Supervisor Jimmy Paulding explores dumping Oceano

April 11, 2023

Supervisor Jimmy Paulding


After years of strife between community leaders in Oceano, freshman Supervisor Jimmy Paulding is considering dumping Oceano after just three months on the job. Paulding’s latest plan is to shutter the Oceano Community Services District and make the community part of Grover Beach.

During the 2022 District 4 campaign, Paulding courted residents of Oceano with allegations former Supervisor Lynn Compton did not care about sidewalks in Oceano or the impact that vehicle riding on the dunes had on the community. Supporters of shutting the Oceano Dunes State Vehicle Recreation Area walked door to door, posted signs in their yards and donated to Paulding’s campaign.

Paulding then won his election even after redistricting moved Oceano out of District 4 and into District 5.

Once sworn in, Paulding adopted the orphaned community of Oceano. This was after District 5 Supervisor Debbie Arnold assured Oceano residents she would represent them until the 2024 election.

In February, Paulding presented a unification compact in an attempt to prevent differing political factions in Oceano from discussing controversial issues.

The compact identified specific controversial projects in Oceano as those the members of these groups were to avoid discussing, including closing the Oceano Dunes to off-highway vehicle use and the improvement or redevelopment of the Oceano Airport. Paulding’s proposal also included a code of civility.

Paulding asked Vitality Advisory Council of Oceano Chair Linda Austin to sign his unification compact. Paulding also asked Charles Varni, the former chair of the Oceano Advisory Council – a group the board of supervisors shuttered last year – to sign his compact.

Varni’s group and Austin’s advisory council have battled for years over the dunes, sidewalks and more recently redistricting.

“The compact builds on our initial conversations around making a conscious choice not to pursue certain controversial goals in the interim, and instead, to work together around common goals that will result in meaningful and tangible improvements to the community of Oceano,” Paulding said in his Feb. 16 proposal.

Neither Austin nor Varni were willing to stop espousing their views on the dunes and the airport, and agree to focus on issues Paulding suggested such as safe routes to schools. Both refused to sign Paulding’s compact.

“The Oceano Advisory Council and Vitality Advisory Council of Oceano independently took issue with how I characterized the advocacy around the Oceano dunes and airport as controversial political activity,” Paulding wrote in response to the rejection of his compact. “My intent was not to place blame on any one group. It was simply to indicate that advocacy around those two issues has been controversial.”

Paulding then noted his plan to explore annexing Oceano into Grover Beach.

“There is an idea out there that a study should be commissioned to evaluate the potential for Oceano to be annexed by the City of Grover Beach,” Paulding wrote in a March 13 email to 19 recipients. “This discussion was prompted due to Oceano’s inability to pay for fire services.”

In his email, Paulding recognizes that Oceano has a “unique identity” and questions whether it should retain its name, “much like the community of Shell Beach did after it was annexed by Pismo Beach.”

“As the supervisor representing Oceano, I’m certainly not opposed to studying possibilities,” Paulding wrote. “Right now, I’m just trying to understand if there is even any interest in studying the possibility with city, county, and CSD representatives.”

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Paulding is doing a great job. He’s not afraid of change or new ideas. He is courageous and that’s what we need at a time like this.

Paulding was a Republican, then a moderate Democrat and now a Progressive. Started as a planner, then a lawyer and now a politician. He is a chameleon and is already presenting himself as unprincipled. Three months is all it took.