The Cambrian

Cambria development would build recreation facility. But planners want to reject it

BKS Cambria has proposed a resort-like development for the decommissioned Cambria Air Force Base.
BKS Cambria has proposed a resort-like development for the decommissioned Cambria Air Force Base. Courtesy photo

San Luis Obispo County planners are recommending denial of an application to redevelop the decommissioned Cambria Air Force Radar Station into a resort-like facility.

The first phase of BKS Cambria’s proposal would create a 25-space tent-camping facility, with a caretaker’s residence, emergency shelter and private helipad.

The project would include four other phases.

The issue is on the agenda for the county Planning Commission’s meeting Thursday, Dec. 13, which is set to be convened as usual at the county Government Center, assuming a widespread wage-related strike and walkout of unionized county employees doesn’t prevent the meeting from happening.

Planners said in the meeting’s agenda packet that the BKS proposal is not consistent with the county’s Safety Plan or the Fire Safety Plan. In the latter case, a Cal Fire review determined that “secondary access is needed to ensure the safety of campers/guests and employees at the site.”

Current access to Highway 1 is via 2.2 miles of rural, sometimes steep Monte Cristo Place, and secondary access would be needed, the report said, “because the project will place transient users (campers) in a remote area with a high fire risk.”

BKS had proposed creating another roadway from the ocean-view, blufftop site through some heavily wooded, hilly ranchland, connecting to Cambria’s Top of the World neighborhood in southern Cambria.

When that idea surfaced at recent meetings of the North Coast Advisory Council, Cambria Community Services District and various committees, the concept drew determined objections from some property owners, forest advocates and others.

The 34-plus-acre BKS project site is at 202 Monte Cristo Place, approximately 1 mile west of Highway 1, and 1.5 miles south of Cambria.

Additional phases of the project would refurbish and convert existing buildings into a limited service restaurant, limited service coffee shop/visitor center, outdoor multisport sports facility, arts and crafts workshop, recreation-gymnasium building, metals and wood workshop/seminar building, Cambria Air Force base museum, three buildings of lodging facilities.

According to online information, the Cambria base was initially built as a temporary “lash-up” site in 1950-1951 that was replaced with permanent facilities by 1953. Base radar scopes were to pick up images of unidentified intruders; the squadron’s duties were to guide interceptor aircraft toward those intruders.

Some longtime North Coast residents recall going to the base to recreate with the military members or to fly small, remote-controlled gliders (there was even a small bowling alley).

The base closed in 1980, and in recent years, it has been privately held. Residual asbestos in the site’s buildings has been an environmental issue.

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