ISSUES

Measure D (Commercial Fishing Zone)

Measure D was passed by the citizens of Morro Bay in 1981, creating a Commercial Fishing Zone on Tidelands property along the Embarcadero north of Beach Street. The intent of the measure was that any new development on the Tidelands between Beach Street and Target Rock be primarily to serve licensed commercial fishing or non-commercial recreational fishing activities. Because the zoning change was done through a ballot measure, the only way to change that particular zoning section is through the ballot process.

The Planning Commission’s August 16, 2016, agenda included a discussion of Measure D for the purpose of defining the language in the measure.  I reached out to the Morro Bay Planning Commission, the Harbor Advisory Board and the Commercial Fishermen’s Organization before the meeting to make clear that I support a working group that includes commercial and recreational fishing representatives.  This is particularly important because the meeting was scheduled to take place while our fishermen were at sea fishing.

I want to ensure that potential differences or misunderstandings are avoided and that conclusions are reached that are acceptable to everyone.  Collaboration is the key to success.

The text of Measure D in full is –

The City shall not grant any permit, authorization or other approval of any state owned tidelands subject to city lease between Beach Street and Target Rock, unless such development or use is primarily for the purpose of serving or facilitating licensed commercial fishing activities or noncommercial recreational fishing activities, or is clearly incidental thereto.  For purposes of illustration only, and not by way of limitation, no approval shall be granted for any new passenger-for-hire boats or supporting facilities, or for any new restaurant, café, gift shop or other retail establishments serving the general public, and any existing such uses shall hereafter be considered nonconforming and shall not be expanded or enlarged.”

Police Services

My thoughts on Morro Bay Police services.

  • First – Mr Buckingham is doing his job as City Manager by presenting options to the Council. See his email below. Whatever Council decides he will carry out.
  • Second – The whole point of being a city is that we are self-governing and independent. We provide services to our residents and visitors.
  • Third – We owe it to our police officers to make a decision sooner than later.
  • Fourth – Our community needs to have a full and engaged discussion about what services our residents want and what we are willing to pay for.

We have had that discussion. Our community has been in an uproar since the Tribune and KSBY covered the story. I have heard overwhelming support for keeping our police department.
Here is a quote from a letter I received from a friend –

“The police are an integral part of the City of Morro Bay. Having a police department, fire department, and harbor department is what solidifies the unity of our town. These are local men and women who love where they live; therefore, they take care of our community as if it is their own also.”

My conclusion – We should not proceed with a study of Management Partners’ recommendation. We need to keep our Police Department, our Fire Department and our Harbor Department in house. Stop the discussion right now and let’s move on to more productive issues.

Email memo from Dave Buckingham to Council –

Council,
Thought I’d send a few notes reference the item agendized Tuesday reference PD and SO.
Writing this so it is suitable for you to forward to folks as desired.
In 2015 the City commissioned a Financial and Organization Study of the city to review Morro Bay’s organization, management processes, financial procedures and fiscal situation. That study, completed in May 2015 by “Management Partners”, a professional, external consulting firm specializing in municipal management studies, delivered 65 separate recommendations for the City to consider.
One of those recommendations, #29, was to: “Obtain formal proposals from the San Luis Obispo County sheriff on the cost of providing law enforcement service to the City based on two or three service levels. If this option is realistic, prepare to educate the public that service levels will change.” In Nov 2015 the City Council determined to wait until 2017 to formally consider this recommendation.
With the recent departure of the City’s Police Commander, and pending departure of the Police Chief, the City Council determined to consider whether to consider this question in 2016 instead of waiting until 2017.
Guidance given to staff was to bring an agenda item on this subject to the City Council, likely to be heard on Aug 9, 2016. This item would be to ask this question: “Should the City of Morro Bay conduct research into the question of obtaining a proposal from the SLO County Sheriff Office to provide law enforcement services in the City.”
In agendizing this discussion, the City has some general parameters for the future discussion. Some of those include:
– Do not consider seeking proposals for multiple service levels, but limit the question to only one level of service.
– The level of service to be considered must be equal to, or better than, the level of service currently provided by the excellent Morro Bay PD.
– No reduction in number of sworn patrol officers on shift will be considered.
– No reduction in response time will be considered.
– Law Enforcement services for Morro Bay must be based from the current Morro Bay Police Department.
– The Sheriff Office must, by contract, be committed to sustaining a “Morro Bay” police force. That is, officers will generally be assigned to Morro Bay on a semi-permeant basis, perhaps 2-5 years, or more, to be determined.
– The “Morro Bay” unit of the Sheriff will look as feel, as much is as possible, to be a Morro Bay unit including driving Morro Bay police vehicles and having other Morro Bay specific insignia.
– Any future contract should have a set term and include provisions for an orderly end of contract services and return to an internal Police Department should the City determine to cancel the contract.
In order to provide the Council adequate information to make a decision, City staff will conduct limited, very broad coordination discussions with the Sheriff’s office. This process will be only to gather initial info to help the Council determine whether or not to investigate this question fully in 2016.
Should the Council determine to investigate this question more fully in the months ahead, Council and Staff will ensure a robust public process to gather input from residents, businesses and other stakeholders, including the Morro Bay Police Officers Association, Police Volunteers, Explorers, etc.
Council will likely consider this question at their Aug 9 meeting. The item on Aug 9 will also include a defined timeline to make a decision, should the Council determine to investigate the question at all.
Dave Buckingham

Water Reclamation Facility

Our first priority is to build a state of the art facility at the lowest possible cost to the citizens of Morro Bay.   We must also reclaim and reuse the water that we presently flush out to sea.

It is also important to try to enter into agreement with Cayucos to share a regional facility that will meet the needs of both communities at least cost to our citizens.  That depends upon the citizens of Cayucos to be willing to work with us.

I understand the objections that people have who will live near our new WRF.  Objections to odor and appearance are valid.  We need to take every possible action to prevent loss of property value and quality of life.

We also need to take every possible action to keep the cost down.  Our citizens will pay for the new facility with every monthly water bill.  Our responsibility to them is to keep the cost down as much as possible.

We have an opportunity here to take a giant step toward developing a sustainable water source – by reclaiming and reusing a million gallons a day that we currently lose.  That requires a high level of treatment and that raises the cost of the facility.  That cost will, however, be offset by decreased dependence on outside water sources – State water and expensive desalination operations.

My priorities for the new WRF plant are:

  1. Least cost to the taxpayers
  2. Sustainable drinking water source
  3. Least possible impacts of objectionable odor and appearance

 

Self Help Sales Tax

Our transportation system is in distress. We’re not going to get any money from the state or federal government to help us. They do not have the will to help us

We need to be pragmatic.  We can rail against a legislature that won’t repay money that it borrowed from the Highway Trust fund.  We can blame Congress for not coming to grips with our huge infrastructure needs.

But the fact is that we are not getting money for transportation improvements. Sacramento and Washington are dysfunctional.

A healthy transportation system is essential to economic development.  Our only source of money for projects that will deal with our transportation problems is ourselves.

This is an opportunity to declare our independence from state and federal impotence. 

A nine-year plan to collect ½ cent sales tax will provide a stable financing platform. This will make it possible to make long range plans for transportation improvements.

Morro Bay has budgeted $587,000 this year for street repairs.  That is Measure Q money, our City’s ½ cent sales tax.  The County-wide Self Help Sales Tax initiative will double that amount, an additional $620,000 per year for nine years.  Morro Bay has committed to spend the entire $620,000 plus the $587,000 Measure Q money for “Local street reconstruction, rehabilitation and repair.”

In addition to street repairs, SLOCOG will allocate additional sales tax revenue to pay for the Morro Bay-Cayucos bike and pedestrian path and will fund a project to improve the traffic flow at the Main Street and Highway 41 intersection.  These are promises that are part of the initiative language and cannot be changed.

The average household in Morro Bay earns $55,393 per year and pays $875 per year in sales tax. Proposition 30, a one-quarter cent statewide sales tax approved in 2012, sunsets at the end of this year. That means that Measure J adds only 1/4 cent to what we pay today, and half of that is paid by visitors. In Morro Bay, that means each household would pay $14 more per year in sales tax than at present.  

In return, we get $620,000 per year in street repairs, a new intersection at Hwy 41/Main Street and a new walking and biking path from Morro Bay to Cayucos.

So the question that Morro Bay voters have to ask themselves is whether they are willing to pay $14 more per year per
household
for nine years to double our street repair budget, build a new paved bike/ped path from here to Cayucos and fix the Main Street/Highway 41 intersection.

I am going to vote for the initiative and I hope that you will too.

Measure J Facts

Will generate $5.6 million for Morro Bay, about $620,000 per year, dedicated to “Local street reconstruction, rehabilitation and repair.”

Will fund construction of Hwy 1/41/Main Street intersection improvement in Morro Bay

Will fund the Morro Bay-Cayucos Connector for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Adds one-quarter cent sales tax to what we pay now.

Generates $25 million new dollars per year to fix SLO County streets, roads and highway improvements, half of which would be paid for by visitors to our county.

Can only be used for local projects and transportation priorities.

Must be added to current City transportation budgets – may not be used to supplant funds to be diverted back to the General Fund.

Prohibits Sacramento from taking possession of these locally generated funds

Allows SLO County to compete for State and Federal grants and leverage funds, thereby increasing revenues.

Delivers a Transportation Investment Plan with a list of projects and programs that have the force of law.

Includes an Independent Taxpayer Oversight Committee to ensure projects and programs in the Plan are actually funded and/or completed.

Measure will sunset in nine years.

10 percent of the funds go to regional bicycle and pedestrian projects.

Bike SLO County and Robert “Red” Davis endorse Measure J.

The Yes on Measure J Campaign’s website is up and accepting donations: 
http://yesonj-slo.org/facts/

Our Homeless

Morro Bay does not have overnight housing facilities to support our homeless population and that is probably something that is beyond our ability to pay for.

Good government takes care of those who cannot care for themselves.  Not all of our homeless population requires care.

I see several different elements in our homeless society:

  1. Some have lost their homes because of economic pressures.  They continue to work and struggle to live as well as they can.  
    • All they need is a hand to help them regain their status and pride.  This is an opportunity for our community to help them through Resource Connection.
    • Another assistance is SLO County’s Home Sharing program.
  2. Some enjoy the transient lifestyle and want to live unfettered by social conventions.  
    • They turn aside offers to help because they feel that they do not need help.
    • They do need to be monitored and cultivated so that they do not engage in antisocial activities.
  3. Some are addicted to drugs or alcohol and do not have the ability to cope with their addiction.  
    • If they want to quit their addiction, we can put them into programs that will help them.
    • If they are not willing to seek help, we cannot help them.
    • If they engage in criminal actions, they need to be dealt with.  Police presence is necessary to control their actions and protect the rest of the community.
  4. Some are mentally impaired.
    • They need to be cared for in suitable institutions by people who know how to take care of them.

Homelessness is not a crime.  Every citizen has the right to be anywhere that the law allows.  Anti-social actions, however, are not okay.  

If transient people obey the law and do not threaten public health or safety, we accept their presence.  If, however, you ever feel threatened or fearful of someone’s actions, you should call for help immediately.  All of our police officers know every one of our homeless people and they know how to talk to them and how to deal with them.  

Affordable Housing

Living on the California coast is never going to be cheap.  There is never going to be enough coastal land to meet the demand for it, and that is what drives prices up.

Another thing that drives up prices is permitting fees.  Anyone who builds a house pays tens of thousands of dollars in fees.  Those fees are supposed to cover the cost of additional infrastructure that new housing brings to the community.

I don’t know how you get around those fees.  They reimburse the city for the cost of expanding water and sewer lines, sidewalks, street maintenance, and there is no other source of funds to pay for those costs.

We should look at intelligent infill of our existing lots within city limits – the Cloisters development is an excellent example of providing open space between clusters of housing; allowing residential units to be built in commercial zones as second story homes above ground-level businesses; requiring builders to set aside a reasonable number of low-income affordable housing; restricting the number of short-term vacation rentals to make more houses available for long-term rentals.

We need to keep in mind that Measure F, voted by Morro Bay residents in 1984, caps the city’s population at no more than 12,200 residents. This cap can be exceeded only by popular vote, another initiative measure.

Home sharing is a program that the City is investigating under the guidance of Anne Wyatt, Program Coordinator of HomeShareSLO.  The premise is that a person living alone might have space for another person to move in and share living arrangements.  This can work to the benefit of both parties.

We are not the only city struggling to make housing affordable to the workforce that wants to live here.  I would like to have staff and Council actively look for innovative and creative ways that other cities are pursuing to make housing as affordable as we can do it.

Improving Our Business Climate

I believe that we have room to improve the relationship between City government and the business community.  

Here are comments from Morro Bay business owners:

  • If you want to change something you face the monster.
  • City looks at business as the golden goose for fees and fines.  
  • Business friendly = partner who helps to overcome roadblocks, but MB does not do that.
  • Compliance officers are adversarial rather than helpful.  
  • Staff does not look at the big picture or understand specific business requirements.  
  • Council and staff do not listen to industry recommendations.  
  • Not consistent with enforcement.
  • Lack of respect towards businesses and owners for what we do individually and as a group for the entire community.

City Council develops a list of goals each year for Staff to work to accomplish.  We need to prioritize a new goal for our City Manager:

  1. Work with the business community to improve the City’s business climate
    1. Become a partner who helps to overcome roadblocks
    2. Listen to industry recommendations
    3. Respect business owners for what they do for the community
    4. Develop a fast-track business-permitting process
    5. Develop a simple and equitable sign ordinance
    6. Simplify the Master Fee Schedule for business operations
    7. Train compliance inspectors to be helpful rather than adversarial
    8. Work with and respond to Chamber, TBID and Merchant Association recommendations with an attitude to improve operations and relationships

I have also asked the Chamber of Commerce to develop expertise and act as an ombudsman to help businesses negotiate the City permitting process.

Retention and care of our existing businesses is vital to our city’s survival.  It is all very good to court new development, but first we should take care of what we already have.

The Business Walk statistics show a clear correlation between short-term leases and declining business success.  Can the City encourage landlords to give long-term leases?

The City gets a sizable amount of its revenue, 15% of total income, from sales tax.  We need to promote businesses and development projects that increase sales tax revenue.

We have some unique assets in Morro Bay that can be expanded to promote business opportunities:

  • Miles of clean beaches
  • Picturesque waterfront properties
  • Maritime industries both commercial and recreational
  • World class golf course
  • Natural history museum
  • Two state parks
  • National estuary program

We have projects in the pipeline that will provide business opportunities

  • Citywide broadband
  • Community pool at the high school
  • MBHS performing arts center
  • Embarcadero aquarium
  • Marine haulout facility on the Embarcadero
  • Maritime Museum
  • Power plant development
  • Development of the corridor along Morro Bay Blvd from Centennial Parkway to Main Street
  • Wastewater treatment plant property development
  • Tri-W property has potential for a small commercial development plus hundreds of acres of open space for recreational purposes

All of these potential developments need to be coordinated through the General Plan update process to provide best possible outcomes for housing, transportation and commercial opportunities.

Some key things that we need to develop to help our business community:

  • User-friendly comprehensible sign ordinance
  • Updated general plan and zoning ordinance
  • Skilled employee training – work with Cuesta College to identify needs and training opportunities
  • Affordable housing for head of household job opportunities

These are all things that I will work for as a member of City Council.

Code Enforcement

Our current Municipal Code is more than twenty years old.  It was written by people who no longer work in City government.  It needs to be updated to meet the needs of our citizens in today’s world.

When we seek to regulate activities, the first thing we should consider is:

Is there harm being done?

Certainly the City has a responsibility to regulate issues related to public health and safety.  Regulating aesthetics, though, is a slippery slope.

We are a seaside community.  Lots of people here own boats and park them at their homes.  The same is true with RVs.  Is there harm being done?  Or is it an aesthetics issue?

What about surfboards? Kayaks sitting in the driveway?  Wetsuits hanging out to dry?

Are these an eyesore or are they signs of a healthy and active lifestyle, something that we promote in MB. One person’s eyesore is another person’s lifestyle.

In the end we need to have a code that both serves our needs and reflects our values.  

By all means protect health and safety, but in all other areas, consider also the needs and lifestyles of our citizens.

Open Space and Growth

First, we need to keep in mind that Measure F,
voted by Morro Bay residents in 1984, caps the city’s population at no more
than 12,200 residents. This number can be exceeded only by popular vote,
another initiative measure to modify the limitation.

Morro Bay is surrounded by open space – water to the west, State Parks to the south and southeast, Tri-W
agricultural land to our north and east and Chevron property north and
northeast of us.

Tri-W– 396 acres, is constricted by Measure H to remain open space except for 13 commercially zoned acres adjacent to
Highway 1 and Morro Bay Boulevard.

Ten acres or so on the eastern side of the Tri-W property will probably be annexed into the City to build a Water Reclamation Facility.  This site is out of sight of the highway.  The property owner has asked the City to annex the entire 396 acres.

Chevron property – 3,300 acres

               Chevron has 3,300 acres divided into 41 parcels that are sold, on the market, or soon will be on the market.

               The company has floated an idea that Morro Bay might annex some of the property that abuts our current boundary.

               The company wants to discuss possibilities for conserving part of the property.

               Chevron has communicated with several conservation groups, including Morro Bay Open Space Alliance, the Cayucos Land Conservancy, the Land Conservancy of SLO, and the Trust for Public Lands, as well as officials in SLO County (Bruce Gibson, County Parks) and MB City (Jamie Irons, Noah Smukler, and Scot Graham).

               Chevron will work through GPAC to engage with Morro Bay.

               The Cayucos CSD has already made an offer on two large parcels for their wastewater treatment plant.

               A third lot north of Toro Creek, on the east end of the property, was also sold.

Parcels adjacent to the City are ripe for annexation or sphere of influence designation. (It should be noted that three parcels are already within our City boundary –

·    West side of Hwy 1 from North Point to Toro Creek;

·    East side of Hwy 1 from Chevron driveway to Toro Creek;

·    Ten acres between Main Street and Del Mar Park.)

During the August, 2016, GPAC meeting, I led a consensus to include the entire Chevron property within Morro Bay’s Planning Area.  This is less than sphere of influence and much less than annexation.  It provides notice that the City is interested in the property and wants to influence its future development, perhaps moving up to sphere of influence designation or annexation.

Chevron and GPAC members are willing to entertain consideration of the entire Chevron property south of Toro Creek as open space, with trails, campgrounds and recreational opportunities.

We also have three potential development possibilities within city limits.

  1. Morro Bay Power Plant
  2. Existing Wastewater Treatment Plant
  3. Chevron property in North Morro Bay between Main Street and Del Mar Park

We do not know what the future holds for these properties. 

We do not own the MBPP property.  Whoever owns the property in the future will propose development that must be approved by the City and the Coastal Commission and will be subject to General Plan requirements.

Cayucos Sanitary District owns part of the WWTP property.  We will have to negotiate with them to take ownership and then ask the community how we want that property to be developed, in accordance with our General Plan.

Chevron wants to divest the ten acres in North Morro Bay.  Whoever takes ownership may have to deal with hazardous material abatement. It is currently zoned R-3, multifamily residential, up to 20 units per acre – which could be condominiums, townhouse or apartments. The General Plan update will address zoning that takes into consideration community wishes.

Whenever we do develop new housing, we have to look at intelligent infill.  The Cloisters development is an excellent example of providing open space between clusters of housing – open space that provides green space, recreation and wildlife support.

Just keep in mind that however we develop future housing units in our city, we are capped at a maximum population of 12,200.  That is the will of the people and the rule of law and we respect that.

If you agree with me, I would be grateful for your vote on November 8th!

Tell me your Top 3 issues for Morro Bay

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