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Petition Aims to Form Community Services District In Los Olivos

Map of the proposed Los Olivos Community Services District. Click to view larger
Map of the proposed Los Olivos Community Services District. (Contributed map)

Los Olivos residents are weighing in on whether they want to form their own community services district to add a sewer system or take another route to get the project done.

A petition circulating now in the community will determine if residents want to formally vote on formation of a Los Olivos Community Services District.

The vote-by-mail election would occur in the spring.

The Los Olivos Water Reclamation Steering Committee, made up of a cross section of Los Olivos residents, determined the matter is a governance issue, not a wastewater issue.

"We think that creating our own CSD is the best solution to maintain local control, come up with solutions tailored to the needs of our community, and also meet state and county regulations,” said Lisa Palmer, a steering committee member. 

Other options considered but rejected by the steering committee include whether Los Olivos should be annexed to the Santa Ynez Community Services District or if Santa Barbara County should create a special service area.

With Los Olivos designated a special problems area due to potential impacts of wastewater treatment and disposal since the 1970s, new regulations have added urgency to finding a solution.

Concerns include a high groundwater table that allows discharge of some septic effluent into the water table, small lots unable to properly accommodate an onsite septic system, and existing septic systems that don’t meet current standards and don’t treat water properly due to age or failure.

If a septic system fails, the rules now in place reportedly could bring a $40,000 price tag for a new advanced system in addition to the requirement to regularly monitor its operations.

At a June meeting, staff for the Santa Barbara County Local Agency Formation Commission — a regional organization responsible for boundaries of government agencies — called the Santa Ynez CSD  option “an attractive alternative to forming a separate independent district.”

“The SYCSD has experience and is willing to step in to address the community’s wastewater collection and disposal issues,” LAFCO Executive Director Paul Hood said in a report.

Heal the Ocean had lobbied for Los Olivos to join the Santa Ynez Valley CSD to get the wastewater matter solved quickly, rather than trying to create a new governing body.

"It is very important to get Los Olivos off septic systems before homeowners get stuck with expensive Advanced Treatment Systems,” Heal the Ocean said in a presentation to LAFCO earlier this year. “It is also important to get moving before the Regional Water Quality Control Board regulates Los Olivos, when no funding opportunities are available.”

Joining SYCSD or a special county service area likely would cost between $114,000 to $124,000 annually, while forming a Community Services District would run $110,000 annually prior to system operation, and $189,000 once the sewer system is in place, according to a special study by Berkson Associates.

Planning and building a wastewater system would cost nearly $21 million, the study said.

Costs for each parcel aren’t known, but would be spread over several decades, with hopes grant funds could help reduce the price for property owners. 

In June, LAFCO postponed any action for six months on the Santa Ynez CSD request to expand its sphere of influence to include Los Olivos properties, a key step toward annexing them. A sphere of influence expansion would be a first step to eventually including Los Olivos in the district.

Action on the Santa Ynez CSD application or one of the other options is expected during LAFCO’s meeting at 1 p.m. Dec. 8 in Santa Maria.

“When they gave us six months to get our studies done and make some progress, we took that to heart and drove hard to get the study completed, hold our community meeting, and have discussions,” Palmer said. 

“As a working group, where we’ve come down is we think the best thing to do is to pursue creating our own CSD, and in order to do that we need to have an election within the community,” she added.

The area affected includes 422 parcels in Los Olivos. 

Los Olivos residents began moving toward forming their own CSD more than a year ago.

“Our goal is to ensure that the Los Olivos community self-determines the best way to address its unique wastewater challenges, and to do so in a manner that protects water quality, maintains our rural character, safeguards property values, and is economically responsible and feasible,” the steering committee said.

Organizers hope to gather 200 signatures and will submit them to LAFCO in advance of the Dec. 8 meeting, Palmer said.

They need to collect signatures from at least 25 percent of the registered voters within the proposed district boundaries to prompt a community vote-by-mail election.

Petitions can be found at the Los Olivos Post Office, 2880 Grand Ave., from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Friday and 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday. A petition also is available at The Bakery Farmstand, corner of Olivet and Santa Barbara Avenue, on the morning of Nov. 19.

Additionally, petitions are available by emailing [email protected], with a response available in 24 hours. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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