Keywords: San Luis Obispo County water supply, Nipomo, Arroyo Grande, Agricultural land use, Overdevelopment
Feb, 2016: Laetitia Development DENIED by SLO Planning Commission!
It took a winding road to get to this point, and it was problematic access through a tangle of winding roads that stopped this project in the final analysis, but the right result was obtained. Water and the decimation of open farmland in favor of "ranchettes" should have killed this one, but thats ok.
We are grateful to the SLO Planning Commission for doing some long-term thinking and putting an end to this project.
Jan 22, 2016 Update
Laetitia Winery Development vote delayed again!
Partially as a result of water supply concerns, the last meeting produced another one, now scheduled for a SLO Planning Commission hearing on Feb 11th.
This is great news, since it may mean that the very real long-term aquifer health issues are finally being considered as such by the commissioners. Of course they may end up ignoring what a wide spectrum of water experts are saying about the affects of climate change on rain patterns and how higher temps increase evaporation from the soil leading to even less groundwater, but this is a good step by the agency.
Oct 30, 2015 Update: During the most recent hearing, SLO Planning Commission initially signaled that it would deny the project. The Laetitia developer then agreed to delete 19 homes from the project and not rely on a well near Los Berros Creek. Planning Commission then swung toward approval, potentially at a hearing in January. We still question long term water supplies for this.
Oct 28, 2015 Update: Long term water supply studies compilation submitted by Nature Commission as comment for Planning Commission hearing on Oct 29th. (report at lower right)
Sept 10, 2015 Update: San Luis Obispo county Planning Commission gets part way through hearing on Laetitia project.
At the hearing, significant questions on water supply were asked with key answers not available. Commissioners asked for recently conducted water well tests, including rates of draw-down. They also asked about who, when the next serious water shortage occurs, would be the first to be ordered to cut back; the new homeowners or the winery. The answer given by development interests was the winery.
Neighbors in the vicinity reported that levels in their wells had become dangerously low.
Lawyers for development interests said that because x amount of density was approved for a previous ranch project, this one should qualify for higher density as well.
Rest of Report:
A small rural winery, a developer from a densely populated city and some wide open hills - perfect pickings for the destructive expansion of more housing, creating greater imbalance with long term water supplies and damaging the local ecosystem which supports Steelhead Salmon.
An area called Nipomo Hills along the central coast of California is the site of this proposed 102 unit development by a Beverly Hills investor. The appropriate use for this area is the farming that is there now, not clusters of homes.
The developer confirms this in responses saying that if they dont get approval for all the units they want, the project wont "pencil out". Indeed, the meaning is that the ecosystem, the historical uses and the current residents concerns should all be subservient to financial greed when something doesn't "pencil out".
Currently farmed by the Laetitia Winery, efforts to sell-out land needed to grow food, provide habitat for native species and a balanced lifestyle for local residents continues.
As we are all aware, the central coast has experienced some of the most extensive water shortages as a result of the current drought.
In the article, the need to move with caution is made obvious by a comment from Community Services District member Ed Eby, "when we see areas like Cambria, which is out of water essentially, and rationing their water severely, we still have a supply of groundwater that's diminishing rapidly."
This drought may ease temporarily, but the region's long term water shortages will continue to worsen if more non-farming uses are added.
Over the long run in genuine planning that government is supposed to do, climate change has recently been proven to be a significant contributor to lower precipitation levels throughout California, as documented in a number of reliable studies.
Recent comments on drought by agencies and climate researchers:
Noah Diffenbaugh, climate scientist, Stanford University, said new findings “provide strong evidence that global warming has substantially increased the probability of getting extremely low snow conditions.”
David Rizzardo, chief snow surveyor, California Department of Water Resources: “From a department perspective, you can go back 500 years or 10,000 years, it doesn’t really change the context of the here and now. We’re stuck in this situation.”
A. Park Williams, bio-climatologist, Columbia University, said evidence shows that warming temperatures have exacerbated the lack of snow in California.
“We are now migrating into this new world where temperatures are higher,” Dr. Williams said. “So even though the chances of an event like this were extremely unlikely in the past, in the future it will be more likely to occur.”
This land, bisected by many creeks and key watersheds for Steelhead Salmon, is highly inappropriate for this kind of project. If it is approved and built, it will release the flood gates to further greed leading eventually to the destruction of a vast area of coast range hills and farmland.
The project will be a highly relevant test of new Clean Water Act regulations meant to protect existing streams by taking into account the many tributaries that either detract from or add to the health of these crucial watersheds.
A significant number of local residents oppose these plans. We at the Nature Commission stand with them.
Excellent quotes against the Laetitia Winery development from a letter sent to the county:
Laetitia vineyard operations have already affected nearby wells. Much of the Laetitia well testing, performed by Laetitia’s consultants, was done during a relatively wet year. It is presumed that their studies would have been substantially different if performed during dryer years, which is the norm for the area of Nipomo. Many vacant properties south of the Laetitia have been approved for building. Most of them have approval for two home sites. These home sites will be obtaining their water from the same fractured shale that Laetitia is proposing to use for the Ag Cluster Subdivision. There will not be enough water to go around for all of the homes that have already received approval if this project is approved.
The Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club has stated, “The real possibility that the expansion of irrigated ag has resulted in the dewatering of Los Berros Creek, as evidenced by substantially less flow, demonstrates that there is no “excess water” for residential use and the project represents a violation of Ag Policy11 and the Ag Cluster ordinance”. The California Department of Fish and Game has stated in their letter to San Luis Obispo County that “The Department strongly discourages approving projects which would reduce Los Berros Creek flows”.
This project should NOT BE ALLOWED TO PROCEED PAST THE SLO COUNTY HEARING.