Proposed Oster/Las Pilitas (Hwy 58) Rock Quarry

SLO County Planning Commission voted to DENY the project 
The applicant has appealed the decision to the Board of Supervisors

The appeal will be heard by:
 Board of Supervisors on Tuesday May 12, 2015 @ 9:00 a.m.

in Board Chambers of the SLO County Government Center,
1055 Monterey Street, Room D-170, San Luis Obispo, Ca.
More Details on Home Page


Proposed details of operation: 
To process and ship up to 500,000 tons of decomposed granite (DG) and granite rock annually for a duration of 30-50 years. 

Click here to view the original project application made in 2009. The project application was revised on March 22, 2010 to omit the request for a permit to manufacture asphalt concrete.

Link to new (May 12, 2017) Application

Project Name: Oster/Las Pilitas Quarry Conditional Use Permit DRC2009-00025 (locally known as Hwy. 58 Quarry)

New submittal: Oster Living Trust Proposed Conditional Use Permit (DRC2016-00115). The Answers provided for the Questions below 
remain accurate as the new application is for the identical project that was denied in 2015.

Project Location: 6660 Calf Canyon Road (Hwy 58) Santa Margarita, CA 93453

Project Applicant: Las Pilitas Resources LLC, 6835 Calf Canyon Road (Hwy 58)/P.O. Box 875, Santa Margarita, Ca., 93453, 39737 Road 274 Unit 63, Bass Lake, Ca. 93604   LLC Statement of Information  *owners have limited personal liability for the debts and actions of an LLC.

Las Pilitas Resources, LLC has been abandoned. The new project proposal is by the newly formed Las Pilitas, LLC

LLC Managing Partners:  Mike Cole (Cole Trucking), 6835 Calf Canyon Road (Hwy 58), Santa Margarita, Ca. 93453,  Las Pilitas, LLC - Steve Souza (Souza Construction), 4027 Santa Fe Road, San Luis Obispo, Ca. 9340, Matthew Holding Corporation (A holding corporation controlled by developer Darren Shetler of Castlerock Development), 445 Green Gate Road, San Luis Obispo, Ca. 93401
Property Owner: Oster Living Trust
Assessor's Parcel Numbers: 070-141-070, 070-141-071
Parcel Zoning:  Rural Lands
Surrounding Zoning:  Residential Rural to the south and east, with Rural Lands to the immediate west. 
Project Agent:
Mining - Ken Johnston, Johnston Consulting   Keith Gurnee  
Liason to Planning and Building - Don Ritter, Don Ritter Consulting replaced Ken Johnston in this role as of May, 2011.  John French has also been a consultant.
Project Site Manager:  Ken Johnston currently unkown.
Consulting Firm preparing EIR: Benchmark Resources, Principal: Bruce Steubing (formerly known as Resource Design Technology) Note: Contract has not been presented for Board of Supervisors approval at this time. STAY TUNED.  *A contract was approved by the Board of Supervisors on June 21, 2011 with URS Corporation to prepare an EIR after the original Request for Proposal (RFP) was re-circulated.

*SEE UPDATES PAGE FOR the most up to date DETAILED INFORMATION and links regarding the EIR process.
Benchmark Resources was initially chosen to prepare the EIR.  County Planning staff made the decision to re-issue the RFP in order to broaden the search due to what they described as a "public perception problem".  Five firms submitted new proposals, with URS Corportation ultimately chosen to perform the work.  6/16/11 SLO Tribune article

Q: Where exactly is the project being proposed and where would the entrance to the proposed project be located? 
A: This is an often asked question as the application has been selectively mapped, cropping key landmarks. The proposed site involves two parcels located just East of the Salinas River bridge between the bridge and Parkhill Road (Post Mile 5.1). The photo and map below illustrate the ingress and egress route as proposed. 

View from the Salinas Bridge on HWY 58
Looking east from the Salinas River Bridge on HWY 58
The entrance would be located just east of the existing driveway to the residence (under pipe frame entry).

Area Parcel Mapping

Red boundary is proposed Oster/Las Pilitas quarry site, Yellow boundaries are parcels owned by Hanson Aggregates as buffers to their existing quarry operation, blue line is the Salinas River. Areas to the north and west are parcels roughly equal in size to the Oster parcels and are in RL and AG land use categories.  Areas to the south and east are small Residential Rural (RR) parcels along Digger Pine Rd. and Parkhill Rd.  

Q: What is current status of the permit application?
A: The San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission is in the process of considering the proposal.  Their planning staff recommends DENIAL. The next hearing date is set for the afternoon of February 5, 2015 (afternoon session begins at 1:30 p.m.).   On Feb. 5, 2015, the Planning Commission voted 3-2 to DENY the application. For more information on this hearing and the two previous hearings leading up to it, a more detailed summary can be found on our UPDATES page.   

* Any decison reached by the Planning Commission is appeallable to the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors.

Q: Would the proposed project be visible?
A: The project would be visible from Hwy. 58, from other nearby properties, and from Hwy. 101 north of the Santa Margarita exit.  The mountaintop proposed for removal is nearly 200' higher in elevation than the existing Santa Margarita Quarry on the Santa Margarita Ranch. The additional site disturbance required to feasibly operate will also be highly visible due to the close proximity of the entire operation to the road.  

From Digger Pine Road and Hwy. 58

From east side of Salinas River Bridge and Hwy. 58 (PM5.1)


Q: Is this proposed operation an extension of the existing Santa Margarita (Hanson Aggregates) Quarry?

A: NO, this project is not affiliated in any way with the Santa Margarita (Hanson) Quarry contrary to the mapping and misleading information provided by the applicant.  

  • Las Pilitas Resources LLC is proposing this project on parcels owned by the Oster Living Trust.
  • Trucks would exclusively access this project from Highway 58, a roadway not suitable for a long term industrial haul route.
  • The impacts of this additional facility would compound existing quarry related impacts (there are 2 nearby quarries) and will need to be viewed cumulatively under CEQA guidelines.

Q: Is this proposed operation adjacent to the Santa Margarita Quarry (Hanson Aggregates)?
, Hanson's operations occur on land owned by Mission Lakes LLC and DFK LLC, (Santa Margarita Ranch (SMR) owners).  The Oster property is not contiguous to any parcels where quarrying currently occurs.  

  • The Oster property is bordered to the north and west by parcels that are held by Hanson Aggregates. These are large buffer parcels to the quarrying operations Hanson conducts on parcels owned by partners in the Santa Margarita Ranch.  No mining is currently planned or currently occurs on any parcels east of the Salinas River or contiguous to the Oster property.  
  • Hanson's current expansion application (for up to 59 years) to the northwest would suggest there are no future plans to quarry parcels buffer parcels located east of the Salinas River.
  • Efforts by Las Pilitas Resources to portray their proposal as similar to Hanson's existing operations are less than truthful and misleading.  Approval of a quarry on the Oster property would remove current buffers existing between quarrying and Residential Rural (RR) properties to the south and east of the Oster proposal.   
  • These RR areas (where a concentration of homes exist) have been left off project mapping being used to determine land use compatilibility.
  • Also noteworthy is that the staging of truck trips into Hanson's operations occur on an 8,000 foot long (1.5 miles) entrance road accessed from El Camino Real  across a 519 acre parcel owned by partners of the Santa Margarita Ranch.  

Q: Is a hot-mix asphalt plant included in this project proposal?
Initially the application was accepted with an asphalt manufacturing plant facility (asphalt hot-mix plant) as part of the project description.

  • After many community members pointed out to Planning staff that according to the Land Use Ordinance (LUO), ASPHALT MANUFACTURING is not an allowable use within the Rural Lands land use category unless the raw materials originate on site, a LUO Interpretation was scheduled.  
  • Both the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors unanimously upheld the definition as it reads in the LUO, meaning no asphalt production, at least for the time being.  
  • Applicants response followed by revised application.  
  • County staff has informed Margarita Proud that the applicant could seek this use in the future through an amendment to the LUO.
  • Because an asphalt manufacturing plant is a highly profitable component of this project, it will likely re-surface if the quarry operation is permitted.
  • Our research indicates that manufacturing asphalt on parcels zoned Rural Lands presents unnecessary impacts to surrounding uses and creates an unfair business advantage over entities that are manufacturing in locations properly zoned for Industrial activity.
  • View 2/11/10 Planning Commission LUO Interpretation hearing  To view the  Board of Supervisors March 9, 2010 land use ordinance interpretation hearing jump to Item E-1 (1:47:22 right after morning break).

Q: Does the proposed project description also include an asphalt and concrete crushing facility?
A: YES, the applicant has filed a waiver seeking exemption from existing ordinances in order to operate an asphalt and concrete crushing facility. This component of the project is being called "recycling".    

  • The waiver employs much of the same inaccurate, incomplete, and misleading information existing elsewhere in the application as a foundation for a number of justifications.  
  • The proposal appears to be a far more intensive use than anything currently allowed within the existing ordinance.  Does recycling best describe the use being proposed?

Concrete and Asphalt "Recycling"?

Land Use Ordinance  22.30.380 - Recycling and Scrap
A. Limitation on use. Recycling operations in the Agriculture, Rural Lands and Public Facilities categories are not to include vehicle wrecking, dismantling or storage; recycling facilities are allowable in the Rural Lands category only when in conjunction with an approved waste disposal site.
B. Permit requirement. Conditional Use Permit approval; or Minor Use Permit approval in cases where the subject site is within the interior of a Commercial Service or Industrial category such that no portion of the subject site is located adjacent to a land use category other than that of the subject site.
C. Location. At least 500 feet from any school, church, hospital, public building, Commercial Retail, Office and Professional, Residential Single-Family or Multi-Family category, or residential use on an adjoining lot.
D. Minimum site area. One acre.
E. Parking requirement. None, provided that sufficient usable area is available to permanently accommodate all employee and user parking needs entirely on-site.
F. Site design and operation. Recycling facilities and wrecking yards are subject to all provisions of Section 22.30.560 (Storage Yards). [Amended 1992, Ord. 2553] [22.08.097]

Q: How much truck traffic will this project generate?
According to the Draft Enviromental Impact Report (DEIR), the "project" would create 273 truck trips daily, with up to 800 daily truck trips for large projects.  Because 273 is an average, the volume of truck trips could be significantly higher during certain time  periods. 

  • The number of additional truck trips related to the proposed asphalt and concrete recycling operation is calculated by using a 50 percent backhauling assumption (50% of trucks will arrive with concrete or asphalt debris and leave with aggregate).  No verification that this assumption is reliable has been provided. 
  • The Draft EIR (pg. 2-9) states that: "It is possible that for specific projects, these average numbers of trips per day may be exceeded for short periods.  Up to 800 truck trips per day may be anticipated for a large project." 
  • 273 daily truck trips works out to approximately one truck every 2 minutes during the working hours currently being stated.   
  • 800 daily truck trips works out to one truck every 45 seconds during the currently stated working hours.  
  • Hwy. 58 was clearly not designed or ever intended to be suitable for use as an industrial transportation corridor. 
  • Crossing a school zone, a residential neighborhood, and a railroad crossing in the town of Santa Margarita would be part of each trip cycle the project would generate.
  • Another consideration is passenger vehicle and gravel truck traffic re-routing on to H and I Streets as a direct result of increased congestion. 
  • Alternately, the trucks could route down H and I Streets through Santa Margarita to avoid the elementary school crossing. That would not yield any fewer railroad crossings and would route gravel truck traffic through a residential area.
  • Either alternative presents considerable impacts and safety issues to the community.
  • Unfortunately, It does not appear that utilizing rail to transport material is a feasible solution.

Q: How will the material be removed?
The operation will use heavy equipment and explosives (blasting) to remove the DG and granite rock.

  • The creation of noise, ground vibration, fugitive dust, and airborne toxins are just some of the impacts resulting from quarry operations. 
  • Blasting presents significant health and safety concerns.
Mine blasting video

Q: Hasn't current technology made blasting much safer?
According to Ken Johnston, spokesperson and potential site manager for Las Pilitas Resources, neighbors have nothing to worry about because blasting is safe with current technology.  

  • Residents nearby to the proposed Las Pilitas Resources plant have been told they won't even know the quarry exists. 
  • While employed by Glacier Northwest prior to coming here,  Mr. Johnston appears to have made eerily similar claims to residents of Port Ludlow, Washington.  A blast explosion subsequently sent rock flying onto properties neighboring Glacier Northwest's Mat Mats Quarry.   
  Link to Valley Record News article

Q: What about water usage?
Quarrying uses large quantities of water.  The estimated amount of water to be used has been a constantly moving target and does not align with usage at other quarries of similar scale. The project applicant originally stated they will use 20,000 gallons of water per day for operations. (that's 2500 gallons per hour for an 8 hour shift) Other quarries operating at similar extraction volumes report 20,000 to 40,0000 gallons daily for dust control alone plus many times that amount to process aggregate.   20,000 gallons per day has now been reduced to 4000 gallons per day in the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR pg. 2-10).   

  • The unrealistically low figure originally provided by the project applicant (20,000 gallons daily/2500 gallons per hour) used the assumption that no extracted product will be washed.  
  • Even the drastically low estimate of 4,000 gallons per day will impact the reliability of surrounding water sources. 
  • Many nearby parcels already need to truck in water, and do not have sufficient supply to maintain a landscape or grow their own food.
  • Because a limited market exists for unwashed aggregate, it is reasonably foreseeable that water consumption will be substantially higher based on the need to wash aggregate in order to produce a product needed in the market. 
  • The applicants claim their aggregate would be of a quality suitable for use in portland cement concrete when seeking support from investors, yet claim they will not wash their aggregate when the issue of water consumption arose.  These claims are at odds with each other because washing aggregate is necessary to make product of a high enough quality to be sold as material suitable for concrete manufacturing. 
  • According to the Portland Cement Association, aggregate processing consists of crushing, screening, and washing the aggregate to obtain proper cleanliness and gradation.  cement and concrete basics  
  • Our already very limited finite water resources could be used to water roads (for dust control) and wash crushed rock that will most likely be shipped out of our community. 
  • At this time, the project applicants have made no offers to truck in water for the many surrounding domestic users should their over-consumption cause surrounding wells to dry up, or if blasting operations fracture wells as they have at many other operations in such close proximity to residences.  

Q: The property owner has stated this project could tap into the State Water Project that runs through the site if more water is needed.  Is that a possible solution in the future? 
 Santa Margarita (CSA 23) currently has no allotments reserved for state water.  State Water Fact Sheet  We asked a Hydraulic Planner at SLO County Public Works if this project could obtain state water.  Public Works replied "under current county policies and State Water contracts, and since the quarry is outside of CSA 23 boundaries, the quarry does not qualify to obtain State Water nor would it qualify for any proposed under the CSA 23 Drought Reliability Program if that were approved".


Q: Is this project "allowed"?
A quarry is an allowable use (potentially permissible/not guaranteed) on a parcel zoned Rural Lands(RL). Whether it will be allowed is determined by the ultimate ruling on the discretionary (can be approved or denied) Conditional Use Permit (CUP) and Mining Reclamation Plan required.    

  • A Conditional Use Permit  is a site specific discretionary permit that includes environmental review to aid in determining if a proposal considered an allowable use is appropriate for a specific site.   printable brochure/Land Use and Property Rights Explored
  • Additionally, an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is a mandatory requirement for an open-pit mining application. 
  • An EIR is currently being prepared to help inform the Planning Department's recommendation for approval or denial and ultimately the Planning Commission's decision to approve or deny the proposal. 
  • Proposed project site location, detailed project characteristics, existing character, the potential direct and indirect impacts to surrounding uses, the public need, and public health and safety considerations are some of the "environmental" factors required to be considered when determining appropriateness of the site.
  • Planning is about compatibility between uses because nobody wants a discotheque next to their monastery, or a million dollar home next to their hog ranch or waste disposal site. 
  • Land use permits are required when a property owner wants to build, improve, or develop their property.  Link to Land Use Ordinance (LUO)
  • Land use permits can be ministerial or discretionary.
Ministerial permit - Any type of permit for which the staff needs to determine only conformity with applicable ordinances before approving the project (opposite of a discretionary permit).
Discretionary permit - Any permit requiring a decision-making body to exercise judgement prior to its approval. Depending on the specifics of a given application and its accompanying circumstances, discretionary permits may be approved, conditionally approved, or denied. Discretionary permits determine if certain construction permits or certain proposed development activities will be allowed to take place based on the evidence presented. 
When a discretionary permit is required, the only right that exists is the right to make application and enter into the subsequent review process.  This 3/23/11 letter from Planning to Las Pilitas Resources makes it pretty clear that "there are no guarantees" when an applicant agrees to enter into the review process.  *Note: when this letter was written, Benchmark had not yet been replaced by URS Corp. as the consulting firm selected to prepare the EIR.

Q: What are some examples of ministerial vs. discretionary permits?

  • Ministerial Permit - small remodel, patio, pool, spa, electrical, roofing, retaining wall, plumbing and right-of-way permits as well as most new home permits.
  • Discretionary Permit - Hog Ranches, Recycling-Scrap and Dismantling, Chemical Manufacturing, Electricity Generation, Waste Disposal sites, Health Resorts and Bathing, and Mines and Quarries.
In general, proposals that have potential to significantly impact their surroundings require heightened environmental review as part of a discretionary use permit process. 

Link to LUO Table 2-2 Permit Requirements by Land Use Category


Q: Is public input considered when determining the outcome of application for a Conditional Use Permit?
A: YES. 
Ca. Govt. Code Section 65030 recognizes the importance of public participation in public hearings and expresses a clear legislative intent that local agencies insure public participation at every level of the conditional use permit process. The purposes of the public hearing is for the zoning board or zoning administrator to hear and consider the opinions of the proponent and nearby property owners prior to making their decision to either approve or deny the conditional use permit. 

Planner's Training Series on CUP

Q: Can't they do what they want with their own property?

A: Not if what they do with their property affects your family, your property rights, your neighbors property rights, and the character and environment of the entire surrounding area.

  • If this mine is permitted, property values will plummet (who would buy near a mine?).
  • As assessments drop, so too will tax revenues, forcing schools and local government to raise taxes to make up for lost revenue.
  • Flooding the local real estate market with under-valued homes burdened with excessive taxes are main ingredients in the recipe for a downward spiral.
  • Heavy trucks loaded with rock will be barrelling down roadways generally unsuited for this level of industrial activity, sharing the road with bicyclists, motorcyclists, commuters and school buses.
  • Noise, vibration, dust and other negative environmental impacts will blanket the region.

Q: What rights come with owning property?
A: Traditional principles of property rights include many things, including control of the use of the property, the right to benefit from the property, as well as the right to transfer or sell the property. Traditional property rights DO NOT INCLUDE:
  • Uses that unreasonably interfere with the property rights of another private party (the right of quiet enjoyment).
  • Uses that unreasonably interfere with public property rights, including uses that interfere with public health, public safety, peace or convenience.

Q: Does the Extractive Resource Area 1 (EX1) identifying the presence of a mineral resource mean that surrounding land-use compatibility considerations or the numerous other necessary findings are waived?
The identification and mapping of areas that contain mineral resources in no way constitutes final land use policy.  Specific sites are subject to careful analysis regarding appropriateness.  According to John Nall, Senior Environmental Planner at SLO County Department of Planning and Building,  "There is no special protection there".  In a Jan. 12, 2010 meeting with representatives from Margarita Proud, Nall explained that  "the basic purpose of Planning is to address compatibility between uses", and that "we're going to look at use compatibility whether it's an extractive area or not".  The following excerpt is from pg. 31 of the County of SLO Initial Study Summary for the Las Pilitas Quarry EIR:


Link to Initial Study Summary (ISS)

Q: Where will the trucks be staged to enter the facility?
Las Pilitas Resources had not identified any plan for where trucks will accumulate while waiting to enter the quarry for loading prior to release of the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR).  The DEIR now states the intent to stage trucks along the entrance road into the quarry from Hwy. 58.    

  • Access constraints from Highway 58 include a limited line of sight on a curvy section of the roadway when traveling westbound, and a limited distance from the Salinas River Bridge when traveling eastbound. 
  • The Entrance Road into the quarry is steep (10% grade) and windy (several switchbacks greater than 90 degrees).  The conditions do not align with the intent to stage inbound truck traffic.  The ability to stage under the conditions as proposed is being grossly overstated.    
  • Because access to the proposed site is so limited, staging ingress and egress of trucks is a critical component that needs to be accurately described so the impacts to the community can be accurately defined. 

Q: But don't we urgently need more aggregate?
A: No shortage of aggregate exists when all available information is considered. Ample resources to fulfill future needs not only exist within already operative quarries, they are earmarked within Specific Plans in the San Luis Obispo County General Plan. This is good news in that it affords us the ability to carefully select mining sites that are appropriate for their surroundings and whose impacts are not destructive to surrounding communities. Fortunately, there is no need to approve any proposals that compromise livability, character, or safety of communities surrounding them.