The future of Morro Bay’s open space

MORRO BAY — People on the Central Coast live intimately with nature and the open wild places located here. Include in that description agricultural lands and it may seem that residents in a town such as Morro Bay have enough open space and there is no need for more. However, if there is one thing that unifies what is often a very divisive population, it is the need to not overdevelop the land.

At present time, the City of Morro Bay is working to update the General Plan, which was last done in 1988. At this moment in the process, the City is looking at land use issues and several surveys have been sent out which resident may take to have their opinions heard (you can find links to the surveys on the City website – search for Plan Morro Bay). Morro Bay recognizes 10 opportunity sites within the city limits and four study areas outside the city limits that are areas likely to change or are seen to need change by the community.

The Morro Bay Open Space Alliance (MBOSA) was organized, in part, to study these issues and inform the community about them. MBOSA states that the City General Plan update is in its second and final year and there is perhaps three months to try and help to shape the land use plan and promote open space. “The structuring of the General Plan including a revised zoning ordinance will take place through 2018.” commented Glenn Silloway Chairman of MBOSA, “However, plans regarding land use are being discussed now so this is the time for residents to make sure their voices are heard.”

The locations most in question are the four study areas outside of the city limits. The map shown here is from a planning document early in the General Plan update process showing each study area as a colored patch. Looking at the areas south to north, Study Area #4 containing 548 acres extends along Quintana Road from South Bay Boulevard going towards San Luis Obispo. It is now primarily agricultural land although certain conservation easements are also included. Study Area #3 containing 396 acres is the Tri-W space that will include the new waste water treatment plant. Currently it is agricultural space but may be open to commercial development. Study Area #2 containing 672 acres is the Morro Creek space and is zoned for agriculture.

Study Area #4 is the Chevron property at 2,021 acres and currently the property is within County jurisdiction and is up for sale. The Chevron property takes in a section of Toro Creek and the dog beach bluffs as well as the parking areas. Impacts from any development would affect these areas along with impacts to the trail to Cayucos, and the surrounding hillsides, North Morro Bay Island Street neighborhood along Panorama all the way to Del Mar Park. A total area of approximately 3000 acres is in question.

The City of Morro Bay has options of including certain parts of these planning areas in the city’s sphere of influence or by annexing parcels. Currently the study areas are within the County and are mostly classified as agricultural land use.

At a recent meeting held by MBOSA, approximately 100 people gathered to review and discuss the areas, particularly the Chevron property. The included Chevron map indicates areas that have already been sold, those up for sale, and other areas available. Of the two areas sold, one will contain the town of Cayucos’ waste water treatment plant and the other is to be used for agriculture.

Of the 100-people attending the meeting 60 turned in feedback sheets with the consensus being to leave the Chevron property in the jurisdiction of the County. In general, people favored keeping open space with limited development and no development allowed to happen on ocean front parcels west of Highway 1. Some approved of a public tent only campground if it could be funded through user fees and/or state or county funds. Biking and hiking trails were also supported for the Toro Creek open space area of the Chevron property. Respondents supported keeping the views development free.

MBOSA is a 501c3 that began in the fall of 2016 and hopes one day to act as a land conservancy but currently is engaged with advocacy and education and desires everyone interested in open spaces in Morro Bay to know the facts as the General Plan is developed. One way to do this is for interested residents to become members and that costs only $25 per year for an individual and $50 for a family or household, with other member categories going from $100 to $2,500. Visit their website at to join.