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On April 24, the Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to approve the controversial Dana Reserve project in Nipomo. The project will allow for the phased development of a 288-acre master-planned community with up to 1,470 residential units, 110,000-203,000 square feet of commercial and non-residential uses, a minimum of 55.6 acres of open space and 6.3 acres of recreation, and related circulation and infrastructure. The project will increase the population size of Nipomo by approximately 30%, adding over 4,500 residents. 

I voted against the project because I thought there was a win-win to be had by supporting the preferred community alternative plan.

These are the comments I made from the dais during the project's hearing. You can also can also watch a recording of the meeting here. My comments start at 4:09:52.


I want to start by saying thank you to all of the community members who have weighed in on this project. My office has received hundreds of letters from concerned residents going back to when I first joined the Board in January of last year.
 
I also appreciate all of the people who have spoken out today and yesterday. I know people have strong opinions about the project one way or the other, and I think the decision we make today is critically important for the future of SLO County and more importantly the future of Nipomo.
 
I also want to thank folks for their civility. I truly am impressed with how civil folks generally were in their comments. This makes me proud to represent SLO County.
 
The project before us has the potential to dramatically shape the landscape of this community, and I believe it is imperative that we carefully evaluate this project for the sake of the people who live there now and for the future generations that will live with the consequences of our decision today.
 
For those of you who have written to me or asked me for my thoughts about this project over the past year and half, you know that I have consistently stated that I wouldn’t be taking a position on the project until the hearing. I did this because I wanted to hear all of the public input and review all of the project details so that I could make a fully informed decision. I have kept my pledge, and now I finally will offer my unbridled perspective on this project.
 
But first, a little bit of background. Both times that I ran for County Supervisor, I ran on a platform of supporting workforce and affordable housing. I believe we have a housing affordability crisis in this county, and I have supported making housing a Board priority for two consecutive years. I have worked diligently with our staff and community partners such as the Home Builders Association and my colleagues to advance the housing implementation plan that our Board recently approved in order to help our county facilitate the construction of more housing, and specifically the type of housing that our workforce and low-income residents desperately need. From my time as an Arroyo Grande City Council member to a County Supervisor, I have a record of supporting housing projects and implementing pro-housing policies.
 
However, I also ran on a platform of good governance, thoughtful leadership, and balanced decision making. I believe that housing projects need to meet the needs of our community while also appropriately mitigating the impacts. We all love SLO County because of our unique environment, beaches, beautiful open spaces, and small-town charm. I support housing projects that harmonize with and respect those important values.
 
I also want to mention that from day one of running for public office, I committed to not accepting campaign contributions from developers – a pledge I have kept going back to 2017. I want to be clear that I don’t have anything against developers. They play an important role in our society, and we need developers to build the housing projects that help us house our workforce. I haven’t accepted their money because I want to remain completely impartial about any housing project that comes before me, including this one. I want you - the public – to know that you can trust me to act in their best interests and in the best interest of our community. How I vote on this project today will be grounded in what I truly believe is the right thing for Nipomo. As I mentioned yesterday, the question I am asking myself is: is this project as proposed good enough for Nipomo?

And with that, let’s get into it.
 
I will start by sharing some of the things that I like about this project.

While there are meaningful benefits associated with this project, there are several serious impacts as well. Moreover, we need to look at this project in the broader context of the community of Nipomo. Good governance and responsible decision-making compel us to consider Nipomo’s current and anticipated needs. In other words, a project of this size – roughly 25% of Nipomo’s current population – cannot be considered in a vacuum.
 
I have serious concerns over several aspects of this project, including the type of housing it’s proposing, the water it is relying on, adverse environmental impacts, implications for public safety, and fiscal impacts to both the County and the Lucia Mar Unified school district.
 
Only 30% of the housing proposed in the Dana Reserve project is the type of housing we need. Per our Regional Housing Needs Allocation numbers, the state is mandating that the County plan and permit for about 1,900 low- and moderate-income housing units by 2028. Only 30% of the total units in this project fulfil that requirement, which means 70% or 1,022 of the 1,470 proposed units aren’t the type of housing that the state is requiring us to build. The rest will be more high-end homes that are unattainable for the vast majority of the people who live here.
 
We’re being told that the only way to build the low-income housing that we need is by accepting that it comes with 70% of the housing we don’t need and all of its associated impacts– because that is the only way a developer can afford to build it. Yet, we know this is not true. Just earlier this year our Planning Commission approved two infill projects in Nipomo that will produce exactly the type of housing we need without the luxury homes: 384 low income and multi-family homes. This is exactly the type of housing we need for those struggling to afford to live here.

Concerns Regarding Long-term Water Supply

Long-term water supply, groundwater shortages, and drought potential are concerns that are often raised about this project. As we discussed yesterday, the water supply for this project will come from the Nipomo Community Services District. Specifically, it will come from water imported from Santa Maria. Letters were submitted by the Northern Cities Management Area and Golden State Water Company expressing concerns related to the water situation in Nipomo, namely that the Key Well Index results for the past seven years show that the Nipomo Mesa Management Area is in Severe Water Shortage Conditions. This means that we are over-pumping the basin. Golden State expressed their view that the 500-acre feet of water identified in the project documents as available to serve this project is only allowed to serve infill development within the NCSD’s service area as opposed to new development to be annexed into the service area such as is the case with this project. We heard from the General Manager of the NCSD that they disagree with Golden State’s assertion. However, as I pointed out yesterday, the environmental impact report for the Supplemental Water Project seems to very clear that the water was supposed to serve infill development not development to be annexed, when it states, and I quote, “This initial increment of imported water will, therefore, serve existing customers within the NCSD boundaries … An additional 500 acre-feet per year of imported water…will be used by the NCSD to serve future customers on currently vacant land within the District boundaries.”
 
The disagreement between the two water purveyors has serious implications that I believe should give our Board pause before approving the project. Water security for Nipomo is very important. In addition, there are legitimate fairness concerns that need to be addressed. As I mentioned yesterday, I have heard from several developers who own land within NCSD’s sphere of influence who have been told that NCSD cannot provide water for their projects. In one case, the developer is considering building a 100-unit mobile home park. In another case, the developer wants to build affordable and workforce housing.
 
I have heard of similar issues with customers in the Golden State service area in Nipomo. Dozens of them would like to build housing or accessory dwelling units on their vacant property but cannot get a will-serve letter from Golden State due to local water shortages. These are infill parcels within the Nipomo Mesa Management Area – precisely the type of development that the Supplemental Water Project environmental impact report indicated should be served with the 500-acre feet of water that is now being set aside for the Dana Reserve project.
 
In my view, the underlying water policy decisions associated with the Dana Reserve project don’t seem fair to the people who want to build more of the type of housing we actually need. It also doesn’t seem fair to the people with vacant land who can’t get a water meter in Golden State territory.
 
Lastly, I will note that relying on imported state water is a risky long-term strategy. While the last two years have been wet and the Department of Water Resources has approved significant state water allocations, state water allocations were 0% as recently as 2021. The potential for a future severe drought cannot and should not be overlooked when approving a project with an anticipated demand of nearly 350-acre feet of water per year.

Environmental Concerns

As we’ve heard from several organizations and many members of the public, the environmental impacts of this project are significant, and in my view, unwarranted. The EIR identifies nineteen Significant Unavoidable Adverse Impacts in the proposed plan to Air Quality, Biological Resources, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Land Use and Planning, Population and Housing, and Transportation.
 
I have never seen this many significant adverse impacts on a single project, and I think they should give any decision-maker pause. Our Board will have to adopt a statement of overriding considerations in order to approve this project. In plain terms, our Board has to say the benefits of this project outweigh all of the negative impacts. I am simply not convinced that the benefits of approving a project that contains a mere 30% of the type of housing that we need outweighs 19 significant and unavoidable impacts.
 
If we take just the issue of oak trees, the project will cut down more than 3,000 mature oak trees – this action is in direct violation of our County’s Oak Woodlands Ordinance. Why have an ordinance protecting our oak woodlands if we’re going to override it so easily? And if this project is approved today, I worry that it would set a negative countywide precedent going forward. I think the message that it would send is that none of our oak woodlands are safe from potential destruction.
 
Further, I appreciate that the developer has offered to preserve thousands of oak trees at the nearby Dana Ridge. However, having personally walked that very steep site, I can tell you that it is not land that could be developed. Therefore, I do not think that it can count as a true offset.
 
I think it is important to give you a flavor of the scope of significant and unavoidable impacts, also known as Class I impacts:

In sum, I do not believe that benefits of this project outweigh the environmental impacts.

Public Safety Concerns

For a population of 24,000, the Nipomo Mesa does not have the resources it needs right now to be a thriving SLO County community. This is especially the case when it comes to Public Safety. We heard from the Sheriff yesterday that he currently lacks enough deputies to patrol Nipomo and the broader south county region. The Sheriff’s Office has estimated that, in order to serve the 4,500 people that the Dana Reserve project would add to Nipomo, they would need an additional ten deputies and two sergeants, along with a number of support staff positions. I will discuss the fiscal impact concerns more in a moment, but there are serious questions as to whether this project will generate enough tax revenue to pay for the public safety needs that the project will generate.
 
As a reminder, this project does not include a new Sheriff’s Substation or a new Fire station – just the donation of the land for both. Building and staffing these absolutely necessary public safety facilities will be the responsibility of the county taxpayers.
 
While I am hopeful that we will soon be able to separately finance the construction of the new Sheriff Substation in Olde Towne, this project emphasizes just how significant Nipomo’s current needs are – let alone the anticipated needs and likely shortfall if this project is approved.

Fiscal Impact Concerns

As noted yesterday, I have concerns about the fiscal impact of this project on the County budget, especially in light of the NCSD’s request for a percentage of the annual property taxes generated by this project.
 
Our fiscal analysis already shows that approving this development could result in a net loss of $600k per year to the County – in other words – the development would not generate enough revenue each year to pay for the cost of services for the new residents of the project. The developer claims that is a worst-case projection, but that estimate does not include the percentage of annual property taxes that the NCSD is requesting from the County. If we grant their full request, which they have indicated to me is necessary for them to be able to serve the project, it would cause the County to lose $295,000 per year in the best-case scenario and $1M per year in the worst-case scenario. It does not sit well with me that this request is being handled as a separate matter. I think we should be making that decision at the same time as this decision with all of the information in hand. The fact that the NCSD’s general manager could not even answer what they would like the money to be used for was concerning to me.
 
I find it difficult to understand why the County and our Board would give up that much needed revenue, which could go to staffing more patrol deputies or firefighters in the community, especially when we know we are already under-resourced in those areas.
 
From a big picture perspective, I question why we would approve a project that won’t supply the deputy sheriffs we need, won’t supply the firefighters we need, and won’t provide the facilities they need to do their jobs?  
 
To me, it is not a good project if the taxpayers are being asked to literally subsidize the developer. And that is the way the math adds up to me.
 
To summarize the math, I’m looking at a best-case scenario of the County losing almost $300,000 per year to cover the cost of providing County services. As mentioned, in the worst-case scenario, the County would be losing $1M per year. In addition, I do not see a plan for funding the minimum year over year cost of $1.9M for the Sheriff for the ten new deputies and two sergeants and support staff, or funding for the $2.1M for fire to staff and operate the new station with firefighters. I also do not see a plan to fund the $15M in capital costs for the new fire station or the $1.5M in one-time costs for the new fire engine and other equipment. Focusing solely on the yearly operational costs, we see a public safety need of about $4M. Again, the study included in our staff report estimates that the project will generate only $2.2M per year for all public safety needs which includes DA services, jail services, probation services, and other County public safety services. That is a $1.8M year over year operational gap.
 
Therefore, while the developer claims that the project will not pencil out if it is scaled back in any way, I am concerned that the project as proposed does not pencil out for the County taxpayer.
 
In addition, I want to emphasize how real the fire risk is in Nipomo and why we need to fully fund firefighting resources. The 2013 SLO County Fire Strategic Plan states the following:
 
“Terrain contributes significantly to the weather in the County. For example, the terrain in the southern portion of the County can affect intensity of north and east wind events resulting in a light Sundowner effect on the coast side of the range. The area east of Nipomo is known by firefighters as an area of unpredictable wind changes, as the influence of the Pacific Ocean and the inland valleys converge. This area was the location of the tragic Spanish Ranch Fire, which killed 4 CAL FIRE firefighters in 1979, and where two near-tragedies occurred during the 1997 Logan Fire. A contributing factor on both these fires was ‘a sudden wind shift.’ Although sundowners occur infrequently and usually only in the Nipomo area, the same high pressure inland conditions that produce Santa Ana winds in southern California often produce katabatic winds in this County that result in northeasterly off-shore wind conditions which are usually accompanied by warm temperatures, high wind speeds, and low humidity’s. These periods often produce the most ‘fire days’ along the coast when the fire risk is elevated to the highest point of the entire year.”

School Impact Concerns

I am also concerned about the likely negative impact that this project will have on the Lucia Mar Unified School District as it tries to prepare to serve a massive influx of new students. Lucia Mar’s Board of Trustees recently approved a mitigation agreement that contains a range of possible outcomes. At best the project has a revenue neutral impact on the schools. However, the worst-case scenario estimates a $4.7M to $3.9M revenue gap for the school district. 
 
Even if the necessary school facility improvements are funded, getting the students to school will be a significant challenge. While I am grateful that the developer is funding drop off area improvements at Dana Elementary, there is no continuous sidewalk or safe route for students to walk to school. Access for high schoolers is no better. Both of Nipomo’s two high schools are on the other side of the freeway and students will not be eligible to ride the bus due to their close proximity to the schools. The project does not propose any safe routes along Willow and Thompson. In essence, the project is likely to add hundreds of new students with no clear plan for how to get them to school safely. Many other developments seem to do better in terms of connectivity to schools, parks, and other important locations.

Project Concerns in the Context of Nipomo

As I mentioned earlier, we need to look at this project in the broader context of the community of Nipomo – not just the details of the project in front of us.

First, I do not believe the project as proposed meets the community’s needs.

Nipomo is already an underserved community. Many of its needs are well established: more park space (including a new dog park, pickleball courts, tennis courts, basketball courts, sport fields and trails); a community center – the last one burned down and was never rebuilt; a Sheriff’s Substation, and a third Fire Station.
 
When I look at the Dana Reserve project in the context of Nipomo’s existing needs, it just doesn’t meet the mark. The reality is that the project doesn’t address any of those existing needs.
 
It includes some passive parks, but no new active recreation opportunities or a community center.
 
It offers land for a Cal Fire Station and a Sheriff Substation, but it doesn’t offer to build either of them. The same goes for the Cuesta College campus and the People’s Self Help Housing affordable housing project. All that the developer is offering is the land and an improved pad.
 
Even the location of this project doesn’t fit well within the long-term vision for Nipomo. Olde Towne – which is ripe with potential – is on the opposite side of the freeway. This project proposes a sizable commercial center far away from the Olde Towne commercial area. In hundreds of conversations with people in Nipomo over the years, almost everyone I’ve talked to agrees that investment and revitalization of Olde Towne Nipomo should be a priority. This project offers nothing for Olde Towne, and may even hurt its ability to grow as it competes with new commercial spaces within the Dana Reserve project.

Second, I don't think that Nipomo should have to shoulder the burden of new housing in Nipomo.

I want this Board to acknowledge that Nipomo has already been shouldering the burden for new housing in the unincorporated areas for the better part of the last two decades.
 
Even recently, Nipomo has seen the bulk of new growth. Earlier this year, the Planning Commission approved two multi-family developments that will add 400 homes, in addition to 300 new homes coming soon to Trilogy. Plus, other developers are working on trying to build at least another 600 homes in Nipomo. Thus, without the Dana Reserve project, 1,300 hundred homes are in the works, which is equivalent to the number of units this project will add – and most of that housing is the right type of housing – the kind of workforce and affordable housing we need.
 
Yes, our region needs housing, but along with that much-needed housing comes the impacts to traffic, water, air quality, our schools, our parks, our libraries, and our public safety. We are literally talking about adding thousands of people to the already burdened and under-resourced community of Nipomo, and that doesn’t even include the 4,500 people the Dana Reserve project will add if approved today.
 
Have we analyzed the cumulative impact on Nipomo of all these housing projects that are in the pipeline? I think the answer is pretty obvious that we haven’t. We’re just starting the process of updating the Nipomo Community Plan, which has not been updated for 30 years – something that should have been completed long before a project of this size was before us for approval.  
 
In addition to approving this project, we’re being asked to set aside the growth cap that is on our books without any supporting information for decision-making. The ordinance says we provide a resource management report twice a year yet this report hasn’t been provided since 2018.
 
In short, it seems like the bulk of the County’s responsibility to plan and permit for more housing continues to be primarily borne by the residents of Nipomo. I think as a Board we should be asking ourselves if that makes for a safer or better served Nipomo. I don’t believe that it does.

Third, I believe the Community Alternative is a Win-Win for Nipomo.

Despite the significant number of serious problems with the Dana Reserve project as proposed, I do believe there is a path forward to modify this project into something that everyone can get behind. In other words, I believe we could turn this project from a win-lose into a win-win, where we are able to strike a balance.
 
The community of Nipomo has already demonstrated that it is possible to strike a balance with their Community Generated Alternative Map. As we’ve heard from the community members who developed it, the Community Alternative Map provides less housing while dramatically reducing project impacts. However, “less housing” doesn’t do it justice, as 800 housing units is almost the size of Trilogy on a third of the acreage. The community plan would still result in a very large housing project that, if refined with more of an emphasis on affordable and workforce housing, would give our county a greater concentration of the type of housing we actually need, while at the same time preserving oak woodlands and natural resources. To me, that is a win-win.
 
As a reminder, the Planning Commission directed these community groups to do this. They listened to the hundreds of Nipomo residents who either spoke or wrote letters of opposition to the Dana Reserve project and told the Nipomo Action Committee, the South County Advisory Council, and the Nipomo Oak Alliance to work with staff and the developer to come up with a plan that the community could support.
 
And they succeeded.
 
What we’ve heard during public comment at these hearings and from emails and letters over the last few months is that the people of Nipomo are ready to say YES to more housing, even a lot more housing – they just want it to be done in a responsible manner. They want a housing project that provides housing while at the same time preserving the oak woodlands that are foundational to the character of Nipomo.  They want balance, and the community plan does that.
 
Now of course, the community plan is really just a concept. It would need to be fleshed out with more detail in order for it to be earnestly evaluated. And frankly I’m not surprised that the developer has labeled it as infeasible largely based on its failure to meet “project objectives.” However, the project’s objectives were defined by the developer. I find this over-reliance on compliance with project objectives to be very concerning. And as I mentioned earlier, we’ve already seen other affordable and workforce housing projects in Nipomo that didn’t rely on building hundreds of luxury homes in order to make the project feasible.
 
The developer’s fiscal analysis of the alternative raises a number of questions. For example, why the hotel and retail space of the project costs $10M more in the alternative plan than in the current plan. That difference by itself seems like it would account for the entire negative $12M valuation that the developer cites in order to claim the alternative infeasible. Even assuming the developer’s analysis that the community alternative plan is grossly infeasible, we could reevaluate the fee credits for infrastructure improvements that the developer could claim but is opting not to. The Road Improvement Fees that they’ll be paying are almost $13M alone, and I understand that the infrastructure the developer is adding is a major cost impediment to the project’s overall feasibility.
 
All this to say, I firmly believe that if the developer were truly willing to pursue a project with fewer impacts, we could reach the win-win outcome that everybody could get behind.
 
To that end, I would be happy to make a motion, at the appropriate time, to direct staff and the developer to explore additional project alternatives that align more closely with the community alternative plan for review that would be re-evaluated at the Planning Commission level.
 
I do not know if a majority of my colleagues are supportive of that direction, but I believe that is the most responsible action that we could take today.
 
I’ll conclude my remarks by reminding everyone what I promised when I first ran for supervisor. I promised to vote in a way that balances economic, social, and environmental interests. The hard truth is that this project as proposed is out of balance. The environmental and social interests and concerns are being subordinated in favor of the economic interests.
 
Going back to 2017, I’ve knocked on thousands of doors and had countless conversations with Nipomo residents. I’ve reviewed hundreds of letters, attended meetings with hundreds of people, and met with dozens of constituents. I’ve been listening to the people of Nipomo, and they have been saying loudly and clearly that they want balance. Like them, I just don’t accept that there is no way to make a more balanced housing project work here.
 
I know we can make this project better, and I am ready to enthusiastically support a more balanced project that builds hundreds of the housing units we need. I ask my colleagues to join me in considering what is best for the people who live in Nipomo now as well as the people who will move into the housing that we approve. Nipomo deserves better than the proposed project with its nineteen significant and unavoidable impacts. I believe we have a unique opportunity and obligation to re-work this project into a better project, a stronger project that will accomplish this board’s goal of supporting more workforce and affordable housing and address the concerns raised by members of the community. The Community Alternative Map is a good start to that discussion.
 
That concludes my remarks. Thank you.

Jimmy spearheads a pilot program that will provide free HEPA filters to low income South County residents

A few tips on creating a cleaner air space in your home.

Hi everyone,

I am so pleased to be able to share with you a new clean air program for South County residents!

At my request, the SLO County Air Pollution Control District will be piloting a program to offer low-income South County residents HEPA air purifiers free of charge in order to provide relief from wildfire smoke and particulate matter from the Oceano Dunes.

I want to thank my fellow APCD board members for supporting this program, and APCD staff who will be implementing it over the coming weeks.

Ensuring everyone in South County has clean air to breathe is one of the reasons I was first inspired to run for office. While there is still much work to be done, I look forward to seeing this program serve the most vulnerable members of our community very soon.

Read the full release here: Clean Air Program Press Release

Sincerely,
 
Jimmy Paulding
Mayor Pro Tem
City of Arroyo Grande
Candidate for County Supervisor, San Luis Obispo County, District 4

To learn more about Jimmy’s campaign and his vision for South County, visit jimmypaulding.org. Jimmy welcomes hearing from you. You can email Jimmy at hello@jimmypaulding.org or call Jimmy at (805) 994-0025.

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Jimmy covers community involvement opportunities, a tribute to Robert “Red” Davis, redistricting, and more in his latest newsletter.

Hi everyone,

I’d like to take the opportunity to talk about some challenges and opportunities we are presented within our community, and how you can get involved. The common theme among each of these topics is how we can do better to lift people up in our community, build community, and strengthen our democracy and involvement in local government – instead of tearing things down, which seems to be an all-too-common trend right now.

County-wide Redistricting Process

If you haven’t visited the County’s website, you can find information regarding the restricting process, timeline, and how you can get involved at the public hearings here, and draw and submit your own district maps to the County here. It is important that you share your input regarding “communities of interest” in District 4. You can provide this input here. Unfortunately, the County Board of Supervisors has chosen not to hold any public workshops other than the required hearings so it is important that we all try to utilize the hearings as the vehicle for communicating our thoughts, ideas, and concerns.

Arroyo Grande District Elections

If you haven’t visited the City of Arroyo Grande’s website, you can find information related to our districting process here, and draw and submit your own district maps here. Again, it is important that you share your input regarding communities of interest. You can submit this input to publiccomment@arroyogrande.org. Although the public hearings have started, our City Council chose to go above and beyond the required hearings and have two public workshops, which are intended to be much more hands-on and engaging for the community. The first public workshop on this item is scheduled for September 18th from 10AM to noon at the City Council Chambers and/or online. Please check the website before the meeting for details as things remain in flux due to the impacts of COVID-19. We welcome and encourage your participation at these workshops and hearings.

Arroyo Grande Citizens Academy

At our July 27th City Council meeting, the City Council voted 5-0 to direct staff to bring back an item for discussion regarding the formation of an Arroyo Grande Citizens Academy. Citizens academies traditionally provide residents with an opportunity to meet City Council members, department heads and staff; learn how decisions are made, how funds are allocated, and how departments operate; enjoy comprehensive overviews of city departments, programs and services; receive information on topics such as plans for development, traffic, growth management, recreation, the environment and more; participate in lively discussions and interactive group activities; visit or tour city facilities; and become an informed, involved citizen. I recommended that we pursue this idea because I think it is good for our community and timing couldn’t be more critical as we transition to district elections. I think everyone can agree that we all want to see qualified candidates step up and run for office in each of the four future districts that will consist of roughly 4,500 people. I commend our Council and City staff for wanting to move forward with this important way of encouraging more of our citizens to get in engaged with their local government.

Leadership South County Program

The South County Chambers of Commerce, of which I am a member, has announced that they are accepting applications for their Leadership South County program, Class III. I had the pleasure of attending and graduating from their Leadership South County, Class II. It was a great experience and learning opportunity, and I would encourage anyone with a desire to have more hands-on interaction with our business community, local government, and nonprofit sector, not to mention forge relationships with amazing community members, to participate. If you are interested, you can apply for the program here. Applications are due by September 30th.

No photo description available.

Photo of Leadership South County Class II at the Lodge at Oak Creek Ranch, January 2020

Regional Central Coast Blue Recycled Water Project

Despite misleading reporting that the City of Arroyo Grande “opted out” of the Central Coast Blue project, the three City Managers of Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, and Pismo Beach have been working through a new agreement framework for cost-sharing, management, and control of the joint project. This framework will be presented to the Arroyo Grande City Council at our September 14th meeting. In addition to reviewing and discussing this new framework, our staff will present other water supply options for our Council’s consideration. I would encourage all to attend to learn more about the project and associated options. Stay tuned for the agenda and staff report for the meeting to be posted here the Friday before the Tuesday meeting.

Regional Integrated Waste Management Authority

In light of the Board of Supervisor’s controversial 3-2 vote to leave the Integrated Waste Management Authority, the legal counsel of the authority will be meeting with County counsel to discuss the next steps and timing. The City Managers of each City along with the Directors of each Community Services District (CSD) will do the same. Some of the immediate challenges that need to be worked through include the operational and fiscal impacts of County withdrawal on the IWMA as an organization and on the cities and CSDs, possible legal issues between the County and IWMA affecting asset ownership and costs/revenues of the IWMA, and the fiscal impacts to customers, including the process and timeline related how fees will be increased to fund these changes. The Joint Powers Agreement will also have to be renegotiated and a plan for how to comply with new state legislation (SB1383), conduct reporting, contamination monitoring, outreach, and education, and hire and staff a new IWMA short term interim director and long term need to hire Executive Director will need to be prepared.

The fact is that the majority of the County Board of Supervisors, led by the Chair of the Board, Incumbent Lynn Compton, abandoned the cities, CSDs, our business community, and our residents – forcing us to incur cost increases and operational impacts (the extent to which is not fully known) – because of their ideological opposition to banning Styrofoam, which is one of the most harmful types of waste that exists today. Styrofoam negatively impacts our planet’s ecological systems, harms animals scavenging for food from landfills, and has been linked to cancer, vision and hearing loss, impaired memory and concentration, and nervous system effects. The City of Arroyo Grande along with every other city and CSD in the county is literally having to grapple with this ill-conceived decision and scramble to pick up the pieces. This act of bad faith by the Board Majority is the antithesis of good regional leadership, which is foundational to the role that the County should be providing. The County should be bringing jurisdictions together to make things work more efficiently as a collective region and community, not tearing the fabric of our regional cooperation and partnerships apart.

Arroyo Grande American Rescue Plan Act Funds

I recently had the pleasure of being appointed to an ad hoc committee to discuss how the City of Arroyo Grande will allocate a portion of our American Rescue Plan Act Funds. The first committee meeting was last week. The timing was great, though, because I was able to sit down with Congressman Salud Carbajal to discuss a whole host of issues, including how these funds can be invested in our community in an equitable manner that will have the greatest impact. At our July 27th meeting, our City Council prudently invested millions of dollars of these funds into our aging water, sewer, and stormwater infrastructure, while investing excess general fund monies into our pavement management program to upkeep our roads, and reserving a portion of the funds for other community-based programs and projects. The objective of the ad hoc committee will be to discuss and recommend ideas for these programs and projects to the Council. It is my hope that we can allocate a portion of these funds to housing and homelessness programs, financial support for low-income essential workers who were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, childcare programs, and other programs that will drive economic recovery for our local workers and businesses.

Jimmy meeting with Congressman Salud Carbajal at Tribe Coffee House in Arroyo Grande to discuss American Rescue Plan Act funding opportunities for the City of Arroyo Grande, the Central Coast Blue Recycled Water Project, and other local issues.

Central Coast Economic Recovery Initiative

As Co-founder of the Central Coast Economic Recovery Initiative (ERI), I’m proud to announce two recent successes. The ERI, in partnership with Cal Poly, released two reports this week on potential repurposing uses of the Phillips 66 Santa Maria Oil Refinery. Read more about and access the studies here. Our SLO County Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) task force also had a great turnout for our State of ADUs in SLO County summit last week, with planners, policymakers, building industry professionals, nonprofit partners, and community members in attendance from all parts of the county. The ERI will be posting the recording of the summit on its website soon.

For those of you who don’t know, the ERI is a set of policy concepts, program ideas, and proposals to stimulate post-pandemic economic recovery and long-term vitality on the Central Coast, focusing on housing, clean energy, and infrastructure investment. The goals and objectives identified in the ERI have been developed in alignment with the REACH 2030 Plan initiatives of fostering the start-up, attraction, and expansion of high-wage industries including cleantech and renewable energy, and developing a regionally coordinated investment strategy for housing, transportation, water, and broadband infrastructure. While other regional economic development efforts are longer term in focus, the ERI is intended to drive immediate decision-making and meaningful action over the next two years.

SLO Council of Governments

Our SLOCOG Board and Staff have been busy working to reduce traffic congestion and make our communities more walkable, bikeable, and transit-oriented. I want to bring your attention to two important regional projects: the U.S. 101 Pismo Congestion Relief Project and the U.S. 101 San Luis Obispo to Santa Maria Multimodal Corridor Plan. The congestion relief project will improve operations on southbound U.S. 101 through Pismo Beach during weekday afternoon peak hour traffic and on weekends. The primary feature of the project is a left shoulder part-time travel lane, a transportation system management and operational strategy that can address congestion and reliability issues within a constrained right of way in a cost-effective manner.  The U.S. 101 MCP is a collaboration between Caltrans District 5, SLOCOG, and the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments. The plan will analyze U.S. 101, State Route 227, and the local road networks between Santa Maria and Santa Margarita to discover ways to relieve congestion and improve mobility. The plan seeks to make the existing transportation system more efficient, improve multimodal travel opportunities, and enhance safety. Corridor plans will be a key requirement to secure grant funding in the coming years. Read more about these important projects here. You can also read SLOCOG’s August newsletter here.

Remembering Robert “Red” Davis

The honorable Morro Bay City Councilmember Robert “Red” Davis passed away on July 24, 2021.

The hardest part of this month for me was mourning the loss of Morro Bay City Councilmember and SLOCOG Board Member Robert “Red” Davis. I was honored to attend his memorial service, which was very well attended by the community. Red served SLOCOG for four years—as Alternate Board Member in 2018 and Board Member from 2019-2021. Prior to that, he served on our Citizens Transportation Advisory Committee for 14 years. On August 4th, SLOCOG recognized Red and presented to his wife and daughter a Resolution of Appreciation. In the words of Morro Bay Mayor John Headding, “Red Davis was a wonderful leader and friend to so many. He was a servant leader who worked tirelessly to advance and improve the quality of life of our community as a whole.” Having the opportunity to personally get to know Red, I couldn’t speak more highly of anyone. He was a model public servant – the kind we all aspire to be. He would truly listen, engage in civil and respectful discourse, seek to build consensus and work across the aisle, and lead with vision. Before Red passed, he provided a statement of endorsement of my campaign. Red’s statement is as follows:

“I support Jimmy for District 4 Supervisor. Jimmy has shown me that he can bring people together and that he works for all the people. He will bring a fresh spirit of cooperation to the Board.” 

I am truly honored to have had Red’s endorsement, and I will miss him very much, as will our community who has lost an amazing man who left an indelible mark on all who he touched, and continues to touch as they walk and ride on the bike trails and paths he is so well known for advocating for.

SLO County Air Pollution Control District

According to a new study published on August 2ndbanning off-road riding and camping at Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area cuts dust emissions in half in the most heavily trafficked areas. The Desert Research Institute based out of Nevada studied dust emissions at the Oceano Dunes from March through October 2020, when all camping and off-highway vehicles (OHVs) were prohibited in the park due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For those of you that don’t know, the Oceano Dunes have long emitted dangerously unhealthy levels of dust into Oceano, Nipomo and other communities. In 2018, State Parks was tasked by the SLO County Air Pollution Control District to find ways to reduce emissions from 2013 baseline figures by 50% by 2023. So far, with millions of dollars spent on dust mitigation efforts including growing new foredunes, re-vegetating areas and installing wind fencing, State Parks has been able to reduce emissions by 21%.

From my first day on the campaign trail back in 2018, I have acknowledged that OHV use contributes to the air pollution problem unlike my opponent, and I have continued to advocate for these mitigation efforts to be implemented as an APCD Board Member – mitigation efforts which have proven to be successful in improving air quality. We need leaders who won’t deny the science because of their allegiances to special interests – leaders will protect public health, and do what’s right, reasonable, and rationale based on balancing the social, economic, and environmental aspects of an issue. I’m proud to have the legacy of being on the right side of this issue, unlike many who have no right to that claim.

The fact is that the California Coastal Commission has made the decision to phase out OHVs, and it is time to work together as a community to re-envision the Oceano Dunes in a way that will bring economic vitality to the region, reduce air pollution, improve coastal access for the neighboring community of Oceano, and protect the environment. There are groups working to study and implement this alternative vision, including the Oceano Advisory CouncilOceano Beach Community Association, Oceano Economic Development Council, and Visit SLOCAL and the South County Chambers of Commerce. In order to protect our local business community, I believe the County should take the lead on immediately prioritizing the re-design of Pier Ave, of which they own, considering that it will close to vehicular access July of next year. As mentioned on the Oceano Advisory Council’s website, “the resulting vehicle free beach and dunes from Oceano South will create a huge opportunity for Oceano to emerge as a coastal tourist town for the first time in recent history. The reinvention and reinvigoration of Pier Avenue as a vehicle free tourist destination will entail a new pedestrian access to the beach, the possibility of a beautiful beachfront public plaza, connections to an extended network of boardwalks into the dunes and connecting to Grand Avenue to the North, plus expanded beach and dune related local and tourist services (including parking). The State Park’s Public Works Plan proposes a new system of boardwalks as well as a redesigning the end of Pier Ave.” If I was Supervisor right now, I would be working my tail off to ensure the County was doing everything it could to re-design that street and work with the businesses there to begin re-thinking how their business models will need to adapt to non-OHV activity at the Oceano Dunes, whether it be visitors or locals who will eventually patronize those businesses.

A final thought I have based on a number of conversations I’ve had with local equestrians is why aren’t we studying what the potential might be for our local economy if the Oceano Dunes and its extensive trail network were turned into a world-class equestrian destination. Maybe the Phillips 66 site could be repurposed as a staging area? (Maybe time for another Cal Poly study ☺). Not only do we have a number of equestrians here in our community, but it’s also a great place to ride. I know this because I used to ride horses out there as a kid. I even got bucked off my horse out there one time. Ouch. It could be a great place for the film industry to shoot “Hidalgo-type” films too. Anyhow, I’ll stop dreaming there. How do you envision the Oceano Dunes of the future? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

I know I’ve provided a data dump of information here for you to ruminate on – that was my goal with this post – to keep you informed, because the more you are informed and involved in our local government, the better it will work for all of us.

Hope you are all doing well. Feel free to send me your questions, comments, thoughts, and ideas on any of these topic areas or others – just don’t be offended if I don’t respond right away. Thanks for reading.

Sincerely,
 
Jimmy Paulding
Mayor Pro Tem
City of Arroyo Grande
Candidate for County Supervisor, San Luis Obispo County, District 4

To learn more about Jimmy’s campaign and his vision for South County, visit jimmypaulding.org. Jimmy welcomes hearing from you. You can email Jimmy at hello@jimmypaulding.org or call Jimmy at (805) 994-0025.

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Off-road vehicle use at the Oceano Dunes has been fraught with controversy. Recently, the Coastal Commission decided to mandate phase out of off-road vehicle use in three years with some other key changes. Lawsuits challenging the decision ensued. I get questions on a regular basis as to where I stand on “our beach” and whether I support a “vehicle-free” future for our beach.

Consistent with my campaign promise from 2018 to make decisions that balance the economic, environmental, and social aspects of any issue, I have supported a balanced approach to this particular issue. I have focused my attention on the public health implications of off-road vehicle use, which has been determined to contribute to poor air quality on the Nipomo Mesa. As a Board Member of the Air Pollution Control District Board of Directors, I have focused my energy on ensuring that mitigations for air pollution are installed in order to improve air quality. To date, these mitigations have been quite successful, with over 20% reductions in emissions seen in some years. I firmly believe that issues of public health and safety are not partisan, and if state and federal air quality standards are being exceeded and people are getting sick, we need to fix the problem if we can.

I’ve never taken a public stance on off-road vehicle use at the Oceano Dunes. I’ve simply supported implementing the mitigations necessary to improve air quality, which has resulted in some reductions in riding area – something I believe is necessary and appropriate in order to protect public health. The fact is that the Coastal Commission concluded that the use and intensity of off-roading at the Oceano Dunes has increased over time to an unsustainable level, which has negatively impacted the environment, air quality, and safety of the area. Although off-roading no doubt brings people to the area and creates a positive economic benefit, it certainly brings negative impacts as well. The future of the Oceano Dunes needs to be re-envisioned in a way that still benefits our local businesses and economy but also protects our natural resources, sensitive habitats, endangered species, and coastal access.

Therefore, it is time we move forward as a community and work together to develop that new vision for our beach – the place we all know and love.

© Jimmy Paulding for County Supervisor 2022
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