Saturday, January 24, 2015

Los Osos Woof-Woof?

LOCAC's Thursday night meeting had an update on the "Dog Park."  If you've driven by the property at Pine and LOVR you'll have seen a large sign, "Future Home of Dog Park," or some such.  Dog park for Los Osos?  Really?

Well, maybe.  The property's representatives (actually a group of investors) wish to develop the property and build 11 homes.  As you know, developing anything in this neck of the woods requires a laundry list of hoops to jump through and, being Los Osos, two of the biggest are: 1) water and 2) "mitigation." (That darned pesky Dune Snail, among other critters.)

In short, the deal for developers is to give up A in order to get B.  You turn 5 acres over to "the public" and we'll let you develop Y acres. Hence the dog park.

However, being Los Osos, there's one more hook in the equation:  Water.  In this case, the developers must find X number of water offsets/credits to equal water use by the 11 new homes they want to build in the PZ. That means retrofitting X number of homes and counting the gallons saved and buying water rights/credits from, say, unbuildable property or doing whatever gets them that guestimated average household water use number. 

Hard to do in regular, normal times, but in a drought, in a town with serious overdraft issues?  And a drought that might be heading towards a ban on all outdoor watering if we don't get enough rains by April? 

Which is why the Dog Park has been in a Sit/Stay for several years now. 

On the bright side, the LOCAC Board was enthusiastic about the project, with new CSD Boardmember Lou Tornatsky declaring that the whole project could be a happy public effort that would bring the community together. 

Having been a part of creating the first dog park in the county (El Chorro Dog Park) some twenty-four years ago, I know enough to temper that presumed "volunteer enthusiasm" with knowledge of just how hard a lift such a project can be.  How it will require a small dedicated band of people willing to take on the huge amount of work involved since "enthusiastic volunteers" have a predictable habit of being "busy" when the time comes to actually show up and do the work.  Plus, the real work begins after the park is built, since dog parks require constant maintenance and that requires hard work by an organized group willing to carry the park, often single-handedly.

Which is why I asked Supervisor Bruce Gibson whether SLO County Parks (now with a new director and now a new "stand-alone" department) could take the "donated" property ASAP, let the dog park building commence via volunteer, private effots, then Parks could develop the rest of the acreage later.  The answer was NO. County Parks is on such a tight budget and stretched so thin that they cannot accept any "free" land since they don't have the money to manage it.  Which is a profound tragedy for this County since I'm sure there have been other opportunities to acquire free gifts of land for parks and they've had to be turned down for lack of the parks budget.  Which begged the (unasked) question of Supervisor Gibson:  So why doesn't the BOS vote to increase the Park's budget? 

For now, there the Dog Park for Los Osos sits.  In limbo.  If the developers' offset plans don't pencil out, that may well be the end of the whole idea.  So, if you're part of a local group interested in helping to create an off-leash dog park, I'd suggest praying for rain, praying the developers can find those water credits/offsets and in the meantime, it wouldn't hurt to actually get formally organized and start making plans so if things suddenly pan out, you'll be ready.


Sewertoons AKA Lynette Tornatzky said...

Excellent rundown of what happened at that meeting!

There a a lot of dog owners in this town who would, I believe, really enjoy the park should it come to pass. I would think that there would be enough volunteers to maintain it out of that group.

The other factor here is that the purple pipe will run right past the proposed park and could be tapped into. At the moment, at full operation, there will be excess cleaned up water from the sewer project that could either go into the creek compartment, new crop farming (as described at the Utilities Advisory Committee on 1-21 by District Engineer Rob Miller) OR, perhaps some could go onto a grass dog park! Sounds like easier maintenance than the bark chips at the El Chorro that you mentioned Ann.

Anyway, Lou and I are following this carefully and are offering any support we know how to do to the land owners. It could be a win-win for everyone.

Churadogs said...

Purple pipe would certainly allow for grass. Alas, grass has its own set of maintenance problems. (There's no easy win with any ground coverage whether chips or grass or d.g. or artificial turf.) But you'd still need clean drinking water for pooches, so somehow you'd have to tap into a source from somewhere.

but, I'm sure all that's solveable. And I suspect there may be enough people here willing to do the heavy lift required on this. I can only hope they get organized formally now so they'll be ready.

Meantime, we need to lobby the BOS to get them to vote more $$ for our new, stand-alone Park Dept, all earmarked for "land banking" when "donations" like this come along. It's appalling to me that the county lets slip these opportunities. You don't have to develop and "manage" park land at the same "developed" level. Surely there's bare minimum requirements that can be met for safety until groups can get formed to finance development of the parkland.

Sewertoons AKA Lynette Tornatzky said...

I agree! There has to be a way to do this at the bare minimum level! There is county land all over the place that is "bare minimum" isn't there? There will also be less problems when we get the Habitat Conservation Plan that comes along with the sewer project, as the snail problem requires one.

I mentioned grass as there is at the moment extra water to be used from the plant-to-be. I don't know if this is a permanent issue though. We could bring up the purple pipe water at the next sewer Town Hall, Feb. 25 maybe?

The guys said they could leave one Golden State water service for the pup's drinking water part.

I think there needs to be a non-profit that is capable of and willing to take on the agreements on maintenance.

I guess we'll see where this goes. The two guys are totally wanting to do this. I just don't want to see the negativity pop up around "water use."

Churadogs said...

Toonces: If purple pipe is available, that should solve the water issue. One or two drinking water faucets for the dogs (and maybe one for humans, though not strictly necessary) would do. If the rest of the park was used as a playground or for some other public use, a bathroom might be required, which would up the costs a huge amount.