On Aug. 2, the Pismo Beach City Council voted to approve two housing projects, expanding the Pismo borders into the vacant hills and valleys behind the seaside city.
The council approved both the Los Robles Del Mar development (a 312-unit housing project slated to be annexed into the city) and a separate 23-home Price Canyon Villas project just inside the city limits. When both projects are built, the city’s housing stock will be increased by five percent.
The council’s action was considered by many of the attendees as both a foregone conclusion and a mystery: The council is one of the most pro-development deliberative bodies in the county, even though the city seems to have no need for additional housing.
Unlike much of the rest of the county, the population of Pismo Beach is shrinking. The latest census found that the city had 7,655 residents in 2010, compared with 8,551 in 2000. Not only has the city shrunk by more than 10 percent, surveys have found that as much of a quarter of the city’s houses are unoccupied and presumably used as vacation homes.
Residents at the meeting were overwhelmingly against the projects.
“It’s coming to be a serious question,” said resident Larry Chanda. “This will affect the quality of life in the city, and things of this magnitude should be put to a vote.”
Other residents said the Los Robles Del Mar project is dependent on a water source that might be unreliable. The project was approved by the city in 2004 but was halted by LAFCO, a county agency that regulates city expansions, because there wasn’t a reliable water source.
Los Robles Del Mar still faces a big hurdle. LAFCO will have to approve the project, and it’s traditionally been a stumbling block for Pismo Beach developments.
Pacific Harbor Homes LLC, the project developer, recently obtained a state water allotment from Pismo-98, a company that also owns land adjacent to the city. Development opponents pointed out that Pismo-98 owes the city more than $172,000 for an allotment of water from the city. According to notices plastered on the edge of its land, Pismo-98 is being foreclosed on and is scheduled to go to auction on Aug. 5.
City officials say those issues are irrelevant and—one way or another—the city will get paid for its allotment of water and the development won’t start until the water deal is complete.