Monday, November 05, 2007

Ooooooo, Noooooooo!

Uh-oh, Sunday morning heart-attack time, again. Wander to the end of the driveway in my bathrobe, peer into the gloom of the dawn, listen to the muttering of the crows expecting their ration of dog kibble to be thrown out to them, pick up the Tribune and see the headline through the plastic wrapper: "To sue or not to sue over sewer?"


Well, I posted the Protest Letter here a few days ago, the one sent by Mr. Timothy J. Morgan, the one listing a whole bunch of reasons why Mr. Morgan thought the recent 218 assessment vote might come under legal challenge, and then I noted that IF there were indeed serious legal issues, I hoped the County could sort them out ASAP.

According to the story, we'll know in two weeks whether the law firm will actually file suit. In the mean time, the County will chug along with the engineering/CEQA/technology selection stuff, so no time will be wasted, BUT I hope Mr. Morgan and the County's attorneys can have a little tet-a-tet sit-down to ask and answer The Basic Question:

What's The Problem . . . Really? Is it the PZ screwing up an equitable, fair, "benefits" vote? As noted in the story, "Chief among Morgan's arguments is that a sewer would not just benefit those who live in the so-called prohibition zone but all property owners in the coastal town. "

If the real problem is the PZ, and if we lived in a place where we had a sane Regional Water Quality Control Board, they would have realized YEARS AGO that the PZ was nothing more than a stumbling block ROCK IN THE ROAD and potential TRAIN WRECKER, and so they could have led the way to demand that they and the County update the Basin Plan YEARS AGO, thereby giving this area more flexibility in solving WATER problems and BENEFIT problems in a SANER manner YEARS AGO. But we don't have a sane RWQCB.

So, despite that lack, is there any chance of that happening now? Like maybe if the County & the RWQCB & Mr. Morgan all sit down for a little chattypoo and maybe realize that they all need to rethink this really, really quick or else there'll be ANOTHER trainwreck? If so, could it be done quickly enough to result in a new PZ that would include basin dwellers who -- ironically -- are now under the control of the RWQCB and the new state-wide AB885 rules, some of which can get onerous, indeed.

Or could AB885 be quickly co-joined to the PZ with a new RWQCB Resolution 83-14-07, and the 218 be then re-written to include all those folks falling under AB885 and thence we'd end up with a way to write a 218 that offered a more balanced "benefits" assessment on everyone? And if that happened, would everyone -- again -- vote Yes? (My guess is, yes, they would vote Yes, again.)

If there's no chance of that happening, and Mr. Morgan's issues are really, really serious, then I guess we can hope that the county can re-write the 218 and we can all vote -- again? And if it can be done while other things are clanking along, no harm, no foul.

If not . . . . Gaaaakkkkk. Well, stay tuned.

Library Day

Supervisor Gibson and a host of Library Folk and various Friends of Libraries and Cal Poly Students and a whole raft of bookish folk gathered Saturday at the Atascadero Lake Pavillion for a "Library Summit: Great Expectations 2007," a sort of convention/workshop/brainstorming session for people to network and create a vision statement for how we want our libraries throughout the countyto be in the future.

Among some of the more interesting presentions were power-points on various super-duper updated libraries in other cities, including the new Idea Store in London -- a completely modernized library that was a combo of community center, bookstore, internet portal, government/social services connection, life-long-learning centers, and a coffee shop on the top floor. In short, a place far removed from the old 19th century fusty, dusty Temple Of Books -- Shhhhhhh -- of yore.

As Brian Reynolds, head of the County/ city libraries pointed out, libraries need to be somehwere . . . and everywhere. And with the internet, we now can have virtual libraries. No need for stone buildings set off in a park somewhere. We can now put libraries in the middle of shopping malls, let up mini-outlets, hook through e-government portals with your local branch so you can access government programs and doings without ever having to troop "downtown." The list of possibilities is endless. And exciting.

And, of course, is limited only by $$, a lot of which is seriously lacking because we live in the era of the Diminished Value of the Commons. Instead, we have become Blackwater Nation -- privitize it, baby. Want a new library? Go build it yourself.

Which, of course, raised an issue that seemed missing from the conference, and one I kept raising with our table as we were asked to "envision" a future for this county. It does no good to ask the Choir to envision what THEY want THEIR Choir to look like -- they're already engaged and will naturally enough make changes THEY want to see made.

But here's what I wanted to know: Has anyone done a full demographic study and a "marketing research" survey county-wide to find out two things: Who uses the libraries now, and why and how? and Who DOESN'T use the libraries now, and why not? Those two things would tell you a lot about the present and point the way to make changes that are needed in order to get to a future, it seems to me.

Of course, in a county that voted down Measure L, a minute sales tax that would have been earmarked for libraries, a county that constantly pleads poverty while slashing budgets and raising administrators and BOS salaries, there is no money to do such a comprehensive survey. Which means, a future envisioned by already committed members of the Choir, all of whom are flying blind, will result in more of the same, not real change.

But, for a really cool CD . . .

The Friends of the Library (our wonderful Los Osos Branch) did have an information booth at the conference that was featuring, among other things, a new interctive 90 minute CD-ROM commissioned by the Friends of Los Osos Library, "Exploring Morro Bay Estuary." The CD covers the estuary, how it works, all the critters and plants, the general Geology and georgraphy, protecting and restoring the estuary and all kinds of interactive suff. Way cool.

You can buy a copy at the South Bay Library, also it's available at the Morro Bay Natural History Museum and at the National Estuary Center on the Morro Bay Embarcadero in the Marina Square bldg. It's really a beautiful, interesting CD, for kids, adults, and for any friends living out of town or out of state, it would make a great Holiday Gift.

If your friends just think you live in Plain Old Sewerville, send 'em a copy of this CD and they'll see -- It's Sewerville-PLUS!

Now, do I dare go open the paper?


Sewertoons said...

Ann says:
"Like maybe if the County & the RWQCB & Mr. Morgan all sit down for a little chattypoo and maybe realize that they all need to rethink this really, really quick or else there'll be ANOTHER trainwreck? If so, could it be done quickly enough to result in a new PZ…" Etc., etc., etc..

Ann has just given us a roadmap for another 30 year delay on a sewer for Los Osos! Thanks Ann, we 70% of voters who voted 80% yes to END this mess really appreciate the boulders you are throwing our way!

By all means, let's include Cabrillo and REALLY increase the cost of the project! Then let's wait and wait and wait while all this percolates through the legal system. Do you really think we will have any water to drink by the time that all happens? Another 218??? Are you nuts?

(This is why I think you are nuts - "Or could AB885 be quickly co-joined to the PZ with a new RWQCB Resolution 83-14-07, and the 218 be then re-written to include all those folks falling under AB885…") You aren't really serious, right?

This is why many of us conclude that you are really a "no sewer" kinda gal.

Sewertoons said...

Another thought - the bulk of the cost for the WWTF is for the COLLECTION system - aren't those pipes already in the ground for some housing developments - and Monarch Grove HAS a centralized system. Why would they BENEFIT from paying for a new set of pipes?

I've noticed that as problem after problem is solved or debunked by the County to the NO SEWER front, a new, more subtile set of reasons AGAINST a project comes up to take its place. Like the Lernean Hydra, kill one head and two more take its place. We have our own Los Osian hydra, or water snake - it is, in its heart, NO SEWER, and it lives on offal.

The PZ has not been dismantled by other pleas. We can only hope that Mr. Morgan will be aware that there will be no win here for anyone, but a big loss to the very ones this case purports to defend. I hope he remembers that time is money. He has two weeks to accept the case. (And I won't crack a lawyer joke about BW&S - I hope he is a cut above them.)

TCG said...

There will always be people in Los Osos who do not want any sewer and will do everything possible to delay or prevent one from being constructed. I'm sure that the County is smart enough that they anticipated lawsuits, and will deal with them while they move ahead.

Shark Inlet said...

I would suggest that if the entire CSD were to be sewered instead of just the PZ, the total cost per household would not change very much at all ... but a lawsuit to resolve this issue of the PZ will cause our costs to increase considerably.

Hmmmm .... which is the wise choice here? Spend more money for no reason at all or spend no more money than necessary? That's a tough one!

While there is a nice feeling about asking everyone to pay ... the PZ has already been defined, litigated and found to be reasonable. While getting the rich folks to pay "their share", the cost of doing so doesn't pencil out. If they're not contributing to the pollution (and the PZ definition says they're off the hook), even if there is an economy of scale on the WWTF, the collection system for homes outside the PZ is considerably higher on a per-home basis. Overall, a wash at best ... until you consider the extra time for additional litigation.

I think that if the folks in Cabrillo, etc. are interested in joining into the sewer, they could approach the County and request to be included as long as they pay their share. If AB885 really says that they'll need to be sewered (and I don't see where it says this will be a requirement), they might want to make this choice.

My understanding is that Monarch (if they tie in) and the community septic neighborhoods will have a similar and lower cost than the rest of the PZ. They will have to pay for their share of the trunk lines but not for the cost of running sewer pipes to every home. Back before the recall, I believe that the discount on the monthly bill was about 1/3 off the non O&M costs. If that remains the same today, the assessment for Vista de Oro (community septic) would be about $110/month instead of the $160/month that most folks would have.

Howie said...


You write: "I would suggest that if the entire CSD were to be sewered instead of just the PZ, the total cost per household would not change very much at all ... but a lawsuit to resolve this issue of the PZ will cause our costs to increase considerably."

"I would suggest" sounds a lot like "I would imagine" or "I really don't know".

Please post real documentation for your "suggestion". I'm sure you have the figures handy.


Shark Inlet said...


I've posted a hypothetical analysis of this matter already. Even so,

Let's suppose that the WWTF costs no more money to serve all 5000 homes in the community instead of just the 4500 in the PZ.

Let's also remember that about 60% of the total cost of the project is for the collection system, so if there is a $150M project, about $90M is for the sewer and $60 for the WWTF. For just the WWTF construction costs (about $60/month), we each get a 10% break by spreading the cost over the whole town ... now we pay $54 each per month for the construction of the WWTF. If the sewer costs are the same for the other areas of town as they are inside the PZ we'll save about $6/month on a $200/month total bill (after the assessment and sewer charges are factored in). Big deal.

However, if the cost of sewering the area outside the PZ is just 20% higher because of the lower density (it will most likely be higher), the cost of the sewer in the area outside the PZ will be an additional $12M for a total collection system cost of about $100M and additional monthly payments of about $7 higher.

At the end of the day, no real savings.

However, the additional delay associated with lawsuits from folks outside the PZ fighting being forced into a $200/month project when they aren't legally required to have a sewer at all will be considerable.

LOPZ said...

Shark, don't ever get in a mud fight with a pig.

It is not incumbent upon you to provide documentation. Howie (or Ann or whoever) needs to provide some real documentation or analysis that would show including Cabrillo would actually lower costs. Until someone does, it is just more of the same 'but why, Mommy' 2 year old reasoning to further Los Osos myths and legends.

Shark Inlet said...


I understand your point and didn't feel the obligation to respond to Howie.

However, this myth is a pretty common one and it plays off the "screw the rich" and "the PZ is unfair" and the "let's spread the costs across the whole town" ideas, all of which are quite popular.

Admittedly, when I first asked the question about including the areas outside the PZ I was surprised at how horrible an idea it was from the point of view of someone in the PZ. It would likely raise my costs just to provide sewer services for those who (mostly) don't want them.

The casual reader may think that there will be huge savings from spreading the cost. I wanted to explain that this is not the case.

Another argument about the PZ is an interesting one. If the PZ is the region which has been determined by the RWQCB (whether right or wrong) to be polluting, why should those outside the PZ pay anything to clean up the aquifer that has been polluted by those in the PZ? If I break your window with poorly aimed soccer ball, should I expect you will pay for some of the cost of the repair because you will benefit from the decreased draftiness in your home? No reasonable soccer player nor homeowner would view the homeowner as responsible for repairing any portion of the window because of the damage caused by the guy who kicked the soccer ball through the window.

Perhaps we can blame the County here, but those in Los Osos but still outside the PZ are no more legally responsible for paying than folks in Morro Bay or Nipomo.

Sewertoons said...

Perhaps when the sewer is finally completed for the PZ, the RWQCB will come up with requirements for the rest of the town. I doubt they want to take on more grief until something here is solved.

The PZ may not be perfectly defined, but that should not slow anything down to clean up the bulk of the pollutants which come from the PZ. (Those believing in "magic sand" need not respond here; that argument is irrelevant. Body care products and drug residue are in our upper aquifer. That needs to stop --and will, with a sewer.)

Shark Inlet said...

Let's tackle one of Morgan's claims head on.

The benefits ... general versus special.

If we all benefit from clean water, shouldn't all pay? Well, if we ignore the fact that the board which governs these issues has already determined that it is folks inside the PZ who are polluting which implies that only the polluters should be paying, we can still ask who should pay for those benefits.

The LOCSD plan was going to have folks in the PZ pay the entire tab for construction.

The County is having water companies pick up a sizable portion of the tab. They've agreed and will pass on those costs to the entire town.

The County plan is already doing what Morgan is asking for. They're having the polluters pay most of the cost, but the town as a whole pays for the cleaner water.

Did he not read the various documents before writing his letter? Did he not call Paavo and get a clarification first?

Conspiracy Boy said...


Your logic is so flawed and is so inaccurate, it is dangerous.

I am amused by you, SharkInlet. You should stick with designing and building homes, or whatever you do to rip off the people in the PZ!

The 218 is California Constituional law and would supercede any phoney PZ line the RWQCB drew up over 24 years ago (based on faulty science/no science.)

So, who are you kidding?

You want to talk about the phoney evidence that the RWQCB has that says the PZ is polluting? And with no basin plan update in all these years? No testing of any individual septic tank or leach field?

It's all a lie. I've said that for decades. But if you say the lie over and over, year after year, like you and Pandora have -- people start to believe it. Then add threats of massive fines!

The pollution is from pet wastes and horses -- yard fertilizers and natural vegetation (very little if any from septic tanks.)

You can make your claims over and over on a daily basis, but it won't make them true. The paperwork trail shows the real truth. Public records requests are wonderful actually.

The water board can only say they hope that a wastewater system will clean up nitrates because they KNOW it won't. Gordon has written that, so did Stan. Briggs has indicated the same.

As far as the water companies, they benefit and should pay. But rather than the County ask them to pay for their benefit, they had Golden State employee sit on TAC.

What do you people not understand about following the law? I guess you just don't like laws. You think the RWQCB, Pandora, LeGros, and the County are above the law. They are not!

Well, I'm here to say that the waterboards and County broke the laws and NOT any homeowner in the PZ.

You idiot, SharkInlet, the 218 is about "benefit" not "polluters"!

I read Morgan's letter where he asked the County to call him. Did Paavo call Morgan? Do you know?

I am quite sick of reading your comments and Sewertoons' comments. Same bull over and over. You people need to go back to school...sewer school....but stop spreading lies on a daily basis, you only look very foolish to any intelligent person.

Or could it be you two are just two big players in the corruption game? Hmmmm...

Sewertoons said...


You never seem to address what I bring up - over and over. I have pointed you to the report that states this. Why are there body care chemicals and drug residues in the upper aquifer? Where do they come from? You can answer this, can't you? Just this one little point? You are an intelligent person - this shouldn't be too hard, and I am asking nicely.

Shark Inlet said...


The tone of your comment saddens me. "Idiot," "rip off", "I guess you don't like laws" and other snide comments aren't helpful in this forum. If you want a serious discussion, grow up and stop tossing around out of line comments. Unless you do so, it is you who will be looking foolish.

Now, to some key points. I was in error to suggest that Morgan should have checked his facts with Paavo or Waddell or listened to audiotaped BOS meetings or even talked with his clients to get accurate information before he wrote that the folks outside the PZ will benefit and so should pay some. My mistake. Please forgive me for thinking Morgan would want to get things right.

Lastly, you seem to want to re-argue the definition of the PZ and whether it is sound or not. I'll not take that up here other than to say that there has been litigation on this issue in the past and we've still got the PZ. While it might be politically easier to have the entire community in the same boat, it is not the case.

About your comment that the 218 law somehow supercedes the RWQCB ruling on the PZ. I don't get it. How does a law that says those to be assessed need to approve the assessment have any bearing on the matter of whether the RWQCB defined the PZ correctly or not.

Conspiracy Boy said...


YOU don't like following the law. Neither does Pandora, LeGros, the County, the SWRCB or the RWQCB.

I'll say it one more time:

The 218 is about who benefits. Today's Tribune Viewpoint by Paavo says "Everyone will have clean water."

Why should a portion of Los Osos pay for EVERYONE's clean water?

As I just heard, Mr. Morgan is the top 218 guy in the state and works on cases hand in hand with Howard Jarvis Taxpayers' Association. They recently won a half billion dollar 218 lawsuit.

So, SharkInlet, I would think that Mr. Morgan wouldn't have to ask Paavo a damn thing.


Trace elements of shampoos, etc. are just that. Our groundwater is not polluted or we wouldn't be allowed to drink it or use it. If you believe that the County is right on all issues then you should trust their standards.

Ditto goes for our septic tanks -- ALSO PERMITTED BY THE COUNTY!

TCG said...

Watched the B/S meeting on my PC this afternoon. Same old contraries for the most part. The Taylors alleged that the 80% Yes figure was skewed by the large voting blocks (school, County, etc). Then the staff read the actual breakdown that showed the single family residence votes being right in line with the overall totals--70% voter turnout, 80% Yes. When will these people realize that we are talking about a sewer here, not life and death?

A few speakers happily spoke of pending lawsuits. I hope they understand that the County will charge the cost of defending the lawsuits to the project and we will pay for them in our assessments.

A few others spoke of an appreciation for the vote result, and expressed a hope that the community would start healing now. I like that idea a lot, but am afraid it won't be that easy.

Sewertoons said...


The point was, if those solely human-used elements (in much smaller quantities than the daily urine contribution of the town) are making it into our aquifer, why aren't the nitrates? Magic sand? These chemicals are outlawed in the drinking water in Europe. How long do we allow this stuff into our water before we say it -uh-oh, I guess it is dangerous.

The fact that the County allowed all this housing without infrastructure was certainly short-sighted. Wringing our hands over that will get us nowhere. Who knew getting a sewer in here was going to be such a nightmare either?

This density has caused the worst of the pollution. You are right - some of it is caused by our pets and wild animals. But we are responsible for the mess we make. We in the PZ also USE most of the water we are sitting on top of and peeing into. The PZ is 85% of the town. The water purveyors will charge EVERYONE for the parts they must provide for the project - the parts that benefit everyone - remember special benefits and general benefits, or weren't you listening?

I might remind you, Morgan has not yet taken the case. Better get the most mileage out of your argument now in case he turns it down.

Shark Inlet said...


You asked why just the PZ should pay for everyone to have clean water.

The answer is simple ... according to the County plan, everyone in Los Osos is going to have to pay for clean water ... the water companies are floating a sizable chunk of the sewer cost and we'll all get to pay for it, even those outside the PZ. I've mentioned this several times here as has Paavo during meetings with property owners, PZLDF and at the BOS. Perhaps you weren't there, didn't notice and didn't bother reading.

However, even if the key benefit of a sewer is the ability to piss without polluting our aquifer, the folks who are doing the pollution are those who should pay for the sewer. If folks in Cabrillo were assessed $140/month so that the sewer and WWTF could be built for only the PZ, they would sue about being asked to pay for clean water when they were not the ones polluting it.

Nope, the benefit to the entire community is there thru the increased water rates. The 218 vote isn't as much about clean water as it is about whether you want to assess yourself $160/month to get a sewer line to your home and a WWTF that can process your waste.

The problem with Morgan's letter is that is says the sky is green and that grass is red. The claim is that folks outside the PZ are going to benefit but aren't paying. We all know this is not the case. Either he didn't bother checking this out (and it was easy to get this information) or he was willing to mis-state facts which he did know. Neither would be very encouraging.

On the issue of Morgan's letter and possible lawsuit. I trust from the way you write, if Morgan choses not to take the case for a cut of the winnings, you'll admit that the case isn't a solid one.

On the trace elements of shampoos, drugs and nitrates in our upper aquifer you suggest that if it really were polluted, someone would keep us from using the aquifer. Here's some news ... we have been told we cannot harvest water from the upper aquifer.

Finally, on your last point you have a real winner. If those who are interested in getting some justice for Los Osos want a good issue for a lawsuit, it should be the County's permitting of septics long after they knew there was a problem as well as their choice to not implement any sort of septic management program. The County made choices that have worsened the Los Osos pollution problem and they have a moral obligation to pay for some of the costs of fixing it. Maybe they should chip in $2M per year for 20 years to help defray costs of the sewer nightmare they created. Maybe something even more creative, like taking the increased assessed value on resale of homes and putting half that into the Los Osos sewer fund and half into the County general fund would help.

Howie said...


Thanks for the hypothetical.

It works if (1) the entire CSD isn't sewered, (2) if the PZ is legal, (3) if those outside the PZ are not contributing to the pollutiion -- the PZ definition excludes them, (4) only the PZ polluters pay, (5) the collection is $150 million gravity system -- and finally (6) if any of 1 thru 4 aren't altered by litigation.

If, as a result of litigation, any of these current cornerstones crumble, the equation can change dramatically, particularly the cost of the sewer.

If gravity collection, 60%-70% of the cost, is potentially twice the cost of the best available lower-cost technology, then obviously our sewer bills would reflect that significant savings.

So it's not your math, it's the project. Wrong project, high price. Right project, better price for all. By your math, the County's math, it's too expensive no matter how you slice it. Conventional gravity is the dead weight on costs. Cut the weight.

Of course Cabrillo isn't going to volunteer to be sewered! What is their incentive to hook up? AB885? They can simply wait until it passes, avoid the assessment, and hook up later without having to pay for the sewer, just the hookup and fees and charges.

Yet they should pay their fair share. That's the intent of the 218: Everyone is the district must pay.

Regarding the Morgan protest, it does not suggest anywhere that "the County plan is already doing what Morgan is asking for. They're having the polluters pay most of the cost, but the town as a whole pays for the cleaner water."

Quite the opposite. Morgan's letter states glaring 218 violations that vaporize your paradigm.

It goes back to the Tri-W concept: If you decide to build a sewer system with an unsecured loan, it is going to get stopped somewhere along the line because it is illegal.

Same for the Prop 218 vote: If you pass a vote with an illegal vote, it is going to get stopped somewhere along the line because it is illegal.

If stopping things costs money, then downloading an unsecured loan and conducting a potentially illegal 218 vote also costs money -- and causes delays by having to be reversed. Delays are often caused by having to fix something that's broken or to clean up somebody's else mess.

Perhaps you should have known Tri-W was going to be stopped. You knew there was no 218. Joe Sparks said at the last CSD meeting that it was an unsecured loan. Didn't you know this? Why don't you get it now? The law is real and for everyone, including you. Perhaps you should also know by now that Tri-W won't fly this time around either.

I can't say the same about gravity, but I do think if Dr. T oversees the process that somewhere along the line gravity will fall by the wayside with Tri-W, like the dying dinosaur techo monster that it is. R.I.P.


Mike said...

...interesting suppositions... but...what if you are incorrect and the equations support a conventional gravity system...???

Perhaps you can garner an 80% vote to over throw the County, but it would appear you are already a day late and some $40M behind... But as long as I and a few thosand others are as sick and tired of your litigation tactics, you might as well try sueing the US Government... just don't expect us to pay for your folly any longer... pay for all the lawsuits you can afford, out of your own pockets... oh yes, expect to see at least 2 of your leaders headed to court to defend the wasting of our tax dollars... are you willing to go to prison for your continual obstruction...??? Think about it, we are every bit as serious about building a sewer as you are in obstruction....!!!!

Sewertoons said...

Howie, I believe you are mis-informed.

I'm loosely paraphrasing what was said on this blog at an earlier date, maybe you didn't see that posting. The 218 that passed on the old project WAS legal. The 218 was for a design and property. Bonds were sold and in fact, a design was done and the property was bought.

The Tri-W project was funded by the State, it was in fact the STATE'S project, contracted on loan to the CSD as the State's agent to run for the 20 years it would take to pay off that money with rates and charges. The repayment was guaranteed by those rates and charges. Of course, thanks to the Los Osos debacle, this is no longer true. Doing the project that way, there was no lien on your house, just a $200 line item on your property tax bill and a monthly bill for rates and charges. The way we are doing it this time we get a lien on our houses.

Each roadblock to getting a sewer has brought us some new and unexpected consequence. 15 lawsuits filed between 1984 and 2005 and LOST have gotten us nothing but higher costs. Yeah, let's have Morgan come in and do some more damage. If he takes the case, maybe he is getting paid up front. The CSD appears not to be involved for now - and the CSD is broke this time around and already has general and special counsel in place - from the last go-round. I'm hoping Mr. Morgan will have read some Los Osos history. He might wind up like Shaunna Sullivan. I hear she is owed a bundle.

You can bet the County looked over the legalities of this 218 with a magnifying glass. They are aware of the litigation history in Los Osos. OK, Measure B was allowed to go forward wasn't it? Yet - it has been declared illegal - twice. Just because a case is allowed to go forward, doesn't mean that it is going to win, it is just going to cost those putting forth the case some money and the rest of us - higher costs on a project due to delays. I hope Mr. Morgan will think of that and not take the case. But maybe he is just in it for the money. You don't have to win to make money, just ask BWS.

You might want to ask the recall board why they spent that SRF money instead of returning it as they thought it was illegal too. While you are at it, ask them why they didn't insist on a 218 to do their "out of town" project. (I can guess the answer - property owners only vote on a 218. They won their recall and Measure B with renters voting.)

Shark Inlet said...


Thanks for getting back ...

I just tossed those numbers out there as illustrative. You suggest that sewering outside the PZ will save us inside the PZ money. I would like to see some calculations to back this up. Under what circumstances would my assessment be noticeably lower? Can you save me $10/month?

It is not fair to say "well, if we just go with a really cheap system instead of gravity we'll save money" because presumably we should be doing that anyways if gravity is so expensive.

So, just toss out there some assumptions that would imply including Cabrillo saves me money and we can then talk about how realistic those assumptions are.

Even if you are right, I wonder about the legality of trying to force others to join up before they are forced to do so by some law.

As to Morgan's letter. The part I was writing about reads "First, the overarching problem with the entire process is that the sewer system contemplated by this assessment is not one that will confer a ‘special benefit’ within the meaning of Proposition 218 on those parcels within the Los Osos Prohibition Zone, but rather one that will confer a general benefit on all parcels in Los Osos and which is fundamentally designed to confer a benefit on the people of the State of California by way of preventing inappropriate waste discharge to enter groundwater and, by way of interaction between the groundwater and seawater, the estuary and bay waters offshore from Los Osos. To the extent that this project will provide better drinking water, it covers parcels outside the Prohibition Zone who are receiving the benefit at my clients’ expense. To the extent that it helps with pollution in the nearby ocean, this is a benefit to the people of California generally and again, represents a benefit to others paid for by this assessment. These benefits to others, which seem to be the main benefit claimed for this system, are general benefits paid for with a special benefit assessment. This is improper." (There are other questionable assumptions in his letter as well, like saying that the current septic only approach is working for our community.)

Morgan's contention is that there is no benefit of being sewered in and of itself. This is simply wrong. I guess if he is really arguing that the only benefit is for clean water, he has a good point, but the benefit of having a non-polluting system would seem to have considerable value.

I contend that the County's scheme of getting buy-in from water companies is a way that the whole town gets to pay for the clean up. Sure, the bulk of costs are borne by those in the PZ who have been determined by the RWQCB to the parties responsible for the pollution, but there is some considerable cost-spreading.

Sure, if the 218 vote was with a major flaw, it will have to be fixed somehow, but I don't think you should hold up the stopping of TriW as a foregone conclusion and as wisdom in action. Some didn't like the location. The loan was unsecured. The costs were high. Even so, stopping TriW has had some real costs which will be reflected in my pocket book. Like I've said for a few years now, if you want it out of town, how much more are you willing to pay? Some would say that they are happy to pay $100/month more than TriW, as long as the WWTF is out of town. Those folks might end up happy. The rest of us will probably be less so.

About your suggestions that there really is a far cheaper system than that the County has offered up so far ... I remain unconvinced. I've seen for many years now people promising that we can save a bundle, but I've never seen any hard numbers which would back up that contention. I'm willing to be convinced, but simply saying "we can save $100/month" by going with some sort of alternative system sounds like wishing for Neverland to me. Presumably you know of exactly such a system and that it will be permitted by the RWQCB and CCC and it will meet our water recharge needs ... just tell us the numbers that show how much better it really is and we'll believe.

Sewertoons has a really good point. While lawsuits are part of the process, those contemplating such lawsuits should do a cost-benefit analysis before filing because the delay caused by even six months on a $150M project would be about $6M total or about $1200 per household. While the system doesn't work this way, I would think that those gambling $1200 on my behalf would be willing to step forward and pay my costs should the result of the lawsuit not be a reduction in my costs. If the last 10-20 lawsuits haven't lowered the cost, please at least offer us hope about why the possible 218 lawsuit will save us money! If you can't show a likelihood of saving considerable cash, just tell us what the goal is.

Churadogs said...

Howie sez:"Same for the Prop 218 vote: If you pass a vote with an illegal vote, it is going to get stopped somewhere along the line because it is illegal."

I suppose there's one question that should be asked, but who would answer it except a court of law?, and it's this: Given the PZ, is there a "legal" (lawsuit-proof) way a 218 vote could be crafted to satisfy the "benefits" issues? Mr. Morgan pointed out that a person with a legally permitted,properly functioning septic tank isn't getting a benefit from switching to a community collection system since both his septic tank and a community system are taking care of his waste, just doing it in different forms. EXCEPT, if it can be proven that Mr. Homeowner is directly polluting the waters of the state of California and as such is offered a choice, daily fines or hooking up to a system that would stop his polluting the waters of the state of California. That "benefit" is individual (versus "collective") and links benefit directly to Mr. Homeowner. But what happens to Mr. Homeowner in the PZ who lives 30' to ground water, the RWQCB has no evidence his legally permitted septic tank is polluting the waters of the state of California, his tank is legally permited and is working as intended, what "benefit" is he getting by being forced to hook up to a community system?

So, the question may go to "individual" guilt versus "collective" guilt, but is the 218 geared to "individuals" not "collectives?" I don't know, but wonder if that's some of the problem. Morgan notes that using one arm of government (RWQCB) to coerce the citizen into doing what another arm of government (county) wants is intolerable, but since when are government arms behaving intolerably been "illegal.?" Again, I don't know.

As Paavo noted early on, the difficulty in all this will be to figure out how to separate water from wastewater. And, I suspect, "individual" guilt from "collective" guilt -- which is the real failure of the RWQCB's use of CDO's on The Los Osos 45, for example.

Inlet sez:"Another argument about the PZ is an interesting one. If the PZ is the region which has been determined by the RWQCB (whether right or wrong) to be polluting, why should those outside the PZ pay anything to clean up the aquifer that has been polluted by those in the PZ?"

There's the interesting rub. If I live in the PZ and any number of onsite tests show that absolutely nothing coming out of my septic tank is polluting the waters of the state of California, and my friend lives outside the PZ and any number of onsite tests show that his house is situated where it actually IS polluting the waters of the state of California, who's "guilty" of breaking the law here? And, if I have to hook up to a sewer or face gazillions in fines, despite the fact that I'm not breaking the law, and he doesn't, and my paying to hook up to a sewer also benefits cleaning up his water, who's getting a "benefit" here?

Once again, are we back to the difference between collective and individual "guilt" and collective and individual "benefits."

Sewertoons said...

How about the cost of testing each and every home? Does this sound reasonable?

Suppose out of the PZ, 45% of the homes are high enough from groundwater. Can an expert tell me that eventually, what I am putting in the ground will NEVER reach critical mass and start polluting? Shampoo and drug residue will NEVER reach the aquifer? Suppose houses that pollute hopscotch due to the peculiarity of placement of clay lenses. Should only the houses found polluting be forced to pay for the entire project?

Granted - the PZ may not be PERFECT. What is going to constitute PERFECT? You could nit-pick this thing to death - and guess what! No sewer!! And we'll all be forced to buy state water because our water has become undrinkable - without horrendously expensive clean-up.

It really comes down to up to 8 houses per acre on septic. Too many. Maybe Ann can give us the number of houses outside the zone that are on less than an acre and we can nit-pick over that for a while. (Forget Cabrillo - that is another issue for another time.)

Shark Inlet said...


I suspect the frequency and cost of the on-site tests necessary to confirm non-pollution the way that, say, Monarch Grove or CMC or Pismo have to do would be at least as expensive as the sewer.

For any onsite system inside the PZ, including septic tanks, presumably the RWQCB meant it when they said regular monitoring of the efficacy of the system would be necessary.

Again, you are probably right that an onsite system, once approved, should be acceptable to the RWQCB. The conditions of approval, however, are where the real costs will be found.

The sewer will be cheaper.

Essentially those with septics inside the PZ are facing a different standard than those with septics outside the PZ. The cost of legally running an onsite system is considerably higher in the PZ makes the sewer a real benefit to those inside the PZ.

Sewertoons said...

I re-read Morgan's letter again last night. While a good letter, it seems to me he did not do his homework before writing it, (i.e. - there will be a vote for the vacant lot owners which has been publicized; the full amount of the assessment will not be used if a substantially cheaper method can be found; that septics will work on one acre lots) or simply took the word of those asking him to write it as to the facts. I hope he looks at the results of the vote as an indicator for lack of support for his case.

I was a little offended by the assertion that "The voters of Los Osos cannot reasonably discern the nature and extent of what they are voting on." Hogwash.

Shark Inlet said...

If voters in Los Osos cannot reasonably discern the nature and extent of this 218 vote, presumably there is no way in hell that they could discern the nature and extent of the Measure B vote ... yet I didn't see Morgan or any of the signatories complaining then.

On another matter ... Ann, does it bother you that Ron is so willing to hold the Solutions Group accountable for their campaign promises yet is so unwilling to do the same for the recall candidates?

Does it bother you that he is so good about using public records in his desire to show that the pre-recall board made mistakes yet didn't bother getting the public record which shows the SWRCB telling Julie and Lisa that the SRF is site specific? Certainly if Julie and Lisa really think that they could keep the SRF cash to finance their attempt to move the sewer, that document shows they should have known better.

Ann, does it bother you that Ron is interested in pointing the finger only one direction and refuses to use the same standards for both the pre-recall and post-recall LOCSD boards?

Sewertoons said...

Speaking of SRF money - why was it not returned but spent by Lisa, Julie, Chuck, Steve and John? At the very least, they knew the money was going bye-bye with:
RESOLUTION NO. 2005 – 0088
dated December 9, 2005 -
where it:
"Directs that all former Project funds be returned to the SRF loan program for funding other ready projects in accordance with the SRF Policy and applicable resolutions."

I've seen each of them read and converse in English as plain as this on numerous occasions. This resolution is written so plainly that it could be read and understood by a child in Middle school.

Shark Inlet said...


You forget one thing. By that time, the LOCSD had sued the SWRCB for withholding SRF funds. The LOCSD position is that they were within their rights to (temporarily) stop the project and move the site even though a face-value reading of the SRF contract makes it clear that such an understanding is wrong.

Sewertoons said...

Thanks shark!

Didn't they need to get permission from the State (as represented by the Water Board) to stop the project for whatever reason? Why didn't BWS point that out?

I have heard that they COULD have moved the project - it had been done before with SRF loans - but just not in the manner that they tried. (It could be construed by the suspicious that the goal really then to stop a sewer, rather than move it.)

Shark Inlet said...

Toons ...

The SRF contract says that the LOCSD can temporarily stop construction while waiting state input if they find native american artifacts or something like that but that they need prior approval from the SWRCB to stop or change the project in any other way.

Why didn't BWS point this out? Well, at the time the LOCSD stopped the project ... um ... some 15 minutes after the recall vote was certified ... they didn't have BWS on board as council. Presumably a wise board would have asked the advice of Bruce Buel (GM) and Jon Seitz (attorney) before taking such an action, but the post-recall board didn't see the need to ask the advice of professionals who had the background and expertise. They thought it was enough to be elected by a landslide. (Oh yeah ... they also thought that a 51% to 49% victory was a landslide. This isn't correct either, but I'm not going to mince words.)

I don't know about your second contention, that they could have moved the sewer rather than stop it ... but I suspect that if they had a clearly thought out plan that made financial sense with TriW being the fall back position should other things go horribly wrong, the SWRCB would have agreed to a "move the sewer" plan. We can see as much in the results of the "negotiations". The SWRCB staff agreed with the LOCSD that they would extend the SRF loan to cover a project in a different location *if* the LOCSD would just get district approval via a 218 vote for such a project. Unfortunately, the LOCSD chose not to take that offer and things went downhill even faster.

Sewertoons said...

Thanks for the history lesson shark - I am sure that more than just me is appreciating it.

To flesh out the assertion that they could have moved it out of town, I was told the time to do this was when the pipe was already in the ground but it had not yet been laid toward Tri-W. Then the Board could have approached the State with Measure B and a sheepish story of needing to move it out of town. I was told this type of thing had been done before. As I recall, the CSD being OK with giving in to the dreaded gravity pipes at the October Compromise, (I recall much angst from Julie about this), the pipe being gravity doesn't seem to be a sticking point for them. Poor advice or no advice at this point. (I think their fear of a 218 was justified - it never would have passed.) I guess Tri-W was just too much their rallying point to gamble that the fallback would not be needed.

Other than get themselves elected, it sounds like very little forethought went into their taking control.

If 51% to 49% was a landslide - it is interesting that 70% of voter turnout with an 80% YES vote is not -- from those spouting "landslide" last time.