Donations raised, but not delivered to Los Osos mudslide victims

April 17, 2023

Flood damage at Vista Court in Los Osos


People throughout San Luis Obispo County donated money through two fundraisers to help victims of a raging river of water and mud that slammed into homes in the Vista de Oro Estates on Jan. 9. Money raised, but not yet given to the victims.

After more than $50,000 was raised in February through a barbecue and a concert, several members of a committee tasked with dispersing the funds now want to give a portion of the money to people outside the Vista de Oro neighborhood who were not impacted by the mudslide. They argue that there are people who may be more deserving, and that the fundraising was not tied to the mudslide or Vista de Oro.

This assertion that is not supported by advertisements for the two fundraisers.

On Feb 4, the Kiwanis Club of Bay-Osos hosted a barbecue fundraiser for Vista de Oro residents impacted by the mudslide.

“This is what we do as Kiwanians, as human beings; we step up to help our neighbors in their time of need,” Annie Wahler told the Estero Bay News. “We can only imagine their struggle, and the pain they are feeling as they pick up the pieces after the Vista de Oro disaster.”

Then on Feb. 26, a concert was held to “help the mudslide victims in Los Osos,” according to a poster promoting the event.

More than a half-century ago, developers built a retention basin at the base of the Cabrillo Estates to protect neighboring, lower-elevation properties. In the 90s, the Los Osos Community Services District became responsible for upkeep of the retention basin, though it is not known if the district provided the proper maintenance.

During the Jan. 9 atmospheric river, the rubber liner tore and the berm on one side of the basin burst causing thousands of gallons of water and mud to crash into Vista de Oro Estates. Initially, Los Osos CSD officials denied financial responsibility prompting some of the victims to hire attorneys.

More than a dozen victims, some who had more than 3 feet of mud flow through their homes, filed claims seeking damages from under $10,000 to more than $800,000 from the CSD. In the claims, multiple residents accuse the district of not properly maintaining the basin.

Early on, People Helping People, a local non-profit focused on helping seniors, doled out approximately $50,000 to help the more than 20 households impacted by the mudslide, many of whom were unable to stay in their homes. A GoFundMe page also raised an additional $32,433.

Following the barbecue and the concert, the money was given to People Helping People to disperse. A committee of four to five people was then tasked with deciding how to disperse the funds, with CSD Board President Charles Cesena and Administrator Ron Munds participating in the discussions even though the victims have battled with the CSD’s insurance carrier.

Multiple donors have since complained that the money was never dispersed while the committee decides who is the most deserving. In addition, a homeowner lamented about the committee’s questionnaire, which asks mudslide victims with “adequate financial resources” to allow People Helping People to give the money to “others.”

Cesena said that because the CSD’s insurance carrier will be reimbursing some of the Vista de Oro homeowners, there may be more deserving people in other neighborhoods impacted by flooding.

“It looks bad if people who have access to insurance turn their backs on their neighbors,” Cesena said. “This is pitting neighborhood against neighborhood.”

However, several local attorneys suggest that People Helping People cannot take funds allocated for one group of people and then give it to others. It is expected the committee will announce who will receive the funds on April 21.

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The donations received should only be given to the cause as advertised or solicited for. Any other use is fraud. You cannot rob Peter to pay Paul.

I agree with other comments given of past donations that were bait and switched … Like those donations given for the Los osos pool.

If another cause needs money they should do their own fundraising.

If I donate to a cause, I expect my donation to go to the cause as advertised. To do otherwise certainly is fraud. As stated elsewhere, donate only to those organizations that have a viable track record. Donations to pop-up “charity” causes is usually bogus. Buyer be cautious.

Just so you all know, the GoFundMe money was dispersed immediately. I’m disgusted that they are holding the Digging Out fundraising money “hostage”. One of the victims was told that she HAD to accept the $30,000 good faith payment from the CSD’s insurance company BEFORE she gets any money from the fundraiser!!! WRONG!!!

Red Cross and the USO. That’s my donation list. I used to donate to the Boy Scouts, but they lost their entire purpose to exist long ago.

Unless it’s a rock solid “donation box”, that nobody has the key to, these things will happen.

Sounds a lot like the pool we were supposed to get in Los Osos. How do these people sleep at night?

This is bullshit. The money should go to those that the donors were led to believe they were donating to. Furthermore, it should have already been dispersed.

Many times, honorable causes end up not being so honorable especially when there is money involved. The heart of man is desperately wicked. That’s why I never ever give to “honorable” causes such as this.