UPDATE: November 2023
On October 10, 2023 the Atascadero City Council decided unanimously to pass the Conditional Use Permit for the RV Storage Project located at 6805 Sycamore Road in Atascadero. Despite all of the voices who spoke in opposition to this project, way into the wee hours of the night, at 1am the City Council approved the project.
The following Conditions (highlighted) were added to this Project during the October 10, 2023 meeting:
- No cargo containers, inoperable vehicles, inoperable boats or inoperable RVs shall be stored on-site. Only currently registered, operable vehicles or RV’s may be stored onsite. All vehicles will be inspected upon initial storage to ensure vehicle is operable and all stored vehicles shall maintain insurance and provide copy of current insurance to City upon request.
- No washing or servicing of vehicles, RV’s or Boats or other equipment may occur onsite.
- The applicant shall submit a landscape and irrigation plan, completed by a qualified
professional, with their construction documents. The landscape plan shall be consistent with what is shown inf Exhibit D with additional landscaping focused on the following areas: Along the Anza Trail realignment to include landscaping that maintains safety and visibility In front of the existing construction yard, adjacent to Sycamore Road Landscaping and irrigation shall be installed prior to requesting a Planning Final Inspection.
- Maximum height of new light poles shall not be taller than 16 feet for each light pole nor exceed the height of the levee to prevent light spillage into the riverbed. The lights shall be set to dim low level light until motion is detected and shall preclude activation by small animal movement.
- The Use Permit shall be subject to additional review upon receipt of operational
complaints including a high number of police calls. Additional mitigation may be
warranted upon verification of recurring noise or operational disturbances that impact residential properties. Community Development Department review for compliance with all conditions within 12 months of commencement of business operation.
- The applicant shall hire a qualified biologist to provide a nesting bird survey and survey for special status species within 3 months prior to construction commencement. This survey shall include a survey for eagle nests within 1 mile of the project site. The applicant shall follow all recommendations of the qualified biologist and shall obtain all permits from the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
- Trash receptacles shall be provided at or near the access gate, adequately screened
as determined by the Community Development Department, and of sufficient size to serve the facility.
- Overnight occupancy shall be strictly prohibited on site.
- Private Security shall maintain security at site and shall be the first point of contact for response to any security related issues.
- Parking spaces are noted to be native material and are susceptible to pollutant
discharge from vehicles. At time of building permit submittal, on the plans and with
supplemental documents, provide drip pans and spill kits for leaks or other spills under all vehicles at all times, similar to what would be found in a municipal yard. (Reference industrial or municipal stormwater requirements for construction or corporation yard spill prevention.) A disposal station with spill kit supplies and covered cans for soiled materials shall be located on the site for individuals using the facility and maintained by the company who leases the land and runs the business.
A contact phone number shall be made available to call if a facility user/customer has a spill. Provide copy of a Spill Response Plan to City for review and approval. This
plan must be in place to provide a procedure for cleaning up major spills, including
sewage or gray water leaks, in a timely manner with contact information for those who would be responsible parties. Any spills shall be reported to Atascadero Mutual Water Company and the City of Atascadero immediately. The site shall be inspected a minimum of twice weekly to ensure compliance.
Click here to Read the full meeting minutes from the Oct 10th Atascadero City Council Meeting.
As of November 16, 2023, the applicant, VSM Leasing, has not signed a contract with the Atascadero Mutual Water Company to lease the property and carry through with its plan. Possibly they are deliberating on these new Conditions of Approval.
We’d like to give a big shout out of appreciation to all the folks who love the Salinas River and wrote letters and showed up at the Atascadero City Council meeting. While we were super disappointed by the Council vote, we were blown away by all the folks who showed up for this river. Thanks to all for your heartfelt efforts on behalf of our River and our wildlife.
—Previous Post Below—-
Call To Action: OCTOBER 10th 2023, 6pm, the Atascadero City Council will be deciding upon allowing 6 acres of 262 RV Storage to be located on the Atascadero Mutual Water Company property, in the floodplain of the Salinas River in Atascadero.
Please consider coming to this City Council meeting at 6pm on October 10th at the City Hall Council Chambers, 4th floor, 6500 Palma Ave, Atascadero. Or, email public comments to firstname.lastname@example.org with “RV Storage at 6805 Sycamore Rd” in the Subject Line.
The Project Description (starts on page 36) can be read here http://records.atascadero.org/WebLink/ElectronicFile.aspx?docid=118693&dbid=0
The Atascadero Planning Commissioners narrowly approved the RV Storage project on July 18th, despite the packed room of opposers who made comments urging the Commissioners to deny this project.
Two separate appeals were filed requesting the Atascadero City Council to deny the RV Storage Project. On October 10th the City Council will review the appeals and decide on this project. Atascadero City Council Agenda website will post the agenda for the Council meeting by Oct 5th, or thereabouts.
Letter from Dr. Emily Fairfax:
To Whom It May Concern:
The Salinas River corridor in Atascadero, California contains several beaver-engineered wetlands. These wetlands have been part of ongoing research by my lab group for the past 3+ years. In that time, we have seen them become a key part of the local community and popular wildlife viewing area. Further, our data suggests that they are ecological hotspots for biodiversity in an otherwise highly developed landscape. Beaver- engineered riverscapes are not only home to numerous other species but are also shown in the scientific literature to be uniquely resistant to drought, flood, and wildfire – all of which are an inevitable part of Central California’s climate future. Beaver wetlands preserve critical habitat during these natural disasters and improve the overall resilience of the landscape afterwards. None of these benefits will be realized if the river corridor is excessively altered and the beavers are driven away.
Ensuring that full, proper biologic, geomorphic, and hydrologic assessments are conducted prior to further development in the river corridor is important for preserving the ecological and cultural value of the wetlands within in. It is also prudent given the magnitude of flood events that activated the entire floodplain this past winter – it is in no one’s best interest if infrastructure is built then immediately washed away.
Attached is a species list of animals directly observed by my lab via camera trapping in the Salinas River beaver complexes in Atascadero, CA. (see list at bottom of page)
Please do not hesitate to reach out with questions about the status or conservation of beaver wetlands and the associated ecosystem services they provide on the Salinas River and its floodplains.
Emily Fairfax, PhD
Assistant Professor of Geography
University of Minnesota
David Broadwater Appeal
BioDiversity First! Appeal
David Broadwater Supplement to Appeal
BDF! Supplement to Appeal
The SLO Beaver Brigade added the following supplement to the appeal:
The SLO Beaver Brigade would like to express our concerns about the following issues with the RV storage project that was approved by the Atascadero Planning Commission on July 18, 2023 and ask that the City Council deny this project.
- The city staff presented a list of other possibilities for this site that misled the Commissioners and defined the conversation falsely going forward.
- The city staff offered an environmental mitigation for the bald eagle nest located directly across the river from the site location. This is a CEQA violation by the city.
- There is a lack of consideration for the health of the beaver wetland habitat in the vicinity of the project site and of the wildlife that live there, which will be detrimental to the riparian area in the vicinity of this use. Attached letter from Dr. Emily Fairfax included in this supplement. This is in direct contrast to Finding: “The establishment, and subsequent operation or conduct of the use will not, because of the circumstances and conditions applied in the particular case, be detrimental to the health, safety or welfare of the general public or persons residing or working in the neighborhood of the use, or be detrimental or injurious to property or improvements in the vicinity of the use.”
- There is a deviation from the current Atascadero General Plan. This is in direct contrast to Finding: “The proposed project or use is consistent with the General Plan.”
- More than one Planning Commissioner expressed dis-ease at making this decision. ‘This commission should not be deciding this project’, was expressed by more than one Commissioner, including the Commission Chairperson van den Eikhof. There are substantial reasons to revisit this decision.
- The City Staff supplied a list of uses for the 6805 Sycamore Rd site and stated that these uses would have to be allowed by the city and there would be no process by which these uses could be denied. (There is no record in the approved Draft Minutes of the July 18th meeting showing this list. There is no record in the Agenda Packet of the July 18th meeting showing this list. Why is that?) This was a false presentation that defined the conversation of the Commissioners that evening. This list contained items such as: a brewery, a mechanic shop, and other industrial uses. There is no possible way any single item on this list could be implemented (besides the seasonal sales possibility) that would not require a CEQA analysis and public comment. And yet, these items absolutely guided the Commissioners discussion going forward. Things like, ‘wow, this storage project isn’t as bad as what is listed on that list!’ were expressed by more than one Commissioner. Commissioner Carranza called that list a “fear-tactic” during the meeting. This list, and the fear it invoked, defined the conversation going forward and falsely swayed the Commissioners to think of this RV Storage project as the lesser of many possible evils, thereby influencing four of the seven commissioners to approve this project.
- The draft minutes of the July 18 Planning Commission meeting state that an additional condition was proposed to address a concern that was expressed in written public comment that day.,
The applicant shall hire a qualified biologist to provide a nesting bird survey and survey for special status species within 3 month of construction commencement. This survey shall include a survey for Eagle nests within 1 mile of the project site. The applicant shall follow all recommendations of the qualified biologist and shall obtain all permits from the Dept of Fish and Wildlife as necessary.
A SLO Beaver Brigade representative spoke to Cal Poly CEQA Instructor, Sarah Spann, and she expressed that “the City is violating CEQA by imposing mitigation measures as conditions of approval on a CE (Categorical Exemption). At a minimum they should complete an initial study to determine whether a MND or EIR is required.” This is in contrast to the statement in the CUP; “WHEREAS, the laws and regulations relating to the preparation and public notice of environmental documents, as set forth in the State and local guidelines for implementation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) have been adhered to;”
- See attached letter from Dr. Emily Fairfax, Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. This project will be a detriment to the adjacent riparian zone and thus inhibit the functioning of our floodplain and beaver habitat to provide increasing groundwater recharge, flood control and wildfire buffers. It will reduce the ability of our wetland to provide a wildfire break. For these reasons, it will be a detriment to the general public. This is in direct contrast to Finding: “The establishment, and subsequent operation or conduct of the use will not, because of the circumstances and conditions applied in the particular case, be detrimental to the health, safety or welfare of the general public or persons residing or working in the neighborhood of the use, or be detrimental or injurious to property or improvements in the vicinity of the use.”
- This project does not align with our current General Plan LOC 1.3, LOC 6 and LOC 8.1.
- Policy 1.3 states, “Enhance the rural character and appearance of the City, including commercial corridors, gateways and public facilities.” This location is at the gateway of the City of Atascadero from the East, just south of highway 41. It is currently a beautiful vista and this project would not enhance this gateway but instead would become an eyesore to all who enter our city from the east.
- Policy 6.1 states, “Ensure that development does not degrade scenic and sensitive areas, including historic sites, creeks, riparian corridors, wetlands, woodlands, hillsides and other valuable habitats.” Please read Dr. Emily Fairfax’s letter (attached). This project will degrade our wetland habitat by:
- Run-off from this property will degrade wetland habitat. Rain water will drain into the river, taking with it all substances on the surface; anti-freeze, oil, herbicides, toxic cleaning products. Everything. The Salinas River and its groundwater basin provides 100% of our drinking water. This will be a detriment to the health of all residents in Atascadero. This should matter to all of us.
- Parking leaky vehicles on a permeable surface next to our water source is asking for water quality issues. Providing drip pans for the owners of RVs that admit they have a leak is not enough to protect the nearby riparian zone from contamination and negatively affecting our water supply. Without 24 hour monitoring of and immediate response to any leakage of toxic chemicals onsite, the River is vulnerable and becomes even more so during a flooding event.
- This is an encroachment on an active eagle nest, a disturbance to a State Listed Endangered Species.
- This site is a nuisance attractor, attracting crime and other issues. Public comment submitted on Nov 14, 2022 by Cindee Yandow, who manages 50 storage facilities states, “RVs are a huge problem and get broken into often and people try to sneak and live in them. We have very little sites that allow vehicle storage and the ones we do have onsite residences with a live-in manager.” This project suggests video surveillance will be enough, which we are hearing from someone with relevant experience is simply not true.
- RV Storage sites are active sites; owners work on their vehicles and owners wash their vehicles there; it is not a passive site as it is being represented. These activities should not occur next to the Salinas River, the source of our city’s drinking water.
- Policy 8.1 states, “Ensure that development along Atascadero Creek, Graves Creeks, the Salinas River, blue line creeks, and natural springs, lakes, or other riparian areas does not interrupt natural flows or adversely impact riparian ecosystems and water quality.” This project will adversely affect the riparian habitat adjacent to the property by reducing the ability of our riverscape and beaver habitat to replenish our groundwater, to reduce intensity of floods, to provide wildfire buffers, and other benefits of beaver wetlands.
This is in direct contrast to the Finding: “The proposed project or use is consistent with the General Plan.”
It is disheartening to be spending so much time on updating our General Plan 2045, and yet in the same moment witness our city staff ignore the General Plan we currently have. If we have a General Plan, shouldn’t we therefore use it?
It can also be noted that during the public comment period during the General Plan Update meeting on August 30th, Mr. Cleveland spoke about his development project that has been on hold for 3 years awaiting the update to the General Plan. In contrast, the Planning Commission was informed by the City lawyer that their decision on June 20th to postpone this decision on the RV Project 6-8 months until staff reviews the future land use designation on this site for the General Plan Update, was invalid and needing to be decided upon now. These two sets of directions seem to be in contradiction with each other. How is this possible?
The General Plan Update refers to the potential of the Salinas River as an economic stream for the City of Atascadero. Quoted from the Existing Conditions Atlas, “In addition, the Salinas River has been identified as a key natural resource that should be protected and bolstered as a regional attraction for tourism, recreation, and education.” Currently, the SLO Beaver Brigade attracts visitors regularly from Los Angeles to San Francisco. We provide tours of the Salinas River to the public, to boy & girls scout groups, environmental organizations and clubs, school groups, landowners and more. One high school group from the UK will be visiting our beaver ponds in October 2023. These folks who come to our tours need places to stay, places to eat, all of which will bring, and is currently bringing, revenue to the City of Atascadero. The potential for this to grow is very large, and recognized by the very consultants hired to create our Existing Conditions Atlas. We are in conversation with multiple organizations to form a Salinas River Center to help highlight the natural resources in this area, similar to the visitor center at Elkhorn Slough and San Joaquin River Centers.
We can not expect the Salinas River to continue to become a regional attraction for tourism if we are putting sites such as RV Storage next to the river.
In developing our city zone maps, our city allows for transitional zoning, where a 10 acre home will not be situated next to a 30 unit apartment complex. There will be numerous transitional zones between these two types of properties. Yet, sites that are rich with biodiversity and potential eco-tourist sites are zoned next to extreme, waste producing sites such as industry. This has to change. And The City does have a precedent for improving. It wasn’t long ago when the city would dump chunks of broken cement into the river, including in locations known to have cultural/archaeological value (See photos below). And while the city would never do that today, it was a common practice not long ago. It could be that putting Industrial zones next to diverse, active, wildlife areas, and floodplains will be a thing of the past that we will look on as shockingly as we look on the act of dumping concrete into the river today. The city has already set a precedent to improve their actions, we can continue to do so as we gain knowledge and perspective.
- Planning Commission members stated they do not think they are the body to decide this project, and in fact, there are serious concerns still to be addressed; we urge the City Council to revisit this decision.
For these reasons, we ask the City Council to reevaluate the decision from the very divided Planning Commission and deny this project on the grounds that it does not satisfy the Finding “The proposed project or use is consistent with the General Plan.” or the Finding “The establishment, and subsequent operation or conduct of the use will not, because of the circumstances and conditions applied in the particular case, be detrimental to the health, safety or welfare of the general public or persons residing or working in the neighborhood of the use, or be detrimental or injurious to property or improvements in the vicinity of the use.”
Thank you for giving this issue your utmost consideration. We are available for any questions or concerns.
Audrey Taub on behalf of the SLO Beaver Brigade
Dumping concrete into the river used to be common practice for the City of Atascadero. Photo by Audrey Taub
Please consider coming to this City Council meeting at the City Hall at 6pm on October 10th at the City Hall Council Chambers, 4th floor, 6500 Palma Ave, Atascadero. Or, email public comments to email@example.com.
Species Observed at Beaver Ponds in Salinas River Corridor, Atascadero.
Summer 2020 – present
Observed on Game Cameras and Classified by Fairfax Lab
Species: 61 birds, 14 mammals, 3 reptiles, 1 crustacean, 1 amphibian
California Meadow Vole
Great Blue Heron