Did San Simeon CSD mislead grant providers?

Julie Tacker

OPINION by JULIE TACKER

“This land is your land, this land is my land,” oops, no, it’s not and San Simeon Community Services District got caught. San Simeon CSD, without approval, placed a large part of its desalination facility on Hearst property and the Hearst Conservation Easement.

After four years and citizen attempts to get the district to come forward, Hearst Corporation with the backing of the California Rangeland Trust commissioned a survey of San Simeon CSD’s desalination facility.

The survey report concludes: “based on our research and field measurements, it is my [surveyor] opinion that the CSD’s PW Project [Desalination Facility] infrastructure encroaches onto the Hearst properties discussed herein.”

We, the taxpayers and donors of this state paid $95 million, including tax credits, for the 83,000 acre Hearst Corporation property and the Hearst Ranch Conservation Easement that wraps around the community of San Simeon. This conservation is special in so many ways, preserving this land for its scenic splendor, working agriculture and flora and fauna, including zebra, into the future.

We, the same taxpayers, by way of one million dollars in State Prop. 84 and USDA Rural Development grants, paid for the San Simeon Community Services District to mislead the grant providers when they filed the necessary paperwork to obtain the grants stating they owned the property they would build a desalination unit on.

They also mislead them suggesting the desalination unit was for emergency water for the present population but are now asserting it is a new water source and intend to lift their decades-old building moratorium over the next few months.

Public records reflect the San Simeon CSD general manager, the licensed engineer who designed the facility, the environmental consultant, and certain board members knew the building was encroaching on the Hearst property. A couple of community members cried foul, nevertheless, the district proceeded with construction hoping never to be discovered by Hearst or the grant providers.

The Hearst survey confirms the district knew: “Our findings are consistent and corroborated by the CSD’s PW [Desalination Facility] Project record drawings. Sheet C-1 shows the CSD PW Project building to be constructed encroaching on Hearst’s property. Figure number two shows a markup of PW Project record drawing, highlighting the proposed building and its relationship to the property lines in question (hatching and coloring the same as Figure number one). Which, based on the information shown in the PW Project record drawings, the property boundary lines appear to have been re-established as part of the design and engineering phase and the building was located over said lines as part of the design.”

San Simeon CSD has additional interest in using more of the Hearst property, rather than look to properties within the district boundaries. This approach retains vacant parcels for development.  This is consistent with lifting the moratorium in a district that has become developer friendly.

Proposed uses of Hearst conservation land are: new water tanks, required for water security (they also enable development) and possibly a new wastewater treatment plant. If that’s not enough, they want to leave their forty-eight year old concrete reservoir for speculative “future use” (maybe they just can’t find more public funds to remove it?).

The district is approved for a five hundred thousand dollar state Prop. 1 grant for tank number one. They seem very confident about getting the easement from Hearst for the tanks and a permit from the County.

They don’t have either. In spite of a warning letter from Hearst to go no further without their authorization and the needed easement, the district has said they are going out for construction bids sometime this month.

The proposed location of the new tanks is in the scenic Highway 1 viewshed. They propose tall tanks instead of low-profile unobtrusive tanks.

This will not pass muster with the community or the Coastal Commission.

The cumulative effect of the district’s existing and proposed equipment would total, two new water tanks, an abandoned water reservoir, the encroaching desalination facility, and the possible wastewater treatment facility. This turns this area of the conservation easement into the district’s corporate utility yard.

It is believed that the district has just been notified by Hearst of the confirmed encroachment. The district has managed to keep this encroachment secret for four years.

How much will it cost for them to clean this one up?

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