Now It Can Be Told
This is a Sewerville Story. For years I’d heard a canard that sounded like an urban legend about a certain Los Osos resident who was delighted by the plans to sewer the community, even with an extremely expensive system, because it would clean out the riff-raff. I had heard that story credited to several different people but never found the person who actually heard it in person. Until Thursday, April 30, at the Planning Commission.
There, during public comment, Jack Hunter went to the microphone to tell the Commissioners that the real “elephant in the room” is the issue of cost, and felt a personal anecdote would suffice to illustrate the real problem facing my beloved Bangladesh by the Bay: Seems Mr. Hunter ran into a former neighbor of his who enthusiastically explained that having an expensive, “unaffordable” sewer for Los Osos would start a process that would drive out the riff-raff, and having a lot of homes suddenly come on the market all at once (the riff-raff’s homes) would drive prices down in general (glut on the market) thereby allowing developers and other people flush with capital to come in and buy up the properties and either tear them down the riff raff houses) and put up McMansions for the wealthy who would soon be retiring and leaving L.A. and SF or sit on the properties for resale at a handsome profit to the non-riff-raff folks who would be arriving in this beautiful, now riff-raff-free little piece of paradise to play golf and enjoy their leisure years.
According to Mr. Hunter, his neighbor was solidly behind and happily enthusiastic about this scenario, not sad or rueful or regretful or ashamed of feeling such glee over his little scenario regarding the economic cleansing that was coming here, as it is everywhere along the “Gold Coast.”
So, yes, Virginia, that formerly assumed Urban Legend is no legend. I asked Mr. Hunter after public comment who was that neighbor, but he refused, for ethical reasons, to divulge his name, though I’ve heard just who it was from several folks, so I can only presume Mr. Hunter wasn’t the only Los Osos resident to hear this gentleman’s happily reported economic scenario.
Ah, yes, only in Los Osos.
Two Down, Five or Six to Go.
Thursday’s Planning Commission hearing again took up the Hideous Sewer Project and in an organized fashion started nibbling down the decisions. First up, Tertiary or Secondary: Hands down 5 to 0, Tertiary.
Second up: Gravity or STEP. After much discussion and additional public comment, including some further input from Dana Ripley, with reference to the so-called “Ripley Report,” the Commissioners voted sort-of 5 to 0 for Gravity. Chairperson Christie stated she had been initially strongly for gravity, but after further study, was strongly leaning towards STEP, primarily for one interesting reason: gravity pipes 23 feet deep leak (all pipes and pipe joints do, sooner or later) and she kept thinking about the environmental damage and financial burden of fixing such a deep leak, until it became clear in discussion that state standards allow a certain percentage of leaks (“discharges”) from pipes. So, leaky pipes are not of particular concern (unless you’re a resident of the PZ; in your case it’s NO “discharge,.”a peculiar anomaly the RWQCB refuses to discuss or explain.) But, in the case of leaky, “discharging” sewer pipes, regulators are fine with it, so the Commissioners certainly weren’t going to fuss over it either. Pipe breaks will cost a bundle to fix, the RWQCB can impose huge fines for “polluting,” especially huge fine, I might add, since a gravity pipe buried 23’ deep can “discharge” a lot of fineable pollution before it’s discovered, so everyone’s happy.
It was also clear that the whole argument over STEP and gravity had been mooted out by the county’s pre-emptive move to eliminate STEP from the plan under review by the Planning Commission by short listing the contractors and limiting the RFP requirements to gravity only, thereby leaving an EIR document under review with a huge hole in it, while pulling an Emily Latella moment: “Never mind.”
And the Planning Commission was happy to oblige because, as was delicately pointed out, if the PC had balked and refused to issue a permit unless it also included full info on STEP , the County could simply appeal that decision to the BOS. (It was a delicate chain-jerking moment, that Big Dog deliciously metallic clank making it clear that the PC had better remember exactly where their part of the porch actually ends.)
Which pointed up another interesting wrinkle in this whole hearing. In usual Planning Commission protocols, there’s the “Applicant” – Mr. Jones – and “The Staff,” and the (Neutral) Commissioners, acting as “judges” in a kind of adversarial procedure, as in, “Did so, Did not, Nuh-Huh, Uh-huh,” after which the Commissioners make a ruling on the points in contention and the “Applicant,” if unhappy, troops off to the BOS to try for a better ruling.
But in this case the Applicant and staff and public and planning commissioners are ALL ONE, since this is a “public project.” Which makes for a kind of odd one-sided, non-adversarial procedure, as in, “Did so, We agree, Yes, Us too, Thank you Me, You’re welcome, Me, Don’t mention it, Likewise,” with the Commissioners left looking around the room for . . . who? Who is there but, perhaps, the public to act as any form of rebuttal or counter any “facts” being presented by the County. And everybody knows that anyone who disagrees with the County’s proposed project is an “anti-sewer obstructionist and general all ‘round urine-swilling, Moonbeam McSwine crazy.” And what Commissioner in his or her right mind would listen to anything they had to say?
As the clock was ticking past closing time, Chairperson Christie added the comment that she could sense the vote would go 4 – 1, and expressed disappointment that the BOS chose to eliminate STEP for the Commission’s real consideration and debate since such a discussion could have allowed significant issues to be brought forward which are now forever short circuited so they’ll never be brought forward. And Commissioner White noted that before they make their final decisions, they could always revisit any section and see if any new information had come up that could change any of their votes to this point.
The meeting was adjourned until May 28, starting time 8:45 a.m. but not known exactly when the Sewer issue will be fitted in until the agenda could be shifted around. Best to check the planning Web site: www.slocounty.ca.gov/planning.htm and track down the updated agendas.
Anatomy of The TV / Talk Radio / Print Media Ratings Game
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