? How much was he trying to get the taxpayers of San Luis Obispo city to pay for? It was a hugely favorable deal for him. I don’t blame him for trying, he was making a business decision and trying to put himself in a more favorable position; the voters disagreed with his vision and his arrangement though. Perhaps if his first deal had been a little more fair, a little more balanced between his investment and the taxpayers liability, his project would have went through the first time. He is not “innocent” by any means; he controlled what was proposed to the voters.


So is your position Mr Dalidio should have been “more fair”, should the same then be expected of the Copeland brothers and the SLO mayor?


Dalido bargained and negotiated for years in good faith. agreements concerning the open space were already signed . Ernie was screwed by ‘direct’ democracy, a lesson on why we ought use the ‘representative’ form.


Marx should have went to prison on that one.


BOB did you miss it?? What did the POOR voters get for an interchange? FREE OPEN SPACE, THAT’S WHAT!!!

Or how about tax dollars into the local economy. You do understand how an economy works Bob don’t you???


Heck Bob they (voters) have PAID for open space all around the city with ner a word. If you DON’T LIKE the project FINE but save me the B.S. STORIES of interchanges etc. You don’t like it and don’t want it. We get it. And Ernie got SCREWED you get it!!????


So you found the caps lock key.


Maybe you missed it while your were there and done that, but others did play by the rules established in the general plan — that half of each of the three properties in the “Dalidio area” when developed would become open space. Kelly Gearheart played by the rules, so did Madonna, only Dalidio refused and didn’t want to.


I about fell out of my chair laughing. You use Kelly Gearhart as an example of playing by the rules? Is this Tamara, Kelly or Tamara’s mom posting as Hijinks??


Geez Bob, I remember when all the Madonna property was ag but had no problem developing the Costco, Home Depot, Target sites. And if memory serves me correctly, Target, Dick’s and Olive Garden are in marsh lands and should never complain when the next big storm marches through there. Just go ask Bear Valley Mall and some of the car dealers the damage to their buildings endured during major storms. Zones are changed everyday with variances, etc. Please, be realistic because none of Los Osos would be developed without the zone changes for churches, TV station, hotels, etc.


No problem developing Home Depot?????????????

May I suggest a trip to the library and research of papers. The Home Depot sat finished and EMPTY for over a YEAR!!! The Army Corp of Engineers held it up because of wetlets over a MILE AWAY up the road by Calle Joaquin. THAT IS A FACT!!!

Also when Madonna was trying to develop the whole thing he had all kinds of grief. A quote he made in his exhasperation was……………I am tempted to turn the whole thing into a pig farm!!

They put Alex through hell also. That is what SLO does. Or go check why Best Buy didn’t build at first over by the Drive Inn in the late eighties. They hit a wall with the city.

Again ANYONE that doubts this make a trip to the library. I will stand behind all of these stated statements.


You are correct about the roadblocks Madonna faced. A trip to the library will also reveal his earlier attempt to build on Cerro San Luis. Gosh, why would the city want to prevent that? Anyone who complains about L.A., Oxnard, Ventura, etc…, but doesn’t support enforcing strict zoning laws is hypocritical.


O.k. so your brought up Cerro and you brought up L.A. Well you didn’t hear me say anything about L.A. and Cerro is a different arguement.

So how do you feel about LOVR Home D. etc which is what my comment was about? So the city didn’t jerk him around?

Jorge Estrada

The City of San Luis Obispo should buy this property so that the sewer farm can be moved away from the creek and stop paying fines to the Regional Water Quality Water Board. This could be a “Green” mixed use opportunity, fertilize and farm while providing the needed homeless housing employment. The neighbors can then be safe from Ernie Dalidio’s vision and go back to smelling the roses.


Sounds great Jorge. You put YOUR MONEY up for it and I’ll agree with you 100%. Till then……..


Illicit? Then why was no one prosecuted?


Um fines? Nuff said.


They rarely are prosecuted, just fined. It is the political process for the big boys! Comes under the category of “I can’t remember”, “I don’t know who did or said it”, “it was not my job”.


When was the last time ANY politician was prosecuted? I can think of a couple in BELL – and that was pretty damn extreme… I’m watching the IRS and Treasury get away with criminal acts before my eyes.

You know why everyone compares government corruption to Watergate? That was the last time someone in the government was actually punished for what they do/allow to happen!

Marx got rewarded with the position of Mayor… gotta love those Democrat Central Committee folks.


Wasn’t the illustrious Mayor Jan Marx also involved in the dirty dealing against Ernie?


Yes, but as it is in politics, the dirtier your are the more times you get elected or promoted


Gotta grow a lotta sugar beets to finance a $20 million ranch. What I mean is that it likely isn’t getting bought for ag purposes. It would be a case of “just desserts” for the NIMBY Copeland-led SLO city ninnies to have to negotiate with a rich strong out-of-area developer. Particularly after they jerked Dalidio’s chain for so long.


As the saying goes, “Scratch a Farmer, and uncover a Developer.”


Are the Copelands the ones who might be buying Ernie’s property? Now that they have sold off most of their downtown holdings for a fifty million dollar stock swap, they certainly have the money to do so. Otherwise I just hope it isn’t Wal-Mart …

eradicate ignorance

Maybe the Copelands will buy it and develop it.


IF it IS the Copelands purchasing the land, and trying to develop it, I hope they run into as many issues as Ernie did! But we know that won’t happen, I don’t think anyone else could be as shysty’ as they were. Would love to know..and if Jan Marx is in on it too. Won’t drop one penny in their shopping center, (IF it’s them and they try to build.)


Not when they bought and paid for Jan Marx!


But I guess their behavior towards Ernie is o.k.??


Wal-Mart, I dream come true for SLO! Who deserves it better than SLO, this would be the best…


Maybe a Super-Wal*Mart and Sam’s Club Combo? ;)

1 2 3