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More shark sightings in South County 

In the weeks following an apparent shark attack in Pismo Beach, three other people have reported seeing more of the toothy predators along the county’s southern beaches.

Last week, two surfers saw a 10-to-12-foot shark swimming near the Pismo Beach pier. One week later, a man said he saw what appeared to be a shark fin in the water off of the Oceano Dunes.

Both sightings have prompted county fire and police officials to post warning signs along Oceano and Pismo beaches. Avila harbor authorities have also responded by closing that area’s beaches.

On Oct. 3, Ben Ikola, a 16-year-old Orcutt high school student, was knocked off his board by a shark while he and his cousin were surfing near Pismo’s pier. After returning to the beach, the two boys found gouges in Ikola’s 7-foot-4-inch surfboard that look consistent with a shark’s teeth.

“I was just freaking out,� Ikola said when he talked to New Times a few days after the attack. “Me and my cousin just looked at each other and [started] yelling, ‘Shark!’�

The Pismo Beach Police Department took casts of the indentations and have sent them to a shark expert at CSU Monterey Bay.

In August of 2003, a great white shark killed a Nipomo woman in the water off of Avila Beach. This year, wildlife officials say that several sea lions have been attacked in the same area.

SLO’s Margarita plan

gets the okay

Despite objections from some city residents, this week the San Luis Obispo City Council approved a plan that would allow developers to build almost 900 homes between South Higuera and Broad streets in southern San Luis Obispo.

The 4-1 vote — Council member Christine Mulholland voted against — means that the city accepts the plan’s environmental impact report. The city still will have to approve specific details like how the land will be subdivided.

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, officials also tried to allay the concerns of residents in the Chumash Village mobile home park, which would sit next to the development.

Opponents argued that the plan should include a buffer zone to protect the mostly elderly residents. They were concerned about noise, privacy issues, and, as they put it in a letter to the City Council, how the new homes would affect this “secure place� where they had chosen “to live out the final years of our lives.�

At the meeting, a spokesman for the developers promised that the homes would sit at least 20 feet from the mobile home park. Two Council members, Mulholland and Allen Settle, were voted down when they tried to change to plan to prevent two-story buildings along the property line.



Duke’s energy

on the auction block

Duke Energy announced that they are looking for a buyer who would be interested in purchasing the electricity produced by the remaining two generators at the Morro Bay plant. Two of the four generators were mothballed a year ago.

Pat Mullen, Duke Energy spokesman, said that Duke is now holding a capacity auction. That means that the buyer would have the Morro Bay plant available if their demand for power increased; at all other times the plant would stay on standby. Purchasing costs would cover staff, permits, and basic supplies like oil for the machines.

Mullen said that no one has expressed interest in the plant yet but that perspective buyers could include city municipal districts, irrigation districts, and state utilities.

Currently, Duke is in negotiation with the city of Morro Bay to renew their lease.

Duke officially told the city that they would not be able to enter into a new lease with the current plant. Only if Duke is able to find a buyer or create a more efficient modern plant would they be able to enter into a lease, Mullen said. He said the construction of a modern plant hinges on entering into a long-term contract with an energy buyer.

The plant was built 49 years ago and has operated only 60 days this year. The plant currently costs Duke Energy $1 million a month to run, said Mullen. Duke would be responsible for demolition of the current plant only if they entered into a new lease with the city.

“If it can [be economically viable], then we can work with the city to renew the outfall lease,� Mullen said.

The auction ends on Nov. 5, 10 days before Duke’s lease with the city runs out. Representatives from Duke and Morro Bay will meet Oct. 14 and 15 to discuss the lease.


New lawsuit against

Los Osos sewer

Concerned Citizens of Los Osos filed a lawsuit in San Luis Obispo Superior Court on Oct. 8, asking the court to postpone construction of the Los Osos sewer until specific issues are addressed.

The citizens’ group’s primary concerns are that the current sewer project is too large, too costly, and too close to town. Identifying the Los Osos Community Services District, the Coastal Commission, the county, and the state Water Resources Control Board as respondents, the lawsuit calls for further evaluation of the project, which the group claims was approved prematurely.

Concerned Citizens accuses the county of approving the project before even one-third of the design had been completed. The lawsuit also claims that the CSD selected a site for the sewer without adequately considering other locations.

Critics of the lawsuit say the delays will increase the price of the sewer, which is already costing Los Osos residents $250 a year in additional property taxes, and is expected to run them an additional $90 a month once the system is brought online.

The state Regional Water Quality Control Board ordered the unincorporated community of Los Osos to build a sewer in the 1980s, to halt pollution of its groundwater through the septic tanks. County supervisors finally approved a plan last October, and the Coastal Commission approved it on Aug. 11. But opponents continue to delay construction, using every method at their disposal.



John Ramos Gallery

After 18 years on the Central Coast, John Ramos is closing his San Luis Obispo gallery and moving to Baja California to retire and enjoy the idyllic lifestyle depicted in so many of his paintings.

In May, Ramos purchased a 120-year-old adobe building in the small Mexican village of Loreto on the Sea of Cortez, and he plans to restore the building and convert it into a new gallery by the end of next year. Ramos is currently in Mexico preparing for the big move and was unavailable for comment, but his daughter Elena described the property as “a really great location — right on the town square.�

The Ramos Gallery, which has become something of a local landmark at the foot of Highway 101’s Marsh Street exit, will close its doors permanently on Dec. 31, 2004. A bon voyage party and exhibition will be held on Dec. 4 and 5.

The gallery has occupied the building for eight years, and Elena Ramos reported that issues surrounding the gallery’s unreinforced masonry, compounded by last year’s San Simeon earthquake, contributed to the family’s decision to close shop.

More importantly, however, John Ramos, who was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, wanted “a slower pace of life and to get away from the crazy United States,� his daughter said.

Elena Ramos laughed about incredulous public reaction, which has included many bittersweet responses and unfounded rumors. Her parents are not getting divorced, she insists, and the gallery is not going out of business. John Ramos has simply decided to “retire from the commercial end of [the business],� although he has no plans to stop painting. ³


Staff Writers Abraham Hyatt, John Peabody, and Jeff Hornaday compiled this week’s news.

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