Greetings, fellow Avilones. The month of August has arrived, and it won’t be long until yet another summer is in our rearview mirrors. Do you know that not only is August the eighth month on the calendar, but the word “august” is also an adjective meaning “respected and impressive?” It is with that in mind that I offer a belated shout out (via Avila Valley resident and local coastal waters aficionado Rob Mohle) to the Pale Kai Outrigger Canoe Club for their litter removal efforts along a stretch of Avila Beach Drive between San Luis Bay Drive and San Miguel Street, which the Club “adopted” 10 years ago to help keep our community beautiful. This group of paddlers, along with a number of other locals, have made it their mission to pick up after people who find it easier to just toss their trash out the window or on the beach. Our gratitude to you environmentally responsible Avilones.
I rarely venture into the matters of other SLO County towns, but after reading a local article about the Oceano Dunes, I found a strong parallel between that which Avila Beach has already endured and the future Oceano may be facing. I imagine you are all aware of the decades-old fight pitting supporters for and against off-roading at the Oceano Dunes. Environment, safety, economy, and beach access concerns have dominated that conversation. I won’t offer my opinions or take sides on this topic. But portions of the story caught my eye that indicated there are fears for the type of unintended consequences that have occurred in Avila Beach.
One Oceano Advisory Council member pointed to Avila Beach, stating, “before the Unocal oil cleanup efforts, which involved tearing down and rebuilding much of the town, Avila Beach was home to mostly working-class people, funky shops, and restaurants. It had a lot of charm, cheap housing, and it basically got wiped off the map…and now median home prices in Avila are roughly twice that of other SLO County cities.” Some foresee the character of Oceano changing with the elimination of off-roading and have concerns that long-time locals will be priced out of the community as it becomes something different.
For good or bad, change is inevitable and occurs routinely in coastal communities everywhere. Downtown Avila is still undergoing transformation 20+ years since the oil contamination removal. Continuing to disappear are single-family dwellings, being replaced by multi-unit vacation rentals. Summers now belong to the throngs of visitors who just want a piece of how we live, and it’s hard to blame them for that. But it comes at a cost as the sense of community togetherness vanishes with each passing generation.
Which brings me to a parallel topic—that being the history of Avila Beach, which is rich and interesting. The “Foundation” has in the past hosted several events that focused on Avila’s past, and another such event is being considered. Fortunately, there are a number of multi-generational Avila families still living in the area, and it has come to my attention that some possess historical artifacts, photos, and keepsakes they are willing to share. Likewise, we have a handful of community agencies also in possession of historical items of interest. The idea being bounced around is that of hosting, for lack of a better title, a “mobile museum,” whereby willing residents and agencies can display some of their collectibles for others to see at one or more local locations on a specified day or two. What do you think about this idea? Let me know if you have some cool stuff to share and/or if you would attend an event of this nature. You can respond to
A number of you have asked me about the property owned by Chevron, now known as Avila Point, at which the company had several years ago proposed the development of a major conference center. Unfortunately, amid community concerns and other matters, that project fell by the wayside, and future efforts were placed on hold. Chevron representatives attended the July AVAC meeting to present a new project concept that strays far from the earlier one. The property consists of 95 acres originally used by UNOCAL as a petroleum storage and shipping facility and was sold to Chevron in 2005. The new project concept consists of nine lots, some of which would be dedicated for public use, including new coastal and woodland trails. Other lots could be used for parking, public/private development, and more. The concept remains a work in progress and includes involvement by SLO County Parks & Recreation and the Avila Beach Community Services District. Stay tuned for more details as they emerge, or visit avilapoint.com/contact-us/ for updates.
Last but not least, be alerted that the next Avila Community Plan Public Workshop is scheduled via “Zoom” for August 5 at 6 p.m. Contact the County Planning Department for details about how to “Zoom in.” That’s it for now, fellow Avilones. See you at the beach!