News

What the County's Talking About This Week

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Murdered homeless woman found in creek

San Luis Obispo police have confirmed that a homeless woman, whose partially clothed body was discovered about 6 a.m. Monday morning in the city's downtown creek, was murdered.

Captain Dan Blanke, with the city's police department, described Sharon Ostman, 59, as a "well known" figure in the downtown business community. However, aside from confirming that there were visible wounds on Ostman's body when she was found, Blanke was unable to answer any questions about how the woman died, her past, or any leads the police are following.

The morning after Ostman's body was found, the crime scene directly below the Mission Mall painted a gruesome picture of what police found early Monday morning.

Investigators' notations on the walkway showed that Ostman was discovered lying on her back in the creek, her head facing downstream. Other notes on the concrete showed where her shoes might have been found, where a chunk of glass lay. Close to where the body lay, an inked line outlined a large, faintly red stain. Other, smaller outlines around similar reddish marks led upstream on the walkway. The word "smear" was written next to several of the marks.

Police believe Ostman was killed late Sunday, July 10, or early Monday and are asking anyone who saw her over that weekend to call 549-7867. ?

—Abraham Hyatt

 

 

Diamond attempts to buy near downtown Pismo

Steve Diamond, owner of the Diamond Adult World chain, has confirmed that he's tried to purchase several pieces of property for a new store in Pismo Beach — but at locations the city recently ruled cannot be used for adult businesses.

After offering to buy a lot on Price Street for $1.2 million in June, Diamond said he was about to close a deal on a another, nearby piece of property when the owner read a July 13 Five Cities Times Press Recorder story about the previous offer and canceled the deal.

As of June 1, there are only four locations in Pismo Beach that are zoned for adult stores, and Price Street is nowhere near any of them. Three of the locations are major shopping centers — the Outlet Center/Pismo Coast Center, the OSH Center, and the Pismo Medical Campus — and the last is a trailer-sales lot on South Dolliver.

"Those are shopping centers that [the city] knows there is no possible way of me getting into," Diamond said of his decision to buy outside the zoned area. "Unfortunately, that's what cities do."

Diamond's contentious relationship with the Pismo Beach City Council began last November when the city enacted an emergency ordinance limiting adult stores after rumors that Diamond was looking for property in the city. It was at that meeting that Council member Arlene Gonzales-Gee referred to Diamond as "evil," and Diamond told the Council that he would do all he could to open a store in the city.

At the time, it was apparent that the Council wished it could impose an outright ban on adult stores. But Roy Hanley — Atascadero's city attorney who had helped Pismo draft its new law — told them that no city has ever been legally successful in doing that.

In March of this year the city passed a 38-page ordinance limiting adult stores to a few places in town. And those laws went into effect in June, about the time Diamond offered to buy Bill Bookout's property at 470 Price St., location of Plumeria's Garden & Gifts and the Pismo Beach Dive Shop.

Bookout said that he liked Diamond's offer, but didn't want to sell.

"Nothing against him," he said. "I'm pleased with my stores and it's want I want to do in Pismo."

When asked if he would have been worried about any political backlash had he sold, Bookout said no, he just didn't want to sell. But, he said, "I think [Diamond] is going to be in Pismo. He's pretty adamant about purchasing property here."

—A.H.

 

Parents in jail after infant is hospitalized

San Luis Obispo Sheriff's deputies were called to a local hospital last week after hospital staff admitted a six-month-old with severe bruising around his face, head, and back.

The medical staff later determined the child had significant injuries to his head and body. Sgt. Ron Hastie confirmed that the infant also had several broken bones but declined to elaborate.

The child was taken to Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara and admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit. As of press time, the child's condition could not be confirmed.

The parents, Aimee Lenore Taylor, 31, and Curt Nathaniel Rolison, 33, who police describe as transients from the Oceano area, were arrested and charged with felony child endangerment. Both remain in jail on $50,000 bail each. Two of the parents' other children have been placed with Child Welfare Services.

—A.H.

 

 

Move-the-sewer trio declares candidacy

One week after the short-but-acerbic groundbreaking ceremony for the Los Osos wastewater treatment facility (see page 15), a defiant threesome of move-the-sewer proponents appeared at the new County Government Center on Wednesday, July 13, to officially file their candidacy for seats on the oft-ridiculed CSD board.

Environmental planner Chuck Cesena and civil engineer Steve Senet are joined by civil engineer John Fouche in their united opposition to the three pro-sewer board members who face a possible recall in a Sept. 27 special election.

The trio, who all work in different departments of Caltrans, are running on a shared platform that emphasizes relocating the contentious downtown sewer, finding a more affordable option, and streamlining communication between Los Osos residents and their CSD board. They have the support of CSD directors Lisa Schicker and Julie Tacker, as well as the Coalition for Voice, Vision and Choice, a conglomeration of activists and concerned citizens.

On the September special ballot, Cesena will challenge Director Gordon Hensley's seat, and Senet will run against Richard LeGros. President Stan Gustafson will be challenged by Fouche and two unaffiliated contenders. Al Barrow, president of Citizens for a Safe Environment (SAFE), is running against the sewer, and Dave Duggan is running as a "bridge candidate," willing to listen to both sides of the debate.

When asked why he wanted to seek a position on this divided government body, Fouche, who did not make his candidacy public until the Wednesday morning filing, explained, "It's not that I want to. I just feel that the fiscal irresponsibility needs to be addressed."

Amid what has been the longest and most hotly debated public works project in the county, if not the state, the softspoken Fouche insists that he will run a clean
campaign.

—J.H.

 

 

Water Board hands out more fines for land grubbing

The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board recently resolved two local land grubbing cases. According to Roger Briggs of the Water Board, land grubbing is the act of removing vegetation without changing the grade of the land.

As reported in New Times in December, Haig Kelegian and David Pierson illegally grubbed their land in Creston and the Water Board originally fined each of them $25,500. According to the Board, the illegal grubbing caused excessive erosion and sedimentation in the watershed. Fearing that the fine would not be a sufficient deterrent in future cases, water board members asked staff to revisit the cases.

On July 13 the board took up the cases again and issued a $100,000 fine to Kelegian, which he must pay in cash in the next 30 days, said Briggs.

David Pierson came to the meeting with a "vague proposal" for a supplemental environmental project (SEP), said Briggs. A SEP is an environmental project that is funded by an individual instead of a cash payment. The board settled with Pierson for $125,000 in SEP funding.

In the case of enforcement, Briggs said the board would see funds go to SEP projects. Cash payments go to the Cleanup and Abatement Account in Sacramento for state use.

"We definitely like to make lemonade out of lemons," said Briggs. "When we have these unfortunate situations, it's nice to see some good come out of it in our area."

—J.P.

 

 

Barking up the wrong tree

"I am not a frivolous tree cutter," claims Rene Scarnegi, owner of Rudolph's Coffee and Tea Company on Higuera Street in SLO, in response to last week's news brief about the status of a silk floss tree outside her shop. "I'm just going by basically what was said by a landscaper and people coming in and asking me, 'Who do I sue?' after tripping on the concrete broken up out there."

The city is aware of the issue.

"I was concerned about my customers and the public out there with the root system coming through the foundation. It's out of my hands," said Scarnegi.

The city says the tree doesn't have to come down, and Scarnegi feels she has been unfairly maligned. "I value trees, I value vegetation, period. I'm a tree lover, that's not my lot in life to say frivioulsy, 'Okay take it down.'"

—K.H.

 

This week's news was compiled and reported on by staff writers Abraham Hyatt, Jeff Hornaday, and John Peabody. Managing Editor King Harris contributed.

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