The Cambrian

Coastal Commission approves San Simeon wastewater plant riprap protections

When state Coastal Commission members ended their three-day meeting marathon in San Luis Obispo on Friday, July 12, they were justifiably exhausted.

After all, they’d tackled several long-running, previously contentious issues Wednesday, including a long hearing about the future of off-roading activities at the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area, building and operating a new Morro Bay wastewater treatment and recycled water facility and what to do about riprap protecting the San Simeon sewage treatment plant and its outfall into the Pacific.

All those projects were approved with conditions.

While the San Simeon decision appeared quick and easy to make, it had taken decades to get the issue to that point. Commissioners and San Simeon representatives seemed equally relieved to have finally come to an agreement that involves getting within 10 years enough grant funds to move the plant further from the coast.

The agreement included the possible option of a 10-year extension, if the San Simeon Community Services District needs more time but has shown significant progress toward the ultimate aim.

Then Friday, commissioners and staffers spent the entire day in a public huddle with representatives of local government. In the advance-planning workshop centered on three other thorny problems: Sea-level rise, short term rentals (also called vacation rentals) and making more collaborative the process of getting commission approval for local coastal plans.

At the workshop’s end, there were few decisions but apparent consensus of what needs to happen next and how to get there. Participants seemed to agree that sea-level rise was the most critical issue on that platter of problems, and set in motion a plan for a subcommittee to capture the attention of statewide leaders and members of the public.

Commission representatives also pledged to better balance the needs of residents, those who own vacation rental properties and the families and others who want to rent them and access the coast. The issue of how vacation rentals impact the supply of affordable housing is also part of the conundrum, commissioners said.

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