As luck would have it, a number of high-profile items converged on the July 1 meeting of the Pismo Beach City Council. Six and a half hours later, the council emerged with a multitude of vital decisions.
After months of debates, surveys, and petitions, the city’s desired renewal of its half-percent sales tax and a citizen-created drive to preempt overdevelopment in Price Canyon are headed for the exact same fate: placement on the Nov. 4 general election ballot, where their fate will be determined by Pismo voters.
The council voted 4-0 (with Councilman Kris Vardas absent) to place both measures on the ballot. Mayor Shelly Higginbotham and Councilman Erik Howell will be writing arguments for the half-percent sales tax measure, but the council opted not to write arguments for or against the Price Canyon measure.
As has been the case all along, there was a stark difference in the amount of city support for the two measures.
City Manager Jim Lewis gave a detailed presentation about the benefits of Measure C—the half-percent sales tax—which raises revenues for city infrastructure projects like sidewalk work, street paving, and drainage improvements. All four council members also spoke about their support for the measure.
For the Price Canyon measure—which would make high-density development in the Price Canyon area only possible by annexation and a subsequent popular vote for the next 30 years—the council and city staff primarily spoke about their concerns with the measure. The council was mandated to either adopt the measure as law or leave it up to the voters, and chose the latter option.
Councilman Ed Waage said the Price Canyon measure was “not as onerous as we originally thought” and indicated he might be willing to adopt the measure as law, but later changed his mind after other council members said they did not support adoption.
Dave Watson—a representative of the proposed Spanish Springs development in Price Canyon—derided the measure as a “NIMBY, special-interest crafted means to prevent development in Price Canyon.”
On the other side, Susan Testa—a member of Save Price Canyon, the citizen group behind the measure—criticized the council for being deaf to the desires of their constituents and unduly delaying the measure.
“You know this is what the people want,” Testa said. “It has been voiced over and over again.”
The discussion over Measure C was significantly less contentious. All the council members were in favor of the measure, and the only disagreement was over the length of the tax’s extension—eventually agreed upon at 12 years.
While Pismo Beach voters initially rejected the tax in 2006, they subsequently voted to pass Measure C in 2008—by a 56 percent to 44 percent margin—increasing the local sales tax from 7.25 to 7.75 percent. Since then, the measure has raised more than $6 million for crucial city infrastructure projects, Lewis said.
Later in the evening, the council also voted to bump up citywide water regulations, declaring a “severely restricted” water supply condition and holding preliminary discussions about starting water-saving rebate programs.
For more details about water conservation efforts in Pismo Beach and South County in general, see “Drought, no doubt.”