Rules for zip lines to be considered by Planning Commission

A recreational pastime called zip-lining does not fit snugly into any of San Luis Obispo County’s planning codes, planners have discovered, and they have asked the Planning Commission to find a comfortable slot for it amid the county’s many regulations.

They also want the commission to take a look at bungee jumping, giant swings and other such adventurous activities.

These activities were less common when the county last updated its “outdoor sports and recreation facilities” and “rural regulation and camping” definitions, county Planning and Building Department Director Jason Giffen and Assistant Director Kami Griffin wrote in a staff report to the Planning Commission.

They said they are “now faced with categorizing these new uses and determining the appropriate permit process.”

The commission has scheduled a hearing Jan. 26 to “interpret” the ordinance as it relates to these activities. It begins at 9 a.m. at the County Government Center, 1055 Monterey St., San Luis Obispo.

Zip lines allow riders to slide in harnesses along an aerial cable stretched between two anchored points.

A zip line course made its first San Luis Obispo County appearance in September at the Santa Margarita Ranch, run by Santa Margarita Adventures LLC out of the Ancient Peaks Tasting Room.

The organization’s website advertises it as “a uniquely thrilling adventure perspective on a true California landmark.”

The course has four zip lines covering more than 3,000 feet and includes a valley crossing and forested vineyard views. The actual ride time is two minutes, with an eight minute total for the four lines.

The zip lines are part of a larger 21⁄2-hour tour that ends with wine tasting.

Planners offered the commission several possible scenarios for regulating the activity.

They checked with other counties and found “that there isn’t a consistent method for handling zip lines.”

In San Diego County, where Giffen last worked, they are classified as “participant sports and recreation, outdoor.”

Planners also noted that they had received “inquiries from the public” about establishing a new category of rural recreation uses, including mountain bike courses, giant swings, cable ski lakes, bicycle motocross (BMX) facilities, bungee jumping and ropes courses.

None is specifically defined in the codes, and “staff is now faced with trying to understand these uses and how they are operated, as well as categorizing them and determining the appropriate permit process,” Giffen and Griffin wrote.