The Tired, Ongoing Los Osos Sewer War

I’ve been reluctant to discuss the Los Osos wastewater project since I retired from writing columns about it a little over a year ago.

The project is now estimated at $173 million, which is a lot, but it’s being paid for with a myriad of loans and grants. Of course, Los Osos residents are going to be paying for the rates and charges, including operations and maintenance (O&M) costs. The sewer project is on a lot of people’s minds, but rarely will people come out and express an opinion about it. Essentially Los Osos has advanced so far in collection system construction, it would be financially cumbersome for homeowners to somehow stop the project, reverse course, and reanalyze the alternatives.

Even so, there are some residents who appear at San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors meetings every Tuesday morning. For the sake of full disclosure: I dedicated many of my columns to the preservation of their right to speak at these meetings. There was always a kernel of truth to what they were saying. But over time, the repetition has, in many ways, diluted their overarching message. Now, constructive dialogue and solutions are conveniently left out of their comments and there’s truly no intrinsic benefit to being present at these meetings.

Similarly, I don’t see a benefit to wielding a fanatic disdain for those speakers. The narrative constructed by the sewer fanatics is that the people you see appear every Tuesday have no right to speak for they are “obstructionists” who are trying to stop the sewer at all costs, and in the process of their so-called obstructionism, their activism cost the community millions of dollars. Repetitive opinions don’t cost anything except a couple of minutes worth of hot air from individuals who pledge their allegiance to the microphone more than the residents they claim they represent.

It is a futile undertaking to psychoanalyze the Los Osos sewer debate because, for all intents and purposes, the debate is no longer viable in the face of construction progress that’s been made. There will always be an issue that people will come up and market it to their dwindling followers as the silver bullet that halts the sewer, but no fruit is borne from their labor.

I’ve received e-mails from Los Osos residents who forward to me the latest strategy to take down the “nefarious forces,” as in the same so-called nefarious forces that supposedly orchestrated the “kidnapping” of CalCoastNews’ co-publisher Karen Velie‘s grandchildren. The debate has transformed into an ambiguous-but-somehow-irrefutable conspiracy theory, and the dots are connected by former Los Osos Community Services District director Julie Tacker. When she’s not engaging in microscopic, tattle-tale activism that does nothing to reform the municipalities that opposes her personal agenda, Tacker regularly delivers an opiate of false hope to residents — and that opiate is forwarded to me.

It’s no longer a debate. It’s a game, and it’s a game that I refuse to play. Will the conversation ever steer to a direction that can help close the community rift? Not likely, but if anyone has any ideas, I’d like to hear them.