Does anyone have Steven Spielberg’s contact information? I’ve got a script I’d like to pass along, and it’s really important that I sign a multi-million dollar contract with him soon so that I have some pocket change before all the good Valentine’s Day candy gets picked over. It doesn’t have plot or characters, but it does have a tagline: “One man’s struggle to get a building permit for his house in SLO County.” Pretty epic stuff, right? I don’t know why we bother writing movies about Nelson Mandela and genocide while the tale of Austin resident Rob McCarthy’s thwarted efforts to build his dream home on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Avila Beach goes untold.
Mostly untold, anyway. Rob, like just about anyone with a serious gripe, has a blog detailing the various bureaucratic hoops and indignities he’s suffered. And, like most blogs, SLO Leaks has a tenuous relationship with the unbiased truth. Unfortunately, most of my glassy-eyed contemporaries consume information the way I consume alcohol: indiscriminately, without any effort to distinguish quality from something that just came spurting haphazardly out of an orifice … that sounded a lot more revolting than I intended. Which means that some of you out there are treating SLO Leaks as though it’s the New York Times. I know this because your sloppy naïveté is spilling all over New Times’ Facebook page, proving yet again that the gift of ignorance is much like the clap: It just keeps right on giving.
Ordinarily, I don’t much care that you’re all running around crowing inaccurate information at one another between bouts of pecking at the ground for stray worms that surfaced with the recent rains. SLO Leaks is hardly the first local website to gussy up innuendo and rumor and parade them as fact, and I only have so many hours in the day. But since this came up on the New Times Facebook site, I’m gonna take a page from Rob McCarthy’s state of residence and shoot it till it don’t move no more:
Point the first: On Jan. 19, McCarthy posted a blog that began by stating, “Briefly—the Coastal Commission wants us to let the public use parts of our property on Cave Landing Road that SLO County considers dangerous.” SLO County does not consider the trail dangerous. My best guess—and notice how I’m pointing out that this is conjecture, because that’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re not really playing with facts—is that McCarthy doesn’t want the filthy masses hiking on his land and arguing that he’s worried about public safety sounds a lot better.
Point the second: In Point 6 of his case, he repeats that the trail has a 40 to 50 percent gradient, which would, in fact, be quite dangerous. Except that it’s actually a 20 to 30 percent slope, says the county’s parks department, which makes me wonder where McCarthy got his numbers from and why he keeps repeating them.
Point the third: If someone falls while hiking on his land, he’ll be liable. The legal experts I’ve heard speak on the matter state that a private property owner isn’t liable for injuries on a public prescriptive easement. Though there was some initial confusion about whether or not an easement existed on the trail, it’s now clear that the easement exists.
Point the fourth: McCarthy, in his Jan. 19 post, claimed that the public had only been using the land as a hiking trail since 2009, and that anyone who said otherwise was a liar. While I applaud someone who has played so fast and loose with the truth having the gall to direct the “L” word at someone else, I, sadly, also have to call this out. Hikers have been using the trail for decades, and the fact that McCarthy took down that part of the post—without acknowledging on his blog that he took it down, and was wrong about it—gives me a hunch that he knows his information was inaccurate.
So, what does Spielberg have left to work with? Our wealthy, white software developer hero, who doesn’t actually live in the county he’s fighting with about the permitting for his dream home—doesn’t even live in the state—has been ticked off ever since the Coastal Commission denied him the opportunity to build his dream home. He bought the land back in 2012, and he presumably knew about the hiking trail when he did. So why the delay before he got so worried about the dangers to hikers that he erected a barbed wire fence to keep them out? Did he see some poor, helpless pedestrian take a tumble down the big, mean 50 percent gradient? Or did he just want to stick it to the county and Coastal Commission for refusing to let him plop his McMansion wherever the hell he damn well pleased?
I’m not asking the question because I don’t know the answer. I know a thing or two about rage, and someone who has made hundreds of posts railing against the Planning Commission, the Coastal Commission, the Board of Supervisors, and the state of California over the last 4 1/2 years isn’t looking to make friends by putting up fences and signs.
The thing I have to wonder is whether McCarthy recognizes the irony in the fact that he’s ranting against the Coastal Commission’s efforts to protect California’s coastline and upholding Texas as a shining example of how to approach land use, while desperately fighting to build his dream home on California’s pristine coast. He wants the unspoiled coastline and view—a product of the Coastal Commission’s efforts—but he wants it handed to him on a platter, as he argues it would be in Texas. Where he’s not trying to build his dream home. I guess Texas was just too crowded.
Shredder’s hoping for a role as Drunk Kangaroo No. 2 in Spielberg’s film. Send laxatives to email@example.com.