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 email@example.com. 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.
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.
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 2nd, banning 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 Council, Oceano 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call Jimmy at (805) 994-0025.