Long-vacant Avila Beach schoolhouse to stay amid construction


The long-sought development of a tract of land on which the century-old Avila School House sits will begin in coming months, but the building won’t be touched for now.

The future of the schoolhouse, and its preservation, has been the center of discussion as development plans for the property —owned by San Luis Coastal Unified School District — have been contemplated for more than seven years.

The development company Shear Edge has the approvals needed to build on one of two parcels. There is still a long way to go before building plans for the parcel that includes the school are complete.

The first phase includes building nine units, ranging from an affordable studio to several three-bedroom units. The Craftsman-style residences are meant to emulate the architecture of the schoolhouse.

Construction is expected to begin in the next three months and will continue in phases as the homes are purchased.

Shear Edge has an agreement with the San Luis Coastal Unified School District in which the district retains ownership of the land and the developer will lease it for 99 years. That deal could bring up to $66 million to the district through the length of the lease.

“We could have sold this property for $1.5 million or retained ownership for the future and produce an annual income,” said Russell Miller, assistant superintendent of business services.

Several community members objected to past plans on the premise that they did not want to see the old schoolhouse demolished or moved.

It has not been a school for about 40 years but has served as the home of a disabled living center and a Christian fellowship. It is now vacant.

Michael Hodge of Shear Edge said the plan is to do an adaptive re-use of the schoolhouse and restore it to its original design.

“There were a lot of improvements done to the schoolhouse over the years that detract from the original architecture that was beautiful,” Hodge said.

He said the goal would be to include a community room and display historic photos of Avila Beach.The developer plans to file for the permits needed from San Luis Obispo County to do the schoolhouse improvements while it is developing the first parcel.

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.