Plan for Harbor Terrace campground at Port San Luis is approved

The view from the first level of Harbor Terrace looking toward Harford Pier.
The view from the first level of Harbor Terrace looking toward Harford Pier. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

The Harbor Terrace development at Port San Luis received possibly its final regulatory approval Thursday when the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the project along with some additional provisions to deal with traffic and pedestrian safety concerns.

Steve McGrath, harbor manager, said the approval was a major step for the project. The next steps for the harbor district will be to sign a final lease agreement with HomeFed Corp., the company that will build and run the 34-acre campground, and begin the design work that will be necessary to apply for building permits.

“The project is consistent with the county’s coastal plan’s goals for affordable access to the coast,” he said. “It will include 58 low-cost campsites that will be priced comparably to the camping fees used by the State Parks Department.”

The Planning Commission’s approval of the project is final unless an appeal to the county Board of Supervisors is filed. However, this may be unlikely because there is no organized opposition to the development.

The California Coastal Commission could also appeal the project to itself, bypassing the Board of Supervisors, if it has concerns about the project.

Increased traffic along Avila Beach Drive caused by the project as well as the safety of pedestrians crossing the road to reach the beach quickly rose to the top of the list of concerns the commissioners had about the project.

“First of all, I think this is a really great project, and I’m really stoked about it,” said Commissioner Eric Meyer, whose district includes Port San Luis. “What I am concerned about is the conflict that this brings up about regarding access.”

To manage these concerns, the commission approved a series of modifications to the project. These include the following:

  • Leaving historic non-native, ornamental plants, such as bougainvilleas, rather than replacing them will native plants and trees. This would help preserve the time-honored character of the port.
  • Dedicating all project fees and, if possible, road impact fees to improving pedestrian access along Avila Beach Drive.
  • Providing storage lockers and bike-lock facilities for the project’s walk-in campground.
  • Directing the county Public Works Department to make the pedestrian crosswalk at the entrance to the project as safe as possible, including a well-marked crosswalk, signs and lights.
  • Designing all new development to reflect the historic character of the port.
  • In addition to the low-cost campground, the project calls for a restaurant, store and other amenities to be built near the main entrance to Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. Camping options will include tent camping, recreational vehicle hookups and cabins.

    The goal of the development is to provide new and affordable accommodations for coastal visitors as well as create a new source of revenue for the district, McGrath said.

    Another benefit of the project will be the elimination of about 25 RV campsites that are currently located along Avila Beach Drive. Relocating those RV camp sites to the Harbor Terrace will open that area for additional roadside parking.

    In December, the district’s board of commissioners selected HomeFed Corp. of Carlsbad to build and operate the development. It is expected to cost $17 million to $20 million to build the facility, which should be up and running in 2017.

    Historically, Harbor Terrace was the site of the Port San Luis trailer park, which had 41 spaces. The trailer park was closed and dismantled in 2012 to make way for the development.

    The district has used the rest of the site for commercial and recreational boat and fishing gear storage, RV camping and harbor district storage of materials and equipment.

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