Monday, October 31, 2005

Dear Public Servants: Remember Me?

I'm a taxpayer. I know that you probably get tired of hearing this one but I think I pay your salary. Sure, you spend a lot of time with the movers and shakers of the development world and they're probably a lot more interesting than I am but you're still supposed to be looking out for me. Maybe we should meet for lunch and get acquainted?

sincerely, Jane Q

Witness this "grassroots effort" by Westpac and the way that our public servants can be invited to private strategy sessions while the public is locked out of the process.

Carol is the project manager for the huge urban-style project being proposed in Templeton and has often made claims of a desire to involve the public in this process in a "grassroots" way. Names of county officials have been changed to protect...the names of county officials. The county tried to submit the project with a negative declaration based on a traffic assessment that is incompetent at best.

From: "planner A"
Subject: Traffic Meeting; Westpac
Date: October 25, 2005 2:10:01 PM PDT
To: (carol's e-mail)

I have a request from 2 members of the public (Korie Bayer and Jane Q) to attend the meeting on Thursday regarding traffic. Since Oasis and Associates is hosting the meeting I indicated to them that it wasn't appropriate for me to invite them.

Please send an email to Korie indicating whether or not they can attend. Thanks for you cooperation.

"Planner A"
Planner, Inland/Environmental Division
San Luis Obispo County

Subject: Westpac Traffic Meeting
Date: October 27, 2005 1:50:45 PM PDT
To: Carol's address

Dear Ms. Florence,

I have received your voicemail regarding the traffic meeting that you have arranged for today, October 27, with regard to the Ramada Project. I understand that this meeting will be attended by Caltrans, SLOCOG, a representative from the Department of Planning and Building, and a representative from the Department of Public Works as well as other agencies.

I also understood you to say that the purpose of this meeting is to ensure that all parties are "on the same page" on this issue. What I am having trouble understanding is your unwillingness to submit to our request to observe this meeting.

As you are aware, Citizens concerned for Templeton's Future has submitted a request for review of the mitigated negative declaration submitted for this project. A major concern with regard to our request for an EIR is that the traffic impacts will be tremendous and unmitigable. The previous traffic study has been found to be grossly inadequate and the models for the calculations are very unclear.

As it is our hope that we be "on the same page" as well, it makes no sense that Westpac is unwilling to allow us to attend. It also runs counter to the stated claim, as quoted in the Paso Robles Press, that it is your desire to involve the citizens of the community on a "grass roots level."

Please clarify your position on this matter. Your concern that the details of this meeting will "not be helpful" to us due to the "very technical issues" involved has been noted but I would respectfully disagree and submit that it is exactly these technicalities that we should all be allowed to understand. I am sure that Westpac shares in our desire to achieve transparency in this process.

Thank you for your consideration,

Korie Bayer, Templeton

(no reply received)

From: high-ranking county
Subject: Re: Urgent - Meeting today
Date: October 27, 2005 11:32:01 AM PDT
Cc: planner A and other high-ranking county officials

Ms. Bayer:
Thank you for your email regarding an inquiry into a meeting scheduled for today. I did some checking and was informed that the meeting you are referencing was initiated by a private party--in this case the applicants agent--and the meeting is not a county meeting.

Since an applicant or agent can convene meetings and extend invitations to who ever they want, I don't have the authority to override their action. I also understand that Mr. A informed you that he would forward any relevant information from the meeting on to you.

-- High-Ranking County Official

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Sunday, October 30, 2005

For The Vast Audio Radiance

It's no secret to our blog readers that three of our bloggers are also experienced with radio. Bill Benica and Dave Congalton can be heard weekdays in San Luis Obispo county.

The subject of radio has come up in blog postings by David Ciaffardini and comments from readers.

Your blog publisher, Newsstand Greg, also has a radio career under his belt...and he recaps what it means.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

"Activist" vs "Active in the Community"

A few months ago I was a wife, a mom, and a nurse practitioner. I didn't have a clue what a mitigated negative declaration was and I thought that if an empty lot was zoned 'Commercial Retail' it meant that it would not be covered with high-density housing but would someday have one or more buildings on it with a commercial function of some kind.

I thought that the unincorporated communities were represented by an advisory group which had some authority in assuring that the citizen-created community design plan was adhered to. I thought I had a representative on the Board of Supervisors...

What is the difference between an "activist" and someone who is "active in the commmunity?" I can't say for sure but the trend seems to be that if you're willing to just help out and do as you're told then you're "active in the community." If you want to help out but you see some elephants in the room and you would like to point them out -- then you're an "activist" which tends to carry some negative connotations.

It's unfortunate, really. I think that all of us want to live in healthy and balanced communities. We just need to try to figure out how to work together in finding the best way of getting there. --Korie Bayer

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Tuesday's Latest Bloggings

What's the cheapest gallon of gasoline where you live? Guy Murray asks if it's less than...well, let's let him ask the question.

Ann Calhoun is an astute observer of SLO county media...and compares The Tribune to Rip Van Winkle!

Jobs for disabled people, Gary Ray Rogers tells us, are still scarce despite nearly 70 years of federal programs to hire disabled workers.

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Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Road Goes Through Pismo Beach

"The Road Less Traveled" is the name of Melissa Etheridge's new greatest hits collection. Look closely at the cover which shows Melissa standing on...Pismo Beach sand!

A breast cancer survivor, Etheridge was on the David Letterman show last Thursday night (10/20) and told Dave the photo was taken on the Pismo sand. The things one can learn from a little tv.

Have a great week and thanks for visiting again. Don't forget to leave a comment on any posting you choose, or send the editor an email. I read and answer every message. Thanks!

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Saturday, October 22, 2005

What is the Ramada Project?

I guess this is another example where it's hard to define exactly what something IS, but it's easy to say what it's NOT.

What Ramada Is NOT--A Mixed-Use Project

In trying to come up with a definition of "mixed use" for this blog--you know, try to gain credibility by quoting facts--I've found that "facts" are hard to find. This seems to be the case with all of the land use issues I've been trying to educate myself on over the past few months.

Lots of gray area makes it easier to chase away those pesky community residents who say, "Hey. Wait a minute. That's not what they're supposed to be allowed to put there."

Like many others, I look at this project and I see a housing development with a strip mall and mini-storage thrown in to justify the demise of our last, large vacant commercial parcel on the 101 corridor. I see a developer who wants to maximize profits in a market where empty retail spaces abound while housing is still red hot.

I see an unincorporated community with no self-sustaining economy or hope of eventual incorporation--Heck, I'd settle for some hope that my kid could have a chance at a local job when he grows up--and a government that shows no motivation to correct that.

Too Many "Gray" Areas?

And I see a county planning department that is making decisions based on it's own budgetary mission without looking out for the long term benefit of the tax-paying residents of Templeton. I'm pretty sure our right to representation is guaranteed in the constitution but I could be wrong. It's probably a gray area.

Anyway, I did a Google search on 'mixed use project definition.' There are articles that describe the concept pretty well, but I've got to tell you I had a good belly laugh in the googling process.

Can you guess what showed up as number '5' on the very first page? There she was in all her glory: the Paso Robles press story, "Mixed-use Project Proposed in Templeton."

Come on. Click the link. On the page she was surrounded by mixed use articles from the Las Vegas strip and metropolitan Minneapolis. Imagine that and then our own supervising planner, Chuck Stevenson, describing why this is a great idea for a 40 acre commercial retail parcel in an area on the edge of town and surrounded by a tractor shop and a bunch of cows. Seriously, folks. It was a funny read.

What Is the "Mixed Use" Definition in SLO County?

The county will be seeing this "mixed use" phrase a lot in the coming years. It will often be juxtaposed with that sexy "smart growth" term. Some of the projects, like the fabulous Colony Square Project in downtown Atascadero, will be the real deal. But there will be many who exploit the terminology for personal financial gain or simply due to a lack of willingness to look at each project individually.

They will label all who oppose a project as NIMBYs and they will forge ahead with "political will" instead of trying to listen to our concerns and maybe recognizing that they are shooting themselves in the foot by plunking down a mass like this in such an unsuitable size, shape, and location.

If this gets built in a form anywhere close to what's on the table now, a mere mention of the term "mixed use" and Cliff and Harry had better start sharpening their pencils for the next big verbal spanking because the TAAG meeting for that project will have to be held at the football stadium.

Unveiling this project as a model for smart growth? Nothing smart about that.

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Ramada Project vs Mixed Use Label

When it comes to wanting to build homes or commercial structures, the term "mixed use" sometimes enters the picture. And it may be part of the discussion a lot more often if Korie Bayer's experience in Templeton is any example.

The case in point is the "Ramada Project." Is it, or is it not, a "mixed use" development?

Sure this is a tough question, but the people of Templeton need a good answer. Glad to have Korie asking the question in the first place, right here in our all slo county blog pages.

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Friday, October 21, 2005

The Last Of The Titans

Your'e looking at the Titan missile liftoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Wednesday, just before noon. Our new blogger, Guy Murray, shows the complete launch sequence here from Space Launch Complex-4 East on south base.

This marks the end of the 46-year Titan missile program.

Photo provided by Guy Murray

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Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Sun Begins To Shine

Cleaning house is just the first step to open self-government. Cleaning up the aftermath requires help and a few letters of request, such as this from the newly re-staffed Los Osos CSD.

..."Today, the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) staff, in a breach of contract, unilaterally pulled our State Revolving Fund loan for a project under construction. This decision places our Los Osos Community Services District in debt to contractors for several million dollars..."

Ann Calhoun's Can(n)on prints the letter in full...

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Welcome To South SLO County's Page!

We debut a new regional page for our blogging conversations. Look for more people to join our south SLO county blog page from Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach soon.

Introducing a new south SLO county voice, Guy Murray, resident of Nipomo and a lawyer.

Nimpomo Hills photo: Guy Murray

What's Nipomo's biggest challenge? Guy says it is, "who will control Nipomo's destiny? People who have no attachment to our community; don't shop in our community; don't live in our community?

Or, will we have our own, those of us who work, live, and breathe here in Nipomo plan and control that destiny?"

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Monday, October 17, 2005

Want To Read Some Good Stories?

Gary Ray Rogers rolls his wheelchair through Costco and lets us know how how it rates for disabled accessibility.

Newsstand Greg asks: are there any "central coast censored" stories that need more exposure? Ideas wanted.

Ann Calhoun helps you help Los Osos. She proposes a model letter to state senator Maldonado and state assemblyman Blakeslee.

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Friday, October 14, 2005

"Hooligans" Attend Templeton Advisory Group?

Hi everyone! I'm Korie Bayer coming to you from the rowdy North County community of Templeton. Did you hear about the group of hooligans who attended the last regular meeting of the Templeton Area Advisory Group?

Those folks were so angry and abusive that there were citizens who feared for their safety.

Anyway that's Harry Ovitt's version of events but I'm not sure what meeting he was at. Well, come to think of it, I'm sure what meeting he was NOT at. He was not at the September 15 meeting where close to 100 citizens turned out to weigh in on a huge behemoth of a "mixed use" project that county planners are trying to plunk down in our little town.

Harry was definitely not in attendance, but if you read the Tribune you saw how he later sent his legislative assistant to deliver a scathing admonishment to the board of volunteer citizens elected to represent our unincorporated community on development issues. It appears the group is charged with allowing the citizens to actually speak.

Ovitt aide, Cliff Smith, barked out accusations of personal attacks and abusiveness to citizens, planners, and developers then threatened TAAG with dissolution. I was at both meetings and I can tell you that the Ovitt rep's passionate scolding and finger-pointing display at the second meeting far exceeded any emotion displayed at the first.

In the end, he refused to provide a copy of the complaint or the speech instead stomping out of the public meeting with a slam of the door. It was a shocking site even for me and I have a four year old.

There is significant cause for concern over the Ramada Drive Mixed Use Project yet the citizens at the first meeting expressed those concerns with a tremendous amount of respect and poise. Okay, there were a few short bursts of applause--against the rules outlined by the TAAG chair--but hardly worthy of throwing someone out. Only one citizen wrote in to say that he supported the project but felt too intimidated to speak out.

Placed against the more than twenty letters offering a different view, I'd say that might be a personal problem. It's never easy to speak out in public--especially when you represent the minority. Still, all views were welcomed and encouraged, the crowd was a diverse group of soccer moms, retirees, farmers and professionals, and there wasn't a club or a cattle prod to be found.

I'd love to tell you more about the project in question, the unusual way it progressed through the planning department, and the way it's trying to sneak by without the proper environmental studies but I think we're out of time. Stay tuned for more from those naughty kids of Templeton. Thanks for listening. --Korie

(P.S. I hear the Ovitt/Smith "speech" is available as an mp3. Any takers?)

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Meet Korie Bayer, A Voice for Templeton

Korie Bayer has a number of neighbors who like to go to community meetings. At a recent meeting in Templeton, she got an upclose view of how some county public servants react to criticism. Wow!

Your publisher spent a week on vacation, but now I'm back at growing our blog. Look for more bloggers joining our effort to better inform our neighbors on the Central Coast.

After all, this is that friendly back fence for neighborly chat. Thanks for stopping by for a while. Revisit soon!

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Saturday, October 01, 2005

Rogue Voice Update

Our first deadline passed without much fanfare, but we’re proud of the response we’ve received and I wanted to give you a little update.

Dell and I recently located about 20 sites throughout San Luis Obispo County that offered to let us distribute The Central Coast Rogue Voice from their places of business. We’ll fill you in as things develop.

We’ve got a great lineup of contributors and stories for our first edition, which will hit the stands October 1.

• Dell interviews Adam Pollard, co-owner and chef at Taco Temple in Morro Bay.
• Ben Leraux describes the freedom of the road as he embarks on his journey across the country to wash windows and seek adventure. First stop, Albertson’s in Flagstaff, Ariz.
• Tito David Valdez reminds us that life ain’t so bad when you consider what it’s like to eat breakfast in prison every day year after year.
• Joe Bageant tells us what it’s like to carpool with Adolf Eichmann, the guy who’s just doing his job making bombs for illegal wars.
• Dr. Steven J. Sainsbury offers castration as a viable, humane solution to preventing repeat sex offenders from destroying another child’s life.

These are just a few of the many wonderful offerings that have come to us since Dell and I embarked on this project. Many more talented contributors have offered their support and ideas. Needless to say, we’re excited and wish to extend our invitation to you to send material and suggestions our way.

The Rogue Voice
P.O. Box 491
Cayucos, CA 93430


Deadline for the November edition is October 1.

Some of the things we’ll be looking for are point-counterpoint dialogs between artful and intelligent conservative and liberal opinion writers, political commentary, poetry, photos, illustrations, interviews with rogues, and humor. If you have any questions, contact me or Dell.

Meanwhile, we’ve been getting great support from our graphic artist, who wishes to remain anonymous at this stage, and from Cayucos artist Grady Houser. Both artists have helped us develop our roguish appeal. We hope you like it.


Stacey Warde

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