New Year’s vacationers reroute travels to Grover Beach City Hall

December 31, 2013

grover beachBy JOSH FRIEDMAN

Residents from across California flocked to a Grover Beach City Council meeting Monday night in support of reseating Mayor Debbie Peterson on a regional air pollution control board — something the council, including Peterson, did not bring to the table.

Peterson called the special meeting to try and stem off an appeal of a city council approved conference center and lodge project at the corner of Grand Ave and Highway 1.

Even so, individuals and families traveled from San Jose, Monterey County and the Central Valley, some canceling vacations, to spend the night before New Year’s Eve at Grover Beach City Hall to ask the council to return Peterson to the APCD Board.

On Dec. 16, the council voted to remove Peterson from the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District (APCD) Board of Directors. In her one year on the board, she campaigned for a repeal of the APCD dust rule, which if implemented, would fine state parks $1,000 a day if it does not reduce the amount of dust blowing from the Oceano Dunes to the Nipomo Mesa.

Councilmen Glen Marshall, Jeff Lee and Bill Nichols each defended their decisions to remove Peterson from the air board. Councilwoman Karen Bright, whom the council tabbed to replace Peterson on the APCD board, missed Monday’s meeting because of a cold.

In August, Marshall voted to keep Peterson on the APCD board. Marshall reversed his position earlier this month because he was not confident Peterson could remain a fair and unbiased board member, he said.

Marshall, who is a county employee, also said that County Supervisor Adam Hill did not sway his decision. Prior to the Dec. 16 vote to remove Peterson from her APCD seat, Hill gave the council members gold medallions and offered to provide financial assistance to the city and to nonprofits of their liking.

“My bosses are not Adam Hill and all the other board of supervisors,” Marshall said. “I don’t report to them at all. I haven’t been in contact with them. They don’t contact me.”

During the argumentative meeting, public speakers threatened to pack city hall with as many as 500 people in order to persuade the council to reseat Peterson on the APCD board. The council made no indication, though, of plans to revisit the decision.

Two days after Peterson’s removal, Friends of Oceano Dunes (Friends), an organization that supports off-road activity on the dunes, sent a letter to the council criticizing the decision. As a result of the removal of Peterson from the board, Friends may no longer cooperate with the city’s plans to proceed with the conference center project, the letter said.

Last week, Friends President Jim Suty told CalCoastNews that the organization planned to appeal the project regardless of whether or not the council reseats Peterson on the air board. Friends objects to the California Coastal Commission’s removal of a proposed equestrian staging area and an RV dump station from the project, which will lead to increased traffic congestion , Suty said.

On Monday, Marshall giggled as he wished Suty luck with his appeal.

“Is that what you’ve been smirking all night for,” Suty said in response.

Throughout the meeting, Marshall smiled and giggled, even when public speakers commented on his frequent laughter.

“I do smile a lot. I’ve done that all my life,” Marshall said. “I used to really piss off my teachers when I was younger. In grade school, they’d yell at me, and I was just smiling away”

Marshall, as well as councilmen Bill Nichols and Jeff Lee, agreed to direct staff to write a letter to Friends affirming the city’s support for the organization and for off-road activity on the dunes. They said construction of the conference center and lodge can occur while maintaining open access to the dunes.

Peterson said the city needed to do more than address the traffic concerns. She suggested forming a committee to create a commercial dump station and selecting a representative to work with equestrians on arranging horse trailer parking. The other council members, though, chose not to pursue her recommendations.

Grover Beach recently notified the Coastal Commission that it plans to move forward with the project in accordance with the commission’s conditions. Once the commission received the city’s notice of approval, a 10-working day period to appeal began. The appeal period ends Thursday, Suty said.



Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Larry Allen and his APCD cronies are a bunch of tax payer funded leaches. I pray they all rot in hell. Worthless sobs.

All Smoke and mirrors from the city council members.

Karen Bright was tasked to vote NO on the Dust Rule as directed by her city council members when serving on the APCD Board representing Grover Beach. She voted to APPROVE the Dust Rule. What did that vote mean? It meant that Karen took the APCD one step closer to shutting down the Dunes.

Does anyone see this? Karen and the other 3 council members that took Debbie off and put Karen on were lying to everyone since the evidence is that they support Karen who has already helped APCD punish Parks and Rec whenever the sand is blown by wind with fines of $1000 per day.

That is why Friends do not believe that you all (city council) are for the Dunes but instead either have a brain disconnect and do not understand that the Dust Rule existence means you will not protect the remaining 1500 Acres of allowed ORV.

1 + 1 should equal 2 but the 4 members of this city council believe it equal anything but 2.


Karen Bright ABSTAINED when it came to the Dust Rule vote thus you are WRONG about that and a lot of other things.

And Debbie Peterson not being on the APCD board is not going to be the end of the world.

APCD not only does not want to shut down the dunes OHV, they also do NOT the authority to do that in anyway.

And State Parks does not want to see the dunes shut down.

And none of the Grover Beach Council members want the dunes shut down.

Why are everbody’s panties in such a bunch over something that’s not going to happen?

People that live on the Mesa are having health problems and the APCD Dust Rule has tasked State Parks to at least try and mitigate the PM 10.

Also, if this wasn’t handled in some way by our local SLO APCD then the matter would have most likely been dealt with by the federal E.P.A…. and you know what that would mean.

I attended the meeting. My observations:

The Friends of Oceano Dunes referred to their prior unanswered letters to the City regarding their issues and made a fact based power point presentation showing with red lines the matters that were not satisfactory to those who need to use the parking near the future convention center to deflate the tires on their rigs that may be as long as 65 feet. They also brought up the matter of the planned “round abouts” and narrowing of Grand Ave. set out in the Grand Ave Master Plan. Mr. Sulty summarized that the FIRENDS had lost trust in the City Council because of the removal of Mayor Petersen from the APCD board. He stated his appreciation for her reaching out to the FRIENDS. He characterized his letter as another attempt to be included in the planning and implementation process. (That’s not a quote, just a summary of many minutes of comments)

After dozens of speakers spoke to the issues brought forward by FRIENDS, commented on disappointments that Mayor Petersen was removed from APCD Board, and general concerns that businesses will suffer if the $170 million annual income to the area is lost due to closing of the dunes. Those fearful of the dunes closure to recreational vehicles cited the shrinking of the area open to OHVs from 25,000 acres to 1,500 acres. The whittling away of the recreational area has been incremental over 30 some years. The flawed science in the APCD studies erodes any real confidence that the OHV use will survive the heavy fines in the dust rule.

When the issue came back to the council, Lee, Marshall and Nichols all repeated a mantra they established in the August meeting: “We support the use of OHV on the dunes; nothing we are doing will compromise OHV uses.” (Again a summary of long commentary by the majority.) If I were a member of FRIENDS I would have been extremely insulted when Nichols and Marshall spoke in tones that I would characterize as condescending to the FRIENDS. They said the FRIENDS gave no “concrete” evidence and that the issues they brought out were non-issues. (Were they not paying attention to the very concrete presentation?) Regardless of the sniping comments from the majority of the Council, they all said they supported the FRIENDS and their use of the Dunes and that a letter from them saying so should solve any trust issues.


It’s been a long time since the South County has had such a clueless, dysfunctional and self serving majority on a City Council.

Why am I frustrated and deeply concerned about this issue? BECAUSE not only the recreational use of the Dunes is compromised by this prideful Council, but the long desired Convention Center will no doubt be bogged down in delays that could put it on hold or torpedo the entire project. What happens if the Developer bails? Is the issue of not providing more user friendly parking / staging area for the OHV and equestrian trailers a signal that the Council really doesn’t think there will be a need for a staging area when the dunes are closed to OHV use?

Regardless this whole situation bodes future negative economic consequences. The 28,000 members of FRIENDS will make efforts to protect their interests, when / if they lose, take their money elsewhere. The long desired and needed Conference Center will be delayed, or worse. I don’t see any winners in this mess.

I see winners, but there’s just more work to do. First, Mayor Peterson was as organized and informed as usual. She gave an important group a chance to express their position to the council and a chance to the community to say they support the “Friends”, or not (as many also stated during public comment). Second, the Joint Authority that has been working on designing the conference center will have an opportunity to take more meaningful input from constituents and from “Friends”, hopefully building some improvements into the project. Third, just because Friends didn’t win, it doesn’t mean they lost. The council said they would feel more comfortable with Karen Bright. If there are significant issues that need to be brought by Friends to the APCD and they don’t feel comfortable with Karen Bright, they can bring them to the APCD directly.

Keep in mind, the council represents the entire community and many others who spend a lot of money in Grover Beach. Those people may or may not use the dunes, but they still have to deal with the downside. If Friends chooses to delay the conference center project, they risk losing the support of sympathetic or lukewarm locals. Thus, I recommend Friends continue to be what they promise to be… a supporter of Grover Beach… and stop the threats.

adam hill obviously has a dog in this fight and looks to be lining up in the winners line!

Let’s hope the voters of Grover Beach now know who not to vote for if they run for re-election, “Councilmen Glen Marshall, Jeff Lee and Bill Nichols”……