West Coast
Citizens for Estero Bay Preservation

CA - Morro Bay initiative on blocking industrialization qualifies for ballot

An initiative calling for stoping the industrialization of the Morro Bay waterfront will appear on the November ballot in the San Luis Obispo County city.

Citizens for Estero Bay Preservation, a group of Morro Bay residents focused on preserving the city’s coastline for the community and tourists, began collecting signatures for a ballot measure in May. To put the initiative on a ballot, the group needed to collect at least 800 valid signatures. The group recently submitted 1,486 signatures to Morro Bay City Clerk Dana Swanson.

On Tuesday, the Morro Bay City Council voted to put the initiative on the upcoming November ballot. If passed, the initiative would require a public vote for for the city to change certain land use designations in order for properties to be developed.

Vistra, a Texas-based energy company, has plans to replace the Morro Bay power plant with a battery energy storage facility.

Even though the city has a land use plan that defines zoning for every parcel, members of the community have voiced concerns that the city council could vote for projects that change zoning.

After looking at the best way to stop the industrialization of Morro Bay, Barry Branin, a member of the preservation group, hired an attorney to help write an initiative to reaffirm the city’s land use plan, Branin said. A voter initiative cannot be overturned by the city council, and if it passes, will require a vote by the residents to change land designations in the coastal area.

The purpose of the initiative is to “preserve Morro Bay as a world-renowned tourist designation.”

While many residents are not opposed to the planned off-shore wind farm northwest of Morro Bay, they are concerned that on-shore support systems could negatively impact the community and tourism. The initiative would also likely curtail any plans to build an industrial wharf in Morro Bay.

Last year, the federal government auctioned off three offshore wind energy sites located between 20 and 30 miles off the coast near Morro Bay.

While the wind farm components will be manufactured out of area, multiple agencies are working to identify the best ports to assemble the parts, after which the windmills will be towed out to sea. Dock sizes at the proposed ports range from 30 to 400 acres.

Two agencies, Reach Central Coast and the California State Lands Commission, released reports over the past year identifying Port San Luis as the best option, with Morro Bay the second choice. Studies have shown a decline in property values and tourism near industrialized ports.

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