County Supervisors have approved a new 5-year lease for ranch property it is in the process of obtaining at the corner of Toro Creek Road and Hwy 1 south of Cayucos.

Escrow was slated to close April 30 on the 258-acre property owned by Chevron — part of a complex land deal put together by the Trust for Public Lands, Cayucos Land Conservancy, Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo, SLO County Parks Department, the City of Morro Bay and Cayucos Sanitary District.

The deal will eventually include the Chevron Dog Beach, where dogs are allowed off leash, the hillside grasslands, and some of the flatland adjacent to the oil terminal’s shore plant.

In a related action, the Morro Bay City Council on April 28 voted to accept a $150,000 grant from the State Coastal Conservancy to go towards the purchase of its portion of Dog Beach that is currently owned by the Cayucos Sanitary District.

According to the City report, total cost for the two lots is approximately $338,050. The remainder of the purchase price [$188,050] will come from already secured philanthropic funds.”

“The property east of Highway One,” reads a staff report by County Parks Superintendent, Nick Franco, “will be managed as open space until such time that it can be opened to public access. This open space property has been continuously managed by the same tenant and/or tenant’s family for decades.

“This tenant uses grazing to appropriately manage the open space. In addition, the tenant occupies and fully maintains the existing residence and the associated infrastructure. Allowing the tenant to remain and manage the property will significantly reduce the cost of operation to County Parks.”

In the lease agreement, the County is not charging anything for the grazing rights, as Franco explained that cattle grazing the property means the County doesn’t have to deal with weed abatement, fire load reduction, or trespassing, as well as the other potential ills rural property owners must deal with.

In the lease agreement, John and Kathleen Thomson are named as the tenants and the initial rent is set at $800 a month terminating April 30, 2025. Starting in 2021, the rent will go up 5% a year.

Franco said, “The tenant occupies and fully maintains the existing residence and the associated infrastructure. Allowing the tenant to remain and manage the property will significantly reduce the cost of operation to County Parks.”

And, “The residential lease is lower than market rate because the burden of repair and maintenance falls on the tenant including the replacement of the roof within the term of the lease. Having a tenant knowledgeable about the history and operation of the land on site to effectively manage the property reduces the liability to County Parks for the operation and maintenance of this property,” Franco said.

They must also draft a “grazing plan” to ensure the property isn’t over-grazed causing erosion.