Yes, San Luis Obispo County needs more housing. But 15,000 homes in Wild Cherry Canyon? Excuse us while we pick our jaws up off the floor.
Not only is this much too dense to even contemplate, it’s also premature. The Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant is still operating, and the process of deciding what to do with the land around the plant — including Wild Cherry Canyon — hasn’t even started yet.
Yet last week, it was revealed that developer Denis Sullivan is pushing to move forward with what amounts to the development of a small city on the 2,400-acre site that was once slated to become State Parks land.
Not that it’s totally unanticipated; public officials warned of this when a campaign to purchase Wild Cherry Canyon for preservation fell apart five years ago.
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“They (the lease holders) came back and said they wanted to pursue a development scenario,” Supervisor Adam Hill said back then, right after one last-ditch effort to save the conservation deal collapsed.
But 15,000 homes?
And we’re not just talking houses. That many homes would need schools, parks, supermarkets, doctor’s offices, a library, police and fire facilities. And roads, lots and lots of roads. Oh yes, and water to serve it all.
A smaller development with a limited number of homes, maybe — as long as the bulk of the property was conserved and opened to the public for activities like hiking and camping.
But putting a monster development on this site that has been eyed for public use for decades? Let’s just hope that’s an outsized dream that will never be realized.
The best way to ensure that is to continue to shine a light on any plans as they develop, and to make it clear that such a grandiose project does not have the backing of the people of San Luis Obispo County or their elected representatives.
To that end, we have some thanks to deliver:
▪ To the nonprofit Friends of Wild Cherry Canyon and the Sierra Club, for keeping this issue in the public eye;
▪ To PG&E, for committing to make no decisions on what to it will do with the property surrounding the power plant until after a “stakeholder group” makes its recommendations;
▪ To Board of Supervisors Chairman John Peschong, for expressing skepticism as to whether the property could support even 4,000 homes. “The impact on water, sewer, to me that’s a very large development, and I’m not sure I could support it,” he told Tribune reporter Monica Vaughan. Coming from a member of the board’s conservative majority, that’s a valuable statement.
▪ We also want to thank — and encourage — any members of the public considering applying for the stakeholder group that will be making recommendations to PG&E, both on the decommissioning plans for Diablo Canyon and on future use of PG&E’s Diablo Canyon property, which includes 11 miles of coastline.
PG&E is looking for 11 members of the public to serve two-year terms on what it’s calling a “decommissioning engagement panel.” (How’s that for a bureaucratic mouthful?)
The panel will meet monthly; service is voluntary.
This is an advisory panel — it has no final, decision-making power. PG&E makes that crystal clear in its question-and-answer sheet on the panel: “PG&E will retain complete discretion to accept, modify or decline any recommendations made by the panel, as PG&E is responsible for ensuring the health and safety of the public and is the financial and land steward of Diablo Canyon assets,” it says.
Keep in mind, too, that many of decommissioning decisions — including the ultimate disposition of the spent nuclear fuel at the site — fall under the oversight of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
We still see great value in serving. The panel will function as a conduit of information between PG&E and the public; it will help ensure transparency; and it will have the opportunity to weigh in on some important questions.
▪ What will be be done with the network of emergency sirens? Which agency what be the best “steward” of that equipment?
▪ Should the breakwater be ripped out and hauled away, or maintained for future use as a marina?
▪ How about the accessory buildings at the site? Should they be razed or reused?
▪ Is there any possibility of using the desal plant as a community water source?
▪ And what’s the best use of the surrounding property?
Whatever the future holds, we don’t believe a 15,000-home subdivision is an appropriate use for any part of the property, let alone a site as special as Wild Cherry Canyon.
A permanent conservation agreement came tantalizingly close to being realized in 2013; let’s hope a revival remains a strong possibility.
Interested in serving on the decommissioning panel?
Go to pge.com/engagementpanel for information on how to apply. Applications are due by 5 p.m. March 21.
The panel is not open to elected officials or to PG&E employees and their immediate family members.