Wednesday, June 15, 2005

"Multi-Million Dollar Park" CSD Letter

I wrote the following letter to the LOCSD Board on 6/1/05...

Dear Los Osos CSD Board members,

I am writing this letter because I feel time is running out to address a subject of vital importance associated with your proposed wastewater project — a subject that I do not believe is even remotely clear amongst the citizens of Los Osos. So, please allow me the opportunity to clarify this point:

Los Osos, you do not have a sewer controversy, you have a park controversy.

The Los Osos CSD is not proposing a $151 million sewer project. The Los Osos CSD is proposing a $151 million park project, and part of THAT project includes a sewer system.

Supporting evidence for this claim can be found in several documents, however, there is no better reference to the fact that the Los Osos CSD is including a sewer system in their park project than the following line found in the California Coastal Commission, August 2004, staff report, page 89:

“... other alternatives (to the Tri-W site) were rejected on the basis that they did not accomplish project objectives for centrally located community amenities.”

That line can not be over emphasized, and every resident of Los Osos over the age of 10 should memorize it:

“... other alternatives (to the Tri-W site) were rejected on the basis that they did not accomplish project objectives for centrally located community amenities.”

As staff report jargon goes, it doesn’t get any clearer than that. ALL of the other potential sites for the treatment facility were “rejected,” because they were NOT “centrally located.” The site HAD TO BE “centrally located” to accommodate the park. After all, it was reasoned at the time, what good’s a “park” in a “sewer-park,” if you can’t get to it?

There is no doubt that the park element of the sewer project is THE reason the facility is being proposed for the Tri-W site. And that means, that if you factor in everything necessary to accommodate Tri-W’s central location -- the odor scrubbing, burying the facilities, the visual and environmental mitigation, the land costs, the amenities, and the maintenance of those amenities “in perpetuity,” are ALL on the park — not the sewer — and some recent estimates have put the figure of the combined cost to accommodate Tri-W’s central location at $70 - $90 million. Assuming those figures are accurate, then what is being proposed in the current project is a $70 - $90 million park. And even if those figures are not accurate, whatever that figure is, (and, to be sure, it is multi-millions of dollars) then that is the cost of the park.

Which begs a core question that, to the best of my knowledge, has never been answered, or even asked.

But before I ask that question, a little set up:

About three or four years ago, when the “better, cheaper, faster" system was being proposed — the ponding system — the footprint needed for that project’s treatment facility was about 70 acres, so, it was reasoned by the CSD at the time, that a type of 2-for-1 option existed. The thought process went along these lines: “Look, Los Osos taxpayers, as long as we have 70 acres to work with, in the middle of town, we might as well spruce ‘em up a little bit and get some parkland while we’re at it... 2-for-1 — park with sewer. Kick down a little tax money for the park, and we’ll make those 70 acres ‘drop dead gorgeous.’ After all, we are saving you ‘$30 million’ on our ‘alternative’ plan.”

So, I agree, that argument, at the time, made a tiny bit of sense despite Measure E-97 — the failed ballot measure from 1997 that would have increased property taxes $10 a year (a year) to be earmarked for public recreation in Los Osos.

But when the ill-conceived “Community Plan” understandably fell off the table, and the CSD turned to the current technically viable system (the Community Plan was not technically viable), and the footprint needed for the new treatment facility plummeted from 70 acres to about 5 acres, and the cost of the entire project skyrocketed wiping away the “$30 million” dollar savings of the Community Plan... well, that brings me to that critical, unanswered, core question I mentioned earlier:

What was the rational for keeping the park in the sewer project after the treatment facility footprint dropped from 70 acres to about 5 acres, and the cost of the entire project skyrocketed?

I have yet to see an answer to that question. What I have read are some vague and unsubstantiated references to a “strongly held community value” to include a park in the sewer project? But, what I can’t seem to find is the source of that “strongly held community value.” The best source I can find comes from the project report. It points to something called “The Vision Statement” as the source of this so-called “strongly held community value” to include a park in the sewer project. But the problem is that The Vision Statement dates back to 1995, and was developed by only a few Los Osos residents. Measure E-97 failed in 1997 with over 5,000 Los Osos residents voting on that Measure. Until someone can legitimately show otherwise, that “strongly held community value” is a myth.

If the Los Osos CSD really wants to see what a “strongly held community value” looks like, you should try this:

At the next CSD Board meeting, ask for a quick show of hands to the following question:
“How many people in this room would be willing to give up the park at the treatment facility in order to save $70 - $90 million on the project and to move the facility out of town?”

If you do that, you will see what a “strongly held community value” looks like.

What was the rational for keeping the park in the sewer project after the treatment facility footprint dropped from 70 acres to about 5 acres, and the cost of the entire project skyrocketed?

Someone needs to answer that question. Anyone. Bruce? Steve? George? What was the rational? Stan? Gordon? You both were in on that decision. Richard? You were a big proponent of the “Resource Park.” Do you have an answer? Pandora, feel free to chime in here, apparently, you were the driving force behind that decision. What was the rational?

The current board majority, past CSD directors, and the entire CSD staff owe Los Osos an answer to that question, because it was that decision — the decision to retain the park element in the the project after the ill-conceived Community Plan fell off the table, and the footprint plummeted to 5 acres, and the cost of the project skyrocketed — that has added an estimated $70 -$90 million to the project, and ensured that the treatment facility would be constructed in the middle of town. Unfortunately for Los Osos taxpayers, by all indications, that was a completely baseless decision.

Obviously, obviously, the park element should have been removed from the plan entirely the moment the treatment process changed, and if that would have happened, there would have been absolutely no reason, no justification whatsoever, to site the plant at the “centrally located” Tri -W site. It would have been moved, and, judging from California Coastal Commission documents, it would have been moved to the “environmentally preferable” Andre site. Out of town. No burying of the facilities. No odor scrubbing. No $70 - $90 million park.

I also want to quickly address the subject of possible fines from the Regional Water Quality Control Board associated with any potential delays resulting from stopping the current project, and correcting the poor decision-making of prior LOCSD boards.

It is well known that the RWQCB has threatened $10,000 a day fines on the Los Osos CSD if there are delays, beyond their control, with implementing a wastewater solution for Los Osos. (In my opinion, those fines should have started the moment the California Coastal Commission called the Los Osos CSD “a little bait and switchy,” but that’s another story entirely.)

To that point, I have another question:
How many years worth of $10,000 a day fines does odor scrubbing, burying the facilities, visual and environmental mitigation due to Tri-W’s “central location”, parking lot, restrooms, amphitheater, etc. buy?

It seems that if, if, the current project was stopped, and if, if, the RWQCB decided to start fining the CSD tomorrow (and they shouldn’t by the way... why punish the current CSD board’s efforts to reflect the true will of the people by correcting the mistakes of prior directors?), multi-millions of dollars would still be saved by not including the park in the sewer project.

I want to say one more thing about the board majority’s rational for supporting the current project. They claim that delays associated with implementing another project at this point would add to the degradation of the community’s water quality and increase the pollution of your beautiful bay. However, two members of that board majority, Stan Gustafson and Gordon Hensley, were members of the Solution Group, the citizen’s group that aggressively pushed the ill-conceived Community Plan. Due to their very poor decision to initially pursue the Community Plan, Stan and Gordon do not have the luxury or validity to discuss the environmental consequences of delaying the project. In my well-researched opinion, the two decisions that have led directly to the thick turmoil that exists in Los Osos today, are 1) the decision to initially pursue the deeply flawed Community Plan, and 2) the decision to keep the park in the project after the Community Plan fell off the table, and Stan and Gordon supported both of those decisions. For me, their arguments of “delays = money” and “delays = pollution” fall, understandably, on deaf ears.

Finally, and I want to make this clear, in light of the information presented in this letter, every “yes” vote on the current project from this date forward is a “yes” vote for a multi-million dollar park in a community that has already voted that they do not want to taxed $10 a year for parks anywhere in Los Osos, let alone in a sewer plant. That is a shameful rape of democracy, and an anarchically stance on California tax law. Every “yes” vote from this date forward should now weigh heavy on the conscience of those that cast them. Personally, as someone that treasures democracy, I find those votes unconscionable.

Thank you for your time.


Ron Crawford


Post a Comment

<< Home