The Board of Supervisors addresses housing needs and water issues facing the county

SAN LUIS OBISPO — The County Board of Supervisors met on Tuesday, Mar. 16, for a regularly scheduled meeting. 

The consent agenda was passed unanimously, 5-0, before the Board went on to the other items, starting with the COVID-19 update from County Health Advisor Penny Borenstein.

Borenstein mentioned the one-year mark for the county from our first case a year ago on Mar. 14. Currently, there are nine people in the hospital, which is the first time the county has been in single digits since November 2020. Vaccinations have nearly reached 12,000 individuals and have been opened up to more employment sectors, including anyone in childcare, emergency services, food and agriculture, public transit, and residents of congregate care settings. Additionally, any private individuals ages 16-65 who have underlying health conditions can now also sign up for the vaccination.

Borenstein recapped the update on the allowances in the red tier, including live music and youth sports, at 20 percent capacity. Wineries and breweries may now serve outdoor, without serving a meal, but must schedule by reservations and be limited to 90 minutes.

Following Borenstein was a presentation by Guy Savage on the America Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which is what the federal government is doing in response to COVID, introducing the 1.9 trillion dollar package.

This plan also includes the payments to individuals in the form of a stimulus, as well as extended unemployment, set to continue through September. Lastly, there is funding for states, localities, and schools. California in total will receive a little over 42 billion, with 26 of that being allocated to the state and the rest going to cities and counties. 

There are five primary uses for these funds: addressing negative economic impacts, providing premium pay to workers; provide government services affected by revenue reduction, make investments in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure; and cannot be used for pensions or offset revenues created by a tax cut.

Supervisor John Peschong offered himself and Supervisor Bruce Gibson to participate in an ad-hoc committee to address the disbursement of the funds. Not all supervisors agreed with this method, with Chairperson Lynn Compton expressing interest in all supervisors being involved in the process so that each district can be equally involved. The motion was made for an ad-hoc committee to listen and discuss options for the disbursement of the funds to be brought before the Board for review.

The vote was passed 3-2, with Supervisors Arnold and Compton opposed.

After hearing public comment regarding a programmatic EIR on cannabis, Supervisor Peschong made a motion to bring that item up for discussion at the next meeting that is set to discuss cannabis issues, seconded by Ortiz-Legg. It was voted 4-1, with Chairperson Compton against it.

Moving on to item 40, the nomination of at least one member to potentially serve as the three-county regional representative to the California Coastal Commission. Supervisor Compton made a motion to approve Megan Harmon, which was passed 4-1, with Supervisor Gibson in opposition.

Nick Franco presented the request to designate Cave Landing as part of the county park system, fill the parking lot, and add staff to manage the park. Supervisor Ortiz-Legg made a motion to move forward with staff recommendation (which can be found in full here), which was seconded by Supervisor Peschong. The motion was passed 5-0.

Tony Navarro, the city planner, presented a hearing to consider adopting a resolution approving and authorizing submittal of a substantial amendment to the Urban County of San Luis Obispo 2015-2019 Consolidated Plan and the 2019 Action Plan to allocate Community Development Block Grant and Emergency Solutions Grant Program Funds under the CARES Acts; and authorizing the corresponding budget adjustment in the amount of $8,034,483.

Supervisor Arnold expressed concern over the item of putting roughly $1,000,000 toward south county housing when a site has not yet been identified, rather than put the funds into the Salvation Army, which could use the financial aid immediately with a matching program. After further discussion, it was revealed that under the Emergency Solutions Grant, the funds would not be able to be redirected to the Salvation Army for immediate use. Supervisor Gibson made a motion to approve staff recommendations as presented, seconded by Supervisor Ortiz-Legg. The motion passed 4-1, with Supervisor Arnold in opposition.

Moving on to water issues, the Board heard from Mladen Bandov, the Senior Water Resources Engineer. On Dec. 17, 2019, the Board adopted the Paso Robles Subbasin GSP (Groundwater Sustainability Plan) and authorized the Director of Public Works to both submit the GSP to the State Department of Water Resources (DWR) by the Jan. 31, 2020 deadline and to serve as the point of contact with DWR (Plan Manager) on behalf of the GSAs in the Paso Robles Subbasin. The Board also directed staff to conduct an analysis of staffing needs and return to the Board with recommendations for Paso Robles Subbasin GSP implementation.

The Board was presented with four options that staff contemplated. The first was to not participate with the SGMA (Sustainable Groundwater Management Act), which dismissed as an undesirable result as it would put the basin in probation. The second was cutting public works existing services which was also rejected as all the programs are essential. The two remaining options were bringing in a consultant or bring in full-time staff for county staff for the basin GSA (Groundwater Sustainability Agency) staff. 

The staff recommendation based on cost analysis would be to bring in 5.25 new full-time positions who would be the county in-house staff for the GSA basin. The proposed budget for the new staff was around 1.5 million.

This idea was met with opposition by Supervisor Arnold as she felt there was a lack of information on the cost associated with bringing on a consultant instead of hiring 5.25 full-time positions. 

Supervisor Gibson, while fully supportive of the staff recommendations, looked for middle ground by proposing that the 5.25 full-time staff members be approved with a limited term of five years, which seemed to address his colleagues’ concerns. Supervisor Arnold made a motion to ask public works to bring back more information on a mixed model of a consultant working with staff for board meeting Apr. 20. The motion was seconded by Supervisor Peschong. The Board voted 4-1 in favor, with Supervisor Gibson in opposition.

The last item of business was a hearing to consider a resolution vacating a portion of Cass Avenue, County Road No. 4248, between 12th Street and 13th Street in the community of Cayucos. Supervisor Gibson recused himself from the discussion as his property ownership proved to be a conflict of interest. After looking into the request and seeing that it was exempt from the California Public Resources Code (CEQA), the matter was approved 4-0.

The full meeting can be viewed on the Board of Supervisors website, as well as links to join the next meeting scheduled for Mar. 31.

Getting through this together, Paso Robles