Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Hey, Where’s My Waiver?

The following email was sent by Los Osos resident Steve Paige to a local list-serve. It concerns, among other things, the CDOs from the RWQCB. Steve had proposed installing a urine separation system, submitted all the proper paperwork, and apparently was completely ignored. Here’s what he emailed me on 5/29: “I gave a formal proposal to the water board to exempt me and others who wanted to follow in my footsteps, from the CDO process via a Porter Cologne Waiver, Sec. 13269. They completely ignored my request even though I have a “facility” as they put it. Usually, only cities or service districts ask for a waiver, but by assuming I am a facility, I have the same rights as the big dogs. . . . By them ignoring my request they have discriminated against me under environmental justice law because of financial discrimination due to my “small dog’ financial status.”

To put this another way: The RWQCB issued a “discharge” permit to the CSD for the TRI-W wastewater plant. The discharge permit set the nitrate levels and allowed discharge into the PZ. So far as I know, Mr. Paige’s proposal also met the nitrate levels, just like the CSD’s project, yet apparently his request for a permit and waiver has been ignored. Interestingly, if you follow the language of the CDOs as they morphed from the earliest to the most recent, all language pertaining to nitrates, pollution, nuisance, groundwater, and waters of the state of California disappeared. The final CDO language simply uses the word (undefined) “discharge” and states that after 2011 ZERO DISCHARGE in the PZ will allowed.

Which leaves the weird question: Why the disconnect between pollution and nitrates and ground water and nuisance and waters of the state of California? And why would the RWQCB issue a “discharge permit” to the TRI-W facility, knowing it was going to “discharge” into the ZERO DISCHARGE PZ after the 2011 deadline? If the County's new wastewater system requires discharging treated wastewater into the PZ, how can the RWQCB allow that since they’ve morphed their language now and it’s no longer anything about X % of anything, it’s now ZERO discharge? And if they do give a waiver and permit to the County’s new "facility," why can’t Mr. Paige get one as well for his "facility?" This becomes even more puzzling since the RWQCB legally cannot tell anyone what kind of "facility" to build, they can only set discharge standards -- meet them as you please. So, what gives? Well, perhaps the Writ will give an answer?

Mr. Paige’s email, printed with permission:

I want to thank Gail and Shanna and friends for all their hard work at protecting the property rights of Los Osos homeowner's. Your thorough job of holding the State to it's stipulated obligations has many positive ramifications for homeowner's, but at the top of the list is preservation of property values. This suit improves property values in the prohibition zone...period. EVERYONE should be grateful. I definitely am. I read both documents. My check is in the mail for a donation to your cause.

I have been denied my own Environmental Justice civil rights by this board in my request for a PC 13269 Waiver for sequestering nitrogen by waste separation. It was approved by the Water Board and permitted by the County. My home was built after 83-13 and 83-12 and was allowed to be constructed with the full knowledge that there was nitrogen contamination in the water basin. The rationale was that then the State would have enough of a population base to justify the sewer project as outlined in Harvey Packard's recent letter.

But the true ramifications of that action are:

25% more nitrogen pollution in the prohibition zone.

400 acre feet a year excess overdraft of the water basin caused by the additional 1100 homes built harming water quality and availability to pre-existing homeowners.

Creating more pollution in defiance of the basin plan and orders so they could then have enough residents to clean it up by a method dictated by the State (not allowed in the Porter Cologne Act).

Allowing the home that I bought, that was built in 1987, thus creating the "attractive nuisance" of an illicit polluting home causing me "personal injury" which they did with foreknowledge and intent. I was duped. My home may be worthless in 2011.

I bought my home without foreknowledge of the Water Boards relationship to its creation. 1100 homes are illicit like mine. Had my home never been built, I would never have purchased it. My previous offer was on a house in San Luis Obispo. The State should be forced to purchase the 1100 homes and remove them, compensate homeowners, relocate homeowners to a legitimate similar coastal home, pay punitive damages, pay for the 25% correction in nitrogen pollution, and pay damages to pre-existing homeowners for salt water intrusion aggravation. My guess that it would cost the State approx. 2 Billion dollars in class action expenses to set things straight and they should. It's all about property rights.

It is not the Water board's business to create pollution so it can control the method of cleaning it up. I see that actitivity as having no legal basis that can be explained away in water law. All the smoke and mirrors of CDO's and CAO's and the State loan cancellation represent a State Board in confusion, illegitimacy, and legal disarray. The ultimate liability for all the problems here rests with them and the historic pollution burden of the 1100 illicit homes. It would be smart for the WB to cooperate with everybody and stand down before the 1100 'elephants' fall out of the legal closet for 1100 "personal injuries".

Steve Paige

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Sewer Tales Redux, Again, Some More, Sigh

Dagnabit! Why doesn’t anyone bother to listen to Mother Calhoun? I just finished posting a Can(n)on ‘splaining how the Tribune keeps getting the story wrong and here we are, Saturday morning, May 26, with a story on the CDO recipients (and CSD) who have filed a Writ in Superior Court. On the jump page is the sidebar, MOREONLINE, with this Question: Should the residents have waited to file the lawsuit until the water board decided what it was going to do? while suggesting readers go on line to post comments on that amazing question.

What’s so amazing about the question? Clearly, whoever wrote it (and the editor who left it in,) had NO CLUE what this story and this Writ was about. Instead, a reader scanning that side-bar would just conclude, Oh, For God’s Sake, Look at those lawsuit-happy Los Osos Loonies, couldn’t wait until the Water Board had a chance to decide something. Nope, didn’t give those poor Board members a chance. Just rushed into court, willy nilly.

And, I dare say, anyone reading the whole story would come away not really understanding exactly what was actually going on here or that, perhaps, a more accurate headline should have read: Reluctant Targeted Home Owners FORCED to Go To Court Because RWQB Refused to Stop the Clock.

In short, what the writ is all about is the sad fact that this whole CDO mess is a complex, time-sensitive, administrative pas de deux, with iron-hard time-lines that must be met. If they’re not, if you haven’t jumped through all the preliminary hoops in the proper way, if you miss those deadlines, you’re – how can I put this delicately? – Totally Screwed. That is, you can lose your rights of appeal, lose the record, loose any chance of getting to a “real court.” Screwed.

That’s why the writ was served. At the last meeting, the RWQCB did NOT rescind the previously given CDOs. The clock was ticking on them. Plus, they added a few more at the last hearing. The clock was ticking on them, too. The Board did NOT do anything that would in any way stop that clock, stop the required hoops in the administrative procedures allowed to the CDO recipients. In short, it was a case of You MUST Use It Before Such And Such A Date Or Loose It.

Yet, there’s that sidebar question:

“Should the residents have waited to file the lawsuit until the water board decided what it was going to do?”

As Mother Calhoun has already pointed out: Wrong questions, wrong answers. That’s how you get The Story Wrong.

Speaking of Which.

In the Same May 26 Tribune, former Supervisor Shirley Bianchi had a rather curious “Viewpoint.” In discussing her participation in a Cal Poly class on collaborative planning, Ms. Bianchi mentioned some of her “insight into what can make or break a group effort, “ by citing some of her experiences with the Los Osos sewer project, including the notation that “All [the various agencies involved] wanted success for Los Osos and were willing to cooperate within the confines of the cultures of their various agencies. After the Los Osos recall, I also offered to assist the newly elected board but never received a response.”

Ms. Binachi then went on to state that a failure of a group effort can come about if there are members of the group “who come to the table with ‘secret’ information. By this I mean someone has told them something in ‘confidence’ that they believe they are not at liberty to divulge, but which prevents them from collaborating in good faith. This happens more often than one would like to believe, and I believe, happened in Los Osos with the second set of directors.” [does she mean post-recall? The CSD has had several “sets” of directors before the “recall” set.]

Ms. Bianchi doesn’t spell out what “secret” information she’s referring to, but what popped to mind when I read that “Viewpoint” was an October 20, 2005 letter, written on official BOS letterhead, signed by Shirley Bianchi, Supervisor District Two, addressed to Arthur G. Baggett, Jr. Chair, California State Water Resources Control Board, in Sacramento.

She opens with, “My County Supervisorial District includes Los Osos, a community and its problems I believe that you are aware of? (I do hope any irony is coming through in my words.)”

Then goes on to state that she has enclosed information concerning the so-called “Andre” site (then being discussed as a possible Out Of Town sewer plant site), as well as other material. She closes with this: “This is a particularly difficult situation since the current District Board either will not or cannot understand any government process. At one point I was asked [she doesn’t say by whom] if the political will exists here in San Luis Obispo County to assume the management of the project [the Tri-W project that was on hold at that point] if, for whatever reasons, the District were unable to continue with it. Let me assure you that you have my full support, and I believe that the other Supervisors would give great weight to my position.”

Interestingly, the cc list at the bottom of the letter includes Senator Maldonado; Assemblyman Blakeslee; Celeste Cantu, SWRCB; Jeffery Young, Chair, RWQCB; and Roger Briggs, CEO of the RWQCB.

There was no c.c. listed that would indicate that a copy of this letter had also been sent to the post-recall CSD, the one Ms. Bianchi said she “offered to assist.”

This is astonishing since it was the only legally elected body that—one would have thought – should have received a copy, since the letter was dealing directly with them and their jurisdictional issues. (Hmmm, October 20, was the recall election even certified at that point? Were the Negotiations that Weren’t Really Negotiations Heh-heh underway? What issues was the newly elected Board dealing with during that “stand down” period?

If Ms. Bianchi had offered to “assist the newly elected board,” as she notes in the “Viewpoint,” surely she would have sent them a copy of this letter, wouldn’t she? Especially since Ms. Bianchi was noting that this newly elected group, the same one that she had “offered to assist,” “cannot understand any government processes.” Perhaps that explains why she was suggesting to Mr. Baggett that she was more than willing to work behind the scenes – and get the other Supervisors to go along with that --since they “would give great weight to [her] position” to, for example, take over the Tri-W project?

So, why did that letter pop into my head while reading Ms. Bianchi’s “Viewpoint?” Two things made The Story go wrong: 1) Ms. Bianchi stated that she had “offered to assist the newly elected board,” while actually sending a private letter to Mr. Baggett (no c.c. to the CSD to let them in on the little chat) that concluded that she didn’t think that board could understand much of anything (i.e. wink, nudge, they’re wackadoodles and incapable of governing, so let’s you and me think about taking over that project, heh-heh). And (2) then noting a few paragraphs later, her apt and correct observation that when certain people come to the collaboration table with “secret” information, that secret information undermines any “collaborating in good faith.”


Couldn’t agree more. Secrets official letters and wackadoodles and behind-the-scenes agendas have sunk many a collaborative ship, that’s for sure. Which is why I am hoping that in the present Process the County is now undertaking, The Process will stay transparent and all those secret thumbs will stay off the scales.
The Writ is Wrought

Now, it remains to be seen if a real judge will review the RWQCB’s Torquemada’s Mad Hatter’s Tea Party CDO Hearings and decide if the i’s were dotted properly and the t’s crossed correctly.

Gail McPherson, PZLDF
Deadline Looms for Los Osos Property Owners Seeking Enforcement Relief .

Sullivan & Associates has filed an appeal in Superior Court seeking enforcement relief. Those listed in lawsuit include 20 individuals, as well as the Prohibition Zone Legal Defense Fund, and the Los Osos Community Services District.
The deadline for filing the writ in superior court is May 25, or parties will lose their opportunity to challenge the conditions and consequences in the enforcement orders against their homes.

Battle weary after 1 1/2 years of water board's unprecedented enforcement effort against individual properties, "the last thing homeowners want is to go through more expense, time and hearings." says Gail McPherson, spokesperson for the Prohibition Zone Legal Defense Fund."But they have no choice if they want to preserve their civil rights, property rights, and right to an un-coerced vote."

The Regional Water Board prosecution staff has expended hundreds of thousands in public monies against the first handful of residents, and planned to apply an expedited process to 4400 more properties. The Notice of violation was sent in April to all businesses and properties even though they have legally permitted and properly functioning septic tanks.

In June 2006 the County began steps to assume control of the community sewer project under special legislation AB 2701.

The County letter sent a letter ahead of the May 10 water board meeting asking the prosecution staff to rethink their approach, concerned the enforcement was counter-productive and a distraction to delivering a project, and a successful assessment vote.

The Regional Board members expressing similar concerns at their May 10th 2007 meeting. Board members Daniel Press, Russell Shellcross and John Hayashi questioned the wisdom of orders requiring the passage of the 218 vote, the excessive mandatory fines, and water code statutes that seemed meant for industry ill applied to individuals. These Water Board members noted Los Osos residents demonstrated a growing community reconciliation under the county led efforts for a sewer project.

While water board members gave the prosecution staff many indications that enforcement should be suspended and the orders in place rescinded, the board issued two more Cease and Desist Orders the same day. By the end of the meeting the water board said they wanted to consider ending the enforcement possibly as early as July, after hearing from the County.

The turn toward better relationships was apparent from board feedback, but homes and businesses still face significant threats from enforcement.

In a mixed message Chairman Young and the prosecution Attorney Reed Sato informed the other board members and community that retroactive fines, from as far back as 1988, could be levied in addition to those in the order.

Besides requiring a successful 218 vote, the orders could lead to $5000 a day in fines if the sewer is not built by 2011. "The only options left to property owners could be to build their own onsite sewer, pay fines, or vacate their homes." according to Gail McPherson, spokesperson for the Prohibition Zone Legal Defense Fund.

The water board prosecution staff confirmed they can mail out orders without the need for hearings as well.

The appeal requests that all enforcement Cease and Desist Orders, as well as settlements that are Clean up and Abatement orders are vacated, and that the water board discontinue individual enforcement actions against properties in Los Osos.

“We are actively encouraging cooperation with the water board. However, because no action was taken to vacate the orders that are in place, or halt enforcement we must move forward before the filing deadline expires." Said McPherson. "In so doing, we hope to protect individuals’ property as well as the greater community from enforcement, and also guard the County process and the 218 vote for the project.”

For More information on the Petition for review, the Writ of Mandate, and other enforcement information is available on line at

Citizens for Clean Water –PZLDF holds weekly meetings open to the public on Monday’s at 7:00 PM at Washington Mutual Bank in Los Osos.

For more information please contact or call 528-8408

Additional Contacts:

Sullivan & Associates
Shaunna Sullivan

County Contacts:
Supervisor Bruce Gibson

Water Board Contacts :

Reed Sato
Director, Office of Enforcement
State Water Resources Control Board
916-591-4932 (cellphone)
916-341-5896 (fax)

Harvey Packard
CCRWQCB Prosecution Team

Jeffery Young
CCRWQCB Board Chairman
(via Michael Thomas)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Calhoun’s Cannons ,The Bay News, Morro Bay, CA for May 23, 2007

Sewer Tales

It is one of the phenomena of human nature that once an opinion gets a popular start and becomes rooted in the mind of the public at large, it is next to impossible to uproot it or kill it off. It may be proved over and over again that the opinion is not entirely true or even that it is entirely false, and the public at large will listen to the proof and go right on believing in the opinion as before.
James Weldon Johnson, 1919

Mr. Johnson’s comment appeared in a recent Letter To The Editor shortly after the May 10th Regional Water Quality Control Board’s meeting at which the Board suddenly decided --- finally – to “stand down,” stop cruelly, pointlessly and wastefully prosecuting The Los Osos 45, and hold off on issuing Clean Up And Abatement Orders to the rest of the community, for now.

The tipping point of a year-long horror show came suddenly when Board member Dr. Press electrified the whole room by simply asking a few questions and making a few comments and observations that should have been asked over a year ago. His comments also gave a kind of permission to the other Board members to weigh in and suddenly a gust of sanity and real-world practicality – totally absent in the previously Blind Mad Hatter Tea Party Proceedings -- blew through the room and instantly, The Story changed completely.

And what was The Story? It consisted of two-words that had been carefully framed, endlessly repeated and used to define this community for years: Los Osos was “Anti-Sewer.” That was The Story that allowed outsiders and many within the community to conjure up a town full of ignorant, cheap, willful, insane, Luddite, lawbreaking Moonbeam McSwines gleefully rolling around in millions of gallons of raw sewage that ran down their streets to pollute the Bay, happily drinking their own urine, poisoning the environment, threatening the health and safety of the good people of San Luis Obispo and “fighting the Water Board” (another false story) every step of the way.

As a Story, it was perfect because it was easy to understand, it compressed a terribly complicated issue into a few quick buzz-words, it avoided the annoying but vital complexity that results in heeding the famous semanticist S.I. Hayakawa’s dictum that for factual clarity we need always remember that Object/Situation/Person A is not Object/Situation/Person B is not Object/Situation/Person C, it blinded everyone, most particularly the regulators who should have been better informed, to the difficult and multifaceted reality on the ground, it was false, and its falsity led to totally inappropriate, wasteful and disastrous actions that the community will pay dearly for.

Which is what happens when you get The Story wrong.

Worse yet, The Story became so powerful by its repetition that it became impossible for reality to break through. It did that because nobody bothered to define the terms or even check to see if they were accurate or even true. For example, the two words used to repeatedly define this community are the words “Anti-Sewer.” Those words appeared again and again in the Tribune’s pages, in on-air news reports, in endless Letters To The Editor, but what exactly do they mean?

The small handful of citizens who believe that the community doesn’t need any kind of centralized or cluster wastewater treatment systems and can continue using their traditional on-site septic systems were correctly labeled “Anti-Sewer.” But so were citizens who simply opposed putting a sewer plant in the middle of their town. They were also labeled Anti-Sewer, even though what they actually wanted was to MOVE the sewer plant, not eliminate it. People who thought a STEP system with a different water-reuse component would be better than the proposed Tri-W gravity system were called Anti-Sewer. People who voted for Measure B were called Anti-Sewer when what they were was I-Want-A-Vote-On-The-Type-And-Placement-Of-A-Sewer. Even people who supported Tri W but simply wanted a homeowner’s 218 vote on the increased costs were labeled Anti-Sewer. Forty-five residents were targeted as Anti-Sewer and had a year of their lives ruined by a Water Board that was told The Story, a board that never bothered to verify the truth or falsity of that Story, and so viewed these citizens as worthy of punishment in order to set them as an example to the rest of this obstructionist, scofflaw, “Anti-Sewer” town.

After all, what else can you do when you falsely believe you’re dealing with a community full of batty Moonbeam McSwines?

Mr. Johnson knew well the power of the narrative, understood that Perception IS Reality, understood that he who controls the narrative defines the issues and controls the outcome. Against a powerful false narrative, mere facts cannot prevail. Ask the wrong questions and you’ll get the wrong answers. Frame the wrong problem and you’ll get the wrong solution. Get The Story wrong, and you will pay a fearsome price. Eighty-eight years later, Los Osos is finally just finding that out.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

So The Phone Rings About 12:50 a.m. Last Night

And I wake up and think, Now who in the world would be calling at this wildly inappropriate hour? The answering machine holds the answer and a message. It's Citizen Al Barrow who informs me, among other things in his rather muddled ramble, that I "should join the idiots in the looney bin because you are one of them," [Done! I already live in Los Osos] and that I am "such a deep piece of trash." [What? You don't like my socks?]

His message also imforms me that he took Thursday night's CSD meeting to Censure him "very seriously."

A hint, Mr. Barrow. Had you taken even a small percentage of the comments given at that meeting seriously, indeed, had you paid attention to the very point of the meeting itself, had you listened to people who claimed to be your friend who were nonetheless appalled at your behavior, even offered to help you find better ways to cope, you would not be calling people in the middle of the night to inform them that they're deep pieces of trash. You'd at least wait until after 8 a.m. and they'd had a chance to have their first cup of coffee before you start making your phone calls.

Sadly, this early morning attempt at Mau-Mauing also tells me that Mr. Barrow still hasn't had his Dr. Phil moment, that he has not taken any of this to heart, has learned nothing, has not owned up to what he's done and continues to do, has not resolved to stop this kind of crap, and so I find it impossible to believe that he took any of this seriously since he is back to calling people names on their answering machines in the middle of the night.

Well, Darn. And all this after I and others at the meeting urged the Board to not Censure Mr Barrow but instead find other ways of dealing with his often appalling behavior. Now we've all got to wonder whether the citizens were wrong and the Board was right all along.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Oh, For God’s Sake, Al, Why Didn’t You Listen To Mother Calhoun’s Sage Advice For The Clueless Over A Year Ago?

If Al Barrow had listened to Mother Calhoun after the little incident at Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee’s office, wherein he terrified Blakeslee’s staff, the sheriff had to be called out, the whole thing hit the front pages and made Al and, by association, all of Sewerville look like certifiable nut jobs , then the CSD wouldn’t have wasted last night on an agenda item that can best be described as: “Oh, Sweet Jesus, What Are We Going To Do With All Barrow Short Of Putting His Miserable Mau-Mauing Behind In Jail?” while Citizen Al sat in the front row of the meeting laughing, waving his hands in agreement with some speakers, and goofing around like a kid I remember in my 4th grade class.

Months before, it seems Citizen Al had gone to the CSD office, pitched his typical little Mau-Mauing fit and scared heck out of some of the staff there, was sent a letter by the CSD’s lawyer, for God’s sake, cautioning him to knock that crap off or further legal sanctions would be considered. That letter obviously was a complete waste of time and paper since at last Tuesday night’s TAC meeting, Citizen Al did his little Mau-Mau routine, swearing at the Chairman, who calmly looked at him like my teacher used to look at that kid in my 4th grade class.

In a move that could only be described as Reason # 745 of “Why I Love This Looney Town,” a variety of citizens, many of whom have been Mau-Maued by Citizen Al in the past and find his behavior repellent, nonetheless rose to oppose the proposed CSD Censure on several points, and suggest alternatives: That office policy be reviewed and changed, if necessary, to ensure that no violence (including abusive Mau-Mauing) will be tolerated by ANYONE, including Citizen Al; that if he’s disruptive and unwelcome on the Wastewater Committee, since The Board Giveth Committee Appointments, then The Board Can Taketh Away Committee Appointments, and can do so without a formal public censure motion.

Most of the speakers were, at heart, concerned that even a whiff of a Censure, even for people who use Mau-Mauing as a political tactic, might violate everyone’s rights of free speech and set a bad precedent for future CSD Boards. It was also suggested that the various CSD’s Rules of Decorum during public meetings be observed more closely for all members, including some of the fourth-graders who often sit in the back of the room making faces and grunty Mau-Mau-noises when someone says something they don’t like during public comment.

The motion to Censure was tabled with instructions that staff revise it to narrow the focus on workplace safety procedures and the Board President promised to be heavier on the gavel in future.

Which was all Déjà vu again. The previous Board had Mr. Policeman Guy on the payroll, the board previous to that invented all sorts of detailed rules of decorum that were gleefully ridiculed, and at one time, the previous CSD also had a sheriff standing at meetings, an option which is presently not in the budget. Seems we Ososians have been a snarkey lot from day one. Like I said . . . fourth grade.

And it was all a complete waste of time, so far as I could see, after Citizen Al took the microphone and spent an inordinate amount of time excusing himself by blaming everyone and everything possible, including a claim that he had been diagnosed with having “that kind of personality,” (“having that kind of personality” is now a disorder that appears in medical texts?), and then said in the direction of Staff, “ . . you all have my sympathy. . .”

You all have my sympathy???

Errrrnnkkk! Sorry, Citizen Al. Not good enough.

IF you wish to restore whatever shreds of credibility you have left in and out of this community, it’s time for a Doctor Phil moment: You can’t fix what you won’t acknowledge. You need to own your behavior and its role in all your troubles, so please listen and repeat after Mother Calhoun:

I accept full responsibility for my appalling behavior. I have repeatedly, deliberately, consistently, constantly engaged in Mau-Mauing people whenever it pleases me to do so. I believe Mau-Mauing is often an effective tactic in order to bully people and get my way. I have done this for years because I believe I have a right to behave this way. I have excused my behavior by claiming I have some sort of diagnosed condition that is totally out of my control. This is simply not true because I have demonstrated repeatedly over the years that I am and can be in perfect control of myself when I choose to be. I understand now I was and have been completely in the wrong in this matter.
There was and is NO JUSTIFICATION OR EXCUSE for my behavior.
I’m sorry.
I WILL NOT behave that way again.
End of Sentence.

Other than this wasteful dumbshow, there was one piece of news out of closed session: The CSD has agreed to retain the services of attorney Shauna Sullivan as regards to the CDOs & ACLs. Even though the RWQCB is “standing down” – for now – it’s critical to continue with the legal process so as to not lose standing later in a “real court” and to protect the record.

So the evening wasn’t a complete bust.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

1. Some Thoughts After Attending Tuesday Night's TAC Meeting Wherein They Conducted Their Meeting As Per The Agenda, And Got Yelled At Because Some Folks Didn't Understand That They Had To Put Down The Specific Agenda Item # And So Were Put Into Public Comment Pile #2 When They Thought They Were In Public Comment Pile #1 So One Of Them Started Swearing And Yelling And Stomped Out Only To Return To Speak Without Incident When The TAC Got To Public Comment Pile #2 And When The Meeting Looked Like It Was Going To Run OverTime, The TAC members Were Polled And Asked If They Were Willing To Stay Late To Hear The Remaining Speakers And They Voted To Do Just That.

Sigh. A wag once noted that real life is just one long High School. When it comes to certain people attending CSD meetings (and other various public meetings) I would conclude that High School is too advanced. Try kindergarten.

2. CSD AGENDA ITEM #B for the Los Osos CSD Meeting on Thursday, May 17th, 2007 at the South Bay Community Center, meeting to start at 7:30 P.M.

[Action item] B. Consideration of Public Censure -- The Board Will Hear Testimony and Consider Adopting Resolution 2007 - 10, A Resolution of the Los Osos Community Services District. Publicly Censuring Resident Al Barrow for His Disruptive Behavior at Public Meetings and on Public Property.

ACTION REQUESTED: Adopt Resolution.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Look, Mommy, It's The Market Based Yellow Brick Road.

Over at, Ron Crawford has been busy connecting the dots. For those of you genuinely puzzled by the ongoing question that surrounds The Hideous Sewer Wars -- "What The Hell Happened To Los Osos? --I reccommend scanning his double-posting for a little trip down memory lane. Hip bone connected to the thigh bone.

Mommy, Mommy, the yellow bricks are such a pretty color, do let's go skipping down that tempting, wonderful path. Oh, look, deadly poppies. Can I have some?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Yooooo Hoooo, Hellooooooo ....

The county's 121-page report on the fine screening of the wastewater project alternatives is available at the county's web site at: Below is a press release on a town hall meeting Tuesday night for a preliminary presention of the work to date. The RWQCB's stand down has given the community breathing room so they can PAY ATTENTION to the County's work. Input early in the game is critical. So please keep involved and stay tuned.

Project website:
Project email address:
TUESDAY, MAY 15, 2007
7:00 – 9:30 PM
7:00 pm – 9:30 pm
1. Chairperson Comments
2. Accept draft of TAC criteria for pro/con analysis
(including public comment)
3. Presentation by County Project Team of the Draft Fine Screening Analysis
(including public comment)
9:30 pm
4. Adjourn
San Luis Obispo County Department of Public Works

Friday, May 11, 2007

Hold Onto Your Hair, Maudie, I Think I Feel a Gust of Sanity Blowing Through the Room!

It was electrifying. There we all were at the RWQCB’s May 10 Torquemada’s Mad Hatter Tea Party and Auto de Fe for the carry over of trying and burning the remaining Los Osos 45 and to hear the Prosecution Team’s New! Improved! Mad Scheme to slap CAOs on the rest of the 4,500 residents of my Beloved Bangladesh By The Bay.

The meeting started out as the usual Mantra of Mindless Insanity, plod-plod-plod, when out of the blue, Board Member Dr. Press started quietly asking questions and making comments and with a whoosh, a gust of clarity and real-world, real-life sanity swept through the room, transforming it utterly.

And just what was Dr. Press’ astounding breakthrough? He expressed discomfort with the proposed daily fines of up to $5,000 a day, was afraid that those threats were so scary that they served only as deal-breakers on any proposed project, were deal-breakers on any hope of “settlements,” or on anything the Board was trying to impose on the community via the CDOs or now the CAOs.

He further thought the $5,000 per day fines were counterproductive, were destructive, were likely screwing up the Board’s whole efforts with CDOs, and so it might be a wiser tactic to back off the scary threats and fines and put a saner, real-life cap on such amounts, something that would encourage compliance but not threaten sudden death and the loss of one’s home, a very real, brain-stopper tactic that had the community in an understandable swivet.

Then, as if Dr. Press had opened a door, Board Member Mr. Shallcross added his agreement that perhaps there was other ways to skin this cat, that maybe the looney-tune prosecution efforts were all turning out badly, creating an awful distracting mess and maybe it was time to take a deep breath, step back, get a grip and take another tack.

Like a fever that finally breaks, Dr. Press and Mr. Shallcross’ comments dropped the oppressive blind heat of the room and suddenly the illumination shot up into enough clarity that everyone was finally able to see that there were other paths. Indeed they had been there all along but had been hidden by the mindless furies unleashed by EO Roger Briggs, unstopped by a Board washing their hands of any responsibility for the year-long train wreck, and the counter furies rising out of the desperate community in response.

It was clearly now a new game for everyone on the Board, except for poor Chairman Young who kept fussing with repeatedly elaborate “explanations” to defend his contention that a $5,000 a day fine and legal notice that as of 2011 there was an order of ZERO DISCHARGE, so a person could not use their shower, sink, toilet, dishwasher, DID NOT mean the law would force you to “abandon your home.” Nope, no connection whatsoever that within 6 months you’d owe more in fines than your entire home was worth, but one had nothing to do with the other -- a de-linking of cause and effect that was ingenuous to the point of utter, snort-through-the-nose fatuity. It was a pure Chairman Young moment that soon became embarrassingly irrelevant in the newly changed zeitgeist.

So, besides Dr. Press’ moment of clarity, what else was behind this transformation? Well, the Board of Supervisor’s unanimous letter to the RWQCB asking that they “stand down” and let AB2701 and the county project work in peace certainly helped. While Supervisor Gibson and project head Paavo Ogren were in Sacramento on other pressing matters and so unavailable for questions, Karen Venditti of the TAC was there to speak and her comments made a huge difference by letting the Board know in some specific detail just how far along the project was moving, how many of the benchmarks had been completed and which of the critical ones were due shortly.

The Board also heard from many members of the community who expressed a real fear that the threats coming from the Prosecution team Notice of Violation letter and proposed CAOs were being seen as “electioneering,” and as such could present a real problem down the line if anyone challenged the 218 vote. A psychologist spoke to remind the board that fear disengages the functioning of the intellect and so what was needed here wasn’t more frightened lizard brains, but cooler smarts.

And another speaker pointed out a critical point: In issuing blanket CAOs now, the community would only have 30 days to file an appeal [failure to do so could put your rights in jeopardy] at the same time the TAC would be presenting its fine screening report (which also would require public comment for 30 days), so the question was asked: Which is more important to getting a project done? That the community focus on the project proposals? Or spend time dealing with CAOs in order to protect their property?

And it probably helped that a representative from the County Air Pollution Control District showed up to remind the Board – again – that the new proposed CAOs would involve a Modified Mad Pumping Scheme thereby triggering diesel truck air pollution requiring A Plan and all kinds of annoying, expensive, time-consuming details, none of which had been worked out when the topic showed up during the January ‘06 original Mad Pumping Scheme, thereby indicating to the Board that the Staff STILL hadn’t done their homework and these mass CAOs were – again – not a very good idea, certainly not at this critical juncture.

The upshot was that the Board closed public comment, began discussion and in doing so sent a “signal” to staff and to the community as a whole.

Here’s some of the “signals.”

The County was invited to give a presentation to the Board in July and again in Sept as to where the project was and how it was shaping up. The seven remaining CDOs would be held in abeyance, for now. The CDO holders of the Los Osos 45, still had their CDOs but some language would be worked out so as to let them know that they’d also be in some kind of limbo, for now. And the planned mass CAOs would be held . . . for now.

The Staff was to give the Board clear benchmarks as to what they feel is important, tangible evidence of progress by the County or community so the Board would have something more to go on than just vague promises that things are going along well.

If the Board felt that there were to be delays, if the initial 218 and/or another follow up vote fails, or material progress on a system stops, or any other some such, staff was instructed that doing a mass Auto de Fe mailing, where everyone would be treated equally instead of torturing a few for a year, would be the preferred method, that CAOs would be easier than CDOs, that a settlement agreement [this time properly labeled as actually being a voluntary CAO not some other misleading document, as the proposed draft had it] would have a few more substantial carrots than a regular CAO would, but that both would make it clear that the counterproductive $5,000 a day fines would be capped into something related to real-world cost and hence more likely to get compliance, not defiance.

[As a side note, this community needs to understand, that CAOs are far different than CDOs. With CAOs your judge, jury, and executioner may well be EO Roger Briggs, now he’s back in town, and the “appeal” you are allowed will be read by the State Water Board. It does not take a cynic or a psychic to predict with 100% accuracy what the “verdict” and “appeal” on any CAO will be.]

The Board’s fear is that they’ll be taken for chumps – again. That they need to honor the public trust to protect water, but also realize that the focus here needs to be on water, not lawsuits and vacating homes and doing real harm to real people who have no way of complying with anything, [since the Board and staff have closed off all avenues in an effort to direct a certain outcome, while ingenuously denying same.]

That . . . “water quality is the issue here, . . . clean water is the #1 deal,” that the Board “doesn’t want to let enforcement get in the way” of clean water, that what’s needed here is, as Dr. Press put it, a “virtuous cycle rather than a vicious cycle.”

A virtuous cycle rather than a vicious cycle. Tragically, that virtuous cycle should and could have been present and heeded a year ago . . . but wasn’t. That wasted year was and is sad proof of a system broken, a system and procedures that failed, to the detriment of whole community and, ironically, to the Board itself.

Yet, finally, here we are. And as the meeting was adjourned, suddenly soft strains were heard filling the room . . . Kumbaya, my lord . . . kumbaya. . . . . And Mr. Shallcross leaned back in his chair, chewing on his pen, looking for all the world like a Cheshire Cat.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Calhoun’s Cannons, The Bay News, Morro Bay, CA, for May 9, 2007

Killing Time

We do not see our hand in what happens, so we call certain events melancholy accidents.
Stanley Cavell

I was gong to write a column about the recent murderous rampage by a mentally ill Seung-hui Cho that left thirty-two dead kids on the campus of Virginia Tech, but there really isn’t anything to say. While gun killings nationwide go on at a happy clip, we do seem to have metronomic repeats of mass gun-downs on campuses and other public hunting grounds, so much so that the only thing I asked on hearing the news was the bemused question, “What, again?"

And then batten down the hatches for the silly hand-wringing that would follow, again, knowing full well that nothing will be done, again, because the basic fact is this: We love our guns more than we love our children.

In America, it is simply inconceivable that the mentally ill Mr. Cho would have to be required to justify owning a gun, perhaps prove he actually had need of a gun in the first place, pay for and subject himself to a thorough background check, a complete investigation that might take months and would cost him a pretty penny. And then submit to annual evaluation, range-qualification and gun-safety checks. That is an inconvenience and an affront that simply won’t be tolerated. Easy access to guns of any kind is of paramount importance in America, even for a mentally deranged person like Mr. Cho.

It’s also extremely important to Americans that they have easy access to guns with the highest firepower and rapidity of fire possible. For example, what game species requires a Glock 19 with the largest ammunition clips available? I suppose a rapid-fire hunt-down of scuttling cockroaches -- or terrified, scattering humans -- might require such killing speed. But it is absolutely vital in our society that a person like the mentally ill Mr. Cho, a man who had received a temporary detention order that declared he was an “imminent danger” to himself and others, be able to purchase as many rapid-fire weapons and the largest ammunition clips as possible, as easily as possible.

In America, we also have a fiercely guarded right to choose to be mentally ill, to decide to be deranged and wandering the streets, hungry, homeless, totally delusional, possibly imminently dangerous. It’s a right we take seriously and do everything in our power to maintain. Since Americans view mental illness as a lifestyle choice, there is no need for social safety nets or easily accessed universal medical care. If the mentally ill wish help, they can go on their own and try to find it. True, they may have to wait for years to even get on a waiting list, but that’s the way our society chooses to care for one another, and clearly, that’s the way we like it.

On the whole, the only interesting thing about this particular killing time was how swiftly and strictly observed was the Gentleman’s Agreement by all parties NOT to discuss the words “gun control.” While the nation was encouraged to have a windy national dialogue about mental illness or students or the courage of the survivors, and so forth, the topic of gun control was totally off the table, which created a peculiarly distorted narrative with a huge hole in the center of it.

While the mandatory few days of media hand-wringing is going on about this latest killing time, it must be said – again – that it’s true, we know how to build a healthier, more civil society, and we know how to create a less toxic, less violent country. It’s not rocket science; The Paxis Institute ( and Daniel Goleman’s book, “Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence,” offer some of the extensive research and works that point the way.

We also have the capacity to eliminate the easy availability of our most lethal weapons, to create systems to care for the sickest among us before they harm others, to support healthy families, create strong communities, care for children at risk, and create a shared Commons that benefits all of us. We know how to do all of these things, but we choose not to do it, because we love and value our guns more than we love and value our children, ourselves, our neighbors, our society, or even our country.

And that deep and abiding love is one of our cherished core values. Indeed, it’s The American Way.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


The following Press Release was sent by Citizens for Clean Water –PZLDF (Prohibiton Zone Legal Defense Fund). The BOS will be voting today to decide whether to send a letter to the RWQCB asking them to “stand down” so the county project can go ahead unimpeded, and I would urge all citizens who can, please plan to attend the Regional Water Quality Control Board’s hearing, Thursday May 10th, starting at 10 a.m. at their offices at 895 Aerovista Place, Suite 101 in San Luis Obispo.

Public Information
Water Board Enforcement

Prepared as a Public Service by
Citizens for Clean Water/PZLDF
Dedicated to Clean Water and Citizens’ Rightsclass

The information contained within is not intended as a substitute for information that you may obtain from legal counsel.

Citizens for Clean Water-PZLDF
Dedicated to clean water and citizens rights

What is happening on May 10th?
The Water Board that will decide if your property and title will be entangled in enforcement actions is being held on May 10th .
The Board will consider the staff’s recommendation to mail every property owner in Los Osos prohibition zone a Clean up and Abatement Order (CAO) this differs from the process the first 45 residents went through. The Clean up and Abatement Order has no hearing, and if you fail to respond to the mailer it automatically becomes effective.

Why wasn’t I notified?
The Water Board mailed a ‘Notice of Violation’ (NOV) to Los Osos homeowners and businesses in April 2007. They posted the notice for the meeting on their web site April 26th.

What’s a Notice of Violation (NOV)?
Notices of Violations are the highest level of informal enforcement action. However, the Water Board did not follow their own enforcement rules, and failed to include the signature by the proper authority, or deliver them by certified mail.
Note: The NOV is one of many “progressive enforcement” steps that the water board has failed to implement properly when addressing the water quality issues since 1983. The water Board says the NOV was for information only, and no response is required.
However-the enforcement actions on the part of the Water Board now threatens every property and business in Los Osos.

What is a Clean up and Abatement Order- (CAO)
Clean up and Abatement Orders are meant for businesses and industry for urgent clean up of spills and accidental releases of pollutants that threaten water of the State. CAO’s are enforcement tools used in accidental spills or abandonment of property that makes clean up necessary. The water board steps in with extraordinary powers to contract for clean up as they deem necessary, and bill the property owner for ALL costs, or lien owners assets for payment.
The enforcement policy notes CAO’s require direct evidence of each property’s pollution, and that immediate clean up is required to protect waters of the State. CAO’s is only appropriate when the pollution is NOT a long-term permanent condition. Solutions that require costly infrastructure, and financial assistance, such as a sewer system and treatment plant should use Cease and Desist Orders. NOT CAO’S.
Clean up and Abatement Orders are not appropriate for the situation in Los Osos requiring a multi-million dollar community project.

Can enforcement cause me to lose my home?
Yes, the enforcement measures proposed are on your property, and meant to pressure your vote for a sewer. If placed on your home the orders could be used against you and lead to loss of your home.

Should I sign a settlement?
NO! Do not sign a settlement-or voluntarily accept an enforcement order on your property. The Clean Up and Abatement Order and the SETTLEMENT are nearly identical. The settlement is an enforcement order. The risk of loss of your property remain the same.
Although the settlement offer may seem benign, and a way to avoid hearings by showing the water board “cooperation,” the settlement Clean up and Abatement Orders (CAO) severely limits your ability to defend your rights, to challenge future fines, or to oppose additional enforcement. The CAO settlement could indeed lead to fines and the loss of your home.

Are CAO settlements actually worse than CDO’s?
Absolutely- Both the “Settlement” Clean up and Abatement Order, and the Clean up and Abatement Order deprive you of property rights, by declaring you a “gross polluter” and your property in need of clean up by the state.
Cease and Desist Orders do not have “emergency powers” attached that deprive citizens of their constitutional rights to due process. A Cease and Desist Order (CDO) requires at least one hearing before the full board, and a showing of proof with specific evidence before being issued, and more importantly, the order can be appealed. Any assessment of fines or liens on homes can be challenged in the courts.
A settlement places homeowners in the very worse position if the County process under AB 2710 fails. A “Clean up and Abatement Order” in the form of an agreement indicates voluntary agreement with any possible outcomes the water board chooses.

What else do Clean up and Abatement Order do?
CAO ‘findings’ list you and your properties as a known polluters. The CAO includes elements that allow the water board to conduct a “clean-up” as they see fit and you pay the bill. CAO’s can be changed by staff as condition change. They can come onto your property unannounced, and they can charge you for ALL the costs associated with a clean up and enforcement against you. You even pay the costs for the processing of a lien on your home to ensure payment.
There are minimum mandatory fines of $500 per day, and fines up to $5000 per day that can be assessed. There is a provision to charge you for replacement water if the wells near your home are contaminated. (The settlement CAO terms state staff will ‘recommendation’ lower fines of $100/day or $36,500/yr).

Why issue enforcement orders now, isn’t a sewer project in the County’s control?
Good question. AB 2701 was approved on September 18 2006. Assemblyman Blakeslee brokered an agreement with the District and County with certain enforcement input from the Water Board. The new law then allowed the transfer of primary responsibility for the project to the County. Within the six legislative elements included in AB 2701 is the “abeyance of enforcement actions.”
The Water Board has not abided by this promise, and actually escalated enforcement by prosecuting the first 45 homeowners, and tying further enforcement actions to the 218 vote outcome.
The Water Board is now threatening 4,400 more homes and businesses Clean up and Abatement Orders is counter-productive to a fair process under AB 2701, and by any constitutional measure.

What happened to the first 45?
The prosecution of the first 45 randomly selected property owners and renters began over a year ago. (January 2006) After hundreds of hours and many tens of thousands in wasted taxpayers money, most remain in appeal.
The first four cases were heard in December 2006, and seven remain to be heard. At that time several homeowners signed a settlement without understanding the full consequences or risks.
In January 2007 the Water Board heard two more cases with Shaunna Sullivan assisting in the defense. To date, the Water Board has yet to rule on these cases.
Appeals were filed by fourteen homeowners who were issued Cease and Desist Orders or who are challenging settlements. The appeal lists at least 94 reasons against enforcement CDOs and the “settlement” Clean up and Abatement Orders (CAO). The appeal is available for review from Citizens for Clean Water upon request. or contact Sullivan and Associates

Is my Home really illegal and I am breaking the law?
The water board amendment to the basin plan (83-13) was not intended to result in zero discharge, or condemn homes. You purchased your home in good faith and the sale was legal. There was no disclosure by any agency that your home was illegal, or that you would be breaking the law to live there, or that your home’s value was threatened with condemnation because of government failure to build a sewer.

Why am I getting Clean up and Abatement and enforcement notices if I can’t do anything about the building a sewer or fixing the water problem on my own?
The order requires you to hook up to a sewer that doesn’t exist. You are doing all you can by having a legally permitted home with a properly working septic system. You are already paying a sewer assessment on your property. You are required to hook up to a sewer system within 60 days of its availability.
Citizens for Clean Water - PZLDF considers individual enforcement to be counterproductive and abusive since you cannot build a community sewer system by yourself, and enforcement allows the Water Board to take action against your home if a 218 vote fails and you fail to cease discharge by 2011.

What is “Density”, and why was Los Osos allowed to develop without a sewer system if it was needed for the last 30 years?
Standard government code practices since before the 1970’s required a minimum one-acre parcel for development using septic tanks. The practice of the County and Water Board allowing exceptions of up to 8 houses per acre caused today’s problems.
Unfortunately, in 1983, an option to allow more density - or houses per acre - was allowed and encouraged by both the County and Regional Water Board, and since then, there has been a continued absence of Water Board oversight in the legally required agreements with governing agencies. The County Memoranda of Understanding for permitting septic tanks was the first step in the failure of appropriate planning for the past 30 years in Los Osos.

After 1983, how were even more homes and septic systems permitted, built, approved, and resold if the discharges were” illegal”?
There is still a legal question about our septic systems being legally approved yet now discharge is being characterized as illegal. All septic systems are legally permitted and homes are fully approved. There are disputed findings as to the extent of pollution from the septic systems, the origin of high levels of nitrates, and the best solution for the septic discharges.
A septic tank maintenance district was required by code (83-12) to monitor the septic impacts upon the water quality and prevent poor development practices. This was never implemented to conduct water monitoring and prohibiting building. The discharge of nitrates is the only constituent within the septic tank discharge that is not in compliance according to the basin plan. This is what the water board contends is “illegal.” However, the recent enforcement actions have expanded the scope to prohibit discharge of any kind within the prohibition zone of Los Osos.
A moratorium established in 1988 appears to have increased County fees and property taxes, but failed to prevent over-development in the Los Osos basin. Overdraft of the water supply and salt water intrusion is another result of poor County development practices which has become a much more serious concern than nitrates.

Why wasn’t a Sewer System built years ago?
A project was proposed in 1983 based on development projections for a population of 30,000. The County government did not build the plant, but allowed nearly 1000 more homes to be built. Yours may be one of these. Ongoing complications in providing a satisfactory project through the 1990’s culminated in the Community Services District formation in 1998.

What responsibility does the County, the Regional Water Board, and, most recently, the Community Services District have in this situation?
No government agency has ever admitted they failed in providing the Los Osos community with a community sewer system. The Community Services District was established in 1998, but it was unable to develop an affordable and technically adequate project of the size and complexity required. The project costs quadrupled, the location was opposed, and the CSD directors was recalled, however, they indebted the community by starting the controversial project just prior to the recall election.
The County has several options for lower cost systems which are available to Los Osos. Perhaps the most important piece of any system is a water management plan. Previous plans failed to address and fund this important benefit. They also did not consider the “sustainability’ of a project-the ability for citizens to pay future costs.

Can they fine me if a 218 vote isn’t passed?
Both the CDO’s, the blanket CAO”s and the Settlement CAO’s are poised to fine you if a project does not move forward. However, Water Code 13360 states the Water Board does not have the authority over what kind of project the community chooses.
“. . . no discharge requirement or other decree of a regional board or the state board or decree of a court issued under this division shall specify the design, location, type of construction, or particular manner in which compliance may be had . . . . ”
Further, it is illegal for the Water Board to use enforcement to drive a certain project, such as the mid-town one already rejected. The County is working to develop an acceptable project, to implement a 218 assessment vote to approve funding, and to ultimately deliver an acceptable project.
If you have an enforcement action in the form or a CDO or settlement in place, you will have until July 2008 for a project assessment vote to be passed by the County. If that fails, you must provide the Water Board with a plan for compliance to stop discharge from you home by 2011.

Might enforcement actually be illegal “electioneering” through intimidation?
The RWQCB is allowed to present truthful information regarding facts pertinent to a vote for or against a proposition. However, it must be fair, impartial, factual, and funded by explicit legislative authorization. The 218 vote is simply a funding assessment. It is clear the community must determine the project without coercion or intimidation. In this case the water board has developed enforcement consequences based on a vote, because the enforcement actions are tied to the 218 vote to reach compliance, PZLDF contends that enforcement against the 45 individual residents, as well as the Notices of Violation, could be considered coercion of voters through intimidation. That is illegal. Further the expenditure of public funds to intimidate voters is unethical and forbidden. For more information, go to the FPPC Ethics Training website ( for State Officials.
"Enforcement ends with compliance...compliance is dependent upon a project...and a project on a fair process..."-----Citizens' for Clean Water-PZLDF

What options does Los Osos property owners and residents have to comply with the Water Board?
First, the County 218 assessment vote is NOT A DOOMSDAY VOTE for your property, and the County is not presenting it as such.
Regulatory compliance can be achieved in several ways. 1)By the County, 2) by the Los Osos CSD, 3) by a Private corporation, 4) or individually through advanced onsite systems.
1. Right now the community is working through the County led project.
2. If the County fails in delivering a project for any reason, the project will transfer back to the District.
3. Should this occur, as provided in AB 2701, the LOCSD would likely implement the district’s plan before the County transfer. This was to proceed with Ripley Pacific’s project proposal ( which would also require a 218 vote.
(The project identified should currently be among County selection options.)
4. Another option available immediately to the community is to pursue a privatized project plan. One company was presented to the LOCSD in October of 2006 by Orenco Systems Inc.
(As a public-private partnership, and should currently be among County selection options.)
5. If there is no community project on the horizon after July 2008, property owners will be required to install an onsite treatment systems that meet the Water Board waste discharge requirements.
There are several commercially available systems which are permitted in California which cost between $15,000 - $40,000 per home. Neighborhood associations could contract with private firms to build common systems.
For those interested in onsite system compliance, you can get more information on approved systems from the water board or or Citizens for Clean Water who can provide additional links and contacts.

What can I do to protect my rights?
1. SEND MAIL AND EMAILS TO THE WATER BOARD in response to the Notice of violation and proposed enforcement CAO’s-to Jeffery Young c/o copy to
Tell them the actions are counter productive and to vacate the enforcement against the 45, not to pursue blanket individual enforcement against the community, and to support the County process and the community to develop a successful project.
2. CLEAN UP AND ABATEMENT ORDERS –Attend the Water Board meeting on May 10th
Speak out against blanket enforcement CAO’s and counter productive electioneering, and coercion.
DO NOT SEND OFFERS TO SIGN AGREEMENTS OR SETTLEMENTS (CAO’s) this could adversely affect your ability to defend yourself and property in the future.
3. Keep abreast of the county’s progress toward an acceptable project.
4. Participate in the process and let your wishes be known concerning an acceptable project, type, acceptable costs and location.
5. Protect the process from the county’s actions being influenced by water board enforcement- coercion and intimidation tactics. Notify the county you want a fair process-Your representative for district 2 is Bruce Gibson. email:
6. Contact your representatives about your concerns.

District 2 Supervisor Bruce Gibson
Room D-430, County Government Center
San Luis Obispo, California 93408 (805) 781-1350 Fax
(805) 781-5450email:

Assemblyman Sam
Palm Street, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
Phone (805)-549-3381-1104

Congresswoman Lois Capps
San Luis Obispo 1411 Marsh Street, Suite 205 San Luis Obispo, CA 93401 Phone: (805) 546-8348 Fax: (805) 546-8368

Peter J. Visclosky (IN), Chair
Dixon Butler, Subcommittee Clerk Room 2362-B Rayburn House Office BuildingWashington, DC 20515Phone: (202) 225-3421

7. Learn more about your rights, the regulations and legal help available.

Pacific Legal Foundation3900 Lennane Drive,Suite200Sacramento,CA95834(916)4197111(916)4197747(fax)

ACLU of So Ca.
Executive Director:Ramona Ripston
1616 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, Ca 90026

8. Attend PZLDF informational meetings on Monday evenings at 7:00 pm at Washington Mutual Bank.

9.Join Citizens for Clean Water-PZLDF. Donate to fund the Legal actions either to PZLDF or directly to Sullivan & Associates.

10.Protect your property rights by being proactive, and by donating your time, money and resources.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Helloooooo, Yoooo Hooooooo, Anybody Home?

As mentioned in the previous posting, I was out of town for a few days. When I returned, I had an email from John Waddell, the Project Engineer for the Hideous Los Osos Sewer Project, noting that he’d posted a Press Release/letter on the comment section of an earlier posting. The letter was from the BOS to the Regional Water Quality Control Board. I’ve copied it and am posting it below on the “real” blog. There’s also a brief posting from Noel King. I thank them both for sending this information along.

My previously posted (5/5/07) “Oh My Ears And Whiskers” blog entry (below) that contained “Mother Calhoun’s Modest Proposal” was written before I read the BOS recommendations. Holding enforcement actions in abeyance until the 218 vote is also my preferred path. But if the RWQCB simply MUST pretend to be doing
something in order to justify their previous appalling actions, then I would suggest my Modest Proposal might keep their idle hands busy while not doing the very damage they claim they’re trying to avoid.

Well, the May 10th meeting will give clear indication whether the RWQCB is willing to heed some of TV’s Dr. Phil’s
Sage Practical Advice For Folks Who Keep Running Wagons Off Into The Ditch.


The County did a Press Release today on the subject of the upcoming Regional Board Hearing, see below.John WaddellLos Osos Wastewater Project EngineerCounty of San Luis Obispo


The weekly status update for the Los Osos Wastewater Project to the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors on May 8, 2007 will include an item to request approval for a letter to the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board requesting that future enforcement proceedings in the Los Osos Prohibition Zone, be held in abeyance.****TEXT OF PROPOSED LETTER****

May 3, 2007
Mr. Jeffrey Young, ChairCentral Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board
895 Aerovista Place #101
San Luis Obispo CA 93401
RE: Agenda Item #6, for May 10, 2007Other Future Enforcement Proceedings in the Los Osos Prohibition Zone
Dear Mr. Young:
Your staff’s report for the above referenced item offers several alternatives for future enforcement actions against residents of the Los Osos Prohibition Zone.The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors strongly recommends that the Regional Water Board adopt the “No Action” alternative for the time being for the reasons noted below.

We agree with the assertion noted in the staff report that some believe “further individual enforcement is counterproductive to the County’s process.” As you know, the Regional Water Board’s previous enforcement actions against 45 randomly-selected individuals has produced a vocal and angry response from some in the community and has resulted in at least one ad hoc group organizing to oppose those actions on legal grounds.

While the County does not dispute the Regional Water Board’s authority to pursue these individual enforcement actions, we believe that further such actions would hinder the County’s extensive efforts to develop wastewater treatment alternatives in the following ways:

1) The enforcement actions distract the community at a time when full attention should be given to careful consideration of a large volume of technical, financial, and environmental information that we are preparing ahead of the Proposition 218 vote this fall. County staff and elected officials have stated publicly on numerous occasions that the community’s energy should be spent on pursuing a successful project, which would render moot the possible penalties outlined in previous actions.

2) Previous Regional Water Board actions have been alleged by some to constitute “electioneering” in an effort to favorably influence the Prop 218 vote outcome. Please note that the County does not see evidence of legally-defined electioneering in previous Cease and Desist Orders, the associated Settlement Agreements, or the recently-issued Notices of Violation. We are concerned, however, about the perception of Regional Water Board electioneering becoming an ever-increasing distraction and impairing the Prop 218 vote, if active enforcement actions or hearings are underway this fall.

3) Further individual enforcement actions increase the likelihood of litigation against the County and the Regional Water Board. We speculate that further individual actions would encourage many recipients to seek legal relief, again distracting attention from the County’s process. As noted above, we understand that the Regional Water Board has legal enforcement responsibilities under existing law, however, any new litigation would risk further delay of a project already long overdue. The cost increases and environmental damage resulting from further delay would be seriously detrimental.

In summary, we recommend that the Regional Water Board hold further enforcement actions in abeyance while the County process under AB 2701 is underway. We believe the Regional Water Board has shown clear intention to pursue enforcement if the property owners in Los Osos reject the County efforts by defeating the Proposition 218 assessments. Enforcement actions undertaken now would be premature and counterproductive, since the County process is reaching a critical stage.

Some have also suggested that the Regional Water Board must proceed now with enforcement against the balance of the Prohibition Zone in order to retain the right to do so later. If this is accurate, the County and the community should receive a clear summary of the relevant legal issues that necessitate further enforcement action at this time.

Let us emphasize that the County greatly appreciates the support that the Regional Water Board and your staff have given in our efforts to pursue both State and Federal grant funding for a community wastewater project. Your staff provided a letter of support to the Proposition 50 (Integrated Regional Water Management) grant efforts with the State Water Board and we appreciate their comments on the need for grants when the cost of complying with regulatory mandates exceeds affordability criteria established by regulatory agencies. Your staff also exceeded expectations in our meetings with Congresswoman Lois Capps and Congressman Peter Visclosky (Indiana), when they toured Los Osos on April 12th and took first-hand water quality samples from freshwater seeps that exist on the edge of the bay. We will continue to work cooperatively with your agency to seek extension of the State Revolving Fund payback schedule beyond 20 years and to secure other funding essential to a successful project in Los Osos.

We believe that deferring enforcement actions will allow your Board, your staff, the County and the community to concentrate on the myriad issues needing resolution in the near future. The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors has the highest level of respect for your Board and your responsibilities. We hope you recognize that our support of Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee, and the efforts he led for approval of AB 2701, indicate the County’s commitment to help resolve the wastewater dilemma in Los Osos.

We believe that the County efforts, initiated voluntarily under the authority of AB 2701, provide the best opportunity for resolving the wastewater problem. After numerous meetings in the community, the creation of a project Technical Advisory Committee, and weekly updates by staff to our Board, we are increasingly hopeful that the community and property owners recognize that this final opportunity for a local agency solution will prevail and that State enforcement and/or implementation actions can be prevented.

We would be glad to provide a presentation to the Regional Water Board in the near future on current County efforts. Please don’t hesitate to contact Project Director Paavo Ogren (781-5252) or County Supervisor Bruce Gibson to arrange that presentation or if you need further information.

Sincerely,Jerry Lenthall Chairman, Board of SupervisorsBruce Gibson Supervisor, District Two
2:27 PM, May 04, 2007

Below is Noel King’s Posting:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

After John Waddell, our Los Osos Wastewater Project Engineer, posted the above proposed letter that, if approved at the May 8 Board of Supervisors meeting, would be sent to the Regional Board, several comments have been posted expressing appreciation to Board Chairman Lenthall and District 2 Supervisor Gibson, specifically. I wanted to clarify for the readers that each of the five members of the Board of Supervisors supported the preparation of this letter. Supervisors Lenthall and Gibson were the two who were designated as signers for the Board. Supervisor Gibson did have a strong hand in getting the Board to consider taking this action. We expect the approval of this letter to be granted by all five Board members at the Los Osos standing 2:00 agenda item on May 8.

Noel King
Public Works Director
County of San Luis Obispo
5:00 PM, May 04, 2007
Oh My Ears And Whiskers, Does Anybody In The Regional Water Quality Control Board Know What They’re Doing and Has Nobody Learned Anything From Torquemada’s Mad Hatter Tea Party And Auto De Fe CDO Debacle So Now It’s Deja Vu All Over Again?

So, I’m out of town for a few days and look what happens. I get a packet of information on the upcoming May 10th Regional Water Quality Control Board’s hearing that includes TWO draft forms of a proposed action for further prosecution of the Los Osos residents. (Apparently, it’s finally dawned on the Board that they’ve wasted a whole year ditzing around with this appalling CDO kangaroo court, The Los Osos 45 are going to be dumped overboard – Nevermind – and now they’re thinking about going to Plan B – Cleanup and Abatement.)

So, in the packet are two draft forms. One is titled “Cleanup and Abatement Order No. $3-2007-[order no] and the other is titled, “Settlement Agreement and Order.” Two distinct forms with slightly different requirements and both having sample documents attached.

On page 4 of agenda item #6 it states: “If the property owner signs and returns the settlement agreement, the Prosecution Team will not issue the clean up and abatement order.”

Once again, it APPEARS that there is a CAO which proceeds in X manner and a separate Settlement Agreement that proceeds in Y manner. But, I’m puzzled, so I write to Our Go To Guy, Matt Thompson at the RWQCB and ask, “In what way is a settlement agreement legally NOT a CAO? This statement implies that a settlement agreement is being offered INSTEAD of a CAO?”

(After all, if you’ve already been given a CAO, staff can’t later issue a cleanup and abatement order since you’ve already gotten it. And if you’ve signed the Settlement Order and it clearly states that staff can later decide to send you a CAO, then whatever you signed wasn’t a CAO. So, what IS it?)

Matt bounced my question over to Harvey Packard, Division Chief and Enforcement Officer, who replied, “The settlement agreement is a CAO. The Board could enforce the provisions of the settlement in the same way as it could for the CAO. So the options for PZ residents are to sign the settlement agreement, which is in effect a sipulated [sic; i.e. stipulated?] CAO, or they can [sic . . .] provide whatever evidence they have to convince the Assistant EO [that’s a staff member, not the Board itself who will decide] not to issue a CAO with more severe terms. The two orders are similar; the settlement has less severe requirements.”

So, there you are: The settlement agreement IS a CAO.

However, even if you’d read the official documents repeatedly, THAT little piece of critical information would have not been there. A normal citizen would have gotten this packet and concluded that he was looking at TWO documents, not ONE document carrying a misleading title

But, wait, it gets worse. On page 4 of the Item 6 discussion, it states, “A proposed settlement agreement is also attached to this staff report. The proposed settlement agreement is very similar to the one previously approved by the Board. However, to encourage more parties to settle, we have made a significant change to the settlement in addition to the above-described changes: We are capping potential penalties for violating the order at $100 per day instead of the $5,000 per day allowed by law. The settlement also allows up to three years to pump and inspect the septic tank, whereas the cleanup and abatement order requires this action within two years. Under the ‘most favored nation’ provision in existing settlements, parties who have already settled would receive the same terms.”


Hmmm, let’s see here. Citizens are, under law, supposed to be treated equally. A citizen issued a CAO has a legal RIGHT, without prejudice, to go through various legally mandated hoops, an administrative process spelled out by the Board. Those steps aren’t provided to him on the whim of some Board Director, they’re codified by various policies and law. Therefore, until a citizen completes those legally mandated steps, he should not be considered favored or unfavored. Yet, here it is: The staff is proposing that the Board create two unequally treated class of people – under color of law – those who exercise their RIGHTS under law will be financially punished, while those who give up their rights will be rewarded financially and be considered “favored.”

What makes this so weird is this: If I refuse to give up my legal rights, decline to sign this mis-named Settlement Agreement, and instead carefully proceed through the all legally mandated steps, up to and including all rights of appeal, by what stretch of the legal imagination am I to be considered “unfavored?” I have not ignored the issued CAO. I am in full compliance with every step and requirement, , I have not refused to comply, yet I am, pre-judged on a whim, and now considered part of an “unfavored nation” and handed a pre-set worse penalty than someone who has also not ignored the issued CAOs but has chosen to give up the rights granted to him by law?

Hello? Can it be possible that The Regional Water Quality Control Board is now seriously considering creating two classes of citizens in Los Osos, thinking that will somehow help an already polarized community? Do they think that somebody’s not going to challenge that in court, thereby wasting more time and effort and money?

Or are they doing this because they’re lazy, understaffed, underfunded, want to skirt their legal obligations to observe due process so they hope to trick out a mis-named “agreement” in hopes of conning a whole bunch of people into signing while pretending it isn’t a CAO, pay no attention to the little man behind the curtain with all that fine print, heh-heh?

Please, Dear Sweet Suffering Zeus, Pluueeezzzze, say it ain’t so.

Perhaps you’d like to think this is just some kind of typo? Me too, but then there’s the April 26 official email from Matt announcing the upcoming May 10 continuation of the Mad Hatter Tea Party And Auto De Fe Public Burning of the few remaining CDO recipients ( remember those people? The Los Osos 45, who apparently are now dead and forgotten while the Board considers switching gears from CDO mode into CAO mode because as Harvey Packard is quoted in the May 3 Tribune as saying, “It is impractical to hold board hearings for all 4,300 properties in the prohibition zone.” NOW they figure that out? Now? )

Excerpt from the email:

“Attached are:
1. The agenda for the May 10 -11, 2007 Water Board meeting:
2. A staff report discussing enforcement alternatives and the Prosecution Team’s proposed action;
3. The Prosecution Team’s proposed cleanup and abatement order (CAO);
4. The Prosecution Team’s proposed settlement agreement (in lieu of the CAO.)”


No, no, Matt, it’s not “in lieu of,” the settlement agreement IS a CAO. When you say something is “in lieu of,” people will think that you’re talking about two SEPARATE things, one instead of the other. That’s not the case here. One IS the other.

Again, the questions: Is this the result of incompetence, or is this another attempt to mislead people into thinking that A is not A? Are we back to more duress and coercion – Citizen A gets a hammer, Citizen B gets pudding, even though under law Citizen A & B are supposed to be treated equally?

Does anybody recall when the Grand Inquisitor came to town and started work on a “settlement” agreement with some of The Los Osos 45, that the attempt resulted in dividing The 45 and alerting the rest of the community that they were being bamboozled by City Slickers trying to trick Country Folks into believing that the Agreement was “better than” a “real” CDO and that they had better Sign Your Rights Away Or We’ll Give You A CDO, You Have 6 Minutes To Decide, But Don’t Call That Duress, No, No, and that when many signed then read the fine print, they later rescinded the agreement, or others concluded it was worse than a regular CDO and said, Hey, whatya tryin’ ta pull here?’ In short, a debacle.

Now, here we are . . . again.

TV’s Dr. Phil often says, “We create the very thing we fear.” What’s the one thing the RWQCB fears most? My guess is, A Failed Prop 218 vote. So, why is this staff and Board doing everything in their power to raise the risk of that happening? Of doing anything that can even raise the charges of illegal electioneering? Of creating this pointless “divide and conquer” strategy using misleading documents that will only raise the paranoia level past the tip point? In short, its time to ask two more Dr. Phil questions:

1) Just what the hell does the RWQCB think they’re doing?

2) How’s it working for them?

Well, here’s a Mother Calhoun’s Modest Proposal, one she suggested over A YEAR AGO, that clearly nobody listened to and so utterly wasted a whole year and did real damage to real people, all of it pointless, none of it having even the slightest effect on the one thing the RWQCB is supposed to be interested in protecting: Water.

Tim Cleath of Cleath & Associates has already testified that pumping and inspecting and repairing will have a negligible effect on the groundwater. So, please, everyone, let’s not pretend that the requirements of the CAO are scientifically justified or can even be supported by a cost/benefit analysis for the short time needed until a wastewater system is built.

But, I think that the majority of ordinary folks can all agree that a community-wide PIR request will catch a few failing systems, might help improve the functioning of some, might have a modest effect on perched water, certainly shouldn’t actually hurt anything, is a plan that should have been put into place years ago under the provisions of having a Septic Management District authorized by the RWQCB’s own Resolution 83-12, (which they never enforced), and in general can be viewed as a Feel Good & Save Face Plan. The community can pretend that they’re helping “clean up water,” and the RWQCB can pretend that, “Hey, we’re working hard over here enforcing clean water!”

If that’s a reasonable compromise that will put the community and the RWQCB on the same path, facing the same direction, then all the RWQCB has to do is rewrite their misleading “Settlement Agreement” as a simple, voluntary, signed “Request to Pump, Inspect and Repair and Hook Up When Sewer Comes On Line” document, tighten up the specific requirements and glossary of terms as to what constitutes field failure or what would require fixing & etc, keep the same dates and time schedules so compliance can be done in a reasonable way (avoid thousands of pumper trucks all jammed up and causing the Air Quality Control People to show up again), dump all the “most favored nation” crap with its coercive different fines and penalties for post 2011 action, note in clear, bold letters that failure to comply with this voluntary RPI program will result in an official CAO being sent out. Then track the paperwork as it comes in, (exactly as planned with this proposed scheme) and on a certain date, send those who have refused to comply with the voluntary Request a “real” CAO. (Only one, the official one, with the same PIR requirements, so you don’t set up two classes of folks with different PRI requirements, etc, and nothing tricked out to look like something else.)

Since the 218 vote has NOT taken place, since the “somewhat arbitrary” 2011 cease-discharging-entirely-by date has NOT arrived, since the RWQCB has already sent out their non-official “Notice of Violation,” since the RWQCB’s OWN July 9, 2004 report, titled, “Considerations of Enforcement alternatives for Baywood park/Los Osos, San Luis Obispo County” repeatedly noted, “(residents, property owners, business, etc). . . have very few options for complying with the discharge prohibition . . .” and “ . . . property owners have been powerless to prevent the delays in the project . . .” and “ . . . individuals have very limited means of effectively ceasing discharges until a community sewer system is available . . .” it’s clear to me that CAO’s at this point are premature and counterproductive. There is plenty of time after the 218 vote to issue official CAOs, if necessary. Plenty of time. Right now, they are just going to set off more pointless brushfires and threaten the one thing everyone is working towards.

So, what the RWQCB needs to do now is to stand down and hush up between now and the 218 election date. I don’t want to see any of the usual threats trumpeted via the Tribune (“FINES!FINES!FINES!YER ALL GONNA DIE INNA STREETS If You Don’t Vote The Way We Want You To”) either.

Instead, I want to see press releases coming from Matt or Harvey, extolling how Wonderful the voluntary PIR program is going, how Wonderful the citizens of Los Osos are, how much they care about their groundwater, how hard the County and the TAC are working on the new project, how closely the RWQCB staff are monitoring the progress and how pleased they are that the projects being screened all comply with the new State Water Guidelines, and how staff looks forward to the 218 vote since they know that the vast majority of Wonderful people in the PZ want a Wonderful viable project to go through in order to protect their groundwater.

In short, the RWQCB can stop doing everything in their power to bring about a further divided community and a failed 218 vote and start doing everything in their power to ensure a successful project.

Matt, Harvey, Roger, and the Regional Board Members: The sewer wagon has already left the station. For God’s sake, STOP TRYING TO KNEE-CAP THE HORSES!

Thank you.