Archive for March, 2011
March 1st, 2011
Ray Gallo is a 75 year old retired lawyer living in Morro Bay, CA. Bob Howard put me in touch with him on March 1, 2011.
Ray Gallo was the lawyer for Bill Baker when Bill died of a heart attack on Aug. 12, 1978. Bill was a property developer in the San Luis Obispo area, but his real passion was auto racing. Ray said that Bill was on the Formula 1 circuit, but I couldn’t find anything about that. I did find where Bill had been in three NASCAR races.
When Bill died, he left his widow Barbara with two children, a lot of undeveloped land, and no money. Ray said that Barbara was close to being bankrupt at that time. But with Ray’s help they developed the area now know as Avila Valley – including the neighborhood that I currently live in. Barbara also sold the land for what is now the Bassi Ranch development. And finally, Barbara (and Ray) went into a partnership around 1979 with Bob Howard and Bob’s brother Bill, forming San Miguelito Partners, with the purpose of developing the 220 acres that Bill Baker had in Pirate’s Cove area (which includes Cave Landing).
Barbara never remarried, and lives today in Pismo Beach, and owns a small store on Higuera Street in San Luis Obispo. Ray told me that he thinks that she is about 69 years old now. The property that she owns through San Miguelito Partners is her main asset. If she were able to sell the remaining two lots at Cave Landing it would mean that she could live comfortably the rest of her life.
Ray also had a lot to say about the Planning Dept, and in particular James Caruso. None of what he had to say was complementary. Maybe I can get Ray to do a “guest blog” about his experiences with the Planning Dept.
March 4th, 2011
I guess James Orton (asst. to County lawyer) makes $137,384, Adam Hill (County Supervisor) $82,014, Kami Griffin (asst. Planning Director) $121,971, James Caruso (Senior Planning Staff) $88,060, Warren Hoag (Planning Manager) $91,369, and Ryan Hostetter (Planning staff) $80,034. It’s kind of hard to tell exactly how much Ryan makes – it might be less. It is kind of funny that the County Supervisor Adam Hill is about the lowest paid guy. These figures do not include pension contributions and health, dental, and vision benefits, which can amount to over $20,000 per year, depending on the base pay, etc.
March 19th, 2011
On January 27th, 2011 we turned into the County Geologist the reports that he requested. In a letter dated March 11, 2011, but that I actually received today on March 18, 2011, the County Geologist (Brian Papurello) asked for some more information. So it took him roughly 45 days to read the report.
In his letter Brian references CZLUO 23.07.084, which is here. This SLO County ordinance merely says that you should have a qualified engineer and/or geologist prepare a report if you are trying to build in a Geologic Study Area. Which I did. But it is kinda weird that Brian references this, leading me to suspect that the reason it took so long for Brian to read our geology report is that it actually took a long time for him to get a letter drafted that would please his paymasters at the Planning Dept.
The septic issue that Brian brings up is the suspicious one. Virtually always septic issues are handled when applying for a building permit (which is something we apply for AFTER you get a MUP). Dave Watson can think of no other time when the septic issues were part of a MUP application.
But of course that main problem with this letter is that it arrived in March, 2011. The Planning Dept could have told us that they wanted this septic information in May, 2010, or June 2010, or July 2010, or August 2010, or September 2010, or October 2010, or November 2010, or December 2010, or January 2011, or Feburary 2011. 10 months after our pre-application meeting with the Planning Dept they decide that we need to supply them with this additional information.
March 26th, 2011
Suppose you lived in a small town with an elementary school on the main street, and one day an egotistical, narrow minded person was given the job as the school’s only crossing guard. Let’s call this person “Tami”. Now Tami isn’t an evil person, but she does have a vastly over inflated view of her capabilities and importance. In other words, Tami is egotistical and lacks a sense of proportion.
Normally the job of a school crossing guard is pretty simple. Before school and after school the crossing guard has to escort small children across the busy street, making sure that the kids are safe from the traffic. But Tami gets more ambitious. Tami requires parents to fill out long forms about their number of children, and why the children need an escort, and how the parents plan to keep the children safe before and after the crossing guard has guided them across the street. Tami barricades the main street of town each day for an hour before school and after school. Tami decides that each teacher should have their lesson plans approved by Tami so that she can make sure that the children are taught about proper safety when crossing the street. And finally Tami decides that although everyone else must follow the rules, she herself is so important that she has no need to adhere to any schedule at all. Some days she will guide children at the proper time, but if she is busy doing other things the children must wait on the side of the road for hours and hours, disrupting their class time, and making them late when coming home.
Pretty soon the entire town is in disarray. Parents are unsure of when they can send their kids to school, and they feel harassed by Tami’s intrusive questions. Parents begin enrolling their kids at different schools so that they can avoid dealing with Tami. Traffic is snarled by the random street closings and so many people stop coming to the town at all. Businesses up and down the main street lose customers. And the teachers can not teach the children because no one can get to school on time. And even if the kids did get to school on time the teacher’s lesson plans haven’t yet been approved by Tami, and so they have nothing to teach. All of the parents, the children, the teachers, and the businesses quickly become very unhappy with the chaotic and dysfunctional situation that Tami has created. Even the mayor of the town is upset because now he has to spend all of his time dealing with unhappy and angry voters.
But there is one exception to all of the unhappiness. Tami has taken her simple job, and by doing it very, very badly she has made herself the single most important person in the entire town. And Tami can claim that she caused all of this mess because it was all absolutely necessary to keep the children safe. All of which makes Tami very, very happy.
This is the current situation in SLO County caused by the Planning Dept. Without management the Planning Dept has run amok, and precisely by doing it’s job badly it has elevated it’s importance in the county. The Planning Dept staff are all acting like egotistical school crossing guards.
As an example of this just look at all of the resources that a low level county planner has been able to use to try to stop me from building my house. Ryan Hostetter has been able to use the managers of the Planning Dept, many employees of the County Counsel, Public Works, Parks, CSA 12, staff from the Coastal Commission, multiple sessions in the Planning Commission itself, and an unlimited amount of her own time. The costs to the county of her pursuing this Planning Dept policy has got to be many times the fees I paid to the county for my permit application. And once I start a lawsuit these costs will skyrocket. And if she wins, what has the county gained? There will be an empty lot instead of my house. Is it really worth the hundreds of thousands of dollars of county money that it will take to defend her decisions in court in order to have an empty lot? And if I win in court, the county will have to pay all of my legal fees, which may run into millions of dollars. And I will build my house anyway. Is all of this really necessary? Who is in charge here?
Why hasn’t anyone in the county management pulled Ryan into a conference room and explained to her that this battle she has started isn’t worth winning for the county, and is certainly too costly to lose, and that there are better things for her to work on - for example like processing permit applications on time? A decision to devote this many resources to stop a citizen from building a single family house on a properly zoned lot should not be made by a low level employee. My explanation is that the Planning Dept has no real management.
March 30th, 2011
Today we finally got a reply from the Planning Dept from Dave Watson’s letter of February 22, 2011 that asked why were things taking so long. The letter from Ryan Hostetter is dated March 22, but Dave did not receive it until March 30.
Ryan’s letter is a common variant of the classic cover-your-ass letter that so many of us have read over the years. She recounts a series of dates and the “important” actions that she did on those dates. Dave’s reply is to disagree with her resetting of the timing of my permit application on Sept. 20, 2010, but then to pin her down on going forward with the final Planning Commission hearing during April, 2011. After all, our goal is not to embarrass Ryan but to get a permit so that I can begin construction of my house.
The action that Ryan took on Sept. 20th, 2010 does merit some discussion. In a meeting with Ryan on Sept. 16th, Dave had tried to get Ryan to start doing some work on my permit application. During the meeting Ryan had said that she that we actually needed a Development permit, not a Minor Use Permit. Dave disagreed (and so do I), and that matter was dropped. Then Ryan said that we needed to change the project description on the permit application because we now had to include the water pipeline utility from CSA 12 in our application, as per the decision of the Planning Commission on Sept. 9th. So Dave wrote a letter to Ryan on Sept. 17th (this letter is here). Dave’s Sept. 17th letter included the one page MUP application we submitted before, with one sentence added stating “and utility corridor extending from Avila Beach Dr, along and under Cave Landing Road, to service residential development sites.”.
Ryan used that added sentence to claim that we had resubmitted a new permit application, and so all of the permit deadlines were reset as if we had applied for a permit on Sept. 20, 2010, instead of the actual application date of June 10th, 2010. The difference is 102 days, or about 3 1/2 months! And when Ryan did reset the permit deadlines she never informed us in any way, until we got this letter from her dated March 22, 2011 – 191 days later – and we only got that after numerous letters, phone calls, and meetings. So at the time we had no idea that she had done this, and so we couldn’t protest it.
It seems clear that Ryan wanted to delay my application past the maximum time the state mandates, but she did not want that to show in the county’s tracking system, so she required Dave to add that one sentence, and then used that as an excuse to reset the permit deadlines.
After dealing with the county for so long on this permit application I am very nervous about what that delay means. Why did Ryan want to delay me an extra 3 1/2 months? Could this be related to the new appointments to the Coastal Commission by newly elected Governor Jerry Brown? I don’t know what is going on, but I am very suspicious.
Ryan also includes an entry dated July 23, 3010 (presumably a typo) that the County Geologist wanted a “Transfer of Responsibility Form” to choose a reponsible geologist from our team. Dave and I have never seen or heard of this form before receiving this letter and we have never turned this form in.