Residents packed the Pismo Beach City Council chambers Jan. 15 to share their overwhelming disapproval of the Spanish Springs project, which seeks to develop 961 acres of oak woodlands near Price Canyon Road with hundreds of homes, a golf course, apartment buildings, an arterial road connecting Price Canyon Road to Oak Park Boulevard, and a large hotel and conference center.
Because of the size of the project and the fervor it ignites, the council opted to split deliberations between two meetings, hearing a staff report and allowing public comment the first week, but postponing council questions, an applicant presentation, and an ultimate decision until a Feb. 5 meeting. The public will have another chance to comment then, Mayor Shelly Higginbotham promised.
“We’re going to go about this very slowly and methodically,” she said.
The decisions facing the council include the acceptance of a final environmental impact report and the approval of the Spanish Springs Specific Plan, changes to the city’s General Plan, and a development agreement between the city and developer BHT II Pismo, LLC, run by Steve Hester.
According to city staff, developers have taken public concerns into consideration and made several concessions during the lengthy planning process, which began in earnest in 2010. Population density has changed, and large swaths of woodlands have been saved, staff said, noting that the Price Canyon area is the city’s only real option for growth.
The project’s impact on water supply was a major point of contention, but the developer agreed to buy 500 acre feet per year from the state as a drought buffer and to pay $3.5 million for upgrades to the city’s wastewater treatment plant that will allow landscapes and the golf course to use recycled water.
Former mayor Marian Mellow wasn’t impressed by the offer, warning the council not to “allow the carrot dangling before your eyes to blind you to the truth.”
“It’s a development we don’t need and can’t afford,” she said.
Higginbotham asked that the public refrain from applauding and instead wave their hands to show support for an idea, a suggestion that folks laughed at but adhered to anyway. Nineteen people spoke, mostly in opposition to the project, and a small sea of hands waved most aggressively whenever anyone suggested that the council put the Spanish Springs project to a public vote.