Pismo Preserve project running nearly $5 million over budget

August 30, 2016


The Pismo Preserve project is running two years behind schedule and nearly $5 million over budget. The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County had planned to open the preserve to the public this fall, but the organization recently announced construction is not expected to be completed until late 2018.

In 2014, the Land Conservancy purchased the more than 900-acre property, which is situated northeast of the city of Pismo Beach. The Land Conservancy paid $12 million for the property, a price that local real estate professionals said was too high.

Last week, the Land Conservancy stated in a press release it is estimated to cost an additional $4.8 million to complete the project. The organization expects to acquire the funds from state and local government grants, family foundations and in-kind services from contractors and suppliers. Government funding already accounted for much of the funds used to purchase the property.

The Land Conservancy cites design difficulties and environmental regulatory hurdles as reasons for construction delays and cost increases. Additionally, offers for assistance with construction have yet to come to fruition, according to the news release.

Builders must still construct sidewalk and a retaining wall that allows safe bicycle and pedestrian access to the preserve from the Highway 101 interchange along Mattie Road. They must also construct two parking lots, water-efficient restrooms, directional signage and a one-mile trail that is accessible for people with disabilities.

Volunteers have completed a network of 11 miles of new trails, though. The Land Conservancy says it will allow the public to take part in docent-led tours, hikes and equestrian and mountain bike rides on the preserve by the end of this year.

County Supervisor Adam Hill, whose reelection campaign is citing the project as one of the supervisor’s achievements, helped broker the sale of the Pismo Preserve property to the Land Conservancy. Since then, Hill has received campaign contributions from Phoenix developer Bradley Wilde, who profited from the sale of the property.

Wilde contributed $6,000 to Hill’s reelection campaign in 2015. The developer gave another $1,000 earlier this year.

Hill recently praised Wilde for making large contributions to his campaign. Hill made the remark in an email after berating local business leaders for not doing the same.

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How ironic that the Land Conservancy would be confronted with “environmental” issues.

In addition I wonder if any thought has been given to utilizing the CCC for some of the work as they have done extensive work at Montana de Oro,, Morro Bay Estuary, and other like parks and parcels throughout the state.

This is private land and not state property.

CCC can and do provide help to non-profits. They are a great group and do much to help non-profits as well as government entities.

What a piece of work our once sweet and productive little land conservancy has become!

Hey, if you are a conservancy, aren’t you supposed to conserve the land you aquire?

The Coney Island approach at Pismo is a disgrace. Oh, and those mountain bike trails — sure hope they’re separate from hiking trails instead of the “shared” trails at Montana de Oro which leave hikers in great danger from the steely machines that hog the space, and that demand hikers are the ones who must “share.”

What’s driving this show? It, like just about everything else around here that’s new, isn’t for locals to enjoy and be proud of, it’s for tourists. Rich tourists from who knows where, to prime the pump of government with their hotel and sales taxes. Our local nonprofits are consistently selling us out to the tourism people — like the Botanic Garden crew that in 25 years has concocted dreams of zip lines, amphitheaters, exotic restaurants on hillsides, and built itself a nice headquarters it can rent out for profit, but still has nothing more than a pathetic little starter garden. Hey, aren’t “garden” nonprofits supposed to be about gardens? Where’s the garden, folks?

But back to Pismo. There’s a perfect funding system for this “natural” tourist trap at Pismo: get the local tourism industry to cough up the needed funds. Oh, I forgot, that will not work since the local tourism industry is the only industry around that expects the public to pick up its bills — we taxpayers pay for their advertising, for example — instead of paying its own way like good capitalists are supposed to do.

Maybe we should demand the Land Conservancy get back to what it’s supposed to be doing. But that will be a trick with some of the misguided stuffed shirts who sit on their board who think this “new direction” is a good thing.

Tens of thousands of local jobs depend on the tourists visiting and spending money. It is consistently one of the top three businesses in SLO County. The politicians aren’t “selling us out” to the tourists. They are securing people’s JOBS. Our taxes would be much higher or our government services would be much poorer without that money coming in.

“Tens of thousands of local jobs depend on the tourists visiting and spending money. – See more.”

Provide PROOF, not hyperbole.

Santa Barbara has had a well developed tourist sector for over 100 years. Tourism has done NOTHING to improve the quality of life in Santa Barbara. Tourism has also priced most people out of Santa Barbara, making it hard for the community to attract quality civil servants like Police officers and Teachers. If it wasn’t for UCSB, Santa Barbara would be like Carmel, a resort plaything for billionaires.

Sound familiar? It should because Santa Barbara is what SLO County is becoming.

This is the bleak economic future you constantly cheerlead on Cal Coast News. San Luis Obispo County needs to base their economic decision making on engines that drive and create growth more than tourism.

How about tax incentives for industrial and manufacturing operations? You know, honest to god well paying jobs. A good location for economic growth could be the area by Buckley Rd and the airport. But SLO City wants to build housing and create further traffic nightmares on Hwy 227.

Tourism creates crappy service sector jobs in areas like Hotels and Restaurants that are season dependent and pay low wages. How wonderful, we will have many waitresses and hotel maids getting decent tips from rich fat cats!

How many local residents do you see staying in hotels. Do you not see our beaches full of tourists on the weekends? Then there are the restaurants, gas stations, gift shops, bars, wineries, breweries. Then the people who work in those places go out and spend money in the local economy creating even more jobs. I hate to call names but only an idiot can’t recognize the critical role that tourism plays in the local economy and how bad things become when the economy goes into recession and the tourists stop coming. Retired people living on their savings just don’t care. Working people need jobs.

“Then there are the restaurants, gas stations, gift shops, bars, wineries, breweries.”

Waiters, Cooks, Gas Stations attendants, Bartenders, winery workers. These are all low paying jobs that can’t support a middle class community. My original point went way over your head. We need jobs that create sustained economic growth and long term employment, not jobs in the tourist sector that end up with families on public subsidies.

Long time residents of the Central Coast who know what the lifestyle and quality of life was are being victims of the tourist industry and the appetite of government for more money. We live here 365 days a year not just on weekends. We are the ones who are being fee’d and taxed to compensate for the impact of tourism. Just look at the proposed SLOCOG initiative for the 1/2% sales tax increase. If you look closely you will see that most of these funds are redirected out of the cities and back into the SLOCOG administration to provide additional recreation facilities and to address the increased traffic problems that are being caused by the increase in tourism. If the current path is followed that tourism is taking then the Central Coast will be just another place to go to.

You have a rather warped point of view here. Are you by any chance a member of some elitist group of public land users who thinks that only those able and interested in foot travel should have access to public lands.

Fortunately, in this County, the interests of your type don’t dominate and we have a history of hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers working together to build and maintain trails. This is crucial to having these trails given the huge cutbacks in personnel and budgets in the State Parks Dept. over the past decade or so.

Those Montana De Oro trails that you wish were limited to you and a few others are largely maintained (and some were built) by this coalition of user groups — with mountain bikers compromising the largest source of volunteer labor. I wish I had some pictures of the conditions of some of those trails before mountain bike use was common there — it is MUCH better now. Yes, there are some reckless and inconsiderate mountain bikers (and of course they are the ones that get noticed) but there are also some arrogant “stuffed shirt” hikers too. If you want exclusive use of an area, buy it yourself.

Also, the Land Conservancy may have done a poor job of financial planning for this purchase, but they wouldn’t have had anything done at all if they hadn’t worked with a coalition to make this project a reality.

There is a 2% TOT Transient Occupancy “Tax” (but really it is a fee) that pays for the marketing.

That tax/fee is paid by the person renting a room in a particular city (or the county) – except Grover doesn’t charge it (yet).

That money is then paid to the same three or four marketing firms, to duplicate the work at every step.

Website? Tens of thousands of dollars . . .per city/area

Twitter & Instagram? Thousands of dollars paid for someone to write a 5 second word burp every few days.

“Campaign strategy”, “marketing plan” and the much-overused “BRANDING” b.s. are paid for, over and over and over and over.

The same hoteliers are on all the “boards” and “commissions” and they are the ones that vote on how to use this tax for THEIR OWN BENEFIT, and all with taxpayer-funded government assistance.

I’ve been following this bizarre world for years now and it is truly crazy-making in its illogic.

When is there going to be a “bookkeeper industry” tax, or a “local mechanic” tax? A tax to support locals who gain nothing from a million-dollar “tourism” tax?

We subsidize the over-use of our finite resources and the locals pay the bonds and taxes for infrastructure repairs (rarely for new infrastructure though). CAH. RAY. ZEE.

“They must also construct two parking lots, water-efficient restrooms, directional signage and a one-mile trail that is accessible for people with disabilities.”

Why must HIKING TRAILS have disabled access?

I agree with other posters. This should be no frills, bare bones. Just Hiking Trails. Adding bathrooms and amenities attracts partiers and transients which we do not need in Pismo.

The original idea of the Pismo Preserve was to save the land in its natural state, not build wheelchair ramps and other signs of civilization. In that regard, the Pismo Preserve is an epic fail.


I hiked the PP a number of months ago as a member of the LC. While the 11 miles of trails weren’t complete, they were ready to be hiked. Yet they remain off limits to all but a few.

What seemed like a really good project is slowly turning into a bureaucratic boondoggle. Just wait — the two parking lots and the restrooms will contain enough concrete and ugliness to make the former East Germany wince with envy.

Nothing can be simple, uncomplicated or frugal anymore. Everything has to be expensive — to build and to maintain. The SLO City Council should be ashamed of itself for gifting $500K of city taxpayer dollars to this wasteful project.

missed it by that much!

would you believe my dog at the paperwork?

Who woulda ever thought??? Over run, with tax payers funds, almost never happens….

Government funding already accounted for much of the funds used to purchase the property. –

Mr Wilde, your donation would have been better invested had it gone to the Preserve, rather than Adam Hill, whose track record is clear over the years with several local non-profits – he couldn’t legally or legitimately manage himself out of a non-profit candy wrapper. Non-profit to Adam is defined as “something to be used to get votes and money.”

Mr. Wilde owns other land on the ridge there and I’m sure he was thinking, or even more likely Adam Hill told him, if he donated to Adam it would help him get approval for the house or houses he wants to build up there.

Actually, that was part of the deal in selling the land. There is a large lot in a nice little cove just below the top of the ridge available for him to develop. There is an access road that comes up from the back side of the ridge (Thousand Hills Ranch?). I don’t have a problem with that as it was openly a part of the deal. How much say Adam Hill had in that process I do not know.

It was a smart move for Mr. Wilde. That piece of property will have magnificent views and be surrounded by a managed and maintained recreational area instead of other houses. (This may not be everyone’s idea of an ideal setting but it is for a lot of people.) And a development of any type might not have been approved on that side of the ridge without some sort of similar agreement.

I’d guess Mr. Wilde thinks he payments to Adam Hill will put Hill on his side when the lawsuits are filed after Brad submits his plans or to help fight the initiatives that are likely certain to be circulated to stop him from building

Sorry but this isn’t like high-rise engineering.

You don’t just accidentally get $5M off budget. Given public funds, the public deserves to be able to use it now, not when idiot bureaucrats get their act together.

It’s a bunch of trails on land. How hard can that be?

“You don’t just accidentally get $5M”?, when you can shake down the taxpayers for the money sure you do.

Sure thang, kayak.

Shovels are expensive at Hill Supplies and Lies general store!

Sounds more like an amusement park than open space. To truly preserve the land, you buy it, and then build a few trails. Designate a field for parking. Any ongoing expenses would be related to mitigating damage left by humans.

Because government funding makes up a large portion of the funding, there must be handicapped access and environmental regs must apply. You can’t just park in a field because disabled people require a hard surfaced lot. Cars drip oil and fluids that are toxic and can’t be allowed to just soak into the ground. Plus you need permission from the Coastal Commission to do any of these activities which disturb natural vegetation and create run off and erosion.

Yep, I’ve talked with a couple of the Land Conservancy folks and this is what they explained to me too. The only thing you forgot is the sidewalk/bikepath to be added under 101 for access from the beach side — that was tagged on by the City of Pismo.

Now, I understand that new construction almost always carries some expensive surprises but experienced people make allowances for that and often know where to look for such expenses before they do their budgeting. The amount of surprises here is way too high. Was it because of lack of experience in such projects? (or in dealing with the agencies involved?) The Land Conservancy of SLO should have had at least a few people with such experience involved in the process or they should have had connections to such people if they didn’t. There is a bit of negligence involved I suspect.

Still, the project is too far along to back out at this time and we might as well bite the bullet and get it finished. Hopefully, it will be a learning experience and they won’t make a goof like this again. Their future credibility is at stake if they do.

Reply Josey Wales says: 08/29/2016 at 4:35 pm

Ladies & Gentlemen,

We must dump Adam Hill.

Mr.Hill has come to epitomize all that is wrong with our politics, and we are now seeing more and more people call for his dismissal irregardless of their political ideology. Both liberals and conservatives know that if you sleep with dogs, you will rise with fleas.

While we are at it, lets dump Kristian Barneich, for she comes from the same cloth as Adam Hill. Lastly, let’s NOT give Caren Ray a chance to hold public office again, as she brought shame and dishonor to the offices she has already held, and smart voters know she is an Adam Hill protégé.

Bruce Gibson’s day will come, but, for now, let’s get rid of these three, and Arroyo Grande and the Five Cities area will be immeasurably better off.

Just saying,

Josey –

Josey’s post from another piece about Adam Hill should be pasted to every story mentioning Hill and any of his friends.

Birds of a feather…


Construction? Why not leave it like the bluff property north of Cayucos. “No bathrooms, no picnic tables…”

TOURISM! DOLLARS$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

That’s not the way that it works with state and local government funding. If you take money from the taxpayers then you must play by our rules.