Los Olivos residents have voted overwhelmingly to form their own community services district, according to the results of a vote-by-mail ballot in January.
On Feb. 8, the Santa Barbara County Elections Office said the vote to create the district was 265 in favor and 96 against, a margin of 73 percent approval to 27 percent against. The election also had 75 percent turnout of the community’s 484 registered voters.
The unincorporated community of about 1,000 people has been labeled a “special problems area” since the 1970s because of failing septic systems but has not had any local government to deal with the issue other than the county Board of Supervisors.
“This is a huge win for the sovereignty of Los Olivos. Now we can focus on the immediate challenges that face our unique town and protect the interests of our friends and residents in Los Olivos as opposed to relying on neighboring municipalities to make those decisions for us,” said Jaime Dietenhofer, a Los OIivos resident and owner of Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company, which has a tavern in the small town.
The Los Olivos Community Services District (LOCSD) will be governed by a five-member board of directors who were elected on the same ballot. Directors Lisa Palmer, Tom Fayram, Mike Arme, Julie Kennedy and Brian O’Neill will be responsible for the planning, construction and operation of a community wastewater system.
Wastewater and septic systems have been a decades-long issue because of the town’s high water table, which increases the risk that septic tank effluent will pollute groundwater.
New state and county regulations are forcing changes in the use of septic systems and other onsite wastewater treatment systems. A septic system that fails, especially if it is not up to current standards, can cost thousands of dollars to replace.
“We already see impacts in the shallow zone in the entire Santa Ynez basin, and the (Regional) Water Board will continue to move forward with our analysis and present the data and impacts. If there isn’t a CSD, then the decision goes to the county … on how to plan to address this issue,” according to Howard Kolb of the Regional Water Quality Control Board.
Election results must now be certified by the Board of Supervisors and approved by the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO).