Something Very Funny's Going On in Morro Bay!?

There was a time when the only live entertainment in town was watching the seals and otters frolic in the bay and the waves lap the shore, and that hasn’t changed since the days of the Chumash, except now the all Chumash live inland on casinos, and the seals are charging tourists for group photos.

Morro Bay is a joke.

There was a time when the only live entertainment in town was watching the seals and otters frolic in the bay and the waves lap the shore, and that hasn’t changed since the days of the Chumash, except now the all Chumash live inland on casinos, and the seals are charging tourists for group photos.

Watching the fishing boats come in and unload the day’s catch still passes for entertainment in the city that always sleeps, and on a beautiful day by the bay, who could argue? But there aren’t many fishing boats anymore – most fish drive up from LA fresh for the weekend — although you wouldn’t know it by the amount of fish and chips served on the Embarcadero every day.

That’s all nice for the tourists, but what do you if you live in Los Osos, Morro Bay, Cayucos or Cambria, and you’re wide awake primetime Saturday night and harmonizing with the call of mating sea lions just doesn’t cut it for you like it used to? Wait a minute. There actually is live entertainment in Morro Bay, that is, live human entertainers, not sea creatures who you think are smiling when they’re not. I repeat for all landlubbers and all the ships at sea: LOWER THE GANGPLANK! LIVE ENTERTAINMENT ASHORE TONIGHT! We’re just not used to it. We have to adjust our thinking.

Today, fortunately, there are two great after-dark entertainment options for area residents. First for levity are Morro Bay City Council meetings. They are hilarious, but you’re not allowed to laugh out loud there, which can lead to the upper gastric distress from swallowing too much laughter. Second source of limitless laughter in town is Saturday night “Comedy Night” at Osaka Joe’s Sushi in North Morro Bay.

Bronston Jones

Now this may be a difficult concept for some Baysiders to absorb, the very idea of stepping out beyond their front porch on a Friday or Saturday night except to walk the cat, let alone stepping inside Osaka Joe’s just for laughs. Now, stand-up comedy at a sushi restaurant may seem to some a little like watching the delivery of a baby at the circus, but you don’t even have to like delicious Japanese rolls, saki or beer to enjoy the professional-level comedy imported, bound with gags, from the comedy capitals of the world by Osaka Joe’s entertainment-wise owner, yes, a guy named Joe, last name Yukich.

For example, Osaka Joe’s is featuring comedian Bronston Jones on Saturday night, April 7, at 9 p.m. Admission is free.

Bronston is a serious threat to celebrate your funny bone. After a five-year hiatus directing hot commercials and music videos (including Uncle Kracker’s Top 20 “Drift Away”), Bronston’s back at the mic doing what he loves most – saying something without selling anything. Wherever he performs he revels in revealing his failings through his conversational, story-telling style, failings we all share, he says, while talking about the demented reality show called reality. “Life’s short – I’m not!” the giant (6′ 7″) funnyman repeats his motto. “Tall or small, live larger than life!”

Erik Marino

Said owner Joe Yukich: “We have been very fortunate to be able to bring top-flight comedy from the top comedy clubs in Hollywood and the West Coast to the Central Coast. Bronston is one of the best and brightest on the comedy circuit today, and we’re thrilled to be able to showcase great new rising talent like Bronston Jones at Osaka Joe’s.”

The friendly atmosphere of Osaka Joe’s creates the ideal environment to enjoy live entertainment. The intimate club setting allows the audience to feel like they are part of the performance, and the shared laughter is a communal experience that brightens everyone’s day. And if you like sushi, you learn to eat carefully on “Comedy Night” — something has to give when you eat and laugh at the same time.

Mat Edgar

Osaka Joe’s has been featuring live comedy and music since 2010, and recently featured comedians Erik Marino, Mat Edgar, Zoltan Kaszas, Ibo Brewer, Steve Zorbalas, Alex Breckenridge, and Central Coast surf band The Dentures. Serving as “Comedy Night” host is comedienne Bo Sellers.

That’s right, live comedy in Morro Bay, and it’s about time. So get used to the sound of random laughter in the streets. Suddenly, Morro Bay is no longer a joke when it comes to real live entertainment. Not at Osaka Joe’s where it’s all a joke on Comedy Night.

Osaka Joe’s Sushi is located at 3118 Main Street (and Jamaica St.) in North Morro Bay. For more information call (805) 772-7987 and visit www.osakajoesushi.com.

Los Osos Sewer ‘Train Wreck’ on Track for Late July

Proof of pollution or not, the Los Osos sewer is coming to the embattled little Central Coast town by the bay this summer.

The announcement by 2nd District Supervisor Bruce Gibson in the Tribune on March 20th overshadowed that afternoon’s update of the Los Osos Wastewater Project for the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors and public. At the update the supervisors approved a contract with Carollo Engineers of Walnut Creek for about $943,000 to design the project’s wastewater treatment plant, and another contract for $898,000 with Far Western Anthropological Research Group of Davis for archaeological services.

Supervisor Gibson, sewer project whip on the board, whose district includes Los Osos, told the Tribune he is “confident” construction will begin on time despite a petition by the Los Osos Sustainability Group, comprised of knowledgeable Los Osos residents, asking the California Coastal Commission to revoke the County’s permit for the project based on the use or false or misleading false information to obtain the permit.

Gibson, known for his supreme confidence and less than supreme predicting skills, believes his confidence is well founded this time. Dan Carl, Central Coast Supervisor for the Coastal Commission, told the Tribune, in the Tribune’s words, that “the request (to revoke the permit) could cause delays in the project because it will take staff time away from verifying that the county has met its permit conditions.” Carl is satisfied that the County has met its permit conditions. The Tribune has worked closely with government agencies to promote the project, and Carl’s public message can be taken as a strong signal of the Commission’s predisposition against the LOSG’s revocation request.

As a result, the likelihood of the revocation is viewed as a “moon shot” by most observers, with little chance of succeeding since the petitioners must prove intent to deceive, or willful negligence by the County, and a majority of the Coastal Commission, a ‘sister’ state agency to the County, must agree. Based on the information on hand, Gibson feels secure speaking publicly that the revocation request will not disrupt the County’s timetable.

Barring a surprise 11th-hour reprieve that halts the start of construction, only one question remains for the 5,000 homeowners saddled with paying the cost of the $189 million project: Will the long, drawn-out Los Osos sewer debate finally come to an end when the tractors roll and digging starts in earnest at the end of July, if in fact it does?

Based on the reaction of sticker-shocked Los Osos homeowners speaking at public comment during the project update, the answer is clearly no. Most of the speakers were disappointed at the brevity of the County’s presentation, and dismayed at the failure of Public Works staff to address the many outstanding issues related to the costly project. Not the least of these inadequately addressed issues is the fate of a select group of 5,000 homeowners in an officially-declared “disadvantaged community” faced with having to pay an average sewer bill of $250 a month for 30 to 40 years.

The meeting was tightly controlled by Chairman Jim Patterson who interrupted each speaker who ventured even a second over the allotted three minutes of public comment. His over-bearing response to speakers exceeding the three-minute limit, which resulted in him erroneously cutting off two Los Osos speakers in the board’s morning session, did not prevent speakers from lambasting the County over the project for a wide variety of reasons. (See REACTION CAPSULES below.)

Several Los Osos residents were sharply critical of the quality of the update and the County’s performance in general in shaping the project, the largest in County history, and explaining its murky benefits to ratepayers. Linde Owen called Carollo Engineers and associates “crooks,” and Ben DiFatta said the Carollo contract had “the smell of suspicion of a lot of corruption.”

Responding to those comments Gibson said: “Miss Owen’s characterization of our staff as ‘crooks’ and Mr. DiFatta’s reference to the ‘smell of corruption’ are both outrageous and deeply offensive. I believe they skirt the edge of being libelous. and I believe they are worthy of an apology to the individuals involved.”

After Patterson threatened to remove two stunned elderly Los Osos residents he accused of calling out in chambers, Gibson added, “That again continues a pattern of behavior that’s unfortunate.”

Asked if they had an apology to offer, DiFatta told The ROCK: “Gibson should apologize to Los Osos for proposing the most expensive sewer in the country per capita. Gibson should apologize to the several thousand property owners and 7,000-9,000 people that will have to move out of their homes because of his insistence to build an antiquated, over-priced, unaffordable gravity collection system. Gibson should apologize to the businesses that have and or will go out of business due to people not having discretionary funds to spend on food, entertainment, furniture, medicine, gasoline, auto purchases, sports activities for their children, etc. throughout this County. Many things he and his sewer staff have done throughout this ordeal are suspicious, especially when his gravity proposal is $50 to $100 million more than other alternatives.”

“I have no reason to apologize,” Owen told The ROCK. “If anything, Public Works Director Ogren and Supervisor Gibson should apologize to Los Osos for putting the community through six years of hell and giving us the most expensive project per capita in state and U.S. history – which they promised they would remedy.”

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Los Osos BOS Public Comment Capsules
Excerpts from public comment by Los Osos residents at the March 20th Board of Supervisors meeting update on the wastewater project:

Elaine Watson, speaking on behalf of the Los Osos Sustainability Group, explaining why they filed for revocation of the Coastal permit for the sewer: “Having exhausted all recourse available to us we were left with no other options. There’s hardly any issue in this revocation that we didn’t bring to you first and many times. And gentleman, I want to remind you that we’re citizens trying to remedy a train wreck… Has anyone here (the Board of Supervisors and staff) read the revocation request yet…? Judging by no response I’m assuming that you haven’t…”

Julie Tacker: “What I wanted to see in an update (and didn’t) was some progress on a second 218, an explanation for our Habitat Conservation Plan, the firing of one consultant, and the new RFP that’s out, and we are hiring another. I wanted an update on the grant that’s proposed for our LCP [Local Coastal Permit], a groundwater management plan. I wanted Coastal conditions laid out in front of me. I want you to know not one of the 180-some conditions that the project must meet has been approved by the Coastal Commission. Regional Water Control Board has their conditions, USDA has conditions, State Revolving Fund has conditions, the purchase of the Giacomazzi site – you have to record a public lot on top of the purchase. You do have to go through an eminent domain process. The roads-and-drainage “show” that came to Los Osos has damage outside the approved footprint for the Coastal Development Permit. A recycled water management plan, a Habitat Management Plan, progress with the ISJ, the Tri-W restoration – what does that mean? The pump house was moved to the library. It’s above ground, Mr. Gibson. You told LOCAC it was a below-ground facility. I want to hear about your trip to Washington and the bags of money you brought back. There’s monitoring programs, there’s decommissioning of septic tanks, there’s sign plans, lighting plans, ag easements, protection of the ag land, conservation. At the beginning of your due diligence it started a one-year clock, that clock was met a week ago.”

Bo Cooper: “At the last project update it was said, “Nobody should have to leave their home to pay for a sewer.” Later on a TAC draft report said, “The Prohibition Zone residents who will be paying for the project are predominantly middle and lower-income people. For some, any increase in their monthly cash outflow will be disastrous.” But then that last part was taken out for political reasons because they wanted to have the sewer… Paavo’s letter to the State Water Board in November 2011 (read): “According to the Wastewater User Chart Survey Report published by the State Water Board, the monthly cost to Los Osos property owners would be the highest in the state for similar population served and nearly five times the state average.” It’s just out of control. That same letter talked about affordability benchmarks – the EPA is 2% (of annual median household income), the USDA and Dept. of Public Health benchmark is 1.5%. So if it’s $217 (a month average sewer bill) — but it will really be about $250 – 2% is $130,000 (median household income), at 2% of $250, which is more likely, a household has to have a median household income of $150,000. At 1.5% which is USDA, which half our money comes from, 1.5% of $217, you have to have an income of $174,000, and last but not least, 1.5% of $250, you have to have a median household income of $200,000 – almost nobody has that. It’s completely unaffordable.”

Jeff Edwards: “I object to sole-souring the contract before you to Carollo Engineers. They don’t need the $25 million design/build contract – they have every other contract is this County for engineering services. You may remember your master water plan, I mean study, that you recently considered – I think you changed the name to a study because it was of such poor quality – they did that. They’re actually the go-to engineering firm for your public works director. In fact, their total (on the Los Osos sewer project) with this contract is up to about $3 million. That goes with their other building partners, and they all come from the same community of Walnut Creek up north. We know HDR got a contract for $7.6 million, CDM $5 million, so the numbers for engineering just keep going up. The reasons given to you (the Board) for sole-sourcing this to them by your Public Works department are disingenuous. The only reason they gave it to them was because they wanted to, not because of familiarity or timing… Last Thursday, the Regional Water Quality Board met in San Luis Obispo, and apparently it’s (the treatment plant) a recycled water facility. What you neglected to give the Regional Board staff is the Recycled Water Management Plan. Their staff was quite surprised. It’s been out since late last year – they don’t have a copy, or at least didn’t until we gave them one. The Regional Board wants to hear from you. In fact, Mr. Gibson, they want to hear from him on May 3rd what’s going on… I’d like to close by asking, why did we take $18 million of grant money and reduce our low-interest rate Clean Water/State Revolving Fund loan? Instead of taking it out of the more expensive USDA loan, we’ve taken it out of the cheaper money. It defies logic.”

Linde Owen: “The presentation is definitely lacking. I could have brought the other 24 items that are still not being addressed in a project update. This (update) was basically to tell us about the new sole-sourcing (to Carollo)… Your Recommendation No. 3 (on the staff report) is to waive board approval of expenditures so that this group of crooks, I’m going to call them right now, will not have to get your permission to spend over $25,000 on any item, so here we go. We’re just opening up the doors to take our money, take all the money you want and have a good time with this project. Let’s see if we can’t make it even more expensive…  Carollo Engineering, the “Love Boat” I call them, want $942, 669 to design a sewer plant that was “shovel ready,” Mr. Gibson. Were you misinformed? Did Mr. Ogren not tell you that it wasn’t shovel ready – or did you just go along with him and go to Washington to see if you could get some of that money? It isn’t shovel ready and we all knew that, but now we’re going to pay another million to keep upgrading something that’s basically copy-paste.”

Ben DiFatta: “This project lacks common sense. It’s way over your heads, and you’re now going to spend another $2 million for studies that have already been done. Didn’t we already pay for this once or twice? Why do these things have to be done again? Can’t you modify the old studies?… The same old cronies, the sole-source, no-bid contract (to Carollo) has the smell of suspicion of a lot of corruption here going on. Why didn’t you have the bidders choose their teams and then bid all the costs, instead of always going to the board for more money?”

Gewynn Taylor: “…Now again you are going outside to get Carollo Engineering involved in a project. When they were doing the Basin Plan for the County they got the water distribution from the Los Osos water basin coming from Morro Bay! How in the world can you trust an engineering firm that can’t even get it straight where Los Osos gets its water? This is ridiculous. Not only that but the nitrate well-testing has been requested by the Regional Water Board again, and not just requested, they are advising this board to approve the nitrate testing and do it now, not at the time that this sewer plant has been installed and is producing water. (Regional Board staff) was directed on Match 15th to get to you and let you know what they are asking. This board has not put out the information that is required or is necessary for the development of this project. If you take the word of your Public Works staff alone, you are setting yourself up for a lot of disruption and a lot of problems…”

For her public comment, Dr. C. Hite presented a three-minute film tribute to Los Osos citizens who have spoken out against the County’s project for six years, and been the object of scorn, verbal abuse, and Brown Act violations by the Board of Supervisors. Dr. Hite’s short film depicted the citizens as heroes.

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The ROCK Interview with Gary Freiberg

Long-time Los Osos resident Gary Freiberg is intelligent, articulate, and doesn’t suffer fools or stereotypes lightly. He has written Viewpoints in local media, appeared on radio talk shows like “Dave Congalton,” and braved the arrows of pro-sewer extremists in the media and on the blogs.

“The worst enemy of this effort IS apathy.”

Long-time Los Osos resident Gary Freiberg is intelligent, articulate, and doesn’t suffer fools or stereotypes lightly. He has written Viewpoints in local media, appeared on radio talk shows like “Dave Congalton,” and braved the arrows of pro-sewer extremists in the media and on the blogs. When he was a guest on the “Dave Congalton Show” and a caller accused Gary of potentially holding up the sewer, Gary didn’t waste anytime calling him “selfish.” Gary is not a technocrat and doesn’t pretend to be one. He is a retired financial adviser and economist who understands his community better than the politicians, and his specialty is talking dollars and sense. Gary recently launched an online petition to stop the $189 million Los Osos Wastewater Project for 5,000 homes cold in its tracks. The petition, which has an end-of-April deadline, has created a stir in Los Osos for its bold, innovative attempt to send local, state and national government the message that “other solutions are less expensive, if a solution is needed at all.” The ROCK asked Gary to explain the petition and why it is important for residents and citizens to stop the sewer and sign the petition. Following is The ROCK Q&A with Gary Freiberg:

Rock: To bring readers up to date, explain in a nutshell what your petition is all about, when and why you started it, and what your goal is. How has the petition been received so far?

Gary Freiberg: The Change.org petition I posted is to create awareness and generate discussion in the public and with 16 decision-makers of the economic concerns and consequences in San Luis Obispo County from the most expensive per capita sewer in the US, the $190 million Los Osos Sewer. An emailed copy of the online signed petition goes to the 16 officials including the five members of the Board of Supervisors, the Coastal Commission, the State Water Board, Lois Capps and others. I started the petition found on Change.org by typing “Los Osos sewer” in the search bar on January 27th hoping to speak to the humanity in one or more of the decision-makers in the various departments involved in the sewer decisions, if not the humanity then at least awareness of the economic consequences in our County from almost 5,000 households having to adjust their spending in order to pay the $250-$300 a month sewer assessment. With no paid promotion there are over 270 petition signatures. As with any issue, and certainly with the sewer issue, there are two opinions of the petition. The end date is April 27th for the listing, that will be when the verdict of how the petition was received will be final.

Your petition aims to stop the sewer. Do you think that has alarmed some people who would sign if you recognized the reality that the sewer is coming? Does the petition address the fears of rising costs that stopping the sewer stirs in some?

This proposed sewer does need to be stopped, period. Until the first shovel is dug, this proposed sewer is not a reality. The petition does not address the fears of rising costs as it is about economic consequence if this proposal is built. It is not predicated on the belief THIS sewer proposal is the only solution and it will get more expensive so must be built now. Other solutions are less expensive, if a solution is needed at all. The Tribune and New Times editorials have swayed public opinion with their ridicule of any dissonance in Los Osos. The need for media to have access to the power players creates a rule; if you want to talk with us, support us, otherwise, you don’t get in. Especially the Tribune — Stephanie Finucane, Sandra Duerr, Bruce Ray — their bias is practically criminal. Too many people take their news as gospel; it’s not, it’s collaboration between the reported and reporter.

Does your petition advocate homeowners to STOP THE SEWER, STOP THIS SEWER or STOP ANY SEWER? Though the “STOP” part of the petition is clear, there are no alternatives presented to fill the void after stopping the project. Could this also make some people hesitant to sign? Do you offer any middle ground, alternatives or solutions beyond stopping the project cold?

I am not a technical salt-water-intrusion-nitrate-kind of guy so I will not get muddled in that debate. However, I do know the group [Los Osos Sustainability Group]that is involved with that aspect has been belittled and mocked by the Tribune and others when they are a group of intelligent, committed and qualified people. There are individuals in the history of the Los Osos Battle of the Sewer who created an image that those against the sewer are wackos and whiners, but again, that’s the image assigned in the press. It truly is sad because so many families, individuals and retirees are being forced into financial instability because of political bullying and media manipulation. These residents are not extremist “Sewer Nuts,” using the term the New Times coined. How something that is going to hurt businesses, jobs and tax revenues to schools and public services programs be supported and those against so diminished is beyond my ability to answer. So yes, stop this sewer, and if there is to be one, have it be one that keeps families and retirees in their homes, preserves jobs and businesses in San Luis Obispo County and stabilizes revenues to county schools and public services.

The petition currently has a little over 270 signatures and the deadline to sign is the end of April. Since your petition is Internet based, what are you doing for outreach on the street to gather signatures of homeowners who are not Internet savvy? Are you tabling or communicating with residents through other means? How?

There are several avenues remaining to broaden public awareness. For example, thank you for this interview. As a “one man band” I can do a lot, but there are limitations. Up until now I haven’t spent any money to promote the petition. Having an Internet-based petition has many benefits; it’s limitation is for those who are not savvy a potential signature is lost. I don’t think that percentage outweighs the ability to reach people in the comfort of their own home with the additional ability to email or Facebook the petition link and multiply their signature. I believe thousands of signatures from the Internet is not unrealistic.

The label “sewer nut” has been used to diminish critics of the wastewater project. “Sewer nuts” have been described as extremists, “no-sewer” and obstructionists. Do you believe the use of these labels by the Tribune and promoters of the $189 million project to advance the project is an appropriate response to your cause? Are you concerned that you and others may be unable to shed the “sewer nut” stereotype imposed by the County on anyone criticizing the project?

It’s a trait of mankind for those who live together to form separate camps. The Tribune and New Times have inflamed the sewer issue with their slanted coverage. To show their disdain for the “pugnacious,” as Stephanie Finucane recently said of the Los Osos “anti-sewerites,” both publications have made up words because they couldn’t dig deep enough in their thesaurus to find appropriate adjectives to adequately express how screwed up they think these Los Osos people are. Since I haven’t been part of any group it is only since I posted the petition that I have had discussions and seen many residents reaction to the sewer. Ideology in a society can be led, formed by those who have the pulpit. The local media has that pulpit and has created the reality too many people have. Ironically, if they get their wish two things happen: Residents realize they have a huge bill every month, who those now in favor are stomping to pay that three hundred bucks a month, and the Tribune discovers that some of the businesses that used to advertise are no longer in business or others can’t afford the extra expense.

You’ve estimated an annual $10 million of Los Osos resident spending will be lost to the local economy due to these dollars being redirected to paying the monthly tax assessment for an overpriced sewer. Since you started the petition, has the County addressed or challenged your estimate? If not, why do you think they’ve chosen to dismiss it? Does their overall culture of silence regarding the project play any part?

Let’s first address what the $10 million is, where the money comes from. The county’s $10 million estimate is forecasting how much consumer spending in our county will be lost annually from Los Osos residents’ budgeting, “re-directing” as they call it,  their discretionary spending for things like going out to dinner, shopping, entertainment to pay their sewer assessments. The $10 million estimate is San Luis Obispo County’s conservative estimate. There’s no challenge to the figure because it’s their own. What it doesn’t include is the multiplier effect. The range is between 1.5 and 1.9 how many times a dollar “turns over” in our county. In example, an employee gets paid, goes out to eat. Restaurant gets paid, who pays employee who also got our tip. They go shopping. Store owner gets paid. And so on. So the $10 million has a $15 to $19 million a year economic consequence in our county for the next 30 to 40 years. That means jobs, businesses, tax revenues to schools and public services, the ripple effect impacts thousands of peoples lives for a long time.

I don’t know if there is a code of silence but I think the Board of Supervisors would discuss their sex lives before they’d talked about the economic consequences of their actions.

Many homeowners say, “I’ve had enough. We’ve waited decades to have this sewer built. No more waiting.” Exasperation has been building for 30 years. What do you say to those who followed the project through 2011, and after votes, permits and funding are lined up, see you as Johnny-come-lately who missed the opportunity to do something when it really could have mattered?

I have learned many people do feel they have had enough. It’s more than unfortunate, it’s shocking but understandable. But to give up, to give in, to support a project that is going to change parent’s financial stability and how that affects kids and everyday life for most of the 5,000 households paying the assessment, that’s difficult to understand. I believe one day many will regret their support. As for my timing, at one time the monthly assessment was affordable, the debate issues were based on need, location and methodology. During the years the battle has been fought it has become more expensive to live in every respect. The two sides fighting each other have been so determined to win, the changed economics have been a secondary, if thought of at all concern. There’s not any time when either side would have stopped battling and agree the project has gotten too expensive for the average family and they both need to pivot. Until the first shovel is dug this is a proposal. The County has borrowed $22 million so far; they need to stop further borrowing and spending. There should be millions of dollars from the recently imposed tax assessment that was collected in January to pay down this debt. Continue the assessment until the debt is paid and start over. As impossible as that sounds, it’s not. If I didn’t believe there is a chance that with enough signatures one of the 16 receiving the petition would stop and ask the Board of Supervisors questions concerning the economic consequences and perhaps decide not to authorize more loans until the questions are answered, I wouldn’t make this effort. The Board of Supervisors hired someone from the USDA who had the contacts to arrange $80 million in loans from the agency — without that guy the loans wouldn’t have been made. The consequences of their actions will be felt long after they leave office if the proposed sewer is built. The last thing anyone connected to our local economy should think is game over in Los Osos, and do nothing. This is a County issue that residents outside of Los Osos for their own future job stability need to take about three minutes to read and sign the Change.org petition we’re discussing.

In a recent op-ed you wrote, “The worst enemy to this effort is apathy.” Given the wastewater project has already met project milestones and a successful Proposition 218 assessment vote before you started the petition, and homeowners had already been through the County’s painful “process” of disenfranchisement, is it possible at this point to make residents less apathetic? Do you see any danger in fostering false hope for homeowners at this late date?

My objective is not to create false hope, but to raise questions that the Board of Supervisors, Lois Capps or anyone else in the decision-making process should have asked but haven’t. The worst enemy of this effort IS apathy. Many see obstacles as walls, not hurdles. Because residents are fed up with the sewer project and have relented, I don’t believe the majority of Los Osos/Baywood Park residents know of the economic impact the sewer is forecast to have in our county and very possibly on their life. Many fog over when the sewer topic comes up because of being fed up. My effort is to spin the direction of the person who has thrown up their hands and wants the whole sewer thing over with. Who can relate to or care about nitrate levels when you can go to your tap and drink the water? What I hope residents and others can relate to is the County is going to dig deep into our pockets, and they don’t care how it affects you, your family or your business. We become less apathetic with things that affect us, otherwise, it’s someone else’s problem. Hopefully, more will see how the $190 million debt affects them and will take a few minutes to sign a petition in the convenience of their home.

Your petition is available on Change.org, a web site that allows people to create petitions and mobilize support online? Why did you select this as your primary method to send such an important community message to government? Could the petition backfire and its results be misused by the County as a referendum for the sewer validating their position — and against the majority of the community that can’t afford the sewer?

I chose Change.org after Bank of America changed their mind to charge a $5 a month debit-card fee when someone posted a petition on the Change.org site and got enough signatures to get BoA to back down. There’s three outcomes for the petition; ignored by all 16 receiving it, used by the county if not a lot of signatures, or be successful in increasing awareness of the economic consequences in San Luis Obispo County from the Los Osos sewer and force the Board of Supervisors to address the various economic issues, like how are they going to mitigate to business and jobs for the $10 million of lost consumer spending and how are they going to replace the lost tax revenues to school and public services programs? The upside potential is much greater than the downside because the Board doesn’t respect or recognize the economic issues anyway, so what’s to lose? They don’t deem the economic issues worthy of discussion. My greatest hope is for the petition to cause that discussion.

Do you believe the County’s assurances that they will provide assistance to low-income residents who experience economic hardship because of the sewer? And will County assistance even matter in making a real difference in allowing more homeowners to stay in Los Osos?

It is estimated 20% to 30% of Los Osos residents can not afford the increased sewer assessments. I don’t believe assistance to low-income people will benefit many. Los Osos is a solid middle-class community. Most households are between those who are low income and the well off. An extra $250 to $300 a month sewer bill will make a big difference to families, individuals and retirees. Those who can manage paying the assessments will cut spending elsewhere to budget for the expense. Again, that projection is $10 million a year of lost consumer spending for the next 30 to 40 years.

Based on your estimates, can you project, in your opinion, what the Los Osos community we know today will look like in five years? Or 10 years?

A lot of people saying, “Remember when you could see the bay from here?” or “Remember the trees that used to be there?” or “Remember Dave and Sue, wonder how they and the kids are doing, where did they move to again?” And what will the Board of Supervisors look like then? A lot different I hope.

The County says the assessment will be $166 a month, not $250 to $300 as you’ve written. Why do your figures differ?

The recent assessment implemented for the sewer is $780 a year, about $73 per month. The Board of Supervisors have borrowed $22 million. Am I to believe that with another $165 million mostly in loans to go the assessments will only go up another $93 a month? There’s also no allowing for cost overruns. A project as huge as $190 million will never come in as estimated. There’s no allowance for changes or the unexpected; if that happens and the cost goes above $190 million then Los Osos households are responsible. I believe saying $250 to $300 a month is too low as there are also hook-up costs, but going into too much detail generates the fog-over. The monthly costs will far exceed the $166 the county says it will. It’s easier for them to get acceptance and ridicule dissonance by saying the cost is lower than what it actually will be. This higher cost only magnifies the economic consequence to all of San Luis Obispo County.

The Case for Revocation of the Los Osos Sewer Coastal Permit

By LARRY RAIO and the LOS OSOS SUSTAINABILITY GROUP

Following is the result of what the Los Osos Sustainability Group (LOSG) has been working on for the last five months. After going through over 1,000 documents (over 10,000 pages), a comprehensive story developed that explains how the current project developed over the last 30 years, and how this project could have disastrous adverse consequences on the Los Osos area, including the water basin and vital sensitive habitat. We feel the evidence presented strongly shows this project will do more harm than good. I am hoping you will take the time to read the following, and if you agree with it, take the time to write the Coastal Commission, and let them know of your worries and concerns. Please contact us for email addresses of Coastal Commissioners.

As you may of read in the Tribune, LOSG submitted a “Request for revocation of the Coastal Development Permit (CDP) for the Los Osos Wastewater Project (LOWWP)” on February 20, 2012. There have been many
comments regarding the request, but frankly, few have read the request, so many of the comments we feel are unfounded. The Tribune did not even read the request before printing the article, nor did they contact anyone from LOSG for comment or questions. We hope that you will read it, and then any comments you have about the request, positive or negative, at least will be from an informed position.

The full request can be viewed here: http://www.csclososo.com/?page_id=412

I am including the cover letter for the request below, which gives an overview of the request (this can also be downloaded from the web site, along with the full request, and an outline).

Honorable Commissioners:

Attached is our Request for Revocation of the Los Osos Wastewater Project (LOWWP) Coastal Development Permit (CDP). This cover letter provides an overview of the issues covered by the Request, including why we are submitting the Request and why the Commission should revoke the LOWWP permit. Basically, the information we present shows the LOWWP could have disastrous adverse consequences on the Los Osos area, including the water basin and vital sensitive habitat, and agencies intentionally provided inaccurate, erroneous, and incomplete information that failed to disclose these impacts. Additionally, the evidence we provide shows agencies substantially exaggerated the benefits of the project and failed to disclose that a much less harmful, feasible alternative is available. As you know, the Los Osos Basin is a threatened resource, on which many vital systems rely. Water and wastewater decisions must be based on the best possible accurate and complete information.

Basis for revocation request and why we must submit it

The LOSG received the email from Mr. Carl on January 23, 2012, stating the criteria we must meet for a successful revocation request. We are sure our request meets that criteria and the Commission will see that 1) the County and CCRWQCB withheld information or intentionally provided inaccurate or erroneous information prior to June 2010, 2) the information was crucial to decision making and could have led to denial of the project or changed conditions, and 3) the LOSG has done due diligence as citizens to get the information to the Commission as soon as possible given the complexity of issues, size of the record, intentional withholding of information, and necessity for the issue to be addressed comprehensively. (Also see LOSG letter to the Coastal Commission dated January 26, 2012, pp. 10 & 11 and Section IV.E of the Request for Revocation for further evidence of due diligence.)

A comprehensive picture of issues, in the case of Los Osos, is necessary to show why a large body of evidence on the record supporting the project no longer constitutes substantial evidence. A complete presentation of issues is also needed to show how and why very serious potential adverse impacts remain unmitigated, why the project could do more harm than good (and cannot not be conditioned to protect resources), and why a management alternative is the least harmful feasible alternative. Finally, a comprehensive picture is needed to show why a process driven by Resolution 83-­13 is inherently flawed and has led to a project that will harm resources.

We are sure the Commission will see that the issues are too important not to address. This project could have extremely serious adverse consequences on the Los Osos Valley Water Basin, the sole source of water for the area already threatened by an extremely urgent seawater intrusion problem. It could have severe adverse impacts on very high value sensitive habitat, including Morro Bay National Estuary and Los Osos Creek endangered steelhead habitat. It could also have severe adverse consequences on the lives of many people now and in the future, on air quality, and climate change. The Commission approved the project on the basis that it is critically necessary to protect these resources, based on County and CCRWQCB official statements and documents. However, the information we present shows that information is not accurate, and the project could severely harm those resources.

As citizens in possession of this information, we have no choice but to present it as soon as possible in the effort to prevent severe harm to resources. If agencies cannot show with specific evidence that septic systems are a significant source of pollution of the estuary and pose a significant threat to health and safety, that the project will stop that pollution and threat and is essential for basin sustainability, and that the severe potential adverse impacts we identify are mitigated with specific, measurable, enforceable-­–­-and feasible measures-­–­-then the permit should be revoked. This is what the County and CCRWQCB information claims, yet it is not supported by the information we located in the record. The decision to allow this project to go forward must be based on facts and an unbiased analysis of facts using the most relevant, complete, and accurate information available. This project has the potential to destroy a water basin, vital habitat, and a community. The decision to allow this project to go forward cannot be based on popular opinion, political expediency, or on information that might otherwise fail to meet Coastal Commission standards for accurate and complete information or CEQA standards for substantial evidence.

The information the County and CCRWQCB provided to the Commission claims that septic systems are causing significant harm to resources and the LOWWP will stop that harm, it is needed for basin sustainability, and it is least harmful feasible alternative. The information we provide shows that County officials knew the following prior to approval of the project on June 11, 2010.

  • Septic systems are not significantly polluting the estuary or related habitat, and the project will not provide a significant benefit to these resources.
  • The project provides no significant benefits to the basin and is not needed for basin sustainability.
  • The project has severe unmitigated potential adverse impacts on key resources: 1) the Los Osos groundwater basin, 2) very high value environmentally sensitive habitat (ESHA), 3) human health and safety, and 4) air quality (GHGs), for which feasible mitigation is unlikely.

Some of the most serious unmitigated potential impacts not disclosed include the following:

  • Severe impacts from earthquakes due to liquefaction under homes downhill from the Broderson disposal site that could result in loss of life, major property damage, and long-­-term shut down of the wastewater system.
  • Substantial adverse impacts to the upper aquifer (significant drops in water levels, seawater intrusion, reduced beneficial use, and adverse impacts to protected aquatic habitat), resulting from two issues: a delay of two to 14 years or more between the time septic system return flows stop recharging the upper aquifer (dispersed vertical recharge) and the time Broderson leach fields (centralized lateral recharge) restore water levels and replace flows (assuming Broderson disposal is feasible and works as planned). This impact is substantially increased by the adverse cumulative effects of major shifts in pumping to the upper aquifer, which water purveyors are currently planning to address the urgent seawater intrusion problem.
  • Substantial adverse impacts to all aquifers and habitat from conservation and recycled water programs that provide little if any mitigation. The CDP provides for a conservation and recycled water program to back up to Broderson disposal and add a margin of safety. However, agencies overstated the mitigation potential of both of these measures and failed to disclose adverse impacts. By June 2010, a considerable amount of conservation had already occurred in Los Osos greatly reducing or eliminating the potential for conservation to mitigate for the project. Also, agencies knew the recycled water program would not offset pumping of the lower aquifer significantly (so would not significantly mitigate for seawater intrusion), and they knew the high salt content the water could destroy soils and aquifers, also resulting in underuse of the program and/or the need for additional mitigation and facilities. The SWRCB has required a feasibility study for the recycled water program. However, a study after the fact does not mitigate for impacts or ensure feasibility. The CDP includes the recycled water program as a main mitigation measure for seawater intrusion and habitat, yet it has undisclosed, unmitigated potential adverse impacts on the basin, habitat, farmland, and farming aquifers.
  • Substantial unmitigated adverse impacts, including indirect and cumulative impacts, on the lower aquifer that could make the extremely urgent seawater intrusion problem worse. Purveyors have not come to an agreement on how to manage the basin to stop seawater intrusion and will not likely come to an agreement or make necessary investments to shift pumping to the upper aquifer realizing that the project will have major impacts on the basin. For example, they know the project has significant unmitigated impacts on the upper aquifer, and they know recycled water will be high in salts. They will not commit resources to the recycled water program or shifts in pumping to the upper aquifer if these measures put investments at risk (although experts agree urgent major shifts in pumping to the upper aquifer are needed to address seawater intrusion).
  • The project also has unmitigated socio-­economic impacts on these resources. The project will delay or prevent necessary water management measures, future mitigations, and major system repairs (e.g., due to earthquakes) because these essential measures will not be affordable to ratepayers.
  • Substantial unmitigated impacts on Los Osos Creek, endangered steelhead habitat, resulting from a reduction in groundwater flows that could reduce flows in the creek and increase contaminant levels by reducing the size and viability of buffering wetlands (e.g., Willow Creek Drainage). The project includes extensive mitigation for a possible minor drop in water levels in the creek as a pipe is installed over the creek, but ignores this much more serious impact.

These are some of the unmitigated impacts that we identify and explain in our Request for Revocation. The information we provide shows that County and CCRWQCB withheld information necessary for the Commission to recognize that the project has severe unmitigated impacts, provides no significant benefits on the estuary and basin, and will do more harm than good. The evidence we provide also shows these agencies withheld information showing a less-­-harmful, feasible alternative exists. A comprehensive management program, similar to the plan in effect for the San Lorenzo River Watershed will do everything officials claim this project will do, and much more, at a fraction of the cost. The CCRWQCB also has jurisdiction over the San Lorenzo Watershed.

Why information provided by the CCRWCB should be considered in this request

Although the County is the CDP applicant and lead agency under CEQA, your decision to grant the permit, according to the CDP Staff Report of May 27, 2010, is based on the finding that State and Regional Water Boards are requiring the Los Osos project. Further, the Commission relied, to a large extent, on information provided to you by the CCRWQCB for findings that resulted in the approval of the project. Much of that information is inaccurate, erroneous, or incomplete. Although the Commission¹s authority is limited when reviewing a treatment works, the Commission does have the right and responsibility to expect and ensure the information provided to you by agencies is accurate and complete, in order to make the best decision possible. It has become clear to us, based on the evidence we provide, that, while the CCRWQCB and SWRCB are requiring the project, the agencies are not committed to project mitigation or basin sustainability.

Why Resolution 83-­-13 must not drive decision making and should be rescinded

Resolution 83–13 is driving the implementation of a centralized wastewater project for the prohibition zone of Los Osos, but Resolution 83-­13 is not based on substantial evidence in the record. Most of the key findings supporting Resolution 83-­13 have been refuted or no longer apply. CEQA precludes inclusion of inaccurate information as substantial evidence. So long as the effort to solve the water quality and supply issues in Los Osos begin and end with Resolution 83-­13, Los Osos resources will be at risk. We¹ve provided a discussion of Resolution 83-­-13 in our request so the Commission, including why and how Resolution 83-­-13 has resulted in a flawed environmental review process and project that will harm resources.

Los Osos should not be subjected to a project and process controlled by an obsolete regulation. Resolution 83-­13 was implemented in 1983 under very different conditions, and current science contradicts most of its findings. In 1983, seawater intrusion was not a concern and decision makers believed they could resort to imported water if a centralized wastewater project caused seawater intrusion or buildout proved unsustainable. The realities of the 21st Century are much different. Evidence supports that the carrying capacity of the basin has been reached and additional building is unsustainable. Thus, a centralized project (conceived and designed to allow buildout) should not be implemented. It will only increase growth pressures at the same time it causes a major disruption to a water basin already under stress from accelerating seawater intrusion moving through the large lower aquifers — 9/10ths of total basin capacity at 700 feet per year. Los Osos should not be held captive to decisions made in the 20th Century, which threaten resource substantially in the 21st Century. Therefore we are asking you to use your authority to have Resolution 83-­13 rescinded.

How this project drives unsustainable growth

As our members of the LOSG have pointed out in the past, this project drives unsustainable growth by being so expensive that property owners and public officials will support more growth just to have the costs reduced. This is one way the County is promoting more growth. Recently, we’ve heard the County is preparing a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) and applying for a Sustainable Community grant for a study of sustainable water supplies. This study will undoubtedly find that there is enough water in the basin for build out. To support this finding, the study will undoubtedly provide proof in the form of a hydrological study that relies on modeling. In the 1980s and 1990s, rather than limit growth, the County relied on revised models, which proved the basin could sustain more growth, and 20 years later we have a critical seawater intrusion problem. It is time to stop this cycle of resource overuse in Los Osos. We do not have the luxury in the 21st Century to sponsor growth at the expense of resources, nor do we have the luxury to install a $190 million wastewater project whose only verifiable benefit is to allow building, both of which set Los Osos on a course toward disaster.

How the Request for Revocation is organized

Our request for revocation entitled Request for Revocation of the LOWWP CDP is divided into for parts:

Part I: Agencies intentionally provided the Commission inaccurate and incomplete information that would have required additional or different conditions or denial of the permit. [Violation of Coastal Commission
Administrative Regulation 14 CCR § 13105 (a)]

Part II. The project’s adverse impacts and risks far outweigh its benefits.

Part III. Property owners adversely affected by the project were not notified and given a chance to comment. [Violation of Coastal Commission Administrative Regulation 14 CCR § 13105 (b)]

Part IV. The Commission failed to comply with the Coastal Act and CEQA due to inaccurate, erroneous, or incomplete information. (The CCRWQCB and SWRCB also violated CEQA.)

If our Request for Revocation is denied, we ask that the Commission provide specific reasons and thespecific evidence (documents) used as the basis for the decision. Again, we regret any inaccuracies or inconsistencies in our request. We have done the best we can to cover the issues within a timeframe that avoids harm to resources. If Commissioners or Commission Staff notice errors or inconsistencies, we request that they are pointed out. We will clarify or correct them.

We thank for your consideration of these important issues.

Larry Raio is a member of the Los Osos Sustainability Group

News of the Day Digest (3/13/12)

News of the Day Digest for March 13, 2002

Pot Shop Snuffed in Oceano

Last week the County Board of Supervisors reversed a Planning Commission decision made in November to approve a medical marijuana dispensary in a house on 4th Street in Oceano. But that may not be the end of the controversy in Oceano or the County, which presently has no dispensaries and dim prospects. Tammy Murray, owner-to-be of the rejected dispensary, told The ROCK she has consulted her lawyer and is seriously thinking of filing suit against the County. She is convinced that supervisors Bruce Gibson, who is pro-dispensary, Adam Hill and Jim Patterson voted against their “hearts” and caved into political and inter-agency pressures, primarily from Sheriff Ian Parkinson, who spoke persuasively at the March 6 Board of Supervisors meeting about potential related crime and residents’ concerns. Residents complained the dispensary would be situated on a poorly-lit street close to homes, elderly and children, and bring unwanted traffic. Murray responded that she had observed every law, dispensary signage would be well lit, ample parking provided, and visitations would be strictly monitored as well as by appointment only. Murray told The ROCK that the Supervisors, who lauded Murray for her detailed plan, should “grow a pair” and reverse their reversal of Planning’s decision – or she might take them to court to crack what she believes is SLO’s illegal medical marijuana prohibition. “People who need marijuana will have to get it from streets dealers,” said Murray. With legal challenges mounting on both sides of the issue, including one attempting to quash dispensaries by making them grow what they sell at the same location, Murray doesn’t expect any resolution on the legality of dispensaries in California for up to two years. So medical pot smokers shouldn’t hold their breath for a medical marijuana dispensary opening in San Luis Obispo County anytime soon.

 

Controversial Paso Robles Police Chief Taking Leave

Paso Robles Police Department confirmed today that controversial police chief Lisa Solomon was on leave, but it was unclear as to what kind of leave it was. Paso Robles Police Captain Robert Burton has taken over her position until she returns on March 22. Solomon has been accused of engaging in conduct unbecoming of an officer including sexual harassment of male officers and imposing policies that concerned many residents in the area. She has been accused of misconduct that started in 2007 when she was appointed to the job. Several have come to her defense, including current County Supervisor Frank Mecham, who was a member of the Paso Robles City Council that endorsed staff recommendation to appoint her. Paso Robles City Council is currently investigating the allegations.

Downtown Parking Meters in San Luis Obispo Receive Improvements

Parking meters in San Luis Obispo will start taking credit cards and will have an increased hourly rate. 400 new parking meters will be installed from Wednesday to Friday. Changes will include an increase in the hourly rate to $1.25, which is up 25 cents from the previous rate. City Parking Services says the hourly rate is increased so that it encourages visitors — who plan on parking for extended periods — to use the parking structures. The news comes after the San Luis Obispo City Council voted to charge for Sunday parking later this year. Revenue is expected to net at least $385,610 annually. But some residents are unhappy about the new changes, saying that plans would make parking unaffordable in the city. Others have agreed with Parking Services manager Robert Horch, who said in a news release, “Without enough parking, people will be less likely to visit downtown in the future.”

Steve Bridges, Political Impersonator, Dead at 48

Steve Bridges, an actor famous for impersonating the likes of former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and President Barack Obama, passed away today at the age of 48.

His brother, Phillip, told the Los Angeles Times that Mr. Bridges was found dead in his Los Angeles apartment. An autopsy has been scheduled to determine the cause of death,.

Mr. Bridges’ web site issued a statement, which reads, “Steve brought joy and laughter to millions and was a great inspiration to all who knew him. He will be sadly missed. Our prayers go to his family at this time.”

Mr. Bridges had a local, but controversial connection to the Central Coast. On June 2011, San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill accused the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business (COLAB) — and the fundraiser’s master of ceremonies Andy Caldwell — of racism for having Mr. Bridges impersonate President Obama at a fundraiser scheduled by State Senator Sam Blaskeslee. Pressured by Supervisor Hill, Mr. Blakeslee postponed the fundraiser. Mr. Hill later apologized to COLAB for his “strident remarks.”

Remembering James "Red" Holloway (1927-2012)

Red Holloway playing the classic Charlie Parker tune, “Now’s the Time” (June 7, 1995)

 

Play it out, Red.

Red Holloway, a soulful master of the tenor and alto saxophone and a Los Angeles jazz legend, died Saturday in Morro Bay from kidney failure. He was 84.

Holloway, whose career spanned for seven decades, was influential in several music genres: bebop, jazz, blues, doo-wop, and classical music. Every song he graced with his saxophone was turned into a silky smooth experience that listeners all over the country couldn’t help but fall in love with over and over again. Holloway’s fans were hooked by his unparalleled sense of rhythm, the strength of his notes, and the soul of his music.

On May 31, 1927, James Wesley Holloway was born in Helena, Arkansas. He was raised by his single mother, who was only 13. He grew up without a father, but Holloway later met him when he was 20. His mother, who was a pianist, originally taught him piano — but his true love with the sax. At 12, he got his first tenor sax and never looked back. At 16, Holloway started performing professionally with bassist Eugene Wright’s Dukes of Swing.

When he was serving in the Army, at 19, he was the bandmaster for the Fifth Army Band. After World War II ended, Holloway returned to Chicago where he played with musical greats like John Mayall, Yusuf Lateef, Dexter Gordon and Willie Dixon.  He later played with legends like B.B. King, Billie Holliday, Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Chuck Berry and many more.

Holloway moved to Cambria in the mid-1960s, and once ran for mayor in 2004. For more than 20 years, Holloway was a prominent fixture in Cambria’s Famous Jazz Artist Series.

Holloway is survived by sons Michael and John (his third son, James “Binkey” Holloway, died in 1995); daughters Lianne Holloway, Marsha Aregullin and Denice Holloway-Rivers. He is also survived by six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.