Cruisin’ the Milestones: ‘From the Summit to the Sea’ Rides Into Morro Bay Oct. 23rd

“From the Summit to the Sea” vintage-car caravan, Oct. 22-23, crosses the imaginary finish line in Morro Bay, but it all begins in Yosemite National Park, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary, and in Sacramento, where California State Parks is celebrating its 150th anniversary with the founding of Yosemite, the first State Park.

By ED OCHS

From the Summit to the Sea“From the Summit to the Sea” vintage-car caravan, Oct. 22-23, crosses the imaginary finish line in Morro Bay, but it all begins in Yosemite National Park, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary, and in Sacramento, where California State Parks is celebrating its 150th anniversary with the founding of Yosemite, the first State Park.

The 150th anniversary of the Yosemite Grant is a major benchmark, a big deal, and they’ve been getting ready for it for almost three years.

“We’ve been working with the National Park Service since January 2012 in preparation for the 150th anniversary year of the Yosemite Grant Act,” said Rhonda Salisbury, CEO, Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau in Oakhurst, Calif.

“This has been a huge collaborative effort between all four Yosemite gateway communities, California State Parks, National Park Service, Yosemite Conservancy and more,” Miss Salisbury said. “There are hundreds of events that have taken place or a still planned for the 150th anniversary beginning in September 2013 and continuing until December 31, 2014.

“The biggest events in our gateway—the south entrance, Highway 41—has been our Inaugural Yosemite Festival celebrating all that is Yosemite through art, history and education. This festival will continue to honor and bring awareness to Yosemite. Artists from all over Madera County displayed their Yosemite-themed art. Mono and Chukchansi tribes both were represented with booths about their culture.

“The south gate has had many ongoing events as well—the Sequoiascape Exhibit at the Fresno Yosemite International Airport, Yosemite ‘Rocks’ Artistic Learning series, Lure & Lore of Yosemite Exhibit at the Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau in Oakhurst, ‘Tony Krizan—Yosemite’s Forgotten Trails’ hiking series, and more. We’ve had our local brewery, South Gate Brewing Company release a special 1864 Ale in October 2013 in honor of the anniversary. Two local wineries also bottled special labels and blends in honor of the Yosemite Grant.

“Sierra Art Trails, in October 2013, dedicated their open studio tour with over 100 artists of every medium to the Yosemite Grant and featured their artist tributes to Yosemite,” Miss Salisbury said.

Yosemite to Morro Bay

Summit to Sea logoWhen dozens of vintage-vehicle drivers start their engines on the morning of the 23rd in Yosemite they’ll find themselves at the summit of their journey headed for the sea, surrounded by arguably the most spectacular collection of scenery in America.

Said Miss Salisbury, “Just out of Oakhurst you’ll drive through the Sierra National Forest, see the Merced River run through the historic town of Wawona, witness the amazing cliffs and vistas along the road to Yosemite Valley and enter into the iconic world of Yosemite when you come out of the tunnel and see Tunnel View’s—one of the most photographed vistas in the World—the artwork of Bridalveil Fall, El Capitan, Half Dome and many more Yosemite landmarks. October offers an array of fall colors that will follow you along your journey.

“‘From the Summit to the Sea’ will bring the car enthusiasts back into Yosemite to remind them that there is so much to see and do. We are very excited for them to come in the ‘off season’ and see the beautiful fall colors.”

This panoramic event will certainly do its part to promote Yosemite tourism—an estimated 3.5 million visitors are expected this year—but it will do wonders to promote little Morro Bay, a proto 20th-century California fishing-village edging gingerly into the 21st century. In addition to being a naturalist’s seaside paradise, Morro Bay also happens to be a biking/kayaking/boating escape on some of the most dazzling, estuarine coastline and marine-life-rich ocean this side of Maui.

Compared to venerable Yosemite though, Morro Bay, 50 years a city, is the new kid on the block. Loosely midway between the Bay Area and L.A., off key Highways 1 and 101, Morro Bay is in a good spot for a lot of things that come down the highway these days.

“Morro Bay is ideally located for those classic car and motorcycle trips up the coast,” said Morro Bay’s Mayor, Jamie Irons. “This event takes advantage of a classic trip from the mountains to the sea, which is another amazing thing California has to offer, with Morro Bay being the finish line for that classic trip.

“The 50th celebration has been a full year and a lot of credit and recognition needs to go to the Morro Bay 50th Committee for working so hard to put it all together,” Mayor Irons said. “‘Summit to Sea’ is very cool and it’s always great to form partnerships. I’m happy to have two pinnacles be connected and promoted this way.”

When “Summit to Sea” participants conclude their journey at 565-foot-high Morro Rock  around sunset on that sparkling October day they’ll experience another classic race that’s unbeatable—sunset on the Pacific—and a warm reception in Morro Bay.

“October is one of Morro Bay’s most beautiful seasons,” said the Mayor. “I hope that the participants are greeted with October’s crisp, clear days, where the temperature has a subtle drop creating that clear horizon full of spectacular color as the sun is setting.”

Connecting the pinnacles

“From the Summit to the Sea” is the brainchild of Karin Moss of Moss Marketing Group, based in Morro Bay. Miss Moss attended some of the early planning meetings of Morro Bay’s 50th Anniversary Committee during her tenure as Director of Tourism in Morro Bay and shared some of her ideas and experiences with legacy events.

Miss Moss, who honed her marketing and promotional skills in the upper echelons of the music business, had previously been on the steering committee of the 25th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge, 75th anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and recently produced the 10th anniversary of the death of Dale Earnhardt in conjunction with the opening of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

To reach the broadest possible audience for “From the Summit to the Sea,” Miss Moss suggested partnering with California State Parks, with whom she had a previous relationship in the late ’90s when she was Executive Director of the California Sesquicentennial Foundation.

“Not only were they enthusiastic about partnering with Morro Bay but they appointed me to their statewide event committee,” Miss Moss said.

“I later realized that it was also the 150th Anniversary of Yosemite, and envisioned that creating an event linking Morro Bay to Yosemite via Highway 41 would resonate with the over 5 million tourists and visitors to the Yosemite website. It seemed like a natural partnership, and the theme ‘From the Summit to the Sea’ was launched.”

It wasn’t terribly hard getting the partners involved, she said, “because every one of them saw the vision from the beginning and wanted to be involved…

“I envision participants would have the same spirit of adventure that I do and could embrace this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Just the other day a woman registered from Pasadena and when I asked her how she found out about it she said, ‘at the beauty shop.’ I’m thrilled to know that our message is getting out there.”

Early on Moss saw the stars aligning for “From the Summit to the Sea,” because it’s all about California at its best, the California of classic cars, endless summers, rock music, surfing, beaches and grand State Parks.

“This partnership just seems like a natural one to promote Morro Bay, State Parks and Yosemite,” Miss Moss said, “and I feel confident that others will feel the same way by participating or, at the very least, joining us at sunset at The Rock on October 23 to welcome the many car aficionados and be part of the welcoming festivities.”

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Sources and Resources:

Official Yosemite Grant 150th Anniversary website: http://www.nps.gov/yose/anniversary.

“From the Summit to the Sea” website: http://www.fromthesummittothesea.com

Official California State Park 150th Anniversary website: http://www.150.parks.ca.gov

Morro Bay 50th Anniversary: http://morrobay50th.com/


A Visitor’s Guide to Preserving Yosemite

What park visitors need to know that will help maintain and sustain the health and well-being of the park for visitors into the future.

  • Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures (not including the wonderful souvenirs you can buy in the gift shops).
  • Be aware of animals. Speeding kills bears, and feeding animals is not healthy for the animal (or you).
  • Teach your children about wilderness—the beauty and danger. Follow rules and read signs–they are for your protection and Yosemite’s preservation.
  • Talk to the rangers. They are a wealth of knowledge and can find answers to almost any question!
  • Read the Yosemite Guide handed out at the park entrance and see the exhibits. There is so much history and important sustainability information. The more you know the better your vacation will be and the healthier the park will be.

(Source: Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau)

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Catch of the Day: Morro Bay Public Fish Market Opens in November

Come and get ‘em fresh off the boat at a savings – salmon, tuna, rockfish, lingcod, crab – when the Morro Bay Public Fish Market debuts in November in Tidelands Park.

crabsCome and get ‘em fresh off the boat at a savings – salmon, tuna, rockfish, lingcod, crab – when the Morro Bay Public Fish Market debuts in November in Tidelands Park. In a move that could boost tourism and attract fresh-fish-seeking locals, the Morro Bay City Council voted unanimously on August 26 to allow direct-to-the-public, ‘off-the-boat’ fish sales in Morro Bay. The council approved at one-year trail period for the venture. After one year, if the market is deemed successful, it will be continued indefinitely. Modeled after the successful local farmer markets, the fish market will provide a centralized location at Tidelands Park, with its side-tie boat docking, public parking and pedestrian access. According the August 26 city council staff report, “There is potential indirect positive fiscal impact by way of an economically healthier commercial fishing fleet.” Fishermen have been selling fish from their boat slips. The “Fishline” seafood mobile app will be part of an internet-based campaign to spread word of the market and specials to fresh-fish fin-atics. The city hopes the one-stop fish market will help publicize Morro Bay’s “working waterfront, sustainable fishing industry and rich estuarine setting,” and bring more visitors to the bay. Day and time of the first market have yet to be announced. More details should become available later this month.

Marketing Ace Karin Moss Finds Fertile Ground for Success in Morro Bay

Talkin’ Morro Bay, marketing, tourism and the road ahead with former TBID executive director, veteran special events promoter and dealmaker, Karin Moss.

Karin Moss
Karin Moss knows how to laugh.

Karin Moss has lived in California for the past 35 years, but she had never been to Morro Bay before she interviewed and was hired as Executive Director of the Morro Bay Tourism Bureau in late 2012.

Before taking the job and moving to Morro Bay, she had been the National Director of Promotion for Indian Motorcycle in Gilroy when they abruptly went bankrupt. The new owners recruited her to “a little one-horse town” outside of Charlotte. Within a year they sold the company on the verge of bankruptcy, and Moss had to shift gears. Fortunately for her, she’s good at that.

“I became the director of tourism for 10 counties in the Blue Ridge Mountains,” she said, “but I always wanted to come back to California.”

From across the country she was looking at various industry job sites when she saw the Morro Bay listing on the Western Association of Convention & Visitor Bureaus site out of Sacramento.

“I knew where it was located, but until I came for the interview, I was Googling and MapQuesting,” she confessed. “I had never really been to Morro Bay before the initial interview.

“I’ve had a really big, lengthy career,” Moss said. “I thought this would be a great place to be, and that was really the motivation for me. I’ve done the big-city thing, I’ve done L.A., Chicago, New York, San Francisco. My idea of really living well is to do urban business in a rural setting, and that’s really what I was signing up for.”

Opening the new Visitors Center

Moss was hired in November 2012 and relocated to Morro Bay, courtesy of the city. It was an amazing return to California for Moss. It demonstrated her skill and her will. But the reality was she was starting with nothing and had to hit the tarmac running.

“I flew into town and started the job the first week of December 2012, and put together the whole Visitors Center.

“I think they were looking for someone that had experience with start-ups, and I had a lot of experience with start-ups,” she said. “What you would be looking for in a start-up executive director and what you would be looking for in an executive director several years later are two different things,” she said, paving the way for what would follow.

It’s hardly unusual to find out what a new job is really like only after being hired, never before. What Moss didn’t know before she was hired was that she had parachuted into a turf war between the Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau over the Visitors Center, and TBID won. Enter Moss to a chill in the air and a lot of money at stake.

“Some were not wanting to support this new woman from the Blue Ridge,” she laughed, “so it was really great to meet people and get them to roll up their sleeves and help me get that thing open.

She was tasked with having the Visitors Center open by January 2,2013. She had to move everything out of the former Chamber office, furnish the new place, get internet and phones going, hire the people—and she rolled it out by January 2nd. “I think that’s why they needed a seasoned executive director, to get it done, somebody who wouldn’t have to think twice about it,” she said.

Right from the beginning Moss took the marketing in-house, eliminating a countywide ad agency, associated retainers and mark-up charges.

“That was what I was tasked to do, which was market Morro Bay tourism. So I took everything in-house.  It was an excellent decision, absolutely. It was a money-saving decision, and it enabled us to turn on a dime. There were no mark-up charges. I did advertising, promotion, social media, publicity, media relations, public relations.”

Moss left the job in early April, a new executive director has since been hired, and Moss admits feeling some sense of relief stepping away from the high-visibility, labor-intensive position.

At the same time she was leaving, it was announced that Morro Bay tourism was up 33%. More visitors were staying overnight in Morro Bay’s hotels and motels.

“I delivered the end product,” Moss said. “I don’t think anyone would deny that. But I’m a very independent person. I like to work when I want to work, I like to have lots of different clients, I like to volunteer, I like to travel.

“What they needed in the first place to jump-start this organization and what they need now are two different things, so it really has nothing to do with me or where they’re going in the future.

“I was very satisfied with my delivery on that job. I’ve met a lot of people I really like. I’ve developed some collaboration in the community and overcame a lot of the negativity over the separation of the Visitors Center from the Chamber. I worked closely with the Chamber, I was part of their committees, I helped them market events in a very positive way. So it was a good marriage. But I’ve had a big career and I want to continue having a big career.”

The numbers suggest Moss, TBID and the city did something right in 2013, and before. “A lot of people have been planting seeds for a long time, and a lot of money’s been spent,” she said. “It’s not like a non-profit organization where we’re standing on the street handing out fliers. We’ve bought a lot of media, we’ve had some great agencies, some great creative. They had the local promotions committee here. A lot has been done over the last five years, so yes it’s convenient for me that as I’m leaving the numbers are looking good, and I do take some of the credit, but I certainly can’t take all of the credit.”

Moss was still saying “we” almost two weeks after exiting TBID, which is understandable. Marketing Morro Bay was, still is and will continue to be fresh on her mind.

Why Morro Bay?

“There’s so many ways to market Morro Bay. You can’t just look at tourism marketing,” she said. “Everything is everything: you have look at what’s happening with the merchants, how clean is the community, what’s happening with the restaurants. Just because you slept on a $1,500 mattress, if you have a bad breakfast, or there’s garbage on the street, or bad customer service, your entire experience was not a good experience. I like to view marketing globally.

“In my career I’ve been a single woman on the road a lot. I would even go to places that weren’t that great if they treated me well, if I knew they had a clean bathroom, if the grilled cheese sandwich was served by a nice lady.

“In the case of Morro Bay we’re marketing a lot of different demographics, but fortunately we have substantial enough budget that we can reach those people.”

Though Moss isn’t directing the show anymore, she’s still very much in the game.

“I’ll always be promoting Morro Bay,” she said. “We all are, aren’t we?”

One of the last things she did with the Bureau was run a big promotion in the Central Valley where she gave away an all-expense-paid weekend in Morro Bay.

“People went crazy over getting a weekend trip in Morro Bay. I literally spoke to a thousand people; not one single person had a negative thing to say about Morro Bay. Usually you’ve got to listen to the bad dinner, the bad whatever, the horrible sheets, but everybody had a good feeling about it.

“But the call to action, the unique selling proposition: Why Morro Bay… Why not Pismo, why not Cayucos? There’s a lot of different options. But more than anything I’ve learned that it’s not Disneyland, it’s not for everyone.”

Spoiler alert for the jet set:

“If you want five-star dining and room service, this isn’t it,” Moss said. “If you want come to as you are, walk in the door of any restaurant, this is it. No reservations needed. Wear what you slept in. Whatever. That’s the plus of it.”

Moss also believes in truth in advertising, being realistic and thinking holistic.

“Let’s talk about the Morro Bay experience, everything about it: parking, cleanliness, customer service, food, all of it. I listened to someone at a city council meeting the other day and he said, ‘Why do you have all this crap on the street. Are you having a yard sale every weekend?’ And I thought, you know, he’s making a very good point. If you just come here for the first time, is that your initial feeling about the community?

“We need to be aware of all of that. Signs for events after the event that are still hanging on the side of the fence… all of it. We kind of take it for granted.”

Drawing New People

While Moss is happy as a clam she landed by the ocean in Morro Bay, she remains somewhat surprised and perplexed it took so long to find her way. After all, Moss, an avid reader and traveler, has lived in California, both Northern and Southern, for a long time, and yet, she said, “I had never been to Morro Bay, and I didn’t know how to get here, or why should I come here.

“So I’m somebody who doesn’t take anything for granted. Let’s go to square number one: Why do I not know about Morro Bay?

“We haven’t done a good enough job of placing it in people’s mentality as an option. I found a lot of people had a very sentimental journey about Morro Bay. They came here for family reunions, someone in their family got married here. When I did a promotion in the Central Valley, many people said, ‘oh that’s our romantic getaway.’ So they have a good feeling about it, but as far as drawing new people here, does it pass the ‘so what’ test?

“That’s my biggest question: Why here?”

Moss recalled a conversation she had with a couple who came into the Visitors Center on New Year’s Eve. “They said they were here in Morro Bay for the evening, and I said, ‘oh, what made you spend the evening in Morro Bay?’ And they said, ‘because we don’t want to party, we don’t want the nightlife, we want a quiet, pleasant evening.’ Makes perfect sense.”

Moss talks about “the theater of the mind… What imagery is conjured up when you say Morro Bay?”

“I don’t think we’ve made our case well enough,” she said. “While I think the Rock is an interesting backdrop, I don’t think that’s the selling point. People come here, they may take a spin around it, get some fish and chips to go. There’s so much more. If I were king, if I could write those big checks, I’d be marketing Morro Bay as ‘come as you are’. That’s been my experience here.

“There’s some great little merchants here, I’ve had some great dining experiences, but I’ve learned what’s available to me. When you say Santa Cruz people know what they’re going to experience. Monterey, they know. I don’t think they know Cayucos. That was a big surprise to me, but that’s had a lot of press recently in Sunset magazine. It was selected as one of the greatest little beach towns. So now you know it’s going to be inundated.”

Moss believes Morro Bay needs to better answer the simple question, “What’s unique about Morro Bay?” And, to compete, the message has to be compelling enough to draw new people.

“Forget the people that came here in the ’50s and ’60s. If you’re coming here today, what are you going to get? It’s not just the economy. People want more for the money. They want to supersize their vacation. They don’t to make any mistakes. That’s why so many of these reservations are made online; they’re reading TripAdvisor.”

Moss believes that the number of big-draw events in Morro Bay could be improved “radically.”

”For the consumer all the information they need is online. But we need some galvanizing things to get some new people to town. Some of the existing events could be better events, and we should develop some new ones, some unique niche-marketing type of things” Moss said. “That’s where it’s at for us.”

Moss Marketing

Moss has had her own marketing company on and off for years. First it was In Any Event, which was specifically event oriented; then Moss Marketing, which branched out with non-profits, grant writing and fundraising; and now Moss Marketing Group. “Because, through my association with Morro Bay,” she said, “I’ve connected with some really talented freelancers, and those freelancers are now part of my team. So you can hire me or you can hire a social media person, a photographer, a graphics person. I bill myself as one-stop shopping. I’ve been so impressed by the level of expertise that I’ve met here.”

With Morro Bay as her base of operations, Moss is scouting regional clients, and having worked in the Central Valley before, she also hopes to pick up clients there. She is enthused about the people she’s talking to and the projects she’s working on, and convinced she can market clients regionally, statewide, nationally and globally from Morro Bay.

Moss has that inherent ability to take care of business and make things happen wherever she is, and it seems to come naturally to her.

Born in Chicago into an entertainment business family, Moss forged her promotion/marketing chops in the upstart L.A. music business of the ’60s and ’70s when she worked directly with some of the legendary executives, producers and artists that created and shaped classic rock music, such as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Eagles, Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne, and industry titans Ahmet Ertegun, David Geffen and Jerry Wexler.

“I got in the business, I was maybe 21 years old,” she explained. “There were only two questions: Is the album on the charts? Did the concert sell out? That’s it. Nothing else mattered. What you wore to the office, what you said to the boss, what your hair looked like; it didn’t matter if you even came in at 9 o’clock in the morning. If you delivered, that was it. I like that.

“Nothing makes me more uncomfortable than sitting around with a group of people after an event that was a bomb and they blew a lot of money and say, ‘but it was great for a feel-good event, it was good for community relations.’ That’s not good enough to me. I like the bottom line.”

Moss’s experience, professionalism, and many successes for an impressive array of clients from rock stars to racetracks, governors to the Dale Earnhardt Foundation have established her as a fearless creative executive who is well versed in the art of the deal.

New Horizons

Moss sees a bright future for Morro Bay. “There’s change on the horizon. I think people see the need for change. It’s people recognizing it and rolling up their sleeves. I’m impressed with things like Morro Bay in Bloom and Morro Bay Beautiful, citizen groups, the Merchants Association, the Tourism Bureau, they’re all trying to do something positive.

“The hardest thing for Morro Bay is everybody is not on the same page. Getting the town on the same page is difficult. If we’re talking about tourism; there are a lot of different types of properties. So the concern of a hotelier in North Morro Bay is not going to be the same thing with the more upscale hotel right in the heart of town.”

Of course, while there will always be different points of view, pulling the town together wouldn’t be such a bad thing, either. It’s a possibility, Moss believes.

“The bottom line is all the same, isn’t it? It’s pretty simple. We want people to come here, we want them to like the town, spend their money; we want them to have a good experience. But we have to recognize that people coming here are not necessarily having a good experience.

“They may have had a good hotel stay, but they may not have had a clean street. They may not have found the merchandise they were seeking. They may not have found the menu they’re seeking. But that’s true everywhere.  It’s not that it’s only in Morro Bay. Every hospitality organization has these same problems. Working more closely with regional entities, where they can combine those dollars and have greater spending will be a good thing.

“I read these articles about the livability of San Luis Obispo, and it is. We have to take the enthusiasm we have for the community and let other people know it in a way that’s believable, that has a brand promise. We’re not the greatest coastal city in the United States. We have our own quirkiness.

“I like the quirkiness of it,” Moss said. “It’s not for everybody, but for those that want this kind of laid-back experience you can’t do any better.”

THE ROCK REPORT: SLO County Health Leaders Focus on Housing to Treat Chronic Homelessness, Mental Illness

By ED OCHS

As undeniably complex as the issue of homelessness is nationally, what is needed to provide better homeless and mental health services in SLO County is clear: More of everything.

According to a February survey on homelessness and mental illness treatment in SLO County conducted by The ROCK, SLO County officials and professionals working to find pathways to solutions on a daily basis agree: More funding, more affordable housing and more treatment are badly needed to begin to make a serious dent in chronic homelessness shadowing the county.

They also unanimously concur that the Affordable Care Act will offer a huge boost for the chronically homeless in the county as more people become eligible and more services are offered, including mental health, under an expanded Medi-Cal program. (See separate article. Click here.)

More permanent housing for disabled

Last year’s Point-in-Time Count, conducted by the Homeless Services Oversight Council (HSOC), logged 2,186 homeless people in San Luis County in one 24-hour period in January 2013, and an estimated 3.497 people homeless over the course of a year. Of those, 29% were chronically homeless, with many more at risk, while 49% reported experiencing some form of mental illness, according to the count. Significantly, missing from the data, according to Homeless Services, are persons who do not access shelter, case management, or transitional or permanent housing assistance.

“These statistics demonstrate the need for more permanent, supportive housing for persons with disabilities as well as more treatment services,” responded Laurel Weir, Homeless Services Coordinator, Department of Social Services.

According to Weir, approximately 25 homeless patients per month are admitted to the County’s Psychiatric Health Facility (PHF), a short-term-stay, crisis facility for adults and youth who are admitted because they are a danger to themselves or others, have been found incompetent to stand trial, or who have been conserved. Over the past year, homeless persons constituted the overwhelming majority of persons admitted to the PHF under California Penal Code 1370 (incarcerated persons who have been found incompetent to stand trial).

Because of revised questions and an added provider in 2013, comparing 2013 homeless numbers to 2012 is inexact. Over all, though, Homeless Services reported a slight decrease in the number of new persons reporting mental health issues in 2012 (575 out of 1451 new “intakes” or 40%) versus 2013 (483 out of 1258 or 38%). But of clients whose first intake was in 2012, 257 were still being served by one or more Homeless Services programs in 2013. From July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013, there were 137 homeless persons admitted to the PHF, approximately 16% of all PHF admissions.

“According to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, homelessness exacerbates mental illness,” Weir stated. “Therefore, housing is an important part of the treatment. In particular, the Housing First model has shown promise for moving chronically homeless individuals with severe and persistent mental illness off the street.

“As a first step towards increasing resources for people with severe mental illness, particularly those who have co-occurring substance abuse disorders and chronic health conditions, the County recently issued a Request for Proposals to serve 50 of the most vulnerable, chronically homeless persons.”

The RFP explains the program and Housing First model: “The ‘Housing First’ approach has emerged as a favored policy in addressing issues of homelessness. … ‘Housing First’ places people into permanent housing and then provides behavioral health treatment, case management, and other services needed to allow the clients to stabilize in place and to maintain their housing. The model does not require people to be well before putting them into housing, nor does it require clients to participate in any services other than case management as a condition of receiving housing. The ‘Housing First’ model is considered by HUD and other federal agencies to be a best practice for ending homelessness among those who have been chronically homeless, because use of this model consistently demonstrates a decreased use of emergency services, criminal justice resources, and many other public services.”

The RFP continues: “As part of a strategic planning effort in March of 2013, the Homeless Services Oversight Council (HSOC) identified ‘Housing First’ as a priority. To address this priority, HSOC voted in May of 2013 to join the 100,000 Homes Campaign, a national effort that emphasizes a ‘Housing First’ approach to housing highly vulnerable, chronically homeless individuals.”

Explained Weir: “Mental health treatment is not necessarily the first action that should be taken to get homeless persons with mental illness off the streets, nor are clients required to obtain treatment prior to being housed. Treatment often comes after the clients are housed.

“We are also looking at some additional opportunities to expand the number of permanent housing units in the Continuum of Care’s Supportive Housing Program, although whether or not funding is available for this will depend on the aftermath of the federal budget Sequestration.  Additionally, we have asked the agencies that run the existing Supportive Housing Program beds to agree to give priority to chronically homeless persons—who must have a disability, such as mental illness, to be considered chronically homeless—if units become available in their existing Supportive Housing Program.”

“When the HSOC held discussions last year about the Psychiatric Health Facility, it noted that some of the homeless persons being discharged from the PHF were sent to the homeless shelter because of a lack of suitable housing options. The Housing First program and the expansion of permanent, supportive housing would be a first step in helping homeless persons with mental illness to move out of the shelters and off the streets and into more appropriate housing with the supportive help they need to keep them stabilized in housing.

“To be clear, these would be only first steps. In order to fully serve all the homeless persons with mental illness, we would need to significantly increase both our housing and supportive services for this population. We will continue to pursue additional federal and state funding to expand resources needed.”

Finding funding is a full-time, never-ending pursuit for providers, particularly when new funds for new programs can’t keep up with federal cuts that undermine existing programs.

“Recent federal cuts have made our efforts more challenging.” Weir noted. “In particular, the federal Budget Sequestration has put one of our permanent, supportive housing programs at risk of losing its federal funding. Also, a change in the major federal homeless assistance program that funds some of the case management services provided to homeless persons placed into permanent housing has limited the amount of time that case management services may be provided to six months. When someone with a severe and persistent mental illness is placed into permanent housing, they will often continue to need services well beyond six months.

“Cuts to the federal Housing Choice Voucher program have reduced the number of housing subsidies available to place people into permanent housing. Also, cuts at the state level have reduced funding available to build supportive housing for extremely low-income persons with disabilities.”

Limited number of mental health providers

Replied Grace McIntosh, Deputy Director of the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo (CAPSLO): “While some of our programs see relatively few individuals with mental health issues, other programs, such as Homeless Services, see a larger number. Since mental illness is a major contributing factor to homelessness it would make sense that mentally ill individuals remain in our homeless program for longer periods of time and are more challenging to place into permanent housing. The numbers have remained fairly steady as many individuals are in services for a number of years.”

The need for more funding extends beyond the areas of mental health and housing, McIntosh points out.

“I think most non-profit providers and the county would agree that there is a need for more funding, not only in the area of mental health services, but drug and alcohol services and affordable housing as well. Funding for mental health services for children is an area that needs to be increased as some of our programs are seeing a larger number of younger children presenting behaviors that challenge their ability to be successful in preschool and school.”

McIntosh is among several county officials and professionals who believe Medi-Cal will help more homeless receive care. (See separate article.)

Explained McIntosh: “With expanded Medi-Cal now including mental health services, there will be the opportunity for qualifying individuals to receive these services. I think there may be difficulties with access given the limited number of providers in the county. The issue of a limited number of mental health providers is not only in our county—it is a national issue that I believe is going to need to be addressed in the very near future. Funding is always an issue that providers struggle with. In addition to public dollars most non-profit agencies also look to the community for support.”

A little togetherness is helping providers deal with funding issues. Forming a network allows them to continue to provide essential services, individually and collectively, which benefits clients and community.

“Given the obvious funding gaps, service providers countywide are partnering as best they can to meet the needs of the mentally ill,” McIntosh stated.

“The SAFE program is one concrete example of non-profit service providers, schools and county departments working together to provide preventive and therapeutic services to children and their families. Transitions-Mental Health is partnering with County Mental Health in providing outreach to mentally ill homeless individuals to try to get them into services. ECHO is completing the expansion of their overnight shelter to meet the increase in the numbers of homeless individuals and families in the north county coming for services.”

Lack of funding, lack of advocacy for children

“The final judgment in the lawsuit known as ‘Katie A.’ resulted in some additional resources,” responded Lee Collins, Director of the County Department of Social Services and Child Welfare Services (CWS). CWS is not a provider of care. “We are a broker for care, referring children and advocating on their behalf,” Collins explained.

“Now some additional therapists have been added, some additional contracts have been let—primarily to Family Care Network, the organization that is our most trusted provider of services—and we expect to see a gradual, incremental increase in services. We fund a great deal of mental health services out of our own funding, because we decided that we could not let children languish without care until we’d won the battle on their behalf.”

“We funded the Kinship Center’s expansion into San Luis Obispo County, an organization that primarily serves relatives who are taking care of children. (Think grandmothers, taking care of grandchildren who have been removed from their parents, for example.)  We paid for it ourselves and have done so for many years now. We pay for a host of ‘wraparound’ services provided by the Family Care Network, including therapeutic services provided by their staff.

“Still,” Collins added, “the available resources are woefully inadequate. There is a lack of funding—State, Federal and Local—but there also is a lack of advocacy on behalf of these children. They are seen as just one more ‘constituent’ group in need, among many. We see it differently, of course, because we see the pain endured by these children and by their family members.”

Most significantly, more people are eligible and more services will be offered under the Affordable Care Act, including mental health.

“We believe that the Affordable Care Act will be instrumental in expanding access to Mental Health services. (See separate article.)

Collins sees the need to establish an “intensive residential treatment center for children. Not a group home, and certainly not the PHF, but we do need a place where children can be hospitalized and treated in a safe environment.” Combining with Santa Barbara or another county on a regional facility might make it more economically viable.

“And we have to find a way to serve children who are not in CWS or Probation, rather than trying to convince those parents—as has been reported repeatedly—that they should ‘give up’ their children to the CWS system as the only means of getting care…”

He believes the mental health services gap will narrow when the width and breadth of the community comes to the full realization that the problem must become a priority, and a solution is possible.

“Our community—including advocates, the Board of Supervisors, school administrators, policy makers, media—must become aware of the extent of the issue, and of the deleterious effects that untreated mental health conditions can have on the children but also on the community at large. Untreated mental health issues can lead to increased incarceration, drug and alcohol addiction, unplanned pregnancy, domestic violence and the continuation of a cycle of abuse. We need to illustrate the issue in real terms that make sense to the average citizen who will want ‘something to be done.’ Then we have to show that funding really is available, whether through Medi-Cal or private insurance, or from cost avoidance in other systems, to effect a real solution.”

Keeping pace with the growth in needs

Jeff Hamm, Director, County Health Agency, and Anne Robin, Behavioral Health Administrator, County Health Agency, won’t characterize the status of mental health care in the county as a crisis, rather part of a nationwide increase in demand for services.

“We don’t believe there is a crisis. There are rising demands for mental health services statewide, even nationwide, as more people become aware of the benefit of mental health services and the stigma related to seeking these services has reduced. Approximately 1 in 4 adults will have need for mental health services during their lifetime; development of the capacity necessary to provide access to services has not kept pace with the growth in needs.

“Unfortunately, during the recent recession, capacity has remained static or has been reduced. There is reason to be optimistic about the immediate future, however. The Medi-Cal expansion component of federal health care reform (Affordable Care Act) will allow previously ineligible persons (primarily childless adults) to become eligible, and the expanded scope of benefits will be of tremendous help to those with mild to moderate levels of mental illness.

“The Affordable Care Act has increased funding for all levels of mental health services. In the past, only individuals with serious mental health needs have had access to care under Medi-Cal. Now there are additional levels of care available (individual and group psychotherapy, psychiatric consultation) for all Medi-Cal eligible individuals. This will allow the County services to focus more closely on those individuals and families who have the most serious illness and need for rehabilitative services. The ‘primary level of care’ for mental health services, for those individuals with mild to moderate illness, may also prevent individuals from becoming more seriously impacted by their symptoms.

“Not all homeless individuals have serious mental illness. Many do have trauma, anxiety, depression, and substance use disorders. Housing First models provide a safe place to assist individuals to deal with whatever their service needs may be. Shelters are simply a starting place; more permanent supportive housing are a much better solution to the problems of homelessness. Whatever the other challenges a homeless individual may face, the insecurity of day to day life on the streets creates an enormous barrier to recovery/wellness/health.

“The Affordable Care Act is expected to have a tremendous positive effect on bridging the gap between demand and supply. The coming months and years will shed light on the extent to which the problem has been substantively reduced.”

Creating more truly affordable housing

Increased attention of the unwanted variety was drawn to the Central Coast late last year, causing quite a stir in influential circles, when the annual homeless assessment report ranked SLO County third worst in the nation with 90% of the county’s homeless unsheltered.

This resulted in Jerry Rioux of SLO County Housing Trust Fund authoring some recommendations on how to remedy the situation, such as allowing greater flexibility with existing housing to open up more alternative housing opportunities. Rioux agrees with the Housing First concept.

“Individuals who are homeless will be better able to deal will their other challenges if they first have sufficient food and a roof over their heads,” he noted.

The Homeless Services Oversight Council (HSOC) recently adopted his recommendations to directly address the basic needs of “food and roof” as the best step forward out of homelessness.

The motion encourages the County and every city in the county to include various programs/policies in the Housing Elements of their General Plans. The state requires that they all update their Housing Elements by June 30, 2014.

Before his motion was approved by the HSOC, Rioux explained why it was needed.

“I prepared the motion because I am concerned that it will be impossible to make much progress placing people who are homeless—for any reason—into housing unless we create more truly affordable housing throughout the county. I strongly believe that we need more small apartment units, granny flats, rooming and boarding houses, group homes, mobile homes, etc. The motion encourages County and cities to facilitate these types of housing.”

Embracing the ‘village’ philosophy of treatment

The County contracts with Transitions-Mental Health Association to runs its Full Service Partnership Homeless Outreach Team that conducts outreach and screening of homeless persons with mental illness. The team has helped to house 27 individuals with severe and persistent mental illness since January 1, 2013.

Transitions staff—Jill Bolster-White, Executive Director, Transitions-Mental Health Association, San Luis Obispo; Barry Johnson, Division Director–Rehabilitation and Advocacy Programs; Jessica Arnott, Outreach and Education Program Manager; Henry Herrera, Family Services Program Manager; and Shannon McOuat, Marketing and Outreach Coordinator—responded to The ROCK survey as a “village.”

“The term ‘crisis’ may be more extreme than what we are facing currently,” they stated, “but there is certainly a need for a greater spotlight on mental health in our community, and there are some critical gaps that, if filled, would help people get the help they need in a timely way.“

Transitions staff believes that cost-effective preventative and early-intervention services can help avoid the high price tag of chronic mental illness in the future—frequent crisis hospitalizations, incarcerations, broken families, homelessness.

“Housing is a significant problem for many members of the community; but people who are mentally ill and poor are more likely to become homeless than those without a mental illness. For that reason, housing that is safe, affordable and located close to services is paramount to successful recovery from mental illness. When a person is experiencing a mental health crisis, there needs to be a solid system in place to help the person as quickly and effectively as possible, and that is not always the case locally.”

They also expressed the need for “a more warm and welcoming mental health services system, starting with the Psychiatric Health Facility (PHF), which is an institutional and clinical setting. The PHF needs to be a place of refuge and safety for people who are experiencing one of the most devastating times in their lives.”

Transitions’ work as an independent outpatient facility has helped the County narrow the gap by providing the focused treatment that often isn’t available anywhere else.

“Non-profits such as Transitions-Mental Health Association can and do work well with county mental health services, private therapists and family practice doctors. The saying ‘it takes a village’ is truly applicable to community mental health; we must include the family, the school, the employer, friends and our entire community to help anyone who struggles with mental illness.

“Services such as family support groups to help caregivers and families; Wellness Centers that provide support and education about living with mental illness; employment for people who want to work but have been prevented from working due to their illness; SLO Hotline that offers a human voice 24 hours a day; outreach services for those who are homeless and suffer from untreated mental illness—can all provide a basic safety net of services for people here in San Luis Obispo County.

“In many ways, we are well on our way to accomplishing this already. We still have leaps and bounds to go, but we are able to provide a variety of services and programs that can help those in our community who otherwise might not receive services from the county.”

Long waiting lists for subsidized housing

Pearl Munak, President of Transitional Food & Shelter in Paso Robles, works with the physically disabled. Some homeless have both mental and physical disabilities. Munak believes more resources are needed to place against the problem, including building shelters and offering subsidized housing for mentally ill homeless.

“There is not nearly enough subsidized housing in our county for those who need it,” Munak stated. “That is why we are third in the nation in unsheltered homeless. People go to a shelter and caseworkers can’t get them into permanent subsidized housing. The County is supposedly pursuing a Housing First strategy, to get people into housing and then solve their problems, not try to solve their problems before they can get into housing.”

“Subsidized housing is either for families or for seniors. Some senior housing is for seniors-only, some also take disabled. But there are no subsidized apartment complexes devoted exclusively to disabled…”

“Transitions-Mental Health Association provides some transitional housing for homeless, where people can stay for up to two years and have a caseworker working with them. At the end of that time, they should be able to get into permanent housing. However, they have a very long waiting list, about a year. This program also takes persons with physical disabilities. It needs to be expanded and funds are needed to expand it.

“We could pass another proposition to add a surtax on another 1% of high income, or tax highest incomes more.”

Munak recently received a grant check from Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance Foundation for $4,500, to be used for sheltering physically disabled homeless from Paso Robles.

“We serve the whole county,” Munak remarked, “but the Alliance has a program of grants to charities serving Paso Robles, so we will use this grant for our Roblans only. The Alliance raises funds through the Wine Festival Futures Auction and the Wine Country ebay Auction, featuring lots donated by winery, hospitality and associate Alliance members.”

 

More Homeless Eligible, More Mental Health Services Coming Under Expanded Medi-Cal Via ACA

Politics aside, the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare is finally expanding health care to those who need it most—SLO County’s chronically homeless and mentally ill homeless.

acaPolitics aside, the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare is finally expanding health care to those who need it most—SLO County’s chronically homeless and mentally ill homeless—and it’s giving SLO County health care officials and professionals a reason for some short-term optimism amid the many ongoing challenges.

Here’s what SLO County health care officials and professionals had to say about the Affordable Care Act in a February survey by The ROCK on the status of homelessness and mental health services in the county:

“There are some changes coming as a result of the Affordable Care Act that may expand both mental health and substance abuse treatment services available to people on Medi-Cal,” stated Laurel Weir, Home Services Coordinator, County Health Department.

“This has the potential to create additional mental health resources, particularly for homeless persons with mental health issues whose issues do not rise to the level of severe and persistent illness. Previously, such individuals generally were not eligible for Medi-Cal. Now, they will be eligible for Medi-Cal for the first time, which may create an opportunity for more mental health services for those persons.”

Grace McIntosh, Deputy Director, CAPSLO: “With expanded Medi-Cal now including mental health services, there will be the opportunity for qualifying individuals to receive these services. I think there may be difficulties with access given the limited number of providers in the county. The issue of a limited number of mental health providers is not only in our county—it is a national issue that I believe is going to need to be addressed in the very near future. “

While the recession has impacted County Health’s capacity to treat more people, Jeff Hamm, Director, and Anne Robin, Behavior Analyst, County Health Department, are optimistic about the immediate future, thanks to the ACA.

“The Medi-Cal expansion component of federal health care reform (Affordable Care Act) will allow previously ineligible persons (primarily childless adults) to become eligible, and the expanded scope of benefits will be of tremendous help to those with mild to moderate levels of mental illness.

“The Affordable Care act has increased funding for all levels of mental health services. In the past, only individuals with serious mental health needs have had access to care under Medi-Cal. Now there are additional levels of care available (individual and group psychotherapy, psychiatric consultation) for all Medi-Cal eligible individuals.This will allow the County services to focus more closely on those individuals and families who have the most serious illness and need for rehabilitative services. The ‘primary level of care’ for mental health services, for those individuals with mild to moderate illness, may also prevent individuals from becoming more seriously impacted by their symptoms.

“The Affordable Care Act is expected to have a tremendous positive effect on bridging the gap between demand and supply. The coming months and years will shed light on the extent to which the problem has been substantively reduced.”

District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill served as the founding chair of the HSOC and chair of the capital campaign for a new homeless services center: “The Affordable Care Act will allow us to increase capacity for both mental health services and for drug and alcohol treatment. A detox is needed, and proposals are being developed for how that could/should happen.”

Lee Collins, Director of the County’s Department of Social Services: “We believe that the Affordable Care Act will be instrumental in expanding access to Mental Health services. More persons are eligible, yes, but more services—and especially MH services—now must be included in health plans in order to implement ‘parity’ provisions. We believe that CHC (Community Health Center) will become—and certainly should become—a primary resource to serve both children and adults. They will not need to consider the ‘medical necessity’ threshold that serves to deny so many children the ‘specialty services’ that our County’s MH staff provide, even though we believe that most of our children in care really do meet the standard of care. The expectation is that CHC will build capacity—and already have begun to do so—and that a certain momentum may be created to help expand care on a community-wide basis.”

“Mental healthcare can be expected to expand now because of the ACA,” responded Pearl Munak, President, Transitional Food & Shelter in Paso Robles.

“Medi-Cal is being expanded thru ACA to cover mental health care, but the pay rate is low. CHC takes Medi-Cal and is about the only doctor that will. Maybe CHC will hire some mental health professionals or County Mental Health will be able to hire more. Counselors at Mental Health are usually licensed clinical social workers.

“The ACA expands Medi-Cal to cover not just families with children and those on SSI, but also any person whose income is below 133% of poverty level, a huge expansion in California and other states which have accepted this expansion. Texas and other Southern states have refused to accept this expansion even though it is 100% paid for by the feds for the first year and maybe beyond that; maybe first two or three years and then it goes down to 90%. … The county will save a bundle because they are phasing out County Medical Services Program because of ACA, since all poor people can now get Medi-Cal and go to CHC. CHC will probably be expanding.”

Annual Prado Day 'Culinary Carnival' Benefit Draws Full House

Good times rolled for a good cause at a packed ballroom of the Embassy Suites on Thursday night, February 27, in San Luis Obispo.

District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill follows CAPSLO Homeless Services Director Dee Torres in a Second Line dance
District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill follows CAPSLO Homeless Services Director Dee Torres in a Second Line dance

Good times rolled for a good cause at the packed ballroom of the Embassy Suites on Thursday night, February 27, in San Luis Obispo.

The 6th Annual Culinary Carnival benefiting the Prado Day Center attracted about 450 guests paying $60 a ticket to support the county’s only day center for the homeless and working poor — and sample gourmet appetizers from a dozen local restaurants including Bon Temps Creole Cafe, Ventana Grill, Cafe Roma, Splash Cafe, Novo, Jaffa Cafe and Blackhorse Expresso & Bakery, as well as beverages from a dozen premium wine and beer vendors.

The event was mc’d by San Luis Obispo Police Chief Steve Gessell, and following several rounds of food-and-drink free-for-all set to the blaring tones of the Cajun-flavored, Dixieland-bent Crustacea Jazz Band, 3rd District Supervisor Adam Hill introduced the evening’s program. Kicking things off was a Mardi Gras-inspired New Orleans’ “Second Line” featuring volunteers, staff and guests, including Supervisor Hill and CAPSLO Homeless Services Director Dee Torres, dancing and weaving under festive umbrellas through the crowd. A live auction, led by auctioneer J. Scott Vernon, offered an eye-popping selection of unique global and local vacations and weekends and first-class dining experiences, and the bidding contributed to Prado. Remarks of gratitude and remembrance for the homeless delivered by Friends of Prado Board President Roy Rawlings closed the evening.

The Prado Day Center in SLO provides an array of essential daily services for the homeless and working poor, and the Carnival, produced by Friends of Prado Day Center, is the chief annual fundraiser for the Center.

Bon Temps Owner and Chef Phil Lang serves up his famous Jambalaya and corn bread
Bon Temps Owner and Chef Phil Lang serves up his famous Jambalaya and corn bread

A Resident's Qwik-Guide to New Water Restrictions in Morro Bay

Rainfall from February 2nd’s storm measured 1.12 inches in Morro Bay, a drop in an empty bucket. In may rain again soon. Two drops.

Rainfall from February 2nd’s storm measured 1.12 inches in Morro Bay, a drop in an empty bucket. It may rain again soon. Two drops.

A 100-year drought is sweeping California and threatening the state’s drinking water supply. The snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, which supplies much of California with water during the dry season, was at just 12% of normal in late January. State water is dwindling to a trickle, and the outlook is dry… very dry.

When Gov. Jerry Brown officially declared the drought emergency on Jan. 17, he asked Californians to reduce their usage of water by 20%, As a direct result of the drought, Morro Bay residents must now observe strict, new mandatory guidelines to reduce water usage. The screws on water use could turn even tighter if drought conditions persist and present conservation levels prove insufficient.

Here are the restrictions and suggestions in a clam shell for Morro Bay residents:

  • Watering lawns and gardens is permitted ONLY on Tuesdays and Saturdays for odd-numbered property addresses, Wednesdays and Sundays for even-numbered property addresses.
  • Do NOT use potable water (drinkable water) for cleaning or washing boats, docks and marine facilities, or for driveways, patios, parking lots, sidewalks and other paved surfaces.
  • Do NOT wash cars with a hose, only pails.
  • Use automatic sprinkler systems only as needed. Use automatic shut-off hose nozzles.
  • Home water use should be limited. Take faster/shorter or start/stop showers.
  • Fix plumbing leaks and broken pipes.
  • Don’t install or use water fountains unless they use recycled water.
  • Restaurants will no longer provide water to customers unless requested.

Warning to flagrant water wasters: Users who fail to comply with conservation measures may have their water shut off by the city.

Drought Factoid No. 1: 2013 was the driest year in California in 119 years.

Drought Factoid No. 3: The four inches of rainfall recorded in Morro Bay in 2013 was the lowest total since measuring rainfall started about 40 years ago.

Readers with useful suggestions for conserving water, at home or business, are encouraged to share them in the comments section below.

Morro Bay Power Plant Pulls Plug After 60 Years

The tall smokestacks have taken their last puff. The venerable Morro Bay Power Plant, owned and operated by Houston-based Dynegy since 2007, will finally retire operations full-time on February 5th

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The tall smokestacks have taken their last puff.

The venerable Morro Bay Power Plant, owned and operated by Houston-based Dynegy since 2007, will finally retire operations full-time on February 5th.

That means the trio of 450-foot-high smokestacks will no longer produce smoke, but the giant chimneys won’t be coming down any time soon just because the plant is closing.

To many area residents, the power plant’s soaring smokestacks are as much a Morro Bay landmark as 575-foot-high Morro Rock; looming over the north end of the Embarcadero on Morro Bay, they’ve been a prominent part of Morro Bay’s skyline since the plant opened in 1955.

The plant, which has burned natural gas since the 1990s, has been winding down in recent years, but remained ready to meet summer peak energy demands. However, Dynegy presently has no contracts for its services, demand for independent energy on the open market has been sparse, and the plant is no longer cost-effective for Dynegy to operate.

While most Morro Bay residents welcome the pollutant-free air, safer marine environment and quieter waterfront as a result of the plant closing, not all agree on what to do with the smokestacks if and when Dynegy gives up on producing any form of energy at that location. Eyesores to demolish? Historical landmarks to preserve? That’s a debate for another time.

Meanwhile, Dynegy still holds the lease and says it’s actively exploring viable alternative uses for the location that benefit the state and community. The company believes it can continue to support energy and electricity needs at the site, including renewable energy, and play a part in Morro Bay’s future.

Morro Valley — Future Site of Morro Bay’s New Water Reclamation Facility

The City of Morro Bay has selected nearby rural Morro Valley as the site of the city’s proposed water reclamation facility.

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The City of Morro Bay has selected nearby rural Morro Valley as the site of the city’s proposed water reclamation facility.

The site’s proximity to Morro Bay homes and businesses was a key factor in its selection. Located within two miles of city limits off Highway 41, the site is actually four properties that stretch for a total of 663 acres, but less than half of that land is usable for the project because of elevation.

The topography is challenging. Much of the site consists of rolling, sharply sloping hills that rise in elevation from 60 feet by Highway 41, to 250 feet above sea level, which is too steep to cost-effectively pipe sewage up to a facility.

“There are substantial engineering challenges associated with pumping wastewater above elevations of roughly 250 feet above sea level, because multiple lift stations will likely be needed,” according to a city consultant’s 2103 project report.

“All parcels under consideration rise to elevations above 250 feet [up to 750-800 feet], but there is sufficient buildable land below this line to locate a new WRF. … That said, slopes and elevations may present secondary issues related to the cost of pumping, or grading concerns during construction.”

The facility probably will be constructed on relatively level Righetti property adjacent to Highway 41, within 600-1,000 feet of the highway. Avoiding the high elevation will make the facility partially visible to passing motorists on Highway 41.

The sprawling site is loosely shaped like a rectangle with a small notch in the center at the bottom. That “notch” is the 60-plus-unit, tree-cloaked Rancho Colina Mobile Home Park and 40-vehicle RV Park, which is surrounded by land available to the project. Construction activity and the facility itself will probably be visible to some park residents.

Occupying the site now are a few cows, sparse clumps of trees, a couple of aging ranch structures and rusted water tanks. Mostly, the site is open grasslands, non-irrigated grazing range mixed with some prime ag land, much like the rolling Morro Bay prime farmland on the east side of Highway 1.

Close to the eastern boundary of the site are growers Morro Creek Ranch Avocado, considered to be a potential customer for water reuse for irrigation, as well as other irrigated agricultural along Highway 41.

According to last November’s “New Water Reclamation Facility Report” update, authored by John F. Rickenbach Consulting, Morro Valley was a relatively lower cost option compared to other sites. It was also the highest ranked site with the fewest environmental impacts, i.e. avoiding flood zone and ESHA, because its inland location minimizes coastal policy impacts.

The Morro Valley site is comprised of several large “unconstrained” properties, particularly the Rancho Colina and Righetti properties. While that includes sufficient land area lower than the 250 feet above sea level required to build, the four combined parcels that make up the Morro Valley site offer limited plant site locations because of slopes and rising elevations along Highway 41.

The site evaluation was not without its cons. The location comes with the increased costs to extend infrastructure up Highway 41, and, apart from costs, there also will be impacts to prime ag soils on certain parts of some properties.

The plant, which the consultants at this early date roughly estimate will cost from $50 million to $100 million to complete, could begin construction in 2016 and go on line in 2018 or 2019.

So the cows won’t have to move any time soon.

CalCoastNews and The Templars of Hate

CalCoastNews wrote on January 1 that their articles fetched more than four million pageviews. After reading this article, you might wonder if that’s really the case.

Above is a video produced supposedly by a group of people known as the Knights Templar. The actual Knights Templar did exist at one point in documented history as an organization comprised of the most wealthy and powerful Christian elite of the Middle Ages. The Knights Templar are commonly known as skilled fighters and assassins who fought during the Crusades to claim the Holy Land in the name of Christianity. Their mission was to assert Christian dominance in Europe through force. The Templar order was disbanded in 1312 by Pope Clement V. The organization never officially reemerged except in legend. Although the Knights Templar no longer exists, we now know that apparently they are staging a comeback after reading CalCoastNews’ always-insightful, never-wrong reporting.

If we take the video and the propaganda behind it with a grain of salt, we know the knock-off Knights Templar have emerged under a few names: Citizens Protecting Children, Longarm Productions, Dave Longarm and simply “Longarm.” This mysterious, totally anonymous “Longarm” posted several times on CalCoastNews promising ”100 [YouTube] videos, articles, a documentary, fliers and posters all over California, and the making of a 1,000 person protest in SLO.” It makes it sound like a big movement is taking place. Change is about to come to SLO County, and it’s about to come in full force. Watch out, you kidnappers and child extortionists!