SLO County is a quality place to live

Laguna Lake in San Luis Obispo.
Laguna Lake in San Luis Obispo.

Hey SLO County, we’re No. 236!

OK, that doesn’t sound so hot, but when you consider that’s out of 3,135 counties in the United States, we’re way above the curve.

This particular ranking (we know, we can’t keep up with all of them either) by The New York Times looked at quality of life, based on six data points.

SLO County’s stats: Median income, $59,628; percent of population with at least a bachelor’s degree, 31.5; unemployment rate, 8.1 percent; population on disability, 0.7 percent; life expectancy, 80.7 years; and obesity, 30 percent.

Our neighbor to immediate south, Santa Barbara County, came in at No. 200. While most stats were very similar to ours, the median income there was $62,723.

The highest ranked county in the nation was Los Alamos, N.M., where median income was a healthy $106,426; unemployment just 3.5 percent; and obesity, 22.8 percent.

OK, so we’re not quite so svelte or wealthy here in SLO, but we can still hold our heads high, and in honor of our performance, we have a bouquet of 236 slightly overweight roses.

(For more information on rankings go to http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/26/upshot/where-are-the-hardest-places-to-live-in-the-us.html .)

Don’t fence us out of Ontario Ridge

We hoped the dispute over access to hiking trails on Ontario Ridge was over, but it turns out that property owner Rob McCarthy is accused of putting up more barriers on his land overlooking Avila Beach, in defiance of orders from the county and the Coastal Commission.

You may recall that back in February, McCarthy was in trouble for putting up fences and no trespassing signs on his land, blocking access to popular trails. He claimed the trails were unsafe, but hikers who had been using the land for years were outraged by the attempt to keep them out.

Their anger was justified: Under state coastal law, the public has a right to access trails, beaches, bluff tops and parking areas that have been used by the public at least five years — even without the consent of the property owner. On top of that, during the kerfuffle the county discovered it has an easement over the property, allowing hikers access to trails.

McCarthy agreed to remove the offending signs and fences.

And while some fences remain, McCarthy has pointed out that gates are open, so the public still has access to trails. But hikers have reported that some barriers are still interfering with access.

So, a few months later, here we go again, rehashing the same (fenced-off) ground. For that, we have a backpack filled with burr-covered brickbatsfor the ornery owner of Ontario Ridge.

The Coastal Commission, by the way, has scheduled a public hearing on the issue for July 11 in Ventura, at which time it may decide to order McCarthy to “remove all unpermitted fences, gates, signs, footings and support structures.”

Simplifying the vote in Morro Bay

Politics in Morro Bay get curiouser and curiouser.

Last week, Councilwoman Nancy Johnson conceded to her opponent John Headding in the June primary election, in part because she wanted to save the city the expense of a run-off in November.

Yet this week, Johnson voted against putting a measure on the November ballot that would give voters the option of ditching the primary election system that’s proven to be both confusing and potentially more costly to the city — and Johnson’s own recent experience is a prime example of that.

If voters dump the primary, Morro Bay will join other cities in the county in holding a single council election in November, rather than scheduling a June primary and, if necessary, a November runoff.

On Tuesday, the council majority — Mayor Jamie Irons, Councilman Noah Smukler and Councilwoman Caroline Johnson — directed staff to draw up paperwork for the ballot measure. The council will vote July 8 on whether to place the question on the November ballot. We’ll hold a people’s choice bouquet in abeyance until then.