Atascadero to discuss allowing limited medical marijuana cultivation

–Atascadero City Council is reconsidering what they say was a rushed decision to ban the cultivation of medical marijuana within the city limits. AB21, a state Assembly bill that would remove a March 1 deadline for local governments to enact marijuana regulations,was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Feb. 3 after successfully passing the State Assembly in a 65-to-zero vote the previous Thursday.

City Manager Rachelle Rickard presented four different options for the council to consider to address concerned raised by both members of the public and council members.

The four options:

  1. Begin a public process immediately and move forward with an analysis irrespective of any potential ballot measures in November.
  2. Adopt an ordinance that allows personal cultivation at a level consistent with what is currently allowed by the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 as a place holder until it is known what might happen as a result of a potential November ballot measures.
  3. Leave the ordinance just adopted in place until after the potential November ballot issue is decided by the voters. At some point after the November election, council would evaluate the policy based on local desires and the legislation in place at the time.
  4. Repeal the cultivation ban and re-adopt the city’s previous medical marijuana ordinance.

The council went with option four with some additional restrictions. The council gave direction to staff to take a draft ordinance that would look at allowing limited production within the city to the planning commission on March 1.

The council directed that the ordinance should include the ban the cultivation of marijuana on vacant land, limit up to eight ounces of dried marijuana, 12 immature and six mature plants per person and not to exceed 15 immature and nine mature plants per dwelling, no cultivation in the yard as as defined by staff and the ordinance would only extend to individuals, not collectives.

Several council members expressed concern going through with Option 1 because of the possibility of ballot measures going through in regards to adult marijuana use.

“I think we’re just fighting an uphill battle until we know the results of November,” Councilman Bob Kelley said. “I’m kind of inclined to Option 3. Let’s wait and see what the outcome is.”

“[Option 1] could be a waste of our time and resources,” Councilman Brian Sturtevant said. “I’d like to see some lifting of the ban. The only reason I voted for the ban because it’s what we needed to comply with state law.”

While both Mayor Tom O’Malley and Mayor Pro Tem Heather Moreno said they preferred Option 4, or a hybrid with Option 2, Councilwoman Roberta Fonzi said she’s not comfortable going back to the old ordinance.

“It’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of legal work. Do we need to do that?” Fonzi said. “I just don’t see it. I don’t see why we’d want to go back to something that didn’t work in the first place. I understand, certainly, that there is a need for medical marijuana and I sympathize for those that use it for a legitimate use. However, I have to side with the safety issue. … as elected officials we are here to protect [the community]. There is a very small number that are actually causing problems, but they are causing problems. I’d like to wait until November and see where we are.”

With the majority of the council expressing the desire to lift the strict ban on cultivation, Fonzi suggested a number of restrictions she would like addressed in a proposed ordinance. In the roll call vote, Fonzi said “yes, with reservation.”

For information on the upcoming Atascadero Planning Commission meeting on March 1, go to the city’s website.

This story was originally published on Paso Robles Daily News and A-Town Daily News.

Council bans marijuana cultivation, deliveries in Atascadero

The Atascadero City Council approved banning cultivation of marijuana plants and delivery of medical marijuana in the city of Atascadero at Tuesday special meeting. Photo by Heather Young
The Atascadero City Council approved banning cultivation of marijuana plants and delivery of medical marijuana in the city of Atascadero at Tuesday special meeting. Photo by Heather Young

City officials leave conversation open for future discussions

–In a special meeting called for the Atascadero City Council on Tuesday at 5 p.m., the elected body passed an ordinance that would ban the cultivation of marijuana for any reason in the city of Atascadero. The ordinance would go in effect as of Feb. 25 if the council passes the second reading of the ordinance at its meeting on Jan. 26 at 6 p.m., which is 30 days later.

“Under the ordinance as it’s proposed, there would be no cultivation of marijuana allowed in the city of Atascadero by anyone,” City Attorney Brian Pierik said during staff’s presentation. “This is your chance to take local control and change it in the future if you so decide.”

There is tight timeframe, Community Development Director Phil Dunsmore said, because the state adopted the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act that goes into effect on March 1. The bills, AB 266, AB 243 and SB 643, were passed in October 2015 and will govern cultivating, processing, transporting, testing and distributing medical marijuana to qualified patients. It also allows city and county governments the opportunity to adopt local ordinances by March 1. Local municipalities that do not have regulations in place will have to then comply with state mandates for regulation.

“This is really less about marijuana and more about local control,” Mayor Tom O’Malley said. “I see this as a responsive to an unfortunate goof by the state. I am certain this is going to be a topic we discuss again.”

All of the speakers during public comment expressed concerns with extending a blanket ban over cultivation and deliveries.

“I think the compassionate use act is a very good law,” said Atascadero resident Deborah McCrell, who is a caregiver for her mother-in-law who has Alzheimer’s. “I’m afraid that the city is going to impose a law that will make cultivation really difficult. I think a ban on cultivation will make the neediest patients go underground. An all-out ban I don’t think is appropriate here.”

Two speakers suggested grandfathering in or considering pre-existing conditions for those who are already cultivating cannabis plants as allowed by law.

While all five of the city council members expressed sympathy and concern for those affected, they agreed that passing the ordinance as presented by staff was the best alternative for the time being.

“I dislike that we have to do this so quickly because it is an important issue,” Mayor Pro Tem Heather Moreno said. “Medical marijuana is not something I have a depth of knowledge about. … If we don’t [meet the deadline] I think it could be detrimental to the city.”

Earlier in the month, Paso Robles City Council took on the same issue and voted to prohibit the cultivation of medical marijuana within the city. Though Paso Robles City Councilman Fred Strong requested that the issue return to the council in the future.

To read the full text of the staff report and ordinance, click here.

This story was originally published on A-Town Daily News.

Council bans marijuana cultivation, deliveries in Atascadero

The Atascadero City Council approved banning cultivation of marijuana plants and delivery of medical marijuana in the city of Atascadero at Tuesday special meeting. Photo by Heather Young.
The Atascadero City Council approved banning cultivation of marijuana plants and delivery of medical marijuana in the city of Atascadero at Tuesday special meeting. Photo by Heather Young.

City officials leave conversation open for future discussions

–In a special meeting called for the Atascadero City Council on Tuesday at 5 p.m., the elected body passed an ordinance that would ban the cultivation of marijuana for any reason in the city of Atascadero. The ordinance would go in effect as of Feb. 25 if the council passes the second reading of the ordinance at its meeting on Jan. 26 at 6 p.m., which is 30 days later.

“Under the ordinance as it’s proposed, there would be no cultivation of marijuana allowed in the city of Atascadero by anyone,” City Attorney Brian Pierik said during staff’s presentation. “This is your chance to take local control and change it in the future if you so decide.”

There is tight timeframe, Community Development Director Phil Dunsmore said, because the state adopted the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act that goes into effect on March 1. The bills, AB 266, AB 243 and SB 643, were passed in October 2015 and will govern cultivating, processing, transporting, testing and distributing medical marijuana to qualified patients. It also allows city and county governments the opportunity to adopt local ordinances by March 1. Local municipalities that do not have regulations in place will have to then comply with state mandates for regulation.

medical marijuana in Paso Robles“This is really less about marijuana and more about local control,” Mayor Tom O’Malley said. “I see this as a responsive to an unfortunate goof by the state. I am certain this is going to be a topic we discuss again.”

All of the speakers during public comment expressed concerns with extending a blanket ban over cultivation and deliveries.

“I think the compassionate use act is a very good law,” said Atascadero resident Deborah McCrell, who is a caregiver for her mother-in-law who has Alzheimer’s. “I’m afraid that the city is going to impose a law that will make cultivation really difficult. I think a ban on cultivation will make the neediest patients go underground. An all-out ban I don’t think is appropriate here.”

Two speakers suggested grandfathering in or considering pre-existing conditions for those who are already cultivating cannabis plants as allowed by law.

While all five of the city council members expressed sympathy and concern for those affected, they agreed that passing the ordinance as presented by staff was the best alternative for the time being.

“I dislike that we have to do this so quickly because it is an important issue,” Mayor Pro Tem Heather Moreno said. “Medical marijuana is not something I have a depth of knowledge about. … If we don’t [meet the deadline] I think it could be detrimental to the city.”

Earlier in the month, Paso Robles City Council took on the same issue and voted to prohibit the cultivation of medical marijuana within the city. Though Paso Robles City Councilman Fred Strong requested that the issue return to the council in the future.

To read the full text of the staff report and ordinance, click here.

This story was originally published on A-Town Daily News and Paso Robles Daily News.

County planning commission approves plans for Templeton psychiatric hospital

Decision can be appealed to board of supervisors

–The San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission approved, 7-0, the request from Dr. Harvey Billig for a tentative parcel map and conditional use permit for a psychiatric hospital in Templeton across the street from Twin Cities Community Hospital at its meeting on Jan. 14. The approval came following a 7-0 recommendation for denial from the Templeton Area Advisory Group in November 2014. County staff, however, recommended approval of the project.

Tuesday’s meeting was a five-hour continuation of the same item it last heard in December. It was continued in order to hear all public comment before making a decision. After the item was introduced, public comment continued where it left off, lasting for more than two hours.

The approval included:

  • Subdividing an existing 4.9-acre parcel into two parcels of 1.46 acres and 3.44 acres
  • Constructing a 36,503-square-feet assisted living facility with 60 beds on the 1.46 acres parcel and a 70,419-square-food behavioral health hospital of 91 beds on the 3.44 acre parcel
  • Modifying the height standards for the proposed hospital to allow a height of 44 feet from average natural grade instead of 35 feet as provided by ordinance

The property is owned by Harvey and Melanie Billig of Carmel, who lived in the county from 1973 to 2000. The hospital will be operated by Vizion Health, LLC. The proposed hospital is planned to have 91 bed in the mental health center and 60 beds in a separate live-in memory care facility.

Among various public comments for and against the project, Fred Russell, a member of the Concerned Citizens Preventing Unintended Consequences, gave a number of reasons why the project isn’t right for the proposed location. Those included inadequate parking for the size, the project being too big for the land, the height being too tall and more.

“This will not be a secure facility. People can come and go as they like,” Russell said. “More than 50-percent of the San luis Obispo County residents who need this kind of facility will not be eligible.”

He ended his time by saying that a full environmental impact report is what is needed to really assess the impact the proposed hospital will have on the community. He said that the negative declaration is not adequate.

Proponents of the project said that Templeton is the right place because there is nowhere local for those suffering with mental illness. According to the Billigs, the hospital will not treat substance abuse, but will provide therapy and medication for depression, anxiety disorder, suicidal tendencies, schizophrenia, social phobias, eating disorders, post-traumatic street disorder in veterans and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children.

After public comment, but before it was opened up to decision by the commission, county staff addressed concerns raised by the public.

County Counsel Whitney McDonald cautioned the commission that in order to comply with state and federal laws, it cannot consider who will be using the facility.

“That means you can’t consider the fact that there are people who have mental illnesses that will be going into or out of the facility, in either considering the project or in ultimately deciding to approve or deny it. The best advice I can give you is you need to treat it like it’s any medical hospital,” McDonald said, adding that the county could be opened up to fines and lawsuits by not abiding by those guidelines.

“There is a critical need for this kind of facility,” Commissioner Ken Topping said, adding that he saw more pluses than minuses, which led to his support of the project.

This story was originally published on Paso Robles Daily News.

County supervisors will hear proposed ban on synthetic drugs

Potential ordinance will go before board on Feb. 2

–The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors will be hosting a public hearing at its Feb. 2 meeting to consider a proposed ordinance that would regulate synthetic drugs in the county.

San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson and District Attorney Dan Dow asked the board to add the hearing. “We have had a problem with synthetic drugs for some time,” Parkinson said. “There’s been some attempted remedies through federal/state law that really have been unsuccessful and a lot of the reasons why is because the manufacturers of these drugs have changed the changed the components, changed the name and have tried to disguise what they’re about. Not unusual; however, it’s created some concern from our point of view.”

Parkinson cited two local tragedies that ended in death and were the direct effect of “spice,” a synthetic drug. Synthetic drugs such as psychoactive bath salts, herbal incense and similar products have been known to cause hallucinations, agitation, psychosis, aggression, suicidal and homicidal ideations, seizures, rapid heart rate and death, according to the staff report on the item.

“The people who make it put ‘not intended for human consumption,’ right on it, but they’ll label it in a manner that is designed to attract youth: they will call it ‘Scooby Snacks,’” Dow said.

Dow said that some of the name used to market the drugs include: Bliss, Blizzard, Blue Silk, Banzai Grow, Charge Plus, Charlie, Cloud Nine, Euphoria, Hurricane, Ivory Snow, Ivory Wave, Lunar Wave, Ocean, Ocean Burst, Pixie Dust, Posh, Pure lvory, Purple Wave, Red Dove, Scarface, Snow Leopard, Stardust, Vanilla Sky, White Dove, White Night, White Lightning, K2, K3, Spice, Genie, Smoke, Potpourri, Buzz, Spice 99, Voodoo, Pulse, Hush, Mystery, Earthquake, Ocean Blue, Stinger, Serenity, Fake Weed and Black Mamba.

“It’s a very real danger,” Dow said.

The penalty for violating the ordinance will either be a misdemeanor or infraction violation. The misdemeanor violation could result in up to six month in county jail or a fine up to $1,000. An infraction, as determined by the D.A., could result in a fine up to $100 for the first violation and up to $200 for the second occurring within one year, and a fine up to $500 for a third infraction happening within a year.

“The thing that this ordinance does is fill in a gap that we are missing,” Parkinson said. “Really it’s going to mount an investigation on our side. … It’s going to take some work, but at the end I think it’s going to be worthwhile.”

The City of Paso Robles banned synthetic drugs in November of 2014.

This story was originally published on A-Town Daily News.

Paso Robles City Council endorses Measure L

Bond measure would tax property tax and give Cuesta $275 million

The Paso Robles City Council voted 4-0, with Councilman Fred Strong absent, to formally endorse Cuesta College’s bond Measure L, which will be on the Nov. 4 ballot. The bond would bring in $275 million for the college and would equate to a tax of $19.45 per $100,000 assessed property value. That tax would show up on San Luis Obispo County and southern Monterey County property owners property tax bills for the next 34 years.

The Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce also endorsed the measure two weeks ago.

Gil Stork
Gil Stork

Cuesta College Superintendent/President Gll Stork presented the bond measure at the council meeting on Oct. 7, asking for support, both an endorsement and votes. According to Cuesta, the board members agreed that the amount of $275 million addresses the needs of the college while also being mindful of the impact of voters.

“We are committed to providing quality, affordable higher education and job training,” Stork said. “However, repairs and upgrades are needed to support vital educational programs, including college transfer courses andcareer technical education that will meet industry and educational standards of today.”

He said that Cuesta College provides essential job training and career education needed for automotive technology, nursing, paramedic/9-1-1 emergency medical training, agriculture trades,early childhood education, law enforcement, welding, construction, engineering, technology and architecture, among others.

“Cuesta College plays a crucial role in keeping our communities healthy and safe by training and educating our area’s paramedics, nurses, emergency medical responders and other healthcare professionals,” Stork said. “If approved, this measure will provide vital funds that will enable Cuesta College to continue playing a central role in our community.”

This measure, would repair, construct and/or acquire facilities, sites and/or equipment, prepare students and returning veterans for universities and/or good paying jobs, address severe budget cuts by updating aging classrooms, improving and/or maintaining nursing, paramedic, 911 medical training, welding, engineering,automotive, early childhood education and other career education programs, repairing deteriorating gas and electrical lines, and upgrading technology.

Cuesta has two campuses: the main campus in San Luis Obispo and a North County campus in Paso Robles. It also offers classes in Arroyo Grande. For its Paso Robles campus, the new revenue would go toward the construction of campus centers for student services, early childhood education and job/career development.

While there were some questions from members of the public, which Stork address, the council gave positive feedback to Stork on the bond measure before officially endorsing it.

This was published on Paso Robles Daily News on Oct. 10, 2014.

The Power is in Your Hands

Voters have dozens of propositions and measures to vote on this November

The November general election is quickly approaching, with vote-by-mail ballots already mailed out. While you likely know who’s running for the state and local races, do you know what propositions and measures are on the ballot this election? There are a handful between the local ballots and the state. No matter what your stance on the issues may be, don’t forget to cast your ballot either by mail or at the polls on Nov. 4.

STATE PROPOSITIONS

Proposition 1: Water bond. Funding for water quality, supply, treatment and storage projects.

If passed, this proposition would authorize $7.12 billion in general obligation bonds for state water supply infrastructure projects, such as surface and groundwater storage; ecosystem and watershed protection and restoration; drinking water protection; water supply management; water recycling and advanced water treatment technology; and flood control. It would reallocate $425 million of unused bond money authorized in prior water bond acts. Additional, general fund money would be appropriated to pay off bonds and require certain projects to provide matching funds from non-state resources.

The fiscal impact of the bond would increase bond repayment costs by an average of $360 million annually over the next 40 years, though the savings is estimated at local governments saving a couple hundred million dollars annually over the next few decades.

Proposition 2: State budget. Budget stabilization account. Legislative constitutional amendment.

This legislative constitutional amendment would require an annual transfer of 1.5 percent of general fund revenues to the state budget stabilization account, as well as requiring additional transfer of personal capital gains tax revenue exceeding eight percent of the general fund to the budget stabilization account and , under certain conditions, a dedicated K-12 school reserve fund. Half of the budget stabilization account revenues will be used to repay state debts and unfunded liabilities. In the case of an emergency or there is s state budget deficit, limited use of the funds will be allowed. The account will be capped at 10 percent of general fund revenues with the remainder directed to infrastructure.

With amendment will result in some existing state debts to be paid down faster, which would result in long-term savings for the state. Changes in the level of state budget reserves, which would depend on the economy and future decisions by the governor and the legislature.

Proposition 2 amends the State Constitution to end the existing rules for a state budget reserve—the Budget Stabilization Account (BSA)—and replace them with new rules. The new rules would change how the state pays down debt and saves money in reserves. In addition,

if Proposition 2 passes, a new state law would go into effect that sets the maximum budget reserves school districts can keep at the local level in some future years.

Finally, the proposition places in the Constitution an existing requirement for the Governor’s budget staff to estimate future state General Fund revenues and spending. Figure 1 summarizes key changes that would occur if voters approve Proposition 2.

Proposition 45: Healthcare insurance. Rate changes. Initiative statute. 

This proposition would require changes to health insurance rates or anything else affecting charges associated with health insurance. It would not, however, apply to an employers that have large group health plans. It would prohibit health, auto and homeowners insurers from determining policy eligibility or rates based on lack of prior coverage or credit history.

The fiscal impact would be increased state administrative costs to regulate it, though likely not exceeding “the low millions of dollars annually in most years, funded from fees paid by health insurance companies.” This measure requires the Insurance Commissioner  to approve rates for certain types of health insurance. The rate approval process would be similar to a process that is currently used for other types of insurance, such as automobile and homeowner’s insurance.

Proposition 46: Drug and alcohol testing of doctors. Medical negligence lawsuits. Initiative statute.

If passed, Proposition 46 would required drug and alcohol testing of doctors, as well as the reporting of positive tests to the California Medical Board. The board would then be required to suspend the doctor pending an investigation in to the positive test, and they would be required to take disciplinary action if the doctor was impaired while on duty. Doctors would be required to report other doctors that they suspect of drug or alcohol impairment or medical negligence. Health care practitioners would be required to consult state prescription drug history databases before prescribing certain controlled substances. The proposition would the cap on pain and suffering damages in medical negligence lawsuits to account for inflation.

The fiscal impact would be increased state and local government health care costs from raising the cap, which would likely range from the 10s of millions of dollars to several hundred million dollars annually. There could be, however, potentially significant state and local government savings from the new requirements on health care providers.

Proposition 47: Criminal sentences. Misdemeanor penalties. Initiative statute.

Proposition 47 would require misdemeanor sentences instead of felony for certain drug possession offenses. It would require misdemeanor sentences instead of felony crimes where the amount involved in $950 or less for petty theft, receiving stolen property and forging/writing bad checks. It would allow felony sentencing for those offenses if the person has been previously convicted for crimes such as rape, murder or child molestation or is a registered sex offender. It would then require resentencing for those serving felony sentencing for those listed above unless the court finds an unreasonable public safety risk. The savings would be applied to mental health and drug treatment programs, K-12 schools and crime victims.

The fiscal impact would be a net state criminal justice system savings that could reach the low hundreds of millions of dollars annually. The savings would be spent on school truancy and dropout prevention, mental health and substance abuse treatment and victim services. The net country criminal justice system savings could reach several hundred million dollars annually.

Proposition 48: Indian Gaming Compacts. Referendum.

This proposition would ratify tribal gaming compacts between the state and ProNorth Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians and the Wiyot Tribe. It would omit certain projects related to executing the compacts or amendments to the compacts from scope of the California Environmental Quality Act.

The fiscal impact, is a one-time payment between $16 million and $35 million from the North Fork tribe to local governments in the Madera County area to address costs related to the operation of a new casino. Annual payments over a 20-year period will average around $10 million from the North Fork tribe to the state and local governments in the Madera County area to address costs related to the operation of a new casino. There will be increased revenue from economic growth in the Madera County area, which would be offset by revenue losses from decreased economic activity in surrounding areas. This proposition is a referendum on AB 277. If voters approve Proposition 48, the gaming compacts between the state and the two tribes would go into effect.

SLO County ballot measures

Measure B-14: Atascadero Unified School District

This measure would continue the work of Measure I-10 by modernizing and expanding vocational education facilities, repairing aging schools throughout the district, improving student computer access, and constructing a high school science, technology, engineering and mathematics facility. The measure would bring in $58 million of Atascadero Unified School District bonds, previously approved in November 2010 . If passed Measure B-14 would reauthorize through issuance of new bonds with interest rates below legal limits, independent citizens oversight, no money for administrator salaries and no increase in total authorized district debt.

MEASURE C-14: City of Arroyo Grande

If passed, this measure would make Arroyo Grande a charter city, which means that the laws of the city would prevail over state law in respect to the management of municipal affairs.

Measure D-14: San Luis Coast Unified School District

Measure D-14 would improve the quality of education; construct/renovate classrooms, facilities, labs, and infrastructure; update career education programs for job readiness; replace leaky roofs; improve student access to computers and technology; upgrade/replace outdated electrical, plumbing, and sewer systems; make health, safety, and energy-efficiency improvements.  The $177 million of bonds will have an independent citizens’ oversight committee and use no money for administrative salaries or be taken by the state.

MEASURE E-14: City of Atascadero, advisory vote only

This purpose of this measure is to get an advisory vote from Atascadero residents on how the half-percent limited-term sales tax increase revenues be used if Measure F-14 passed. The measure asks if voters are in favor of the revenue being used for the purpose of repairing and maintaining neighborhood roads and other roadways.

MEASURE F-14: City of Atascadero

If passed, this measure would increase the local general sales tax by a half-percent for a period of 12 years with citizen committee oversight, published annual reporting and independent financial audits. This funding could not be seized by the stay and will stay in Atascadero to be used for things such as the repair of neighborhood roads and aging roadways, along with other vital city needs.

MEASURE G-14: City of San Luis Obispo

This measure asks San Luis Obispo City voters if they’d be in favor of a half-percent local sales tax increase for eight years with independent annual audits, public goal-setting and budget, and a citizens’ oversight commission. The sales tax increase would protect and maintain essential services and facilities such as open space preservation, bike lanes and sidewalks, public safety, neighborhood street paving and code enforcement, flood protection, senior programs and other vital services and capital improvement projects.

MEASURE H-14: City of Pismo Beach

If passed, this measure would amend the city’s general plan, altering development standards within the city’s sphere of influence in Planning Area R and other specific area.

MEASURE I-14: City of Pismo Beach, Pismo Beach Vital Public Service Protection Measure

This measure asks Pismo Beach resident if they would approve extending the half-cent increase to the city of Pismo Beach sales tax that was approved by voters in 2008 for a period of 12 years. The increase would continue to help preserve, enhance and improve the infrastructure, safety and character of Pismo Beach.

MEASURE J-14: City of Morro Bay

This measure asks the voters of Morro Bay is they think the Morro Bay Municipal Code should be amended to change the time and method of electing the city’s mayor and city council members to a single election in November to coincide with the statewide general election with the candidates receiving the highest number of votes being elected to the open positions. Currently, the mayor and council election takes place during the state primary election in June, while the rest of the cities in the county conduct theirs in November.

MEASURE K-14:City of Grover Beach Street Rehabilitation, Safety Improvement Bond Measure

This measure asks Grover Beach residents if the city should incrementally issue up to $48 million of bonds at tax-exempt interest rates and requiring funds to go directly into the Street Construction Designated Fund. All the funds would be used exclusively for Grover Beach streets and are subject to independent audits and a citizens’ oversight committee.

Measure L-14: Cuesta College affordable education, job training/ campus repair

This measure for Cuesta College would repair, construct/acquire facilities, sites/equipment, prepare students/returning veterans for universities/good paying jobs, address severe budget cuts by updating aging classrooms, improving/maintaining nursing, paramedic, 911 medical training, welding, engineering, automotive, early childhood education/other career education programs, repairing deteriorating gas/electrical lines, upgrading technology. The $275 million in will require citizens’ oversight, independent audits and all funds to be used locally.

Santa Barbara County ballot measures

Measure O: Transient Occupancy Tax for Santa Barbara County

If passed, this measure would increase the county’s transient occupancy tax rate to 12.5 percent. The new tax rate will take effect on Jan. 1, 2015, if approved by Santa Barbara County voters. Between the November election and the effective date, the tax rate will be 10 percent. Revenue from TOT is a general tax that the Board of Supervisors uses for its annual county budget.

Measure P: Proposed ban on high-intensity petroleum operations for Santa Barbara County

This measure, if passed, would not only ban high-intensity petroleum operations in the county, but it would also include, but is not limited to, well stimulation treatments and secondary and enhanced recovery operations such as hydraulic fracturing, steam injection and acid well stimulation on all lands within Santa Barbara County’s unincorporated area. The proposed initiative would not apply to onshore facilities that support offshore exploration or production from offshore wells or to off-site facilities or infrastructure, such as refineries and pipelines that do not directly support high-intensity petroleum operations. The purpose of this initiative is to protect the health and environment of Santa Barbara County — its air and water quality, water supplies, agricultural lands, scenic vistas, and quality of life — by prohibiting these operations.

Measure Q: Montecito Union School District Bond Measure

The purpose of this bond measure to repair essential/outdated Montecito Union Elementary School District infrastructure, maintain the quality of education with local funding that cannot be taken by the state. The proceeds from the sale of the bond would upgrade education facilities to meet current health, safety, security and accessibility codes, reduce traffic and improve safety on San Ysidro Road, and renovate heating, plumbing, electrical and energy systems. If passed the school district would issue $27.15 million of bonds with independent audits, citizen oversight and no money going to administrators.

Measure R: City of Buellton to elect a mayor, and for two or four-year term

This measure for the City of Buellton has three questions: Shall the voters of Buellton elect a mayor and four city council members? Shall the term of office of the mayor of Buellton be two years? Shall the term of office of the mayor of Buellton be four years?

Measure S: Santa Barbara Community College District bond measure

This measure, if passed, would allow Santa Barbara Community College to issue $288 million in bonds to repair, construct, acquire and seismically upgrade facilities, sites and equipment at City College, maintain access to quality, affordable education for students, including local high school graduates and returning veterans, prepare students for careers and transfer to four-year universities by upgrading academic, science, engineering, health care and vocational classrooms and improving technology and energy-efficiency.

Measure T: Santa Maria-Bonita School District bond measure

This measure asks voters in the Santa Maria-Bonita School District (part of which is in San Luis Obispo County) if they approve of the district issuing $35 million in bonds with an independent citizen oversight committee, mandatory audits and none of the funds going to administrators’ salaries or pensions. All funds will be dedicated to Santa Maria-Bonita School District’s K-8 school facilities for student learning and safety. It would repair or replace leaky roofs, plumbing, electrical, lighting and ventilation, upgrade science labs and education technology, improve safety and security, and construct school facilities to relieve overcrowding.

Measure U: Carpinteria Unified School District bond measure

This bond measure would allow Carpinteria Unified School District to issue, if passed, $90 in bonds to improve schools, attract and retain quality teachers and prepare students for college and careers by repairing deteriorating classrooms, bathrooms and leaky roofs, removing asbestos and lead paint, upgrading electrical wiring and classroom technology, and repairing, constructing, acquiring educational facilities, sites and equipment.

Measure V: City of Guadalupe Public Service Protection Measure

If voters approve this measure, the $2,250 annual cap on the city’s utility users tax would be removed, but the tax would remain at 5 percent. The tax is charged on water, electricity, natural gas and telephone services and would apply to all businesses, including those that spend more than $45,000 a year on utilities. Previously those that spent more than $45,000 a year on utilities did not pay the tax. According to the city, there is only one company that pays more than $45,000. It is estimated that the measure would bring in an additional $100,000 per year for the city to continue providing certain public services.

Measure W: City of Guadalupe Public Service Preservation Business Tax Certification Measure

If approved, this measure would replace the city’s flat rate business license fee with a business tax based on a percentage of gross revenue. The current fee ranges between $60 and $120. The tax would be 0.05 percent on business revenue — which translates to 50 cents per $1,000. A business grossing $1 million would pay $500. However, the lowest amount a business could pay is $100 for a home-based or out-of-town business and a business with a location inside the city would pay at least $200 a year. According to officials, this new tax rate would bring in an additional $150,000 in city revenue each year.

Measure X: City of Guadalupe Public Service Preservation Sales Tax Measure

This measure, if passed, would increase the local sales tax by a quarter percent, taking the tax rate from 8 percent to 8.25. It is estimated that this increase would bring in an additional $62,5000 per year. According to the mayor, Frances Romero, if this measure, along with W and V, then the city of Guadalupe could be forces to give up its incorporation.

Measure Y: College School District bond measure

This measure, also known as the College School District General Obligation Bond of 2014, if passed by 55 percent of registered voters, will authorize the district to issue and sell bonds of up to 12 million in aggregate principal at interest rates below the legal limit, to fund special school projects: improve technology infrastructures and provide access to modern computing, provide specialized labs and learning environments, improve existing gym/multipurpose rooms to support visual and performing arts, construct new and improve existing classrooms, provide Santa Ynez Valley Charter School with a performing arts space, science lab upgrades and additional classrooms to accommodate students, complete support facility improvements, furnish and equip school facilities with 21st century learning environments, and address unforeseen conditions revealed by construction and modernization.

This story was published in the October 2014 issue of Information Press.

Paso Robles to vie for airport conference

Conference would bring small airplane owners, pilots from the west

The Paso Robles City Council approved a request from Assistant City Manager Meg Williamson to give a formal endorsement to city staff submitting a proposal to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association to host the 2015 conference.

“Being hosts to this conference, which will draw visitors from all over the west, is both an airport and tourism benefit,” Williamson said, adding that there will be ample opportunities to involve local businesses such as restaurants, hotels, wineries and others in promotion efforts.

Williamson said that the association recently shifted from a large annual conference that was held at one location nationally to there being four or five regional conferences held around the country at smaller airports. The new format was successful this year, so the association has now issued a request for proposals. She said that the one-day event will include 2,500 people in attendance with 1,000 cars and 500 airplanes.

Williamson said that city staff, airport staff and the Paso Robles Airport Association have been working together to resolve the many logistical requirements, as well as identifying, contacting and securing commitment from the key participants that would be necessary to pull of the conference. The involvement of additional community service providers would be secured once Paso Robles is selected as the site and a date determined.

“The first thing is to get this proposal in and see if we get this event,” Williamson said.

She said that the Paso Robles Airport is capable of meeting the site requirements because the conference is close in size to the city’s annual airshow. The three possible event dates impose the least impact on the local event schedule for 2015.

“The [conference] would be a great opportunity for Paso Robles,” Paso Robles Airport Operations Manager Bill Borgsmiler said. “I don’t know if we’ll get it, but it won’t hurt to throw our name in the hat. If we get it, we’ll have it all under control.”

The council voted 5-0 to approve the resolution to express official city support for the event.

“I’d like to say [that] I think this is a great idea for the airport,” Councilman Steve Martin said. ” It draws the exact people we want to draw to Paso Robles.”

Councilman Ed Steinbeck said he thinks it’s a great idea to get the conference to Paso Robles.

“This is the No. 1 best all-weather airport in the United States today, and not enough people know that,” Mayor Pro Tem Fred Strong added.

Save Atas. files lawsuit about Walmart

ATASCADERO — Save Atascadero filed a lawsuit against the city of Atascadero on Aug. 9 that challenges the city’s actions made on June 26 in regard to the Walmart/Annex.

According to city attorney Brian Pierik, the lawsuit could delay the project at least a year or more.

The petition, filed by Mark R. Wolfe and John H. Farrow of M.R. Wolfe and Associates, P.C. of San Francisco, the attorneys for Save Atascadero, says that the lawsuit challenges the city’s actions that certified the environmental impact report under the California Environmental Quality Act, public resources code section 21000 et seq., and that approved a general plan amendment, zoning ordinance text and map amendment, specific plan, specific plan master plan of development, tree removal permits and vesting tentative parcel maps for the Del Rio Road Commercial Area Special Plan.

“Save Atascadero had no alternative but to seek relief in court,” Save Atascadero spokesman Tom Comar wrote in a press release issued Wednesday. “Neither the Atascadero Planning Commission, with the exception of one member, nor the city council did their ‘due diligence’ in assessing, deliberating, and ensuring that CEQA standards were met by the state-mandated environmental impact report before approving the project.”

Comar went on to write that city staff, the planning commission and city council “failed” the citizens of Atascadero by “willfully ignoring the testimony of experts and informed citizens, that highlighted insufficiencies, inconsistencies and inaccuracies in the EIR data and the lack of pertinent data.”

“For both pro and anti-Walmart supporters, rest assured if or when the project comes, we want it to be the best project, the most environmentally mitigated project that is feasible to meet CEQA standards or even to exceed those standards,” Comar wrote.

Engineering Development Associates, Inc., Montecito Bank & Trust, Omni Design Group, Inc., The Rottman Group, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and Does I through XXV are listed as real parties in interest.

Pierik said the process would include preparing an administrative record, certified by the city clerk and filed by the court.

Then, Pierik said that the attorneys for the real parties of interest and the respondent (the city of Atascadero) will each have the opportunity to respond to the petitioner’s brief. Then a hearing would be set.

He said how long it takes would depend on how long it takes to prepare an administrative record and what the brief schedule would be.

“This legal challenge is technical and will be fought out in the court room through the testimony of experts, not in the press or letters to the editor,” Comar wrote.

This story was originally published in the Atascadero News on Aug. 21, 2012.

Walmart/Annex project gets unanimous go-ahead

ATASCADERO — The Atascadero City Council unanimously approved moving forward with the Walmart/Annex project Tuesday six years after Walmart bought the property at Del Rio Road and El Camino Real.

While many of the 60 speakers during public forum spoke in favor or against having a Walmart store in Atascadero, a good number spoke about traffic and fiscal impacts approving the project as presented by staff.

“To be fair to everyone, we need Walmart and the Annex to pay their fair share of the actual costs,” Atascadero resident Ron Rothman said, and his sentiments on the interchange improvements were echoed by many other speakers, including those who said they want a Walmart in Atascadero, but not at the cost to the city.

While the city will front the costs of the interchange, Frace said that the city expects to get a total of $4,887,394 when the project is built out. Walmart’s portion of that is $2,269,425.

The city will receive a $250,000 payment from Walmart when the entitlements are final, which Frace expects to be in late summer of this year. A payment of $600,000 is due at the time of grading, which is expected to happen within the next year. The balance is then due at the time that the building permit is issued. Frace said that could likely happen at the end of 2013 or the beginning of 2014.

The city has $800,000 in traffic impact fees already in the bank that could be utilized for up-front costs. If needed, Frace said that the city could borrow $1.5 million from the wastewater fund, which has more than $10 million in it. The money would be paid back with interest using future traffic impact fees.

Atascadero resident Hardy Neilson, a Del Rio Road resident, said he’s for the project, but that all improvements should be done and operational before any store is opened in the project.

“Come on, people, are we that incompetent we can’t drive around while this stuff is going on?” Atascadero resident Jim Shannon said.

“No more delays, we need jobs, we need sales tax,” Atascadero resident Mike Anderson said.

Atascadero Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Linda Hendy also spoke in favor of the council approving the project because the chamber supports “all businesses in Atascadero. It will bring hundreds of jobs to our community.”

“It doesn’t matter if you’re for or against Walmart, it’s a matter of being fiscally responsible,” Atascadero resident Randy Lawrence said. “I would certainly have Walmart fund the [interchange costs]. Please be fiscally responsible.”

Several former Atascadero mayors spoke on the project.

“I believe the [benefits] far outweigh the risk,” former Atascadero mayor Ray Johnson said.

Former mayor Mike Brennler said that the interchange mitigations need to be in place before Walmart opens.

“Council members, we need to move forward with this project,” former Atascadero mayor Bob Wilkins said. “Could this have helped DeCou Lumber? Quite possibly. Let’s not lose our current investment of seven years.”

The council approved all 12 motions as recommended by staff one at a time. After staff and applicant presentations, a few short questions were asked of staff. There were also only a couple of questions after the public comment period was closed. There was no discussion between the council before motions were made.

At buildout, it is expected that the entire project will increase the city’s net revenues by $530,000 per year. Frace added that the number includes every proposed building in the project being complete and operational.

To get started on the interchange improvements, the city submitted the project initiation form to Caltrans on Thursday. Public Works Director Russ Thompson said that it’ll take at least a year to get through the design and environmental reviews processes.

“It’s so nice to finally have an approved project,” Thompson said.

The project was recommended for approval by the Atascadero Planning Commission in a 4-1 vote. Commissioner Len Colamarino dissented, Commissioner Beth Wingett was absent and Commissioner Christian Cooper recused himself because he signed a card in support of Walmart.

The Rottman Group first approached the city in early 2005 after it assembled parcels on three corners of the intersection. Walmart bought the 26 acres it owns from the Rottman Group in mid-2006.

The property owned by the Rottman Group on the northeast corner of the intersection was put up for auction earlier this year and purchased by Montecito Bank & Trust. While the bank is going forward as the applicant on the Annex portion of the development, along with the Rottman Group, which still retains a small lot across El Camino Real from the main Annex development, the bank will not develop the site, but will rather sell the property to developers.

The approved Walmart store will be 129,000 square feet with outlots for future businesses to be built.

The second reading of the project will be on the Tuesday, July 10 city council meeting under the consent calendar. All items on the consent calendar are approved in one motion, although city staff, council members and members or the public have the option to pull items off the consent calendar for discussion.

This story was originally published in the Atascadero News on June 29, 2012.