Supervisors opt for minimum in North Coast views protection



In a rebuke to both the County Planning Commission and preservationists, the SLO County Board of Supervisors once again approved the least restrictive of several options intended to protect views along the county's nationally heralded scenic North Coast.

The 3-1 vote on Nov. 27--which saw Jerry Lenthall, Katcho Achadjian, and Harry Ovitt carrying the vote over Jim Patterson--was essentially a technicality-induced sequel to a previous vote in August. And it had the same ending.

Supervisor Bruce Gibson could not vote because he owns land in the area, but he argued for tougher protections in a speech from a public-comment podium.

The vote came at the end of a contentious debate that saw preservationists worrying that new ridgetop "McMansions" will ruin the famous North Coast views. They faced off against folks, many in western wear, who favored the least-restrictive measure written by Protect Our Property Rights, the group backed by the Farm Bureau and the Cattlemen's Association. Some of those opponents described viewshed protection laws as akin to communism.

The private group had also written the version that the supervisors approved in August, but for procedural reasons it had to go back before the Planning Commission, whose members called it flawed and crafted a new version that they approved unanimously.

The Planning Commission's version would have covered far more land. It would have included 47,000 acres, including views from Old Creek Road, Santa Rita Road, and Highway 46. Instead, the winning POPR version includes 3,900 acres and only covers land within a mile of Highway 1.

Most of the planning commissioners appeared and spoke at the supervisors' meeting to express solidarity for their work. But several POPR supporters took the podium to complain that the Planning Commission had no business changing the original proposal.

Supervisor Ovitt got worked up over arguments that the views must be protected to keep the area an international draw for tourists headed to Hearst Castle. He found them ironic.

"You can stick your dag-gum tourism up wherever because we wouldn't have [Hearst Castle]," if viewshed protection measures had been in place when it was built, he said.

The county also protects views of the morros between San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay, of Edna Valley, of the Salinas River, and of the ridges east of Nipomo.

Efforts to create similar protection for the views from the roads north of Cayucos go back several years.

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