San Luis Obispo County supervisors have approved a new $165 million wastewater treatment system and plant location serving the unincorporated coastal community of Los Osos. The community has been subject to a state-imposed building moratorium since 1988 because the town's 6,000 septic tanks pollute groundwater and the Morro Bay estuary.
Everything about a Los Osos sewer system – such as cost, location, type of system and operation – has been controversial since it was first proposed during the 1970s. The Los Osos Community Services District (CSD) finally approved the project about six years ago, and the Coastal Commission granted a development permit for the wastewater treatment plant in 2004. Voters in the district then recalled CSD board members who approved the project, and construction was halted. The CSD subsequently went into a political and fiscal tailspin, resulting in bankruptcy (see CP&DR In Brief, November 2005
). Meanwhile, state lawmakers approved a measure handing responsibility for the wastewater project to the county.
Earlier this year, the county Planning Commission approved a gravity-flow system and a wastewater treatment plant on agricultural land east of Los Osos. No fewer than 17 appeals were filed to the Board of Supervisors protesting the decision, among them from the Surfrider Foundation and the owners of a cemetery. They questioned the environmental impact report, complained about the cost that residents and property owners might bear, and urged a different location and design for the plant. Supervisors, nevertheless, backed the Planning Commission's decision. The project next heads to the Coastal Commission. Construction could begin as soon as 2010, although commission hesitancy or litigation by opponents could slow the project. A state appellate court has upheld
the City of Manteca's 1,200% increase in a "government building facilities fee" despite development agreements the city had with several housing developers. The developers contended that the fee, which the city increased from $350 to $4,700 per home over the course of three years, was actually a new fee prohibited by the agreements. Manteca countered that it was simply modifying an existing fee after a nexus study showed that the original $350 fee would not even be close to covering the cost of adding city office space, a library, an animal shelter and a performing arts center.
In an unpublished opinion, the Third District Court of Appeal rejected the arguments of developers Morrison Homes and Pulte Home. "The mere existence of the development agreements between the builders and city did not entitle the builders to pay only the $350 facilities fee that was in force when the development agreement with the city took effect," the court ruled. The development agreements require payment of the fee at the time of building permit issuance, and nothing in the agreements or the Mitigation Fee Act prevents the hike, the court determined. The case is Pulte Home Corp. v. City of Manteca
, No. C058744. A Sacramento County Superior Court ruling
blocking the transfer of $350 million from redevelopment agencies to school districts in fiscal year 2008-09 will stand because the Schwarzenegger administration will not appeal the decision. Judge Lloyd Connolly ruled the shift was illegal because there was no guarantee the money would be used for redevelopment purposes (see CP&DR Redevelopment Watch, June 2009
The administration and state lawmakers closed part of the 2009-2010 budget gap by moving $1.7 billion from redevelopment agencies to schools and state programs. This time around, the state restricted spending of the shifted redevelopment tax increment to redevelopment project areas, and to services for people who live in the areas or in redevelopment-assisted housing. The California Redevelopment Association contends the latest shift is still unconstitutional and is preparing a lawsuit.