Is SLO seeking more development?

September 23, 2015

water moneyThe city of San Luis Obispo is seeking to significantly increase the amount of water it receives from Lake Nacimiento, prompting some to question whether city management is seeking more development.

Last week, the San Luis Obispo City Council voted unanimously to authorize City Manager Katie Lichtig to sign a joint letter to the county water conservation district requesting additional water. Paso Robles City Manager Jim App has already signed the letter, and the managers of the Templeton CSD and Atascadero Mutual Water Co. may also add their signatures. [Tribune]

Currently, the city of San Luis Obispo receives 3,380 acre feet per year from Lake Nacimiento. The city is requesting an additional 2,130 acre feet.

City staff estimate the additional water would cost about $377,000 a year.

Councilman John Ashbaugh said that is an unbelievable deal. There is probably no place in the state, or maybe in the country, where a local agency could acquire rights to that amount of water at a cost of less than $400,000, Ashbaugh said.

Former city planning commissioner Richard Schmidt questions what the water is for and who is going to pay for it. In advance of last week’s meeting, Schmidt wrote a letter to the council criticizing the plan to acquire additional water and speculating whether it will prompt development in and around the city beyond what is already planned.

“Is it part of a secret plan to bust the general plan’s buildout wide open? A lot of people are starting to think that is the plan of Team Lichtig,” Schmidt wrote.

City plans estimate San Luis Obispo’s 2035 population at build-out will be 58,626. The city’s Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) states the city already has enough water to accommodate that size of population.

Schmidt said, according to city figures, an additional 21,000 acre feet would be enough to supply about 19,000 people beyond the city’s buildout population.

Utilities manager Ron Munds said the city does not intend to foster growth beyond what the LUCE calls for.

Aaron Floyd, the deputy water director, said the Nacimiento water could replace the city’s other sources — Salinas and Whale Rock — if they go dry.


I’ve bought things just because they were undervalued. 2,100afy (not 21,000) is a helluva deal. Will it be diverted for more development? Of course. But what makes you think there is a magic date and population for “build-out”? The state mandates that all cities approve different forms of new housing at certain levels because California is going to keep getting more populous. 30 years ago the thought of 40 million people by 2015 would have considered both ludicrous and unacceptable. Quality of life is no longer an issue in our society.


OK, so let me get this straight. We’re in the middle of a terrible drought. Allocations are low across the state. Wells are running dry. The city smartly finds some more water. And therefore this is part of a sekrit plan to create growth? Seriously. This is the first thing the city has done in years that doesn’t involve banning something and people are worried that it’s part of a conspiracy?


You’re fact challenged. The city has more water than it can possibly use already. This is a well-known fact to those familiar with the city’s water allocation. At present the city is using less than half its available supply!! There is already a surplus of water beyond what’s needed for the city’s ultimate buildout. New Times alleged enough for 30,000 people more than buildout! So, if the numbers in this story are correct, now they want enough for 19,000 more people beyond buildout. That’s enough for a city of more than 100,000 people when the city says it will stop growing at 56,000.

So, it seems reasonable to ask, “What’s it for?” It’s clearly not for building the city envisioned in its General Plan.

Also, this has nothing to do with drought. Think about it — all the water sources mentioned, Whale Rock, Salinas and Nacimiento, are in other watersheds, all in the coastal mountains. If Salinas and Whale Rock “go dry” would you really think another similarly located reservoir would be OK? The “it’s for the drought” line from city staff is transparent nonsense.

Jorge Estrada

Diverting another 2,130 acre-feet from Nacimiento Lake is 2,130 acre-feet that should remain on the Salinas River side of the hill. The City already has and old permit, a never completed project to appropriate 45,000 acre-feet via the Salinas Reservoir, try 70 years old and only 23,000 acre has been their claim of project statis. The proposed project is lacking completion so SLO has never been issued their license. Using the simple minded process called “first things first”, why would the City of SLO want to further insult the North County by sucking even harder on that new Nacimiento straw? Is it customary for the State to leave projects open ended in the face of a drought that has triggered Statewide conservation mandates? This is a very good example of what Local Control can do for the Locals on the other side of the hill.


What SLO leaders are seeking is more “donations” from developers.