San Luis Obispo County owns 415 lots of 2½ acres each. County officials tried unsuccessfully last week to auction them off. It was in The Tribune. The required minimum bid would have worked out to a little more than $1,800 per acre, but nobody bid.
Maybe nobody bid because the buyer would have to buy all 415 lots, or because the minimum bid was $1.9 million, or because all the lots are in the California Valley subdivision on the Carrisa Plains.
(I explained last week that I reserve the right to say Carrisa Plains, not the Carrizo Plain, because Carrisa Plains is what its settlers called it. Their descendents and friends still do.)
The California Valley subdivision was created in 1960. It contains more than 7,000 2½-acre lots. It is served by the Carrisa Plains School, which has 25 to 30 pupils from kindergarten to sixth grade.
The website of the California Valley Community Services District says the district’s current population is approximately 500. It also warns that the water under many lots there may be undrinkable without treatment.
I’m not sure what the lots cost when the subdivision first opened, but I know what they cost in February 1963. That’s when Mamie and I took our kids out to California Valley one weekend to a sales promotion.
It was a free barbecue. I don’t know if we ate steak or hotdogs or hamburgers, but I still have an advertisement that says, “2½ full acres, fertile soil, not desert, as little as $20 down and only $20 per month, $1,795 full price.”
Mamie and I enjoyed the ride from Paso Robles to the Carrisa Plains. Our kids didn’t. We probably enjoyed the barbecue, but we were unmoved by the sales pitch.
I still remember seeing street signs in the dry emptiness. They identified barely graded dirt streets, which were occasionally interrupted by impassible gullies.
I didn’t sign up for a lot, but I did bring home lots of sales literature. One large, full-color brochure includes a photo of the crowd of 23,781 people who attended a California Valley barbecue May 7, 1961. It said 750 of the “2½-acre ranchos” were sold that day.
Rancher Eben McMillan was there that day. He was a careful observer of life in far eastern San Luis Obispo County. He said they served barbecued buffalo.
The next time county officials try to sell the county’s 415 California Valley lots, they may want to put on a buffalo barbecue.
Reach Phil Dirkx at firstname.lastname@example.org or 238-2372.