On behalf of the County of San Luis Obispo, I am pleased to present the 2016 Annual Report and to take the opportunity to share some of the key issues we have faced this past year as a community and as an organization.
Significant progress was made regarding several projects that are very visible in the community. The expansion and remodel of the juvenile hall was completed, construction continues on the new women’s jail and the new airport terminal, progress was made on the Jack Ready Imagination Park, and the renovation of the San Luis Obispo City-County Library began. Most significantly, the Los Osos wastewater treatment plant became operational. This project was many, many years in the making and represents a major milestone in the community.
As predicted in last year’s annual report, water and marijuana policy continued to dominate the Board of Supervisors’ agenda. Additionally, we dealt with significant policy issues related to the wine industry and agriculture as well as the pending closure of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant. Below is a summary of each of these issues.
The County continues to move forward to comply with the State’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). The legislation applies to five San Luis Obispo County groundwater basins, located in Santa Maria/South County, Cuyama, Los Osos, Edna Valley, and the greater Paso Robles area.
In 2016, we continued working on a management structure for each of the five basins by July 1, 2017 as required by State law. Once the structures are in place, we will work to create sustainability plans for each basin, which must be complete by 2020. While the recent rains are promising, we are still in a severe drought. As such, I anticipate we will be working on water-related issues for many years to come.
In January 2016, the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA) took effect across California. This legislation requires that both State and local jurisdictions enact regulations related to the cultivation, testing, manufacturing, labeling, distribution, and sale of marijuana and marijuana products by 2018.
Here at the County, we are working on a comprehensive package of local legislation to address these issues. In the meantime, the Board of Supervisors passed another urgency ordinance this fall, which will be in effect for up to nine months. The intent of this temporary law is to prevent the expansion of marijuana-related business activities until a permanent ordinance is crafted and eventually adopted.
Around the same time, voters approved the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) ballot initiative in November 2016, which added another element to the local marijuana issue. This initiative allows for the recreational use/consumption of marijuana for those 21 years and older, but it also further complicates the oversight of marijuana. A dual regulatory scheme will need to be created – one for medical use and one for recreational.
Counties and cities throughout California are identifying the societal impacts of these changes to craft appropriate regulation. More to follow in the coming months and years.
Wine and Agriculture
The wine industry continues to grow and has become a critical component of our local economy. While our community benefits from the wine industry, we continue to face some challenges. Some of those include increased tourism as well as environmental impacts and effects on the local community.
In 2016, some San Luis Obispo County residents voiced concerns about events and vacation rentals in rural areas. The County worked to strike a balance between supporting the property rights of business owners and those of their neighbors. As such, the County Board of Supervisors adopted an ordinance that will serve as a pilot for events and vacation rentals in the Adelaida area of North County.
Additionally, the Board took action to prevent the clear-cutting of native oak trees. The Board adopted an urgency ordinance, or temporary law, that restricts the removal of trees in order to avoid a repeat of an issue that occurred this past summer.
The Board then directed County staff to create a permanent ordinance that will find the middle ground between creating protections for trees and forests without being overly cumbersome and unduly restricting well-intended business ventures. The Board will consider the permanent ordinance in 2017.
In the summer of 2016, PG&E announced its plan to cease Diablo Canyon Power Plant operations in 2025. As many in the community are aware, this decision will have a big impact here locally.
The County’s primary concerns were and are related to the short-term and long-term public health, safety, and economic security of the region and residents. More specifically, we identified that continued safe operation and emergency management, tax implications, economic impacts, and the future use of the land encompassing the plant are critical issues that must be addressed.
I’m proud to report that before the year’s end, the County struck a deal with PG&E, which addresses these very issues. In short, a proposed settlement agreement allows for the continuation of enhanced emergency management until the nuclear reactors are fully decommissioned (20-35 years from now).
It will also provide interim funding to help mitigate the drop in tax revenue to local agencies that will occur once the plant closes. Lastly, the proposed settlement provides funding for economic development to help offset the loss of jobs associated with the plant and requires public input regarding any future use of the land.
The agreement requires the approval of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). If approved, the agreement will go a long way toward helping reduce the negative impacts associated with the closure.
Many members of the community participated in each of these issues. Our active citizenry is one of the aspects that makes San Luis Obispo County such a great community and our employees work hard to try to meet and exceed our community’s expectations.
County Administrative Officer