The former Avila Tank Farm, which is located on a bluff above the town of Avila Beach on the Central Coast of California, operated for nearly 100 years as a major oil transfer facility. The Tank Farm fueled the Pacific Fleet during World War II by receiving oil shipped by pipeline from other California locations and transporting it to the historic Avila Pier for tanker transport by sea. Generations of local residents were employed in the area’s important oil industry.
Union Oil Company of California ceased operations at the Avila Tank Farm in 1997 and environmental characterization of the site commenced. In 1998 and 1999, the site’s remaining petroleum storage tanks were removed and since then the 95-acre site has been unused. Chevron acquired the property as part of its acquisition of Unocal in 2005 and continued site assessment and monitoring activities.
The site has panoramic ocean and mountain views and is located between the small communities of Avila Beach and Shell Beach.
Chevron is proposing the creation of “Avila Point,” a destination resort that will provide public and economic benefits to the Avila Beach community and return this former industrial site to productive use. San Luis Obispo County is the lead agency for California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review, plan amendments and land use permitting as the application makes its way through approval processes.
After a century of oil operations, residual contaminants associated with industrial operations remain in the soil and ground water at the Avila Tank Farm site. Chevron will complete remediation work to prepare the site for the planned end use, the Avila Point resort. Chevron’s remediation plan is guided by a team of experts and focuses on protecting human and ecological health. In order to better determine appropriate remediation actions, two collaborative processes were undertaken with state and local regulators.
The first collaborative process began in 1999 and was conducted under the direction of the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) with involvement from other agencies. The RWQCB and Union Oil formed the Remediation Technology Panel (RTP), a group of technical experts that carefully evaluated the completeness and conclusions of the site characterization efforts. The oversight provided by this group helped assure a thorough understanding of the residual contamination in the site’s water and soil and identify information needed to determine the best remediation solutions.
As the RTP process ended, a second cooperative effort began that continues today. The Avila Tank Farm Collaborative Assessment Team (ATCAT) was formed to focus on assessing ecological and human health risks that may have resulted from past industrial uses, and identifying appropriate remediation actions needed to address the risks to allow the proposed future redevelopment.
Chevron will prepare a Remedial Action Plan (RAP) to provide details of its proposed remediation to the RWQCB for review and approval. While the RWQCB is the lead agency for approving the RAP, they will rely on the certified EIR to evaluate the potential environmental impacts of the remediation activities before taking action to approve the RAP.
Remediation and abandonment activities proposed for the site will include the following:
Chevron is currently engaged in active remediation activities under a separate permit from the County, referred to as the Cliff Area Remediation Project. This project addresses fuel-related compounds in soil and bedrock in an isolated area of the bluff.
Chevron has performed archaeological surveys of the Site and identified sites with cultural resources important to Chumash Native Americans. Project design takes into consideration these important sites and respects them through avoidance or minimizing impacts to the extent feasible. On-going conversations with Native Americans will help ensure appropriate and respectful treatment of Native American cultural materials.
Avila Point’s unique location and orientation offer breathtaking ocean views. While most of the California coast faces due west and is buffeted by westerly winds, Avila Point sits within the protected San Luis Obispo Bay. It faces south, garnering sunrise to sunset views over the Pacific Ocean. Future plans for the property capitalize on its unique location while protecting environmental sensibilities. Remediation and redevelopment of the Avila Point site presents a unique opportunity to repurpose and transform a former industrial site to a destination resort serving the needs of the local and regional community.
Avila Point begins with a vision: a place where open space and views surround an attractive resort retreat that embraces sustainability, recreation, healthy lifestyles and the natural beauty of the coastal setting. The resort would have low-profile one and two-story buildings and amenities such as a public restaurant, pool, spa, meeting rooms and fitness center available to hotel guests and portions serving the community at large. The resort is envisioned to have a reduced automobile usage on site, with the majority of guests using walking trails, bikes and electric shuttles to access their units and downtown Avila Beach. Protected open space and oak woodland will surround the resort, offering guests and the Avila community a place to hike, gather, dine, recreate and relax.
Future use of the Avila Tank Farm site has been under discussion for many years. In 2001, the Avila Beach Specific Plan was adopted after an intensive community participation process. The Specific Plan outlines recommendations and expectations for the future of the Avila Tank Farm. Since the plan’s adoption in 2001, Chevron has continued to meet with numerous individuals and organizations to help shape the Avila Point proposal.
The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process requires public meetings and opportunities for public comment related to the project and its associated environmental impacts. The County of San Luis Obispo prepared an Initial Study/Notice of Preparation on October 2, 2015, which can be found on the County’s website using this link.
Prior to preparing the EIR, the County held a public scoping meeting on October 27, 2015 to provide an overview of the project, discuss the environmental review process, the permitting process, and how the public will be able to provide comments related to the project.
The County solicited comments from the public during the scoping meeting and will solicit comments during the comment period that will begin upon release of the Draft EIR. These comments will be considered before completion of the Final EIR.
In addition to the CEQA process, amendments to the General Plan/Specific Plan and Local Coastal Program that are proposed as part of this project will be subject to hearings by County decision-makers and approval by the California Coastal Commission, which will provide other opportunities for public comment.