It is time to end lock-step politics in San Simeon

September 22, 2020

Julie Tacker


The San Simeon Community Services District won’t have to hold an election for the second time in row because so few residents are interested, or are unaware of the process to run for office. The tiny disadvantaged community of only 460 people has just 184 registered voters who would be eligible to sit on the five person board.

Because of appointments and terms expiring, four of the five seats were up for the 2020 election.

With Will Carson not up for re-election, only three incumbents — Gwen Kellas, Bill Mauer, and John Russell — made their way to the San Luis Obispo County Clerk’s Office to sign up; leaving one seat open.

Coincidentally, this trio of incumbents and the District’s General Manager Charles Grace, are under investigation by the Fair Political Practices Commission for various conflicts of interest.

Apparently, the forth incumbent, Daniel De La Rosa, was unaware that he needed to sign up because he was appointed to the board in June. This leaves his seat open for any qualified person to ask for an appointment to the San Simeon CSD Board by the County Board of Supervisors.

Unfortunately, the San Simeon CSD Board has already made its recommendation for De La Rosa to be re-appointed. This decision was made without informing the other 179 eligible citizens that they too could be considered.

If you are a registered voter residing in San Simeon and want to be considered for the vacant board seat, make your wishes known to the SLO County Board of Supervisors before they take action to affirm the CSD’s recommendation of De La Rosa.

You are encouraged to reach out to the District 2 Supervisor, Bruce Gibson, ahead of time to make him fully aware of your interest in serving and request his support. It is also important that you attend the supervisors virtual meeting at 9 a.m. on Oct. 20 to speak in public comment on the consent calendar to introduce yourself and ask for the board’s appointment.

Here’s a chance for San Simeon to put an end to lock-step politics and have real democracy.

Julie Tacker has been a county-wide local government watchdog for 20 years.

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Correction under the post for truther7. There is a typo in the second paragraph–it should read: “during a Level 3 Drought Emergency”

What makes anyone think that the dysfunctional Cambria CSD is an appropriate entity for the San Simeon CSD to merge with? Cambria CSD can’t get their own act together, yet alone take on another dysfunctional CSD!

The Emergency Water Supply (EWS), a brackish water desal plant was decided by the Cambria CSD Board of Directors. Its purpose was to supply water to Cambria residents during a Level 3 Drought Emergency. Cambrians paid for the EWS through a Proposition 218 rate increase. That project, the EWS, was “magically” changed to the Sustainable Water Facility (SWF) for a different purpose–Growth! The change occurred behind closed doors–Cambrians never got to vote or be privy to the new name and new purpose; it was decided for us!

The project was built almost 6 years ago with an Emergency Permit from SLO County Planning. The CCSD remains with no regular Coastal Development Permit (CDP) for either the EWS or the “bait and switch,” SWF.

Cambrians have been taken to the cleaners BIG time because of Board members making a very bad decision–some of whom have flown the coop. Did they see the writing on the wall? (See quotes below).* The District engineer conveniently retired after working on the project; the GM was fired; legal counsel Tim Carmel, has been lining his pockets from the soaring legal costs paid to his firm, as have outside attorneys working on lawsuits associated with the District. The former District Clerk/Admin. Assistant, filed a lawsuit against the District (a settlement agreement was reached). The District is currently in litigation with the engineering firm who designed and built the project. Let’s hope they are successful! How much more can a small community of approx. 6,000 residents withstand?

Folks, Cambria is the biggest mess in the County and Cambria ratepayers are paying mightily for it, with no end in sight!

I wish San Simeon residents all the best, but Cambria’s plate is overflowing and it has a very bad taste!


*Cambrian, Aug. 24, 2017

“Thompson pointed to

the $13.2 million water

plant as the signature

achievement of his tenure

on the board.

“Getting that completed

and now available, I think,

is the thing I’m most proud

of,” he said. “I know it’s a

fight others folks are going

to have to take on, so I’m

looking forward to riding

off into the sunset.”

*Two longtime Cambria CSD board members resign

By Karen Garcia–New Times–August 31, 2017

“The Cambria Community Services District is losing two board members—and key supporters of the controversial Sustainable Water Facility—who recently announced their resignations just days apart.

District board member Michael Thompson announced his departure at the Aug. 24 board meeting.

Just days after Thompson’s announcement, Vice President Greg Sanders said he plans to leave the board Oct. 31.

Thompson, Sanders, and board member Jim Bahringer formed the majority of the board that often voted favorably on business regarding the Sustainable Water Facility, a nearly $14 million facility that’s still in the process of acquiring a permanent permit from the California Coastal Commission.”


Today, September 23, 2020–the District is still attempting to acquire a regular CDP. No wonder some directors who brought us to where we are today, are–“riding off into the sunset” or the desert, as in Mr. Sanders case. Some remain, clinging to the hope that Cambria can grow by another 700 development projects, while current ratepayers are footing the bill! It is disgusting!

Read the above cited article and the CSD Board Members who voted for the “emergency water plan”, which the name was later changed to a “sustainable water system.” The plan these CSD Board Members voted on has Cambria in a financial mess, Cambrians paying increasingly higher district rates and problems with regulatory agencies. Now Tom Gray, who receive money to help promote this disaster water project, is running for CCSD. Oceano residents, Cambria’s toxic brine will most like be trucked to your area. This is no longer a Cambria issue – this is a countywide, if not a statewide issue and potential environmental disaster. Be careful SSCSD ratepayers, the same could happen to you. Julie, we need your investigative skills and courage to report on what has happened in closed and open doors.

Adustum, you are kind. I am well aware of the impacts Cambria’s perpetual brine generating project will have on Oceano and have been a strong opponent on their behalf, because like most places, people are too busy or uninterested to pay attention to small government. Ironically, it’s the small government that hits your pocket first with water and sewer rates always on the climb (often times because of overpaid misfit top heavy administration).

I am easy to find on the internet if you’d like to speak off line — look me up and we can chat about your concerns.

FYI, Cambria CSD’s Candidate Forum is TONIGHT at 6PM live on slo-span and the League of Women Voters website. I’ll be watching!

It is important to note that Oceano has a poverty rate of 16%; Cambria has a poverty rate of 9%; and San Luis Obispo county has a poverty rate of 10%. The area with one the lowest poverty rates and higher median incomes (Cambria) is sending its toxic brine to an area with a higher poverty rate and lower median incomes (Oceano). This is an environmental justice issue. The Attorney General’s office has established a Bureau of Environmental Justice. This is no longer a Cambrian issue – this is a statewide issue.

Julie is good for the county. Keeping an eye out where no one else would. Any form of checks and balances is a good thing.

Let’s get the staff and contract staff in San Simeon CSD straight. Is Tim Carmel the attorney for the SS CSD? He is also the attorney for the Cambria CSD (and Arroyo Grande). Is Greg Sanders, a partner with the Orange County law firm Nossaman (land use law firm), a consultant to San Simeon CSD? And is Greg Sanders the same person who was on the Cambria CSD when the expensive and desal plant was negotiated and funded by out of county financiers? Can someone answer these questions?

Carmel and Sanders have come and gone from San Simeon.

The staff is an odd arrangement with a private firm, Grace Environmental Services, managing the district and the operations of water and wastewater. Smells a little Wallace like.

Remember, Carmel was partners with the late Roger Lyons, who was the CCSD, SSCSD and Hearst attorney (at the same time). Carmel has closed ties with Wallace. Former CCSD Board member, Greg Sanders, is a partner with Nossaman law firm out of Orange County and now consulting with Carmel in SSCSD. The loan for the unsustainable water project ties (collateral) payment to Cambria’s infrastructure (e.g., water system). If Cambria fails to pay on the loan, Cambria’s public infrastructure systems are privatized and go to the loan owners. Would love to know relationship(s) between CCSD Board members approving entering into the loan agreement and those making the loan. One of option is for the toxic brine from the CCSD unsustainable water project to be trucked (very expensive) to Oceano and emptied into the ocean. Oceano folks, you are taking Cambrians toxic waste.

Julie, would love for you to look into this issue.

The San Simeon CSD needs to be disbanded and attached to the Cambria CSD or some other appropriate entity. This is a classic example of a totally dysfunctional governmental body. There simply are not enough citizens there to sustain a functioning governmental unit, period.

They’ve managed to put in a waste water treatment facility and a reverse osmosis system for drought periods. All without the drama that the Los Osos CSD put us through. They seem functional enough to me.


San Simeon does not have a new wastewater facility and is a long way from getting one — they have less than two years to have a plan for one in a new location with new technology. The plan has to include removing the riprap that protects it and the Chair of the Board’s ocean front condominium, from the ocean and a restoration plan to put the current plant site back to a natural state.

The RO unit is only for emergencies.

The little “drama” is due to extreme apathy among so very few people.

What bothers you more. How the CSD is run, or that the people who MATTER don’t care?

Satisfaction resides on the flip side of your apathetic coin.

Nice of you to call all of your neighbors in San Simeon lazy and derelict.

The CCSD needs to disbanded. They contracted away the community’s infrastructure in exchange for a loan to build a disastrous desal plant. Julie, please look into the deal the CCSD made with loan people and the people on the CCSD at the time.

I am watching Cambria. I’m thrilled to see many people getting involved. As long as CCSD hits the pocketbooks without providing water, the more people will get turned on. Take your pain to the ballot box. Vote for candidates that walk the accountability and transparency walk.

IMO, it’s time to cut your losses with regard to the UNSustainable Water Facility experiment and look for a proven sustainable supply.

Unfortunately, people involved with the unsustainable water system are referring to it as sustainable, which it is not. Cambrians, be careful of Tom Gray who is running for the CCSD. He was paid by the CCSD to push an expensive and unsustainable water project as “sustainable.” And now he wants to get on the CCSD Board to continue pushing a project that will produce toxic brine.

Is the low vote registration due to the residents being visitors from Mexico?

A while back a member of a governing board asked why no one came to the weekly Board Meetings, my reply was “do something that the public doesn’t like and they will be here enmass”. It appears that the citizens of San Simeon are satisfied with the status quo.

I would agree with you Mitch if the residents knew that conflict of interest runs rampant through the tiny town — they don’t. The 500 foot rule affects them easily, but their legal counsel hasn’t been a good advisor and they’ve walked right into trouble.

Funny thing is the whole board was appointed after numerous resignations. Maybe the board members with ethics thought better than stay?

Aunt Gertrude stirring the pot, get over it:(

At least Julie has the courage and intelligence to investigate and report. What are you doing with your life?