The community of Avila Beach would nearly triple in size under a proposal to build as many as 1,500 homes in Wild Cherry Canyon.
In a meeting with the Avila Valley Advisory Council on Thursday, developer Tom Blessent and planner Andres Duany said they are planning to build between 1,000 and 1,500 homes on 240 acres of the 2,400-acre Wild Cherry Canyon property, which extends from Avila Beach and into the Irish Hills between Avila Beach and San Luis Obispo.
The 240 acres would be on the southern end of the property near the main entrance off Avila Beach Drive. The other 90 percent of the land would be conserved as open space with trails for hiking and horseback riding, they said.
Blessent said they want to proceed with the project as soon as possible. It typically takes five to eight years to break ground on a project like this because of its complexity and the difficulty in getting the permits needed to build, Duany said.
Wild Cherry Canyon was the subject of a failed effort to conserve the entire 2,400 acres. The owners terminated the conservation negotiations in April 2013 when the American Land Conservancy failed to raise the $21 million purchase price.
The plan is likely to meet stiff opposition by residents and the county. The project would need approval by the county and possibly the California Coastal Commission, although the development would be out of the coastal zone.
“Obviously, many of us are very opposed, given the long-held and hard-fought efforts to conserve the Irish Hills for people and wildlife,” said Kara Woodruff in an email. Woodruff spearheaded the Wild Cherry Canyon conservation effort.
The Wild Cherry Canyon property is owned by Eureka Energy, a subsidiary of PG&E. A group of investors including developer Denis Sullivan own leases on the land that are good for 155 more years.
They have hired Blessent and the HomeFed Corp. of Carlsbad to be the developer and Duany and his firm DPZ out of Miami to be the planners.