Bill Bookout, a director of the Oceano Community Services District, has begun
closing one of his businesses and may have to close another because of flood-related damages that he claims were the fault of several local government entities including the one he serves on.
Bookout, the owner of Oceano Nursery and Plumeria's Garden and Gifts in Pismo Beach, is in the process of closing the nursery and currently faces foreclosure on the other property.
In May 2006, he filed a lawsuit claiming that five different entities Caltrans, San Luis Obispo County, Union Pacific Railroad, the Pismo Oceano Vegetable Exchange, and the Oceano Community Services District were responsible for several floods that supposedly caused more than $100,000 in damage to his nursery property located at 1311 Paso Robles St. in Oceano.
Because of the financial hardship, Bookout said he was unable to make loan payments and expects First Bank of San Luis Obispo to foreclose on his properties.
According to Bookout, the first flooding began in February of 2004, and the property has flooded several times since. He said that after each flood, he's had to replace spoiled products, rebuild displays, haul damaged goods to the dump, and sanitize the building. Bookout claims the source of the problem can be traced to a drainage pipe running under Union Pacific's property and the Pismo Oceano Vegetable Exchange.
Bookout claims that his flood-related problems grew out of work done in 1975 on a drainage outlet, which made the area more susceptible to flooding. He also believes that inadequate upkeep and ignored debris on county streets were part of the problem.
Bookout said he bought the two properties in 1999 and 2000, but didn't know they were prone to flooding.
At least one of the parties named in the suit is questioning Bookout's timing.
"I really can't speak to the specifics of this particular business and why the owner has decided to close its doors at this time, which is at the end of a below-average rainy season," said Jim Shivers, Caltrans District 5 Public Information Officer. "Despite the fact there is a pending lawsuit regarding this matter, Caltrans is continuing to work with the County of San Luis Obispo and the Oceano Community Services District to find a solution to this issue of flooding in the area where the nursery now stands."
Representatives of Union Pacific Railroad, the Pismo Oceano Vegetable Exchange, and the Oceano Community Services District all declined to comment, citing the ongoing legal action. San Luis Obispo County officials were unavailable for comment as of press time.