Los Olivos is a quaint village and home to more than 1,000, more or less, happy souls.
Los Olivos also is a great place to visit, especially on sunny weekends, and it can be a terrific launch pad for making the wine-tasting circuit.
All in all, the village is a post-card snapshot of quiet living in a peaceful, picturesque setting.
Until it rains a bunch. Rain can be a rarity these days, but you know it will rain. Eventually. And when it does, and the rainfall is persistent and heavy, Los Olivos morphs from a peaceful, bucolic retreat to a place to avoid because of storm runoff. If the rains continue, the village’s prevalent septic tanks tend to disgorge and … well, you get the picture — and the odor.
Los Olivos residents have been wrestling with septic tank problems for years, perhaps not since the town’s founding around 1880, but long enough.
A lot of Los Olivians have had enough. They want the wastewater issues resolved.
There are two primary ways to accomplish such an objective. Los Olivos residents could let themselves be annexed into a neighboring community services district, or they could form their own governing district.
The advantages of being annexed are obvious, and include joining a jurisdiction that has been functioning for years. The disadvantages are just as obvious, mainly letting someone else make decisions affecting Los Olivos residents and their properties.
Self-determination, whether in life or in government, is a powerful motivator. It may seem expedient and easy to turn decision-making responsibilities over to someone else, but in the end, doing that means you lose some or all of the aforementioned self-determination.
A choice will be made this month. Ballots have been mailed to about 500 eligible voters in Los Olivos, who have until Jan. 30 to return those filled-in ballots to the Santa Barbara County elections office. The mail-in deadline is Jan. 22.
Included on the ballot is the election of five board members, if the new community services district is the voters’ preference. That could be a problem, because this type of vote requires a two-thirds, super-majority for passage.
A local group has been working for months on getting a new district formed, and their argument to voters for doing so is compelling — no matter whether Los Olivos voters form their own district, or facilitate annexation by the existing community services district, residents will still have to pay the bills. That being the case, the self-determination argument becomes almost overwhelming.
Candidates for the proposed board will be on hand Thursday evening, Jan. 4, from 5-7 p.m., for a meet-and-greet at the Los Olivos School gym on Alamo Pintado Road, giving those who are still undecided some valuable information about which path to take.
The slate of candidates contains some heavy hitters in terms of experience in such matters, including Tom Fayram, who spent decades in the county’s Public Works Department, and others.
Los Olivos has been around for the better part of a century and a half, so it is long past the era of septic tanks. The town needs a full-on community services district, if for no other reason than to protect its charm, ensuring a viable place to live far into the future.
It is important that if you are eligible to vote, you do so. One way or another, the wastewater problems will be addressed. And if it was our choice to make, self-determination is always the way to go.