Santa Paula: Limoneira – East Area development faces its greatest challenge–Part 3

By Sheryl Hamlin


Like demographics, the study of water and availability varies by the forecaster or the consultant.

On September 3, 2013, water was the main topic of the Santa Paula City Council Meeting. A water consultant invited by the city, reported on water conditions. He noted that Limoneira had provided the questions for the report layout. For a copy of the consultant’s report, click here:

During the Q&A, Councilmember Tovias asked the consultant if there was enough water for the East Area I project. The consultant responded affirmatively stating that this project was merely a transfer of water and actually housing will use less than agriculture. The consultant did not state if this transfer was a transfer of rights or if there is groundwater available for transfer..

UWCD Groundwater Manager Tony Morgan also attended that meeting, asking the City to avail itself of United’s highly trained water scientists. However, such a meeting has not been calendared on the public agenda.

The City of Santa Paula produced a water report in 2007 indicating sufficient water existed for the project; however, again it does not differentiate between rights and actual water and was produced pre-drought. The wording “water supplies” versus “water allocation” should be clarified.

In this published report, Limoneira claims there will be less water used based on 175 acre feet of water (57 million gallons) now used annually:

However, Planning Commissioner Wisda calculates the water usage differently as reported in the Santa Paula Times in October of 2014. Very simply, he estimates the following, assuming an acre foot of water equals 326,027 gallons.

When completed, East Area 1 will bring in 4000 new residents at 119 gallons per person, per day. That is a daily usage of 476,000 gallons or 1.46 acre feet per day.

Rendering of East Area Housing

Rendering of East Area Housing

At 1.46 acre feet per day, this equals 532.9 acre feet per year. So there is a discrepancy in the water usage numbers presented on the Limoneira report and thepotential number of residents. Based on 175 acre feet of water annually or 57 million gallons annually as stated by Limoneira, this equals 156,164 gallons per day divided by 119 gallons per person per day yields only 1312 people. How could 1500 homes only equal 1312 people? These calculations need to be vetted.

The DEIR was written before new California water management laws took affect. The East Area project calls for four new wells to be drilled. The project also calls for all landscaping to use non-potable or recycled water, which is not produced by the Santa Paula Waste Water facility. From the DEIR, it clearly states that Limoneira and its water consultants are planning to receive recycled water for landscape purposes:

The 2010 UWMP anticipates that the City will develop a recycled water program for landscape irrigation and that the estimate amounts that could be delivered in the future are 800 afy by 2020, 1,200 afy by 2025, and 1,622 afy by 2030.19 These demands could be fully met with recycled water from the WRF.

Next Step

The Santa Paula City Council will hear the results of the revised Draft Supplemental EIR in December. The ability of Limoneira to monetize this project for the stockholders and reduce the debt is a function of their ability to read the market and plan against demographic headwinds.

Conceived in the days of unlimited growth (20th Century) and designed prior to the Housing Bubble, the Financial Crisis of 2007-2008, the Great Recession of 2009-10 and the worst drought in 100 years, the Limoneira project faces challenges that are not unique to development project across the United States. In an economy whose two key components are retail spending and home building, where are the people who can sustain these two components and how will they spend their dollars?

Limoneira: Agribusiness and Real Estate Development–East Area–Part 1

Limoneira: Agribusiness and Real Estate Development–East Area faces headwinds–Part 2


Sheryl Hamlin: With an MS in Industrial Engineering, Sheryl Hamlin spent years in technology with stints at Motorola, Tandem Computers and various startups. She has been on the boards of neighborhood organizations both in San Francisco and Palm Springs where planning issues were her specialty. She now resides in Santa Paula and loves the historic fabric of the city.

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