The Tribune (SLO) - - Front Page - BY KATHE TAN­NER

Cam­bria doesn’t have enough water to sup­port a pro­posed af­ford­able hous­ing com­plex, crit­ics of the project say.

Two Cam­bria women have filed chal­lenges to the San Luis Obispo County Plan­ning Com­mis­sion’s re­cent ap­proval of a pro­posed af­ford­able hous­ing apart­ment com­plex, claim­ing there’s not enough water for the project.

Mary Webb and Chris­tine Hein­richs, both ac­tive in North Coast en­vi­ron­men­tal and other com­mu­nity groups (Hein­richs is a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to The Cam­brian), are chal­leng­ing the com­mis­sion’s claim that the 33 apart­ments pro­posed by non­profit Peo­ple’s Self-Help Hous­ing for School­house Lane won’t in­crease de­mand for water.

The plan­ning com­mis­sion said in its Jan. 10 hear­ing that the state pro­vides few op­por­tu­ni­ties to deny ser­vice to af­ford­able hous­ing. County su­per­vi­sors will rule on the com­mis­sion’s ap­proval at an up­com­ing hear­ing, es­ti­mated by plan­ners to be in April or May.

The apart­ments would be built near the town’s Santa Lu­cia Mid­dle School and a sim­i­lar com­plex nearby that’s been rent­ing 24 af­ford­able-hous­ing apart­ments since 1997. The plan in­cludes eight two-story build­ings, in­clud­ing a shared com­mu­nity cen­ter.

There would be four one-bed­room units, 19 two-bed­room apart­ments and 10 three-bed­room units.

Most gov­ern­men­tal agen­cies, non­prof­its and of­fi­cials agree there’s a crit­i­cal short­age of af­ford­able hous­ing in Cam­bria, which has many va­ca­tion­rental and sec­ond homes and a lot of re­tired res­i­dents. Hous­ing is ex­pen­sive in the coastal com­mu­nity, so many work­ers and oth­ers live out of town and com­mute.

Both Webb and Hein­richs say in their ap­peals that the pro­posed project does not con­form to the county’s Lo­cal Coastal plan.

They said Cam­bria doesn’t have enough avail­able water for such a project, de­spite the town’s Sus­tain­able Water Fa­cil­ity. That plant on the ser­vices dis­trict’s San Simeon Creek Road prop­erty does not yet have county or Coastal Com­mis­sion per­mis­sion to op­er­ate other than dur­ing a water-short­age emer­gency.

Since 2001, Cam­bria has been un­der a wa­ter­short­age trig­gered mora­to­rium on new con­nec-

tions, but the mora­to­rium in­cludes ex­cep­tions for af­ford­able hous­ing.

Last Jan­uary, Cam­bria Com­mu­nity Ser­vices Dis­trict di­rec­tors ap­proved is­su­ing an “in­tent-toserve” let­ter for an­other 16 units in the project, bring­ing the to­tal then to 40 (a num­ber that’s been re­duced since then). That let­ter is a cru­cial step to­ward de­vel­op­ing any prop­erty in the small town that draws water from wells along two shal­low aquifers to serve its ap­prox­i­mately 6,000 res­i­dents and many vis­i­tors.

The new project would be sub­ject to the dis­trict’s con­ser­va­tion-retro­fit mea­sures, mean­ing the new com­plex can’t trig­ger a net in­crease in water de­mand. Self-Help agreed to com­ply with those re­quire­ments by pur­chas­ing retro­fit points in lieu of ac­tu­ally retrofitting enough ag­ing fix­tures and ap­pli­ances in the 1997 apart­ment com­plex to com­pen­sate for the water used in and around the newer units.

Hein­richs calls such a con­cept a “pa­per water cre­ation that mis­leads the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion and the board (of su­per­vi­sors) as to ac­tual water de­mand.” She said it “chal­lenges rea­son­able dis­cus­sion” to be­lieve that “ad­ding 33 res­i­den­tial units to Cam­bria’s water use will ac­tu­ally re­duce water use.”


An af­ford­able hous­ing apart­ment com­plex in Cam­bria has been ap­proved by the San Luis Obispo County Plan­ning Com­mis­sion.

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