Dan De Vaul's dream as a scale model

Cal Poly architecture students conceptualize Sunny Acres



Could Sunny Acres become a reality? Dan De Vaul is one step closer to his dream of providing affordable rehabilitation facilities on his Los Osos Valley Road ranch, after Cal Poly architecture students presented their master land use plans to De Vaul and a small group of architecture faculty.

Less than a year ago Dan De Vaul got into a heated debate with the county over his plan to house homeless people and recovering alcoholics and addicts on his property. De Vaul was essentially shut down for operating an unlicensed rehab facility, as well as for various other land-use infractions. At one point the man feared his ranch would be taken from him.

But since September, De Vaul has been working with a group of Cal Poly architecture students to come up with a master land-use plan for his 72-acre ranch. The plan was to incorporate affordable housing, estate home, open space, retail, and of course the Sunny Acres rehab facility on De Vaul's property.

After Cal Poly president Warren Baker persuaded architecture professor Nick Watry to take on the Sunny Acres Task, De Vaul invited the students to his ranch and visited the class regularly. But it wasn't until this week that De Vaul saw the final designs.

Fifty students in the Intergraded Project Servicing class presented their plans on Dec. 5 and 6. The teams acted as if they were a legitimate design and building company pitching their plan to a real client, De Vaul. The comprehensive presentation included detailed architecture plans as well as financial estimates.

After the first group proposed their plan, complete with 3-D models, PowerPoint presentation, diagram boards, and computer-generated fly-over movies of the proposed property, De Vaul said, 'I think it's amazing, they've done an incredible amount of work."

Other judges, including Mary Lemus, whose son was a client of Sunny Acres before it was shut down, complimented the group on their work.

'I think you guys have done great, I'm really impressed," she said. Lemus has been working with De Vaul and the class over the last 11 weeks. She said her son is living is now living in Carpinteria and doing well.

De Vaul offered some skepticism about the financial plan for the project. The students' estimate for a partial build-out of the plan came in at $49 million, and would have required De Vaul to take out a loan of $11 million. De Vaul admitted that he wasn't an expert on financial matters but thought it might be hard for him to get an $11 million loan.

De Vaul said the county has officially cleared him of any land-use violations and he's now focused on restarting Sunny Acres, this time legally.


Staff writer John Peabody can be reached at [email protected].

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