Opinion » Shredder

Besties on the brink!


Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request, New Times recently acquired this email exchange between SLO County Board of Supervisors Debbie Arnold (District 5) and Lynn Compton (District 4), which also references supervisors Frank Mecham (District 1) Bruce Gibson (District 2), and Adam Hill (District 3). It’s definitely for realsies, people! I would never engage in satire about something like this!

  • From: darnold@co.slo.ca.us
  • To: lcompton@co.slo.ca.us
  • Dear Lynn,
  • It’s taken me awhile to get up the nerve to email you, but you hurt me in a way I never thought possible. Sure, I’ve had heartbreak before, but we pinkie swore we’d be BFFs forever, and yes, technically by adding “forever” to “BFFs” I said “forever” twice because I though we’d be BFFs to infinity! Now instead of remembering you as my other half, I’ll think of you as the betrayer of our ideals. First you voted for the emergency tree ordinance, totally rejecting our pro-property rights stance, and now you’ve sided with the environmentalists and leftists Adam Hill and Bruce Gibson, and the lame duck Frank Mecham on the Laetitia Vineyard development. What about loyalty?
  • Get your priorities straight,
  • Deb
  • From: lcompton@co.slo.ca.us
  • To: darnold@co.slo.ca.us 
  • Debbie,
  • Don’t be a drama queen. At some point, I need to be free to make my own decisions. People want us to get things done and protect the common good, not just fight along ideological lines. The tree ordinance was necessary! People were rightfully furious about Justin Vineyards! When you voted against the tree ordinance—twice!—you looked like you didn’t care about the environment. Considering public outrage, our constituents clearly do care. We’re all on this blue marble together, and I’m not going to let our male colleagues take all the credit. The bottom line is we couldn’t guarantee water for the Laetitia homes. It’s not like they can shower in Fiji Water.
  • Get over it,
  • Lynn


OK, OK. You got me. I totally made the emails up! But can’t you just see it? Arnold was so obviously upset at the last Board of Supervisors’ hearing because she couldn’t convince Compton to get on her side of the Laetitia Vineyard & Winery agricultural cluster subdivision proposal. 

For more than a year, the two have practically voted in lockstep with one another, and then Compton separated herself from Arnold with her reluctant votes on the emergency oak tree ordinance. I say reluctant, because she was. 

Just as she was reluctant with her recent vote against the Laetitia housing development, upholding the Planning Commission’s denial of the project alongside the compatriots she used to love to vote against.

But hey, Compton’s home insurance company just dropped her because Nipomo doesn’t have any water, so you think there’s a groundwater problem out there?

If you heard muffled laughter coming through the vents at the meeting, it was me cackling every time Arnold butted in with her argument about how building 102 homes on 1,900 acres of agricultural land would save water in the long run. She said she was concerned about the current area residents whose wells are going dry, but hey, build more homes—problem solved!

I lost track of the number of times she repeated herself, because she said the same thing every time she opened her mouth, from before 11 a.m. until after 3 p.m.! 

“Water I know is a huge concern,” Arnold said. “I’m just looking at the potential for more water use.”

Bad farmers! No more irrigating your crops! 

And you heard the same argument come out of Coalition of Labor, Agriculture, and Business (COLAB) maestro Mike Brown’s mouth. Rumor has it that he has the ear of certain conservative members of the Board of Supervisors, but those sources are decidedly liberal, so I will speak no more of the dribble they are spewing. 

But still, at the Sept. 27 meeting, Brown said: “This project actually improves the situation.”

Arnold said: “I’m still convinced that this project could be a better situation than what could happen.”

Curiouser and curiouser.

Both wholehearted supporters of agriculture actually said that intensive agricultural use of the land—planting more grapes—would make the area’s water situation way worse. Keep on speaking the truth! So, you know, let’s build 102 homes on the property. You lost me!

The desperate supervisor even said the county should force Laetitia—or any future owner of the property—to plant dry-farmed vines, fallow land, and graze cattle because it would reduce or net-zero the water use of 102 homes. Put restrictions on a landowner!? What? Who are you? Gibson asked county planners if they’d ever imposed something like that on an ag cluster before. The answer: No.

It raises the question: If the whole purpose of the agricultural cluster subdivision ordinance this project was proposed under is to protect agricultural land, but allow for development, how is fallowing land and not allowing certain agricultural uses preserving the land’s agricultural legacy? That legacy is grapes. Laetitia’s pinot noir is pretty fabulous—and yeah, journalists love alcohol, but I swear I’m not a wino: #partylikeajournalist. 

But anyhoo—John Janneck, Laetitia’s owner said he would basically do anything the county asked of him just to get his project through, even wait until after the drought is over. It might be a while. 

The Shredder hates to see a friendship sour. Send ideas and comments to shredder@newtimesslo.com.


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