Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Santa Maria, Santa Barbara County warn of strong winds, potential for flooding

Posted By on Wed, Jan 27, 2021 at 4:18 PM

Santa Maria officials say the city’s topography makes it ripe for flooding under the right conditions and is encouraging residents to be ready for such a scenario in advance. 
FLAT LANDSCAPE Santa Maria officials say the city’s flat topography makes it susceptible to flooding, especially under the heavy rain conditions the region is currently experiencing. - FILE PHOTO COURTESY OF SANTA BARBARA COUNTY FIRE
  • FILE PHOTO COURTESY OF SANTA BARBARA COUNTY FIRE
  • FLAT LANDSCAPE Santa Maria officials say the city’s flat topography makes it susceptible to flooding, especially under the heavy rain conditions the region is currently experiencing.


As of Jan. 27, the National Weather Service was predicting heavy rains in Santa Maria through Thursday and issued a wind advisory in Santa Barbara County until Jan. 28 at 4 p.m. It predicted winds as strong as 30 miles per hour, with gusts as high as 45 miles per hour.

“Once the rain starts, residents should consider staying home when possible,” a city statement said.

Pacific Gas & Electric Company Marketing and Communications Representative Mark Mesesan said there was “significant outage activity” across PG&E’s statewide service area as of Jan. 27, though only five customers in Santa Maria were experiencing outages at the time. Most of the activity was in North SLO County, he said, in Paso, Templeton, Atascadero, Margarita, and SLO city.

“We’re prepared for what we’re seeing, which is a major storm with gusty winds and moderate to heavy rainfall, and so we expect the Central Coast to continue to be in the bullseye of the storm for the next two or three days,” Mesesan said. “We’ll be working around the clock to respond to outages that occur, and any other issues with potential damage to equipment.”

Santa Maria’s “flat landscape and limited areas for water to flow away” makes it more susceptible to flooding, according to Santa Maria officials. The city’s statement said trained staff would be actively clearing debris from storm drains and are “ready to respond to downed trees.”

Both Santa Maria and Santa Barbara County are providing residents with sandbag materials at various locations to protect against flooding. The city has sand set aside at Suey Crossing, the 2000 block of Western, the Public Works Yard at 830 West Cypress (8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.), on West Carmen Lane (west of Depot Street), and on San Ysidro Street (west of Miller Street), according to the city’s statement. The county is offering both sand and bags at 912 West Foster Road with a 25 bag per person limit. Residents can head to the city’s website for an informational video on how to fill sandbags.

Santa Maria additionally recommended that residents have extra supplies of food, water, and medicine on hand, as well as an emergency kit with working flashlights and first aid. The county recommended that households prepare or update their emergency plans.

“Keep in mind any additional needs of individuals in your family with access and functional needs and other disabilities,” Office of Emergency Management Director Kelly Hubbard said in a county statement. “Plan ahead for pets and livestock. And consider any COVID-19 related updates to your emergency kit, such as face coverings and hand sanitizer.”

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown added that people should follow their gut instincts when deciding to relocate to a safer area.

“Do not wait for an alert or public safety personnel to tell you to leave,” he said.

Santa Barbara County Fire Chief Mark Hartwig encouraged residents to keep a close eye on the latest weather forecasts.

“When ordered to go, leave immediately,” he said. Δ
Malea Martin

Monday, January 25, 2021

Port San Luis Harbor Commission to discuss transition to district elections

Posted By on Mon, Jan 25, 2021 at 4:15 PM

The Port San Luis Harbor District is the latest jurisdiction in San Luis Obispo County to face the threat of litigation over its at-large election system.
DRAWING DISTRICTS The Port San Luis Harbor Commission will discuss a proposed resolution declaring its intent to develop a district-based election system at a meeting on Jan. 26. - FILE PHOTO COURTESY OF PORT SAN LUIS HARBOR DISTRICT
  • FILE PHOTO COURTESY OF PORT SAN LUIS HARBOR DISTRICT
  • DRAWING DISTRICTS The Port San Luis Harbor Commission will discuss a proposed resolution declaring its intent to develop a district-based election system at a meeting on Jan. 26.

On Dec. 17, 2020, the district received a letter from Santa Barbara-based attorney Robert Goodman—sent on behalf of Harbor District voter Jenna Garcia—noting the district’s violation of the California Voting Rights Act, a state law that prohibits at-large election systems that make it difficult for underserved demographics to elect candidates of their choice. While the California Voting Rights Act is intended to increase representation of minority groups among local governments, some say the law goes too far and makes it nearly impossible for cities to fight incoming lawsuits.

“District elections are sweeping California,” Goodman wrote in his letter to the Harbor District. “As far as this office is aware, no government agency in California has successfully defended a complaint alleging violation of the California Voting Rights Act. For this reason, we recommend a collaborative settlement which would cap costs to the Port San Luis Harbor District and enable more participation by the board of commissioners in the transition to district elections that would be the case through a court action.”

In the letter, Goodman wrote that if the commission adopts a resolution outlining its intent to transition from at-large to district elections, it could defer that transition to the election of November 2022 and delay hearings to draw district lines. Redistricting reimbursement costs to the district would also be capped at $30,000.

“District elections elsewhere have been tied not just to greater representativeness on but to more candidates seeking election to boards and councils,” Goodman wrote, “and to greater participation and interest by the community in local government agencies and elections.”

The commission will discuss a proposed resolution declaring its intent to develop a district-based election system at a meeting on Jan. 26. ∆
Kasey Bubnash

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Hundreds in rural SLO County and Santa Maria lose power in PG&E shutoff

Posted By on Tue, Jan 19, 2021 at 11:57 AM

Gusty winds and dry conditions caused PG&E to preemptively cut power to hundreds of households in rural southern San Luis Obispo County and Santa Maria on Jan. 19—part of the utility’s first wave of Public Safety Power Shutoffs in 2021.

The shutoff, which spans seven Central California counties, is impacting 462 customers around Huasna, Suey, Twitchell Reservoir, and Tepusquet—sparsely populated areas east of Arroyo Grande, Nipomo, and Santa Maria.
SHUTOFFS More than 450 customers in SLO and northern Santa Barbara counties are without power due to a PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff on Jan. 19. - MAP COURTESY OF SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY
  • MAP COURTESY OF SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY
  • SHUTOFFS More than 450 customers in SLO and northern Santa Barbara counties are without power due to a PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff on Jan. 19.

Of those without electricity, 91 are in SLO County and 371 are in Santa Barbara County. About a dozen residents who depend on power for medical devices are affected. Another 66 customers across both counties have also lost power due to unplanned outages.

PG&E announced the potential for a shutoff on Jan. 17 as it monitored a “powerful, offshore weather event” two days after SLO County broke a winter temperature record. About 5,200 customers are affected statewide.

“We will not begin restoration efforts until the extreme conditions have subsided and we’ve been given the all-clear by the PG&E Emergency Operations Center,” PG&E spokesperson Mark Mesesan told New Times via email. “Then, we will use ground crews, helicopters, and other resources to inspect our equipment and safely expedite any necessary repairs before we begin to re-energize customers.”

Those customers impacted by the shutoff can visit community resources centers at the Grover Beach Community Center and the First Christian Church in Santa Maria to access portable charging devices, Wi-Fi, blankets, and food.

According to the National Weather Service, hazardous wind gusts are forecasted to continue through the evening of Jan. 19. PG&E has not provided an expected date and time for ending the shutoff, other than giving a date range of Jan. 18 through 20.

“Winds will continue to howl all up and down the Bay Area/Central Coast before gradually leveling off this evening,” a Jan. 19 tweet from the National Weather Service’s San Francisco Bay Area account read. “For now, be sure to report any downed power lines to local authorities.” ∆
Peter Johnson

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

SLO County Sheriff asks for help finding potential witness in 2019 Oceano homicide

Posted By on Tue, Jan 12, 2021 at 4:38 PM

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office is asking for the public’s help locating a man who it believes is a possible witness in the unsolved murder of Oceano resident Larry Bross.
ACTIVE INVESTIGATION The SLO County Sheriff’s Office is looking for a man who it says visited Oceano resident Larry Bross (pictured) two days before he was killed in 2019. - FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • ACTIVE INVESTIGATION The SLO County Sheriff’s Office is looking for a man who it says visited Oceano resident Larry Bross (pictured) two days before he was killed in 2019.


Investigators are searching for “a male subject who was observed visiting Bross” two days before the 90-year-old’s body was found in his Oceano home on the 1400 block of Strand Way on Jan. 24, 2019.

“It is believed this person may be a friend or acquaintance of Bross,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a Jan. 12 press release, put out nearly two years after his death.

A local activist and retired teacher, Bross died after being beaten and stabbed to death with a sharp object, according to authorities. A neighbor concerned about his whereabouts found him deceased in his home. After two years, no arrests have been made in the case.

According to our previous reporting, Bross was a vocal and longtime proponent of limiting recreational vehicle activity at the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area, which butted up against the backyard of his home.

Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Tony Cipolla said in an email that the department is not releasing additional information about the case at this time “so as to not jeopardize the investigation.”

Anyone with knowledge of the person of interest can contact the Sheriff’s Detective Division at (805) 781-4500.

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information that leads to an arrest and conviction. ∆
—Peter Johnson
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