Less water for AG residents, more for developers

October 16, 2016

AG City Council 6


The Arroyo Grande City Council voted 3-2 Tuesday to enact further water restrictions on existing residents while delaying a building moratorium. The delay will allow a developer to avoid the moratorium and move ahead with the construction of more than 80 new homes.

During Tuesday’s council meeting, city staff estimated the city’s water supply could run out in 18 months if further water conservation measures were not implemented. Arroyo Grande residents have already reduced their water usage by 37 percent.

Council members agreed to further restrict resident’s water usage. Those restrictions include reducing outdoor watering from four to one day a week, enacting a rule against vehicle washing and increasing mandatory water reductions by another 10 percent.

However, city staff said that any water the city saves because of the reductions would likely be used by developer Andy Mangano’s proposed Cherry Avenue and Courtland and Grand developments unless the moratorium went into effect sooner. Combined, both developments total nearly 90 homes that could be delayed if a moratorium was enacted immediately.

During public comment, several residents said they should not be asked to cut back in order to support new development.

“Your residents have a huge problem,” Deborah Love said. “We are being asked to conserve so that new hotels and housing developments can be built.”

Mayor Jim Hill and Councilman Brown argued that the moratorium should go into effect immediately.

“Why are we waiting to hit the trigger when we are already in a dire situation?” Brown said. “Why wait for the moratorium?”

Council members Kristen Barneich, Barbara Harmon and Jim Guthrie voiced their concerns for developers who would have to delay their projects if the moratorium went into effect immediately.

In an attempt to increase water conservation requirements, Harmon wanted to take $5,500 from schools and give it to restaurant owners to retrofit dishwashers. Bob McFall, interim city manager, said those funds had already been spent.

Nearing midnight, Barneich, Guthrie and Harmon voted to delay the moratorium until there is 10,000 acre feet or less of water left in Lopez Lake, which is expected to occur in January. Both Hill and Brown dissented because they wanted the building moratorium to go into effect the day after their vote.


Most respectfully, Pelican1, the idealism of your poem is measured by the reality of the present election in Arroyo Grande.

The fact is Arroyo Grande is not one great happy family. As lawns turn brown and property owners are penalized for water usage, the Council majority and the pro growth candidates ignore the citizens who suffer the consequences of a sever drought.

The election poses the question whether a pro growth faction of the Council majority or moratorium advocates represented by Mayor Jim Hill, Commission Plan member John Mack and prominent city activist LeAnn Akins will elected by a majority of the citizens of Arroyo Grande?

It is a fact that Waller has no political experience, where Hill has a substantial background, Hill stepped forth to run for Council as a write-in candidate following the debacle of past Mayor Tony Ferrara’s cover-up leading to the dismissal of highly regarded City Manager Steve Adams. Waller contends for Mayor while harboring the distraction of a legal suit and criticism by his own family who question his qualification to be Mayor.


Hill had the courage to step forth in a troublesome time for the City. He has been continuously undermined by a Council majority. One of that majority, appointed Council member Kristen Berneich, is now a candidate, She has a sign on her lawn promoting Waller and opposing fellow council member Mayor Hill thereby contradicting the plea for Council congeniality.

Council candidate John Mack stepped forward after being unfairly criticized and disparaged by the present Council majority – the Council Troika –including Barneich. It was a charge that Mack had a conflict of interest by a prominent developer. The charge was denied by the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC).


Council candidate Leann Akins, a solid citizen with great knowledge and common sense, joins the issue supporting the moratorium and has been and is articulate in framing many issues in letters and in Public Comment at many meetings of the Council.


It appears the City Staff is in concert with the pro growth majority on the Council that applauds the pro growth candidates including Caren Ray. That even if a moratorium is concluded the developments will to be continued protected by City policy. All appear harmonized saluting developer interests while ignoring the citizen property owners who bear the burden, cost and deprivation of the drought.

No, Pelican1, not everyone is happy in Arroyo Grande.

frank s

For all those on this forum who are using the water/development issue to get your candidate elected you won’t need to read the rest of this because you are not interested in the truth, but only interested in your candidate’s success.

For those readers who have a desire to get to the truth, I have a couple of suggestions. First, do not take my word, do not take Karen Velie’s word, or Otis Page’s word regarding what happened at the last council meeting. Go to SloSpan.org and watch or listen to the meeting. For those of you who are actually trying to decide what is the best course of action for our community then PLEASE WATCH THE MEETING YOURSELF. Second, please contact the candidates themselves regarding these issues (development, water and moratorium/building restrictions). In my opinion, you are being drastically mislead as to individual council member’s and candidate’s positions. Third, If you don’t have five+hours to listen then at least read one alternate take on what actually was discussed by the council, staff and residents. I watched and listened to this twice just because I wanted to make sure that Karen Velie maybe had picked up something I had not.

What I found was the following:

First, a resolution for a building moritorium/restrictions was not passed last meeting, rather the framework was passed so that it can be brought back next Tuesday. It will undoubtedly be pulled and further discussion will take place. I hope a consensus through reasonable compromise can be reached.

The council voted IN FAVOR of the moratorium/building restrictions. The vote was 3-2 with Mayor Hill and Coucilman Brown voting AGAINST. In fairness to all council members ALL MEMBERS are in favor of some form of moratorium/ building restrictions.The only major point of contention was when these restrictions would kick in. Barneich, Gutherie, and Harmon voted for 10,000 AF level of the lake (it’s actually at @12,000af now and estimates are now that we will hit that in January). They believe they are picking a threshold level not just now when someone feels like it, but for the future when this happens again. Mayor Hill and Councilman Brown voted no because they wanted it now. I do believe there is room for a compromise, say maybe 11,000 AF, however we are in an election year and everyone is trying to grab the high ground.

Second, there is not 18 months of water left in Lopez. While this keeps getting stated by some councilmembers it is not what staff reported. This number was thrown out when the dead pool level of the lake (the level at which water can not be efficiently drawn with the current intakes) which was thought to be 4000 AF. However, Shane Taylor and Geoff English reported that the real dead pool level is 1700 AF giving us 2300 more AF which translates to 24 months. Additionally these timeline estimates are WORST CASE SCENARIOS which means that we are counting on ZERO inflow. The average inflow in the last 5 years (the worst drought years we have ever experienced) is 2,227 AF annually. Last year our inflow was 3,078 AF. If that were to be added in we may never hit the 10,000 AF level. Geoff English also stated that the county was willing to release 15,000 AF from the San Luis Reservoir. (Funny how that didn’t make it into Karen’s article).

All councilmen were in favor of more water conservation measures but the focus was on commercial businesses additionally conserving. Retrofits of commercial dishwashers, reducing 50% dedicated commercial irrigation meters, and an additional 5% reduction in residential use.

As far as Barbara Harmon “wanted to take $5500 from schools to give to restaurant owners to retrofit dishwashers.” That is a 1/2 truth at best and outright lie at worst. The $5,500 wasn’t from schools, it was from a city fund that pays people to go speak at our schools. The reality is Barbara Harmon wants those that use the most water to save the most water. She was trying to be creative as far as finding $ for conservation programs; she doesn’t, to the best of my knowledge, hate your children.

For those that have made it this far, congrats! I could go on and on but I think you get the idea. All council members, council and mayoral candidates are very concerned and are willing to take action. Unfortunately, some candidates are misstating other candidates position (a political tactic that I can’t stand) saying this candidate is “in bed” with developers. I’ve personally spoken to most of the council and candidates (I’m trying to get to all of them before I cast my vote) and so far I don’t believe ANY of them are in bed with developers. Why would they vote FOR a moratorium with additional building restrictions?

Finally, for those “no growthers” who are hoping their candidate will win on November 8th, and then, on their first day in office they will heroically halt all approved projects, i.e. Courtland and Grand, The Village Hotel, and every other approved project in the hopper…..it’s not going to happen because it is not “legally defensible” according to our city attorney and state law. Anyone who has a vested track map and/or a building permit can not be stopped. When Councilmen Brown had a revelation during the last council meeting that a moratorium really isn’t going to do much, he was absolutely correct. Ahh, but this moratorium /restrictions will certainly stop East Cherry development and everything in the future right….Wrong. All of our council are wise enough to approve water neutral/negative building. That means that if the builder or developer is willing to go find/save the water somewhere in the city through retrofits and additional water saving, those projects can be approved. Last meeting council suggested 150% water offset to build. That’s the bad news for the “no growthers.”

If we all focus on working on real solutions to this problem of water and development, and stop throwing stones at each other, I believe Arroyo Grande will be much better off.


Respectfully, frank s, you end your statement defending the lack of action by the Council to implement a moratorium now: “If we all focus on working on real solutions to this problem of water and development, and stop throwing stones at each other, I believe Arroyo Grande will be much better.”

Throwing stones? But that is exactly what you have done, frank s, in your statement. I also watched the meeting on TV and visited it on the cities web site.

What Karen Velie touches on and you have missed, frank s, is the political issue. I suggest you have ignored the fact the Council on October 14 did not address the political question except by limited public comment. I say that was a serious error in this political season.. What is the political issue?

If there so much water at Lopez why are citizens of AG penalized if we use it? Why are we instructed to conserve water while at the same time we see the price for water being increased because we are conserving it? If there is so much water why are we forced to use low flow toilets with dirtying propensities? Why must our green lawns turn brown? Why does the Council majority support a 51 home development that appears to use more water only from Lopez?

The Council review on the moratorium on October 14 was burdened by guesses and assumptions on the water matter by respected staff experts Shane Taylor and Geoff English. But theirs were guesses and assumptions. And they are not the true risk takers if they are wrong. Neither is the Council. The risks are born by the citizen property owners. So Mayor Hill and Councilman Brown were correct voting no “because they wanted it now.”

I do believe frank s is sincere in stating there is room for a compromise, “say maybe 11,000 AF”, excepts he throws stones saying, “however we are in an election year and everyone is trying to grab the high ground.” He joins the staff in rationalizing the water problem based on guesses and assumptions.

Please forgive me frank s, for I suggest you would have sold tickets to travel on the Titanic knowing there was an ice berg there. Remember, that the statement the Titanic would not sink turned out to be an assumption and not a fact. It is a fact Lopez is drying up and that is not an assumption.

frank s states “I don’t believe any of them (the Council or staff) are in bed with developers.” I believe frank s is naïve. Is he kidding? I have evidence that is not true. The question for the voters is how many of the Council and members of the City Staff are exposed to influence by developers? For example, how did Council members and staff come to accuse Planning Commissioner John Mack of conflict except by the intervention of one key developer!

To say “all approved projects, i.e. Courtland and Grand, The Village Hotel, and every other approved project in the hopper…..it’s not going to happen because it is not ’legally defensible’ according to our city attorney and state law.” dismisses the fact that the Council is a legislative body sanctioned by law that has a fiduciary duty to must do what is right for the citizens. This is especially true in emergency situations – and the water issue is just that.

Given there is no action here is the rub on the matter in a political context: If there is water there stop punishing the citizens and let their lawns turn green, get normal flushing toilets, have a decent shower, get State Water immediately. Stop spending money to make citizens conserve. Otherwise the Council should use emergency measures to stop developments – including all who have vested track maps

Otherwise – citizens should rise up and vote for those who are in favor of a moratorium NOW. .


“Kristen Berneich, is now a candidate, She has a sign on her lawn”, let me guess a green lawn?, as opposed to mine, brown, otherwise I get fined.


We are family

This is what Arroyo should be

We are family

Get up ev’rybody and sing

We are family

I got all neighbors with me

We are family

Get up ev’rybody and sing

Ev’ryone can see we’re together

As we walk on by

(Hey) and we fly just like birds of a feather

I won’t tell no lie

(ALL!) all of the people around us they say

Can they be that close

Just let me state for the record

We’re Arroyo Grande

We are family

I got all my neighbors with me

We are family

Get up ev’rybody and sing

We are family

I got all my neighbors with me

We are family

Get up ev’rybody and sing

Living life is fun and we’ve just begun

To get our share of the community delights

(HIGH!) high hopes we have for the future

And our goal’s in sight

(WE!) no we don’t get depressed

‘Cause here’s what we call our golden rule

Have faith in Arroyo and the things we do

You won’t go wrong

This is our family Jewel


Bless you pelican1:

sly and the family stone?

thanks for positive message and a the laugh.

much needed..


Actually….it’s Sister Sledge circa 1979.


Brown and Hill came to the reasonable conclusion that it is inherently unfair for city residents, who are already making significant water concessions, to make further sacrifices so developers can build within the city. Do the remaining council members who voted to delay the moratorium believe that the drought will miraculously end, thus paving the way for new houses and businesses? Hill and Brown aren’t over-reactive, they’re proving to be good stewards of our water. The response from their colleagues on the council is disappointing at best.

Gary Joralemon

Arroyo Grande


Harmon, Barneich and Guthrie may be hoping the residents bail them out from their failed water management and vote to allow them to purchase emergency state water. For me I refuse to bail them out, I instead require they do their job in the first place, but clearly Harmon, Barneich and Guthrie think otherwise. Vote no to allow the purchase of state water and vote Barneich out, Mayor Hill in again and keep Ray out. The moratorium will follow quickly. Next will be to hire a city manager that will do what is needed, clean house, by by McClish and the other Ferrara holdouts, and tell Tompkins he no longer runs our city.


Residents of AG recently received the expensive, glossy mailers from Ms. Ray and Barniech claiming they are for a moratorium.

However, they failed to mention the moratorium if off the table until AFTER a few special projects are approved.

Transparent or convenient.

The voters will decide.


An even better reason to re-elect Jim Hill. To see us dying in these drought conditions AND allowing the use of additional “as of yet provided” amounts of water is plain criminal. And it’s all for money, plain and simple.

Elect LeAnn and re-elect Jim Hill. They’re not a silver bullet but I believe they’re on the path to cleaning up some of this garbage going on.

Great article Miss Karen!!


Want to make sure we got this right….

Pro Growth – Barneich, Ray and Waller

No growth until we get some water – Hill, Mack, and Akins.

Josey Wales

Ladies & Gentlemen,

With all due respect, the refusal of the AG city council majority (Barneich, Harmon & Guthrie) just shows that they are not fit to serve, and must be replaced.

The city of Arroyo Grande is dangerously short on water, and the last thing that ought to be going on is the green lighting of new development amidst the drastic shortage. It is simply irresponsible to ask existing residents to forego daily showers and common water usage, and then allow connected developers to worsen the problem with more development drawing increased water usage.

PLEASE vote on Tuesday, November 8th.

Do NOT support people like Caren Ray, Kristian Barneich, Barbara Harmon, Richard Waller, etc.

Just saying,



I would like to see the water bills for ALL the council members. They can sit up there on the council and say they conserve but how much do they use? Do they shower every day, I don’t because of the fines. Are they going to have to go to paper plates because they have nowhere else to cut back. I did not move into a new house so there is no historic use of water to base my usage on, but Kristen did. And the tree guild keeps planting trees where is that water coming from to keep them alive. I have trees dying and I don’t have the water allotement to plant new ones. Is it NOV 8th yet? I will be heard at the polls. NO to Kristen Barnich NO to Richard Waller,



I use approx. 2 units per billing period.


Do they shower every day, I don’t because of the fines.


What the? You don’t shower every day? Where did you ever get the idea that you’d get fined if you shower every day? Are your showers 1 hour long or something?

If you turn the water off after you get wet and then soap up and then rinse, you’ll hardly use any water at all. You won’t even come close to getting fined.

Get real. Enough with the drama. You’re not living in the great depression.


IF the City is so short of water why is it the grass at all of the parks in the city are so lush and green? I often observe the sprinklers on at the parks during the day when watering isn’t permitted. Why is that Mr. Mayor?


The mayor is only 1 of 5 votes, why not ask the 3 council members who voted against a moratorium?


Hey wait a minute. Jim Hill has my vote. I am hoping that he will contact the appropriate people within the city to see that the Parks Dept is also following the rules.


Most cities have access to, and use non-potable water for public parks.

A call to the public works department should answer your question.


The Wallace group and cronies inc are to blame for this one. If they hadn’t spent so much time lining their pockets with our tax money you’d have a plant capable of producing reusable water or close to it. You have Hill who knows this and is trying to move forward. Unfortunately the likes of a certain uneducated mindless board member are dragging human safety, our environment and progress down. She rather smoke dope,bump fuzz and wallow in dirty “affluent”.