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The San Luis Obispo tank farm cleanup is almost underway 

Through the combined efforts of San Luis Obispo, Chevron, and developers, the city has taken another major step toward one of the largest land development and remediation projects in its history.

“This is probably the most complicated project I’ve worked on in 25 years,” said Tim Bochum, deputy director of the city’s Public Works Department.

That project will span the next 25 years, split into five phases, as Chevron begins work to clean up the site of a polluted former tank farm that stretches across undeveloped area north of the SLO County Airport along Tank Farm Road.

Facing a total estimated cost of $36.4 million to build out infrastructure—split between a variety of sources, including public funds, grants, and development fees—SLO city councilmembers voted unanimously to approve the Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) both for the Airport Area Specific Plan and Chevron remediation project.

Stemming from a massive oil fire at the former tank farm facility in 1926—the area was owned by Union Oil, but is now owned by Chevron—332 acres of fenced off land are about to undergo an equally massive remediation effort, paving the way for commercial and residential development, as well as new parks and open space.

A tentative development agreement is on the table, but Chevron and city officials have yet to lay down final terms. Under the current proposal, Chevron would be allowed guaranteed development rights for the life of the project, which will stretch far beyond the three-year agreements typically handed to property owners. The company has agreed to front the costs for remediation and building out some infrastructure, but on the grounds that it will receive reimbursement at a later date through fees from other developments in the Airport Area Specific Plan. The exact dollar amount of reimbursement hadn’t been finalized as of press time.

“You can’t beat a deal where the money is interest free and you don’t have any administrative costs—or at least very little,” Bill Almas, senior project manager at Chevron Land and Development, told city councilmembers.

With the final EIR approved, Chevron must still obtain county, state, and federal permits before beginning its remediation work.

“I don’t think there’s any question that after 100 years we need to get this done,” Councilwoman Carlyn Christianson said.

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