Plans are gearing up again for an expansive project that would remodel the Ragged Point Inn, a decades-old, landmark oceanfront resort near the San Luis Obispo/Monterey county line.
The project has been stalled for several years.
North Coast advisers got a sneak peek recently at the revised plans, which haven’t changed a lot since 2016, when the project proposal first surfaced in public.
The inn, its gardens, lawn areas, gazebo and restaurant at 19019 Cabrillo Highway are an iconic stop near the southern end of the Big Sur Highway. For decades, those amenities have provided a calming respite for travelers on the steep, narrow, curving roadway that’s an international draw for visitors and residents alike.
The tomahawk-shaped site, on a terrace about 300 feet above the sea, provides views of the panorama of the ocean and the hills that surround the elevated bluff terrace on which the resort sits. The seasonal Young’s Creek waterfall also is visible from the site.
Ragged Point’s multi-phase, multi-year project would expand the 39-room inn to 69 rooms, create a new spa building, build eight units of permanent employee parking (replacing ramshackle trailers and RVs currently being used), create a new resort-operations office, revise some landscaping and make additional improvements on the nearly 9-acre site.
Nevertheless, members of the North Coast Advisory Council, its Land Use Committee and county planners said Sept. 18 that they share some concerns about the plans and have questions that will need answers before the project’s permit process can proceed. No vote was taken that night because so much information is still needed, council members said.
Among those concerns are:
• What the council considers insufficient parking, especially if the resort is to continue hosting weddings and other special events. The plan’s current equation would require 172 spaces; the plan includes 184 spaces, including 165 in the parking lots, eight valet-parking spaces, two RV spaces and nine for motorcycles. In its previous review, council members questioned if two RV spaces was enough, given the number of those vehicles that travel the highway every year.
• Getting Caltrans to prohibit any parking on the resort’s entire 1,100-foot frontage on the Highway 1 right of way, so those vehicles don’t infringe on traffic and cause safety problems.
• Not over-trimming or removing the perimeter cypress trees, maintaining them for visual screening and windbreaks.
• Issues about the proposed tertiary treatment of wastewater using a membrane bioreactor, including making sure the inn used enough of the recycled water wherever possible and (in what’s sometimes a cellphone dead zone) having enough reliable internet capacity to constantly monitor the plant and get timely trouble alerts from it.
• Addressing sufficiently all items on the county’s “information hold” letter, most of which are similar to those stated by NCAC and its Land Use Committee.
Chuck Stevenson, consultant for the Ramey family (which has owned the property since the late 1950s) said in an emailed interview that, for those and other reasons, he had postponed his previously scheduled presentation for the NCAC’s meeting Sept. 18, probably for a month or two.
Stevenson, a former longtime county planner, is now a planning commissioner for the City of San Luis Obispo.
He said that, in addition to wanting to have enough time to properly answer all those questions, he and the Rameys “want to hold a tribal-consultation meeting, and get their input and ideas for mitigation and incorporate them into the plan.”
The site has archaeological significance and is important to Native Americans.
Landslide put plans on pause
Jim Ramey estimated the cost of Ragged Point’s 15-year, multi-phase project to be more than $25 million three years ago.
Then on May 20, 2017, a nearby mountain slid, burying and destroying a quarter-mile stretch of Highway 1 nearly 9 miles north of the resort. It was the biggest landslide ever along the slide-prone Big Sur Coast, and for more than a year, the closure cut the lifeline between Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties.
That closure of the National Scenic Byway put lots of nearby business plans on hold and left some entrepreneurs hanging on by a fiscal thread while a $54 million reconstruction project was creating a new roadway atop the newly compacted earth and rocks.
Now, the Ragged Point project would expand and vastly update the 1960s-era inn with its restaurant, gift shop, snack bar and more. Some modifications and updating have been done on the buildings and the site in the decades since then, and embellishments added, but the proposed plan would make some significant changes.
Stevenson said overall “the project has changed a little since the original plans were prepared a few years ago.”
While “the restaurant building will remain,” there’s now a “different design for the convenience store, fast-food restaurant and public restrooms... and a smaller spa building was designed.”
Phase one of the project would include a new, two-story, 18-room “Cliff House North,” and the existing “Cliff House South” would be rebuilt to create 16 rooms.
A new gas station would be built with restyled pumps, in addition to a new fast food restaurant and loop driveway. The plaza, dining, viewing and recreational terraces would be remodeled, as would the landscaped walkways.
Phase two includes construction of a new operations building with garage, laundry, business offices and six employee apartments.
Two existing motel buildings (18 rooms in one- and two-story buildings) would be demolished at White Rock Cove on the southwestern portion of the property in Phase three. New resort buildings would be constructed with 19 rooms, a roof-terrace garden, recreational terrace, landscaping, walkways and staircases.
Finally, a new 3,000-square-foot spa building and “relaxarium,” plus landscaping, planters, reflecting pool and water features, would be added.