Some residents of South Oakglen Avenue in Nipomo are taking San Luis Obispo County to task after reading about a beautification effort along Highway 101 meant to shield their problems from view rather than address them.
The road, which parallels the east side of Highway 101, is seen by some as an eyesore, and Nipomo resident Larry Hoekman has led the charge to screen the street from the freeway with oleanders. He’s working with Caltrans and the county to provide potential visitors a more colorful welcome to Nipomo’s Tefft Street entrances.
“We want to make the entryway to Nipomo more appropriate to the type of town Nipomo has become,” Hoekman said.
Some residents, however, say government bureaucracy has limited planned development such as that proposed by the Holloway family that could improve the neighborhood while also keeping the family, which owns Holloway's Christmas tree farm, out of bankruptcy.
“The reason this neighborhood looks the way it does is caused by the county and how they treat the people on South Oakglen,” said Carl Holloway, whose family has owned their farm since 1918.
South Oakglen Avenue runs 1.5 miles south from Tefft Street past Dana Adobe Cultural Center. It is home to mobile home parks, Holloway’s farm, a church and single-family homes.
The county fire code allows for development near Tefft Street, but precludes Holloway’s proposed 17-home, then 4-home developments on his lot 3,500 feet from the intersection because of limited access.
Preferential treatment cited
For decades, Debbie and Carl Holloway have tried to sell or develop a portion of their property along Oakglen Avenue. They have watched properties around them develop and construction of the Dana Adobe Cultural Center, while their development proposals have been denied because of fire and safety rules.
“In 2001, Cal Fire came in and said nothing can be developed more than 800 feet from a main road on a dead-end street. We’ve looked every way,” Carl Holloway said.
Meanwhile, expansion of the Adobe’s visitors center has begun more than 1 mile south of Tefft Street. A portion of that expansion has been funded by county grants, including up to $300,000 for a water line to the new facility. And multiple-unit, residential construction has been allowed as far as Grove Lane, nearly half a mile from Tefft Street.
“Development has been allowed for some people but not for others. There’s a reason for these codes. If they don’t enforce the codes for one person, how can they enforce it on another? How can they get away with building on one side of us and expanding public access to Dana (Adobe) on the other while they’re holding us for ransom down here,” Holloway said.
The dead-end road issue could be addressed by the once-proposed Southland overpass, which could have connected South Oakglen to Southland Street on the east side of the freeway. That overpass could have relieved traffic congestion at Tefft Street, but the plan was abandoned.
“Under (Supervisor) Katcho (Achadjian), the county made the decision that it would never be viable or accepted by Caltrans, so they sold the property. I find that short-sighted. To me, that was the answer, both to the secondary access required for the development of South Oakglen and for the congestion problems we’re seeing on Tefft Street,” said former Supervisor Caren Ray.
Holloway said the county also had been offered a dedication of land that would have allowed for the construction of a connector from South Oakglen to Thompson Road, but the dedication wasn’t approved by the county.
“There are conflicting points of view on what the vision for Oakglen is for the long term. There are some people who see it as a property rights issue, who believe that development would clean up the area, and a whole lot who don’t want to see development because they don’t want to see gentrification of Nipomo Mesa. That secondary access is a key factor in what direction that area takes,” Ray said.
Current Supervisor Lynn Compton said the Dana Adobe project was allowed with the understanding that the secondary access, a bridge across Nipomo Creek, has to be completed by July 2022. Until that time, the adobe is limited to 300 visitors at any given time, unless approved in advance by the county fire marshal.
“I get (Holloway's) perspective. I’d be arguing the same point, to tell the truth. He wants the same accommodations, but it’s not going to happen,” Compton said.
She added the adobe, considered a project for the greater public good, was set to lose grant money if it didn’t meet construction deadlines for their proposed visitors center. Without the visitors center, Compton said, the adobe couldn’t hold significantly large events that will allow them to fundraise. Without fundraising, they wouldn’t have the money to make the required road improvements.
“We worked with Cal Fire, Building and Planning, and gave them a timeline to allow them to defer development of emergency access until they raised the funds, but they had to jump through hoops. In this situation, it’s a historic structure, a benefit to the community. They knew there was a loss of grants that would have put the kibosh on the project if we hadn’t worked together to make this happen,” Compton said.
She added that connecting South Oakglen to Highway 101 with hook ramps has also been discussed. Holloway said he’d been told by Caltrans that hook ramps were no longer being installed anywhere in the state. Compton said they’re still a potential answer, “but it’s not going to be right away.”
“Everybody wants to develop South Oakglen, but it’s not going to happen soon. Can we put in subdivisions and waive the road requirement like we did for Dana? I don’t think Cal Fire or the county would do it for a subdivision because that’s a slippery slope,” Compton said.
Said Holloway, “What’s going on here on South Oakglen is all so ugly. It’s fueled by anti-growth, retirees coming up out of L.A. and San Francisco who don’t want change. I was approached by one member of DANA who wanted us to give property to the adobe so they could expand the rancho. Really? They want me to just give my property that I've worked all my life on and I’ve got such debt on? And they’re serious.”
Holloway hopes the family will be able to hang on until the road situation is solved. He took over the property in near-bankrupt status, he said, and has fought through the ups and downs of family farming just to stay afloat.
“That’s a piece we don’t really use for the farm, and we think development on South Oakglen, if well-planned, could help the adobe become a self-sufficient entity rather than a group that has to continue to get grants and government funding. You could put in a hotel and restaurants, businesses that support the adobe. Meanwhile, we’re like a cat with his claws in the curtains; we’re just hanging on,” Holloway said.