County to Buy Marine Terminal Lot

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

April 2, 2024

County Supervisors will start the process to buy a large piece of the old Chevron Estero Marine Terminal, acquiring another piece of the land puzzle that separates Morro Bay and Cayucos on the map.

Supervisors approved a sale contract with the Cayucos Sanitary District to purchase a 17.36-acre parcel of the marine terminal property, which was in operations from 1929 to 1999, and piped in crude oil from oilfields in San Ardo and Kern County, uploading the product onto tanker ships (most notably the Chevron Louisiana). The marine terminal occupied over 600 acres in all, including the famed Dog Beach, the shore plant, hilltop tank farm and vast open spaces bordering North Morro Bay on the east, from Del Mar Park north. 

As part of its project to construct its own sewer treatment and water recycling facility, the Sanitary District purchased several parcels from Chevron. This particular lot, described as APN 073-075-019, in the County report, was needed to run its wastewater discharge pipe through, which ultimately connected with one of the marine terminal’s unused undersea oil loading lines, for an ocean outfall to dispose of unusable water from the new plant, which is located about a mile up Toro Creek Road from Hwy 1.

The San Luis Obispo County Land Conservancy has been negotiating with the Sanitary District for some time and finally agreed upon a price, $1.22 million, all of which is coming from grants and donations.

The idea is to buy what is now largely grazing lands for cattle, “for the purpose of obtaining acreage for a park, coastal access, environmental conservation enhancement, and trail facilities connecting Morro Bay and Cayucos as identified in the County General Plan’s Parks and Recreation Element,” reads the report from staff. “This is a portion of a multi-year acquisition strategy to transition the bulk of the former Chevron shore plant and hill plant operational lands to San Luis Obispo County Parks and Recreation Department for operation as a park.”

That $1.22M might seem a low-ball valuation for 17-plus acres of almost beachfront property, but the County said they had it appraised. The price “is supported by a fair market evaluation determined by an independent real estate appraiser and confirmed by staff and contingent on a close of escrow no later than June 30, 2024,” the report said. 

The sale was negotiated between the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County and the Sanitary District, according to the County report with the intent to sign it over to SLO County Parks.

When the papers are signed, a clause in the terms will transfer ownership directly from the District to the County, even though more than two-thirds of the money was provided by the County Land Conservancy and the Cayucos Land Conservancy, providing $650,000 and $271,000 respectively. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) kicked in an additional $300,000. The County Land Conservancy is coordinating the funding for the sale.

After the sale is final, the County parks plans to leave it in open space for the time being, with a pair of leases — one for grazing cattle and the other for housing, already on the site. “A residential lease agreement,” the County report said, “will generate revenue to offset operational costs, and a grazing lease agreement will provide open space land management of the property. No General Fund support anticipated for the operation and management of the property.”

With their vote, Supervisors set April 23 as the date for an official public hearing on the sale. If the proposition survives public scrutiny, and there is little reason to think it won’t, then the property sale would move forward.

Previously, the dog-friendly beach below the plant was acquired by the District and then turned over to the City of Morro Bay to manage. And a large parcel across Toro Creek Road from the Shore Plant, used to graze cattle and also containing a single home, was purchased and signed over to County Parks.

Perhaps the prize in all this acquisition of open space lands, besides putting Dog Beach into public hands, will be eventual acquisition of a valley that stretches from Morro Bay’s Del Mar Park back into the wooded hills to the east.

It should be noted that acquiring this property is a long ways from developing a usable park, as any such development would have to undergo complete permitting process, including a full environmental review.

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