Avila Beach population could triple if housing proposal is approved

Mar 9, 2015

Wild Cherry Canyon, looking toward Port San Luis and Pismo Beach.
Credit Kara Woodruff

As many as 1,500 homes could be built at Wild Cherry Canyon near Avila Beach if a new, controversial proposal gets approval. Avila Beach residents and supporters of the Wild Cherry Canyon conservation effort are upset over the potential housing development that could triple the size of the small beach town's population.

Kara Woodruff spearheaded the Wild Cherry Canyon protection effort and says she has concerns about issues surrounding water availability, sensitive habitat, and traffic.

"If they applied for and received an ag cluster development, the maximum build out according to a recent appraisal of the property would be about 62 homes, so what they are proposing is jaw-dropping, it's fantastically large compared to their existing zoning, in fact it's 2,400 percent larger than the existing permitting and zoning would allow," said Woodruff.

Denise Allen is an Avila resident, who serves on the Avila Advisory Council and says she has similar concerns.

"Avila Beach has become impacted, traffic is at a max," said Allen. "As far as water, San Luis Bay Estates are using their own wells right now and I have been told by the president that they are concerned about salt water intrusion and there are concerns about the sewer because at times the sewer is at max."

Tom Blessent from HomeFed Corporation is the developer behind the project and he says the plans are in the early stages but says their goal is to make an environmentally and economically sustainable community.

Blessent says the plans for addressing the water issue include using on site wells and using recycled waste water through an existing treatment plant.

"Our idea would be to work with some of the neighbors, like the golf course, so that the treated water would be used on the golf course or some of the other landscaped areas and that would free up sources of groundwater that could then be used," said Blessent.

Blessent says they look forward to working with the community to address their issues and he hopes residents will keep an open mind about the benefits that come with additional housing.

"There's a real need for housing up there, anyone who's either gone out looking for a place to buy or rent- I'd be happy to engage them in what the realities of housing are out there," said Blessent. 

Blessent says ten percent of the land would be used for housing, and the rest would be donated to open space.

Woodruff worries that the donated land would be the least desirable for hiking and horseback riding.

Permits for the project have yet to be submitted, and the plans will have to be approved by the county and possibly the California Coastal Commission.