Cambrian: Opinion

What will become of the old Cambria library?

The former Cambria library building at 900 Main St. has been sold to a Nipomo family trust.
The former Cambria library building at 900 Main St. has been sold to a Nipomo family trust.

The old Cambria Library is going back up on the auction block, with written bids due to San Luis Obispo County by 5 p.m. April 30.

The Cambria Community Services District board voted this past summer to purchase the building, which would have served as district offices. The sale was approved by the county, as well, but it fell through a couple of months later when the district’s lender, Municipal Finance Corp., denied the CCSD’s application for a $562,500 loan.

Before the board voted to purchase the building, Samuel Shalhoub revealed that an arts organization he heads wanted a chance to buy it. Now, with the CCSD out of the picture, Shalhoub is renewing his efforts.

Shalhoub, who heads the Cambria Academy of Music and Multi-Disciplinary Arts, also serves as president of the Coast Unified School Board but said his role on the school board was fully separate from his drive to purchase the library. He admits it’s an uphill battle; although he has dedicated a good chunk of his own money, he needs donors to step up in order to have a chance to buy the library. The minimum bid in the upcoming auction has been set at $419,900.

Additional money would be needed to refurbish the building and bring it into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The mission statement for Shalhoub’s group is “to support and grow the artistic, cultural, and musical efforts in Cambria, CA, by providing people of all walks of life with a place to work, study, teach, and learn cooperatively in a safe and encouraging environment.”

Shalhoub, a Coast Union graduate, has a master of art degree in music performance practice from UC Santa Cruz. He asks those interested in helping the organization to email him at

Weathering the storm

Cambria and the Central Coast are always looking for what we might call “Goldilocks weather.” Not too much rain, not too little, but that elusive “just right.”

March’s mini-miracle was about as close as we’re likely to get.

We all know what happens if we don’t get enough rain: Drought, water restrictions and dried-out vegetation that’s fuel for potentially catastrophic wildfires.

But too much rain can be just as bad. It can cause damaging mudslides, such as those on Highway 1 and behind Cambria’s ambulance station last year. It can saturate the earth so that, if high winds follow, trees can come crashing down onto houses, cars or people.

If too much rain falls in too short a period, it will all just run downhill and into the ocean, leaving the underground aquifers as thirsty as ever. It’s beautiful to see all the new vegetation spring up, making the Santa Lucia mountains look like a postcard sent from Ireland, but if more drought follows, those green grasses will turn brown all too quickly, heightening our fire danger even more.

This year, we’ve gotten steady rains, not the howling wind-in-your-face driving rains of 2017 that wreaked havoc with mudslides, power outages and falling trees. But it remains to be seen if our good fortune will continue. That would mean intermittent storms that keep the earth and its greenery from getting too dry too quickly and for too long.

It can feel like you’re walking a weather tightrope here in Cambria, and as with a real tightrope, balance is the key.

PROS and cons

Steve Kniffen came to the most recent CCSD board meeting with a set of goals that didn’t include a playing field for the rodeo grounds park. He left with a mandate from the board to pursue just such a field.

“I don’t want to build a playing field that we don’t have some kind of funding system to take care of it,” Kniffen told the board.

That makes sense. But the board told Kniffen, who leads the Parks, Recreation and Open Space Commission (PROs) that the park remained a worthy goal.

Other projects on the radar screen in that area fall under the county’s purview, such as improving the pedestrian path heading up the hill on Burton. Whoever’s responsible for this, it ought to be done. And while they’re at it, the county should consider putting a three-way stop at Burton and Eton, and a four-way stop at Bridge and Main.

As for the ball field, which would accommodate soccer and baseball, it couldn’t have permanent structures; things like backstops would have to be removable, Kniffen said. Still, it would provide kids with an outdoor alternative to computer games and television. It’s hard to argue with the benefits of that.