Three Californias? Sounds crazy, right?
Except, let's not be too quick to dismiss it. Maybe there's something in it for us, and by "us" we mean San Luis Obispo County. Because let's face it, when Diablo Canyon shuts down in 2024-25 we're going to be struggling to rebuild our economy.
So let's just say, for the sake of argument, that the measure to divide California into three separate states passes in November and is approved by Congress. The new state of "California" — which would consist of Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties — is going to need a state capital.
San Luis Obispo, being sort of centrally located in this new state, would be a perfect location, and would help us get back on our feet after Diablo shuts down.
Think of all the head-of-household jobs that would be generated. The business that would flow to our hotels and restaurants and shops. The cachet that comes with being a capital.
Heck, we might even get a pro hockey team.
So now the question becomes, where to put it. Here, in ranked order, are our back-of-the-napkin suggestions:
5. Atascadero. The city has been trying for years to get something going in its downtown. This could be the answer. The Rotunda building would lend gravitas; the Printery could house lawmakers and their staff; and the Galaxy Theatre would give members of the capital press corps somewhere to hang out in their downtime.
4. Santa Maria. Technically, this is not in San Luis Obispo County, but it's close enough to generate lots of business for us, especially in nearby Nipomo. We'd get many of the economic benefits, without any of the responsibility.
3. The old California Youth Authority facility in Paso Robles. This property has been vacant since 2008, and it's time something was done with it. Other pluses: the state already owns it; at 155 acres, it's big enough; and because it's somewhat isolated, we won't have to worry about politicians and bureaucrats overrunning the downtown.
2. Cal Poly. The buildings are there, along with the parking, and we could rent the dorm rooms to lawmakers. What about the students, you ask? Some could stay, especially the poli sci and journalism majors (think of the internship opportunities!). The campus farm could stay, too. Architecture and urban planning students could go downtown, and engineers could have their very own campus at the old Youth Authority (see No. 3).
1. Diablo Canyon. Our top choice, and with good reason. There's already water there — the desal plant — lots of real estate and you couldn't ask for a more majestic ocean view. True, there is spent nuclear fuel stored on site, but if it's right under their noses, maybe lawmakers will get their act together and pressure the feds to do something about it.
OK, with that out of the way, on to our next chore: Anyone care to nominate a state flower?