Adam Hill’s election story
October 25, 2016
Special to CCN by Katelyn Piziali
Civility while doing business on the San Luis Obispo Board of Supervisors is a luxury, Adam Hill says. Argument is not only common in meetings, but a necessity in making decisions for the county.
The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors has a reputation for defensive and argumentative public meetings, both candidates say. Hill responds to criticism about incivility by saying that arguing is just part of the job.
“I would say I like argument. I think my job is to argue. And I think my job is also at the end of that argument to see if there’s a way to move forward,” Hill said. “So if you’re going to get a compromise on something, or you’re going to try and make a deal happen, it’s got to happen there, live, in front of everybody on camera. So, I esteem argument. I think it’s how you get to understanding things.”
Both Hill and his opponent Carpenter understand four things: Water, traffic, Phillips 66 and the closing of Diablo Canyon are the most critical issues in the county.
Water is the most urgent matter of the three as the state heads into its sixth year of drought, Hill said.
Hill wants to upgrade the San Luis Obispo wastewater treatment plant to recycle water instead of wasting it, he said.
“Our storage reservoirs are really down, so we’re going to have to upgrade all of our wastewater plants. You know, we waste water right now when we can’t afford to. We waste water in the sense that we treat it and then send it out to the ocean,” Hill said. “It’s bad for the ocean and it’s just a waste because that water can be reclaimed and used on landscaping and for outdoor purposes. It can even be treated again and used as potable water.”
In addition to recycling water, Hill wants to invest in district management of the groundwater basins, he said. The San Luis Obispo Flood Control and Water Conservation District regulates water distribution to the county from its surface water reservoirs, but there is no regulation for county groundwater basins yet, Hill said.
“The surface water is managed, but groundwater has not been and that’s why we are in the trouble that we’re in,” Hill said. “So many people live off of groundwater in the rural areas of the county and so much of agriculture is dependent on that.”
Adjusting landscaping for the drought is another solution to conserve water, Hill said. Hill wants homeowners and property owners to replace grass with artificial turf lawns and drought-friendly landscaping, he said.
“People are just going to have to pull out their lawns. We just don’t have the climate to support lawns. It’s hard to make it mandatory, but eventually it’s probably going to have to be, so we try to incentivize as much as we can,” Hill said.
The San Luis Obispo County Department of Planning and Building offers a cash for grass program where property owners can earn $1 per square foot of lawn removed. Because the county does not have the power to make lawn removal mandatory, encouraging citizens with money is the best way to promote water conservation, Hill said. Even with people taking advantage of the program and others removing lawns on their own accord, Hill wants to see the movement spread countywide to help the drought, he said.
“Despite the rain of the last couple of days, we don’t have enough water to think we can live the same way we always have,” Hill said.
The San Luis Obispo County must also deal with traffic congestion, Hill said. Hill has been working with the rest of the Board of Supervisors during his term to identify projects that will address congestion of both Highway 227 and Highway 101.
“When you get past the airport and Broad Street becomes Highway 227, that is a very congested area both in the morning and the evening,” Hill said. “If we’re able to get the funding we need to, we’ve identified projects and want to address 227 and 101 near Shell Beach, where that also bottles up and gets kind of dangerous because people are driving fast and then it slows down.
Hill attributes the traffic slowing on Highway 101 to the view of San Luis Obispo Bay as well as the narrowing of lanes.
“People just naturally want to look at the water,” Hill said.
Hill lists three options to fix the congestion that occurs on these two highways.
“The most obvious that everyone wants are added lanes, which are probably the most expensive. On 227, we could probably add lanes. We could also do roundabouts, which have a way of controlling traffic,” Hill said. “We could also add a rush hour lane on the 101, which CalTrans has talked to us about. They’d build out the shoulder more and it becomes a lane to use during the morning and evening peak hours that will relieve congestion.”
A controversial proposal that Hill has openly opposed is Phillips 66, he said. The oil-by-rail proposal is seeking approval to build a rail spur that would transport crude oil to the Nipomo Mesa refinery by train instead of its current method by pipeline.
The proposal was rejected by the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission, which then gave Phillips 66 ten days to appeal the decision. On October 19, Phillips 66 appealed the decision to the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors, who will now vote to either reverse or confirm the original rejection of the proposal, according to Cal Coast News.
The possibility of crude oil travelling by train through the county poses a great risk to the community, Hill said.
“To me, there’s nothing that comes before health and safety,” Hill said. “You could look at jobs, revenue, and all other overriding considerations, but if something is clearly a threat to human safety, I just think that’s our most important job. There’s no making excuses.”
The closure of Diablo Canyon will have an economic effect on the county, Hill said.
“It’s going to have a lot of impacts, obviously the economic one’s the biggest,” Hill said. “I don’t think you can adjust to losing that $1 billion dollar revenue to the county, initially.”
Despite the loss of about $20 million dollars in property tax revenue from Diablo Canyon, Hill is not concerned about its effect on the county’s budget, he said.
“The revenue to the county budget we can absorb, because it’s about 1 percent of our budget. Annually, for the school district, it’s gonna be harder. It’s about 13 percent of their budgets so it’s going to have impacts for them,” Hill said.
Even though Diablo Canyon will close and employees will no longer be working to generate power, some employees will be hired to decommission the plant, Hill said.
“The decommissioning process, which involves taking the reactors out and making sure all of the nuclear product is safely stored in the containment area in the dry casks, takes a long time. It can take 15 to 20 years,” Hill said. “So, the good news is that there is going to be a certain number of jobs there for a while after closing. They’ll still need a pretty decent sized work force on the decommissioning.”
PG&E will be conducting an Employee Retention Program and a Retraining and Development Program to staff the decommissioning of Diablo Canyon, a PG&E Joint Proposal says.
The two programs will cost $350 million dollars and provide jobs for existing PG&E employees during decommissioning.
The Diablo Canyon decommission is scheduled to finish in Aug. 2025, when its final operating license expires.
The growing tech sector in San Luis Obispo will also offset losing Diablo Canyon, Hill said.
“We’ve got 200 software developers from Amazon downtown and they’re talking to other people to build downtown. They probably have another 200 jobs to add. So I think we’ll be OK in a lot of ways that people probably don’t realize,” Hill said.
Hill believes the controversy surrounding his campaign is overstated by the media and those who have an agenda to create that perception, Hill said.
One of those media outlets is CalCoastNews, he said.
CalCoastNews, an independent news website, is facing a libel lawsuit that was filed back in 2012, according to New Times SLO. Hill has been subpoenaed by Cal Coast News to participate in depositions for the case, which is scheduled to start trial in early November.
“They’re being sued for a reason. I think there are a lot of things that are trying pass for news and journalism that are not either,” Hill said. “They’re very much opinions at the least, and very often gossip and axe-grinding. And, you know, people pay more attention to something that’s negative than they will to something that’s positive.”
Despite the negativity, Hill wants to keep his seat as District 3 Supervisor to finish projects he began like Pismo Preserve, a public preserve for outdoor recreation, 50Now, a homeless housing initiative, and Laura’s Law, a law for mental health treatment.
“My view is we’re here to get things done. We have to figure out at the board how to do it and we’re letting the community down when we don’t get things done.”