San Simeon settles encroachment dispute

November 7, 2023


San Simeon Community Services District officials recently settled with one of three property owners who have accused the district of encroaching on their property.

In 2021, Ron Hurlbert put the district on notice. In a letter, Hurlbert accused the district of reducing the value of his property after it constructed its office and reverse osmosis unit in the Pico Avenue right-of-way, across the street from his property.

According to an Oct. 23, 2023 Settlement Agreement, the San Simeon district agreed to pay Hurlbert $85,000, to wave sewer and water hookup fees for six units, to remove the district’s offices from the right of way within six months, and to provide screening to block his property view of the district’s reverse osmosis unit.

“I let them off the hook,” Hurlbert said. “They had extreme liability and so did the county of SLO for allowing them to do it.”

Working to have drinkable water during dry spells, in 2015 the district constructed a water purification facility. In a rush to build the plant, district officials ignored reports they were building the facility on Hearst Conservation land.

In addition, both the district’s office and the water purification facility were partially built in the Pico Avenue right-of-way. The district compensated for their error by installing gravel on a vacant lot owned by Hurlbert, without his permission, to allow vehicles room to turn around.

Both the district and Hurlbert’s properties are zoned multi-family. Hurlbert, who has owned his lot for more than 35 years, had planned to build condominiums on his lot, though the construction of a water plant across the street is likely to diminish the value of the planned multi-family units.

In his letter, Hurlbert demanded the district remove or relocate the district office and reverse osmosis facility buildings from the Pico Avenue right-of-way.

San Simeon CSD directors voted unanimously in Oct. 2020 to approve an agreement regarding the encroachment with the owners of the Hearst Ranch, which allows a portion of the district’s water treatment plant to remain temporarily on the ranch, and to pay Hearst for a survey and legal work. A few months earlier, the survey determined the district built 560 square feet of its water facility on the Hearst Ranch.

However, in early April, attorney Roy Ogden, who claimed to be working for an anonymous source, said a title search he conducted proves the water purification facility does not encroach on Hearst land. The claim was embraced by district staff until a second survey verified the encroachment.

Because of the encroachment, in 2021 the county rescinded a $500,000 grant to the district for water supply tanks because the district had failed to resolve its easement issues.

Earlier this year, another property owner accused the district of constructing a staircase and a viewing area on beachfront property they do not own.

Decades ago, the San Simeon district built a staircase to the beach and a viewing area along with benches on the bluffs at the west end of Pico Avenue, on land they claimed as their own. However, the land is owned by a trust overseen by a woman who lives out of the area, Marie Louise Paquet.

In a Jan. 9 cease and desist letter, Paquet ordered the district to restrict public access to the viewing area and staircase located on her property.

District staff then roped the area off using caution tape. Beachgoers are still required to find other means to access Pico Beach.

During each of the alleged encroachments, Charlie Grace and his company Grace Environmental Services managed the district.

In June 2023, Grace settled a lawsuit with the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office for illegal business practices and false advertising regarding his leadership in San Simeon. Grace agreed to pay a civil penalty of $75,000 and to stop working for the district following the hiring of new management.


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This is a comment passed on to me by a San Simeon resident:

“Incredible story, reads like fiction. No wonder Gibson ignores us! “

That happened…/s

The gifts from Charlie Grace keep giving, and why not Dan Dow treated Charlie to another sweetheart deal reserved for Dans close friends.