Archive for September, 2010
September 2nd, 2010
I am honestly impressed by how seriously the Planning Commissioners take their jobs, which are basically voluntary. They really do a great job, and they act as a good reality check on the Planning Dept – if the permit applicant is willing to fight the Planning Dept.
Glenn seems pretty reasonable.
September 7th, 2010
Anne Wyatt was the only Planning Commissioner who voted against our project in the first two Planning Commission hearings. It was also really clear during the hearings that 1) she hated my house and wanted to stop it, and 2) she wasn’t very effective. She was also the chairman for the Planning Commission at the time of my hearings (this is a position that rotates among the Commissioners). As the chairman she was able to limit the amount of time that my lawyers could speak, and she could limit testimony from anyone she wanted, and she could question the Planning Dept staff at any time with leading questions – which is what she did. It made for a Kangaroo Court situation, and I could see that it made several members of the country staff very uncomfortable. It also really angered my lawyers, Greg and John. Ironically, because it was so blatantly unfair to our side, that I think it actually worked in our favor, as the four other Planning Commissioners became increasingly frustrated with Anne’s antics as the hearing dragged on.
Anne is looking for help from Ryan Hostetter before the second Planning Commission hearing on how to frame questions, and the debate, to stop my house from being built. I don’t know if they did end up meeting, or just speaking on the phone, but Anne did disclose, as she is required to, that she had spoken with the staff about my project before the hearing on Sept. 9, 2010.
The interesting thing about the email is this: shortly after the County agreed to honor my Public Records Request, and after the County started delivering the emails (but before I got this particular one), Anne Wyatt suddenly resigned from the Planning Commission.
Coincidence? You decide.
BTW – here is a Grand Jury report about possible misconduct from a Planning Commissioner in 2009:
September 8th, 2010
Madeline Cavalieri once again mailed in a letter, on Coastal Commission letterhead, backing up the new story of the Planning Dept right before the second Planning Commission hearing.
This letter angered my attorneys John Flynn and Greg Sanders because they got a copy at 9:00 pm the night before the Planning Commission meeting, which starts at 9 am the next morning, and so they had no time to respond to it.
Further, this letter now has the new “Grading Permit” requirement that the Planning Dept just added to their argument. That is: in order to dig a trench to put in a water pipe, we need to have a grading permit. I am pretty sure that in the entire history of SLO County that no one has ever had to get a grading permit to install a water pipeline – that is, until now, when the Planning Dept is desperate to impose some sort of permit requirement that can later be appealed to the Coastal Commission. And why does the Planning Dept want my permit to come before the Coastal Commission? I can only guess, but I suspect that Jonathan and Madeline of the Coastal Commission staff have a plan to derail my MUP permit there.
September 8th, 2010
Glenn Marshall of SLO Public Works chaired a meeting with the Planning Dept staff and staff from CSA 12 the day before the second Planning Commission hearing. This is the hearing that Dan O’Grady asked for a staff person from CSA 12 to attend – but nobody from CSA 12 ended up coming to the hearing.
From CSA 12 two staff members attended the Glenn Marshall meeting - Dean Benedix and Douglas Bird.
Unfortunately for me, neither of these CSA 12 guys showed up at the Planning Commission hearing the next day.
Guess who signed the “will serve” letter from CSA 12 in January 2007 that committed SLO County to supplying water to Cave Landing? None other than Douglas Bird. Maybe that is why he didn’t show up for the Planning Commission hearing the next day.
September 8th, 2010
Over the years, developer Bob Howard thought that he had a good relationship with the SLO County Parks Dept. After all, he had donated 25 acres of beach and beachfront property to the Parks Dept, and had also sold another 25 acres of ajoining property for a very modest price – less than half the price for the lot he sold to me. Bob had also met with the Parks Dept early in 2010 to offer them 1 acre-foot of water per year from the CSA 12 water allocation that we have. Bob’s offer of water included that he would pay for pipeline and pumping station (about $280,000), and all the Parks Dept had to do was pay their proportional share of the annual CSA 12 charges, which would be about $1,500 per year. Believe me, this is very, very generous. Bob had thought that the Parks Dept would speak up in support of our project because that would mean that the county could build a very beautiful park right next to Cave Landing, with fantastic views, a bike path, public amenities (drinking water, possibly toilets), and safer beach access.
And what did the Parks Dept do in instead of helping Bob? At the first possible opportunity they teamed up with the Planning Dept to testify that they don’t want or need any water at all, ever, at the 50 acre park land that they acquired from Bob. This means that Pirates Cove Beach will never have irrigation for landscaping, drinking fountains, fire protection, showers, or bathrooms.
Here are the emails between Parks and Planning (Ryan Hostetter and Elizabeth Kavanaugh)
September 9th, 2010
I attended this hearing, along with Dave Watson, Bob Howard, Greg Sanders, and John Flynn. From the Planning staff Ryan Hostetter, Kami Griffin, and Nancy Orton were there. Since Anne Wyatt was still the chairman of the Commission, she only allowed less than 15 minutes of time for my side to speak. Most of our talking was done by John Flynn, with a little by Bob, Dave, and Greg, and none by me. The Planning staff had unlimited speaking time, and Anne Wyatt directed questions to them frequently. It was hard for me to sit quietly while the Planning staff argued their case without any chance of rebuttal from my side.
After listening to a lot of talk from the Planning Staff, the Planning Commissioners directed the clerk to edit up the findings right there. Their decision was in my favor, and the vote was 4-1, with Anne Wyatt once again being the only opposed.
The argument that carried the day for me was first articulated by Dave Watson, and then picked up on by several of the Commissioners – and that argument was that it is better ecologically for my house at Cave Landing to use water from CSA 12 than to draw down groundwater from my well. It helped me that at this time the Commissioners were dealing with a serious groundwater issue in the North County that made them familiar with the issues.
Once again, it was very impressive how seriously the Planning Commissioners take their job. It made me feel much better about the whole process because I could see for myself that they were honestly trying to find the right answer that met the public policy goals of the Supervisors, regardless of some technical arguments about USLs. In my case, from a public policy viewpoint, it makes much more sense for Cave Landing to use water from a public utility than it does to pump water out of a well.
The Planning Commissioners postponed a final decision until my Minor Use Permit (MUP) application for my house had gone through the Planning Dept’s CEQA work. This also made sense to me – they wanted to see what the entire project looks like before they gave final approval, and the CEQA stuff could change things (and it fact it did – for example, I had to add some underground water retention).
This means that I will have one more Planning Commission hearing after my MUP permit application is finished at the Planning Dept.
September 10th, 2010
Nancy Orton is one of the Planning Dept. staff people against whom that I have been fighting.
When the Planning Commission decided at their Sept.6 meeting in my favor, Nancy then got the final edit on their decision. This email shows the impact of her changes:
September 11th, 2010
I think that any disinterested observer would agree with these four conclusions:
1) The public policy of the SLO County Supervisors is that Cave Landing should get water service from CSA 12.
2) The public policy of the Supervisors is to NEVER require permit conditions that make it impossible for owners to use their property in a legal manner.
3) Anne Wyatt and the Planning Dept have their own public policy, and it is different from the SLO County Supervisor’s public policy.
4) The Planning Dept needs fundamental reforms in order for it function as the SLO County Supervisors intended it to.
What has been the result of the Planning Dept’s freelancing public policy decisions? Well, at this point it has costs me months of time, and tens of thousands of dollars in legal and professional fees, and has also cost SLO County tens of thousands of dollars in employee time. It has also burned up the valuable time of the Planning Commission itself, which should be focused on planning issues that are more important than my building permit. It has also sown a lot of distrust, and it has tarnished further the reputation for fairness that any government needs to be effective.
When the County Supervisors make public policy decisions they have to weigh a lot of factors, including constitutional law, state regulations, precidents, environmental concerns, local residents’ issues, allocations of financial resources between competing needs, and more. And the County Supervisors are accountable to the voters for the results of their decisions. This generally makes for good and wise public policy decisions.
In contrast, the public policy decisions of unelected and narrowly focused bureaucrats, with a personal agenda and no real accountability, end up being poor decisions. That is why in well-run counties the Supervisors make policy, and the staff only implements policy. I wish that were true here in SLO County.
Here is a video of what I imagine the Planning Dept is like on the inside:
September 14th, 2010
Here are two simple questions that I would love the Planning Dept staff and the Coastal Commission staff to answer.
First, a quotation from section 4-6 of the Local Coastal Plan (LCP Section H: Local Agency Formation Commission and Special Districts):
“The definitions of the sphere of influence and sphere of service lines correspond directly to the definitions of the Urban Reserve and Urban Services Lines (respectively) in the Land Use Element.”
Now the questions:
1) According to the LCP, does the definition of the sphere of service line correspond directly to the definition of the Urban Services Line (USL)? Please answer simply Yes or No.
2) According to the LCP, is a property that is inside a sphere of service line also considered to be inside an Urban Services Line (USL)? Please answer simply Yes or No.
In case you are wondering, the answers are 1) Yes and 2) Yes.
I believe that if asked, the staff would either refuse to answer, or would say 1) Yes and 2) No.
September 17th, 2010
Dave Watson met with Ryan Hostter of the Panning Dept. on Sept. 16, 2010, and then followed up the meeting with this letter confirming what was discussed.
First, Ryan wanted to convert our MUP to a Development permit because the San Luis Bay Coastal Plan refers to anything at Mallagh Landing as requiring a Development Permit. The problem is that Cave Landing Ranch is not Mallagh Landing, and so we just need an MUP. It’s not worth fighting over – but we are right.
Dave noted in the letter that Ryan had said that she had finally started the CEQA Initial Study that she could have done in June 2010, or July 2010, or August 2010.
And finally she said that we might have to pay more fees. We didn’t think that the County Geologist needed to do such an extensive study, and we though a on site meeting would clear up a lot of his questions, but we would pay the fees under protest.
And finally, because the Planning Commission had asked us to, Dave agreed to add an “utility corridor” to include the water line from CSA 12 to our project description on the application form for our MUP.