Despite 16 appeals and excruciatingly meticulous hearings by the SLO County Planning Commission, county supervisors seemed determined to put the Los Osos sewer project to bed in one day—and they did. After hearing a dozen or so hours of solid testimony, county supervisors rejected all 16 appeals and upheld the Planning Commission’s version of the project approved Aug. 13.
All 16 appeals were filed on different grounds, but many complaints fell on either the proposed sewage collection system or disposal site. Throughout the project, some Los Osos residents have passionately called for the county to also include a STEP collection system alternative, which would pump waste, as opposed to the county’s preferred gravity system. At the Board of Supervisors Sept. 29 appeal hearing on the project, the calls for STEP far out-trumped previous outcries.
“Put a STEP system back into the mix,” railed Chuck Cesena, one of the appellants. “Shut me up. I urge you to do that.”
Supervisors quickly cast aside the STEP alternative. The vote was unanimous to reject all appeals and go with the Planning Commission’s project, which moved the disposal site from the Tonini property on the outskirts of Los Osos to the Giacomazzi site next to the Los Osos Valley Mortuary, and outlined a gravity-hybrid collection system.
Speaking after the meeting, Supervisor Bruce Gibson, who has often been targeted by STEP proponents, said despite some public outcry, most people in Los Osos don’t want a STEP system, according to a community survey. (Many residents have argued the survey was biased and leading.)
“The benefits that are asserted by STEP proponents—there’s just not evidence that we’re going to see those kinds of benefits,” Gibson told New Times.
Proponents of the alternative claim it would be significantly cheaper and environmentally superior to a gravity system.
At the appeal hearing, many residents also argued that supervisors had rushed the appeal process by lumping all appeals together as one. Resident and appellant Piper Reilly said the county process has so far hurt residents who will have to pay for the construction cost, which is estimated at $165 million.
“A fair and open process is what we were promised, and when we cried foul, we were told to be quiet,” Reilly said.
Barring a lawsuit or further appeals, construction of the sewer is expected to begin in 2010. Despite the supervisors’ decision, the project can still be appealed to the California Coastal Commission. Another appeal is probably inevitable, county officials previously told New Times. Based on some of the public comments, it would be surprising if the project doesn’t go to the commission. Said resident Ben Difatta, “I don’t need to be a proctologist to know that the supervisors have been sticking it up our butt big time.”