SAN LUIS OBISPO — The County of San Luis Obispo will begin a multi-departmental effort next week to relocate unsheltered community members living in an unauthorized encampment in Los Osos.
The County will then clean and restore the site to protect natural habitat resources, as required by regulatory agreements.
Starting Oct. 8, the County began notifying those living on the Midtown parcel near the Los Osos Library of the requirement to vacate the site. County staff will continue current efforts over the next two weeks to connect unsheltered community members with supportive services to help them transition away from the Midtown site. Unsheltered community members will also be provided with COVID-19 testing opportunities, sheltering options, and medical and nutritional benefits. The County will store any left-behind personal property for their subsequent retrieval.
“We are sensitive to the complex issues associated with relocating those in the encampment,” said County Second District Supervisor Bruce Gibson. “We are doing our best to address numerous public health and safety issues with empathy and compassion and in accordance with recent case law, while meeting our obligations to state and federal agencies to protect natural resources at the Midtown site.”
During the state and federal permitting process for the Los Osos Wastewater Project, the County agreed to restore the site and permanently protect it. Since 2012, County restoration staff and biologists have worked to restore native plant species, control erosion, remove weeds, and create designated pathways for safe public access.
Over the last several months, County staff, including members of the Sheriff’s Office Community Action Team have intensified their ongoing efforts to connect the unsheltered community members camping at the Midtown site with supportive services.
Several community groups and individuals have similarly offered support to members of the encampment and advocated for additional supportive services on their behalf.
“We ask for the community’s patience and understanding as we engage staff from Library Services, Parks and Recreation, and the Department of Social Services – among many others – to make sure we have a full view of concerns and alternatives before taking action,” said Kate Ballantyne, Deputy Director of the Department of Public Works.
The County does not have flexibility to modify permit restrictions at the site and plans to begin site restoration and re-stabilization efforts ahead of the winter rainy season. In recent weeks, an interdisciplinary task force of County staff has collaborated to address the complex humanitarian, environmental, and civil issues associated with cleaning up the Midtown site.
“This is a uniquely challenging time and we are sympathetic to the needs of the homeless and those of the environment,” said Devin Drake, Director of Social Services. “We’re actively working with all of our support service partners to connect the community members at the Midtown site with available resources. We are grateful for the support of our community partners who, along with the Department of Social Services, are working together to make this transition as positive as possible.”