Santa Margarita quarry points and counterpoints

February 15, 2015


With the recent spate of articles and opinion pieces on the proposed Las Pilitas Quarry in CalCoastNews, the responses generated have been interesting to say the least. Now that the applicants are appealing the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission’s 3-2 denial of the conditional use permit to the board of supervisors, what will the board do? Reward the alarmist emotionalism of the opponents or stick with the logic, history, and need to serve the greater good?

Let’s examine the rhetoric of the comments made by the opponents from their point and my counterpoint perspective:

1. Point: “I’m going to find out where you live and put in a strip mine next door. See how you feel about it then!”

Counterpoint: It’s tough to build a strip mine or a quarry where the rock resources don’t exist and they don’t exist by my house.

2. Point: “When I win the lottery I am going to hire a double dump truck to drive by your house every two minutes for the next 30 years.”

Counterpoint: I once lived in Santa Margarita. Had I stayed, you might’ve gotten your wish. If I had chosen to build or buy a house on or near Highway 58– a highway that was built for the express purpose of providing access to quarries in the epicenter of the richest rock deposits recognized by the state of California– I would have had to get used to it, wouldn’t I?

3. Point: “Gurnee is out of step and needs to go back to school to update his understanding of planning and environmental issues. Apparently, CEQA and NEPA are not in his vocabulary.”

Counterpoint: With a 40 year career in the fields of planning and urban design, I know CEQA and NEPA and the abuses of those laws only too well. I have dealt with hundreds if not thousands of environmental documents during my time in the profession. I also know that the way this county administers CEQA is fraught with bias, faulty and fallacious assumptions, and a resolve to find 1000 ways to say “no” to a project rather than searching objectively for the truth.

4. Point: “It would be ethically and morally corrupt to have read that report (EIR) and still support this project.”

Counterpoint: It would be idiotic to have read that report and actually believe what it says.

5. Point: “The term nimbyism is so old school and yesterday.”

Counterpoint: If that’s the case, then why does the term fit so well with what is happening on this issue in Santa Margarita today?

6. Point: “…have one of their double loaded diesel trucks drive by their (quarry applicants Cole and Souza) residences every 2 1/2 minutes…”

Counterpoint: This overwrought exaggeration of quarry traffic prompted by the false math and misleading assumptions of a deliberately biased EIR is little more than delusional fiction.

7. Point: “… there is not a single parent of a child attending Santa Margarita Elementary School who would support such a ridiculous plan as to have this kind of traffic endangering the children and the residents of this precious town.”

Counterpoint: The applicants for the quarry have agreed to provide funding to the school for a full-time crossing guard on Highway 58 during school hours to convey children safely to school. Those guards would also be provided with radios to call-in truck drivers who might violate any traffic laws with the penalty of suspending the drivers who might violate those laws.”

So now what? The appeal is supposed to be heard in April 2015. Will San Luis Obispo County honor its past and the need of future generations for the resources they will need to sustain them well into the future? Or will we opt for immediate, self centered, and selfish actions that deny those needs? That is indeed the question.

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My wife and I walked our grandkids to Santa Margarita Elementary once or twice a week for all the years they attended until the youngest graduated to Atascadero Jr High School 3 years ago.

We both witnessed speeding drivers and several close calls over the years, even with the attentiveness of the crossing guard. Neither one of us can recall a close call from a commercial truck, all we remember is speeding cars, usually younger drivers.

From my experience, gravel trucks or any type of commercial trucks aren’t (or won’t) be the problem.

And I really miss walking those grandkids!!

Keith: One point I did not see you counter, is the fact that the existing quarry uses it own roads and repairs them as needed, at no taxpayer expense. Allowing the new quarry owners to use public roads will damage them the added total weight of all the trucks making all the trips they are likely to make. What is your counter to the point that allowing them to operate on public roads is an unfair business advantage?

Because the other quarry does not use public roads, for the most part, but mainly the fact that they avoid driving though residential neighborhoods and the new quarry trucks will, should that be a factor at all in determining if the new operation should be allowed?

The new truck traffic will impact the not only the quality of life for the residents of Santa Margarita, but everyone who has occasion to drive in the area as well. The sheer number of trucks would be an interruption for most motorists, but the real problem will be the impact on traffic due to how slowly the trucks will take to get up to speed, how much diesel particulate they will spew, and how much of an increase there will be in the likelihood of traffic accidents since these trucks, when fully loaded, are not as responsive as something much lighter and will require a much longer stopping distance. The net result will be the inconvenience of being behind one of these trucks as they are getting up to speed, and how much longer they will need to take to slow down, along with the possibility that some reckless yahoo will get impatient having to behind one of these trucks and try to pass them, possibly in a illegal manner that could cause traffic accidents.

There is an awful lot to consider with this whole issue, and it isn’t just about the residents being fearful of the added noise; I really do think the issue of an unfair business advantage needs to be addressed, because when the roads are going to need repairing, the taxpayers will be subsidizing the operation of this proposed quarry if they are not required to build their own road.

Right now is the prime trucking time and I do not see or hear any trucks.


The project in question has not been built yet, hence no trucks coming or going from that location…

BUT, during my one trip down ECR this am I followed several coming out of the Hanson plant and then several more coming and going to the Rocky Canyon Plant…

And I am not a land attorney, but for all those touting the current project on the table has every right to exercise their mineral rights, they should step back and do a little research, most if not all property(especially private property) has underlying water, mineral and oil rights which can be enacted on by a second party, if not perfected by the title holder.

Wouldn’t Mr. Gurnee be surprised to find an oil rig in his yard or a mining operation popping up next door to his home?

Woudn’t happen.

Mr. Gurnee is smart enough to read a title report (and find out the zoning) of any property he is interested in before he takes possession.

While I agree that there should be more mitigation measures (or better yet, an alternative route for transportation), the argument about the wear and tear on roads is an easy one to answer. Commercial vehicles (including pickup trucks) pay a “weight fee” as part of their annual licensing and registration. I don’t know how much it is currently for a vehicle like a sand and gravel hauler but it is undoubtedly well over $1000 per year. (I used to own a much lighter truck with weight fees of about $500 many years ago.) These fees are specifically intended to be used to compensate for the increased damage to the roads caused by heavy vehicles. (I can’t say if they are high enough to do that or if they are actually being used for that purpose only, but those are issues for the state legislature.)

Additionally, no road user has the RIGHT to instant acceleration of other traffic. If you can’t be patient enough for slower traffic to get up to speed, learn some patience, build more time into your schedule for transportation or stop driving.

For those who know me, my point is that I’m in SLO at the moment and would not hear the trucks anyway, this is the case for most who leave town to work daytime hours. As for the weekends, there is usually no truck traffic and for all evenings slim to none. The week days have plenty of commerce traffic but per the traffic count and data provided, a very small percentage is shown to be trucks.

I would say that Santa Margarita has improved allot and will continue to do so. If I’m wrong then worse will exist elsewhere which makes Santa Margarita the better choice anyway.

Now that you bring up the license fees,the truck or power unit pays in excess of 2000.00 $ per year in registration fees,so I believe the raod taxes are being paid for,what our govt does with the money isn’t fixing the roads.

Regardless of whether the state will use the fees from all of the new truck trips that will occur if this project is approved, does anyone honestly believe that however much the total amount of fees comes to, it would be enough to actually pay for the repairs and/or replacement that will be needed by the damage done by all of those new trips?

I understand that in California, many of the associated taxes and fees that are collected don’t always go for the intended use; far too many times, bureaucrats of all stripes and sizes will always be clamoring for more being devoted to their own interests or pet projects.

My point here though, is that regardless of what the weight fees are, the damage that many trips by that many trucks weighing that much will do far more damage to the roadway, any bridges and/or railroad crossings than the fees raised would be able to cover.

I stand by my argument that allowing so many trips on public roads equals out to the public having to subsidize the operation of the quarry, unless there are additional fees that can be targeted specifically towards maintenance of the designated path of travel for the quarry’s operation.

Bfro, the existing quarry does use the same roads and more. One is their long driveway across private property, two is the County Road north of Santa Margarita and three is the State Highway that goes through the Town of Santa Margarita. The proposed quarry will use the same public roads but will not require a lengthy driveway or the County Road on some trips. Please explain your facts.

If you pull up Google Maps on your computer and change the view to satellite view, focus on the area just north of the main part of downtown Santa Margarita. You will see the private driveway (a road, actually) that intersects El Camino Real. That private road also does connect on the other side of that established quarry to Highway 58; my assumption is that if that quarry has deliveries that need to out towards the east, they can use Highway 58 from that side of their operation and avoid totally going through the main residential area of Santa Margarita.

The other side of the road, what you are calling a driveway, allows the truck traffic from the quarry to either turn north and head towards Atascadero and other points north, or turn left and head towards the 101 if they need to go south.

Point is, none of the existing quarry truck traffic has to go through any residential neighborhoods unless they have an actual delivery to an address there. The proposed quarry will be using Highway 58 and coming right through the main residential part of downtown Santa Margarita to connect with El Camino Real to then either go north or head west towards the 101; every single truck coming from the proposed quarry will be going through the neighborhood regardless of their destination, with the exception of any possible deliveries going east on Highway 58.

Those are my facts.

bobfromsanluis says, “…is the fact that the existing quarry uses it own roads and repairs them as needed.”

Are you saying they make gravel and then transport it back and forth across their lot?

Does it ever leave their site? If so, how?

I’ve got mine. Don’t drill, don’t mine, don’t build, don’t produce, don’t pave, just fill my glass please and don’t let your sh__ head kids play on my grass.

The General Mining Act of 1872, and subsequent additions since, provide federal preemption of whatever SLO county comes up with.

The only question that remains is whether or not the BOS recognizes this preemption and chooses to save us all a bunch of money in litigation fees & judgments.

Now for the hot tip: If you move into the county’s historical mining district, you should just go ahead and figure that there will be mining activities in the area. I fail to understand how people miss this one……maybe I should petition to have our bay filled in…..all of those waves make noise and keep me up at night…..


In defense of the arguments about noise and traffic levels, when was the last time there was high truck traffic on the the roads through Sta. Margarita? I have lived on the Central Coast for over 30 years and, while there has been some ranch truck traffic and other trucks engaged in local construction, industrial truck traffic has been mostly from the existing quarry and it has not only been far less in quantity but has bypassed part of the town with a private road.

I have a problem with the idea that current residents should have anticipated a new industrial-scale operation affecting their community in this way before moving there. It is time for some compromise on both sides and it will probably be expensive.

Every da, when they deliver south of Cuesta Grade…

They not only speed through Santa Margarita on the way to the freeway, they also park in the center turn lane to run in and buy drinks and food at the market or liquor store, not to mention the ones that seem to think it is OK to park in front of the fire station, even with the red curbs and signs…

As to “anticipating” community changes with progress, too bad, that’s progress. I never anticipated that gold badged cops would stand idly by while every room in my home is shaken by an intentional noisemaker (yes, thug pipes) that is against state (27150 CVC, 415(b) PC) and federal (40CFR205 et seq) existing LAW. Get over yourselves, and build the quarry.

Compromise is defeat. Look, it’s a mining district, there are sensible mitigation measures, and the highways are there to promote wise growth and supply of needed aggregates. Trucks ALSO pay fuel taxes for road work. Even my old HD 3/4 ton Chevy pickup pays $ 204 (this year) weight penalty for road damage impacts.