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Los Osos is an unincorporated community located along the Pacific coast of San Luis Obispo County, California. The community is combined with Baywood Park to form the Census Designated Place of Baywood-Los Osos. The community is served by the 93402 and 93412 Zip Codes and area code 805.
Los Osos is largely a bedroom community for San Luis Obispo, which is 10.6 miles east, and to a lesser extent, Morro Bay, which is 2.3 miles to the north. There is a small business district concentrated in just a few blocks along Los Osos Valley Road, and several shops servicing the Baywood section of Los Osos, near the bay. The rest of the town is almost entirely residential. Population is approximately 16,000 and total population at build out is limited to approximately 26,000.
There are two roads connecting Los Osos to other communities: South Bay Boulevard, which leads to Morro Bay via Highway 1, and Los Osos Valley Road, which leads to San Luis Obispo. Inclement weather and road construction occasionally forces the closure of a route, possibly requiring detours to arrive at one's destination. This has been much less frequent since the Chorro Bridge replaced the Twin Bridges on South Bay Boulevard.
Los Osos serves as the entrance to Montaña de Oro State Park. Los Osos Valley Road reaches the coast at the south end of Estero Bay and continues south into the state park. Morro Bay State Park borders the northeast of the town. South Bay Boulevard travels through the middle of the park after it leaves Los Osos.
Los Osos' proximity to the Diablo Canyon Power Plant means that warning sirens are located throughout the town so that the residents will be warned if the power plant should suffer a meltdown or other adverse event. The sirens are also found in other cities nearby, including Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo and Avila Beach. Except for yearly tests, the sirens go largely unused.
Los Osos has four public schools; Baywood Elementary, Sunnyside Elementary (Which is currently closed), Monarch Grove Elementary, and Los Osos Middle School. To attend high school, Los Osos students must travel to Morro Bay High School in Morro Bay or San Luis Obispo High School in San Luis Obispo. Total population is in excess of 16,000, making it the most populous coastal community between Point Buchon and Monterey County. The community's ultimate build out population is estimated at no more than 26,000.
Native American Chumash were the first inhabitants of the local area. These peoples relied partially on the harvesting of fish and shellfish (e.g. Macoma nasuta) from Morro Bay. There is a large Chumash archaeological site on a stabilized sand dune in Los Osos dating to at least as early as 1200 AD. Cabrillo first encountered the Chumash in the year 1542.
Since 1983 a section of the community of Los Osos (Prohibition Zone) has been under a septic tank discharge prohibition, Resolution 83-13, issued by the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board in order to obviate the need for septic tanks within the Prohibition Zone because that part of the town's septic tanks are too numerous and concentrated to dissipate nitrates. A building moratorium within the Prohibition Zone became effective in 1989 as part of the discharge prohibition. San Luis Obispo County was the original authority in charge of building the Wastewater Treatment System. Although the design of the County’s selected project was nearly complete they were unable to bring the project to fruition. In July 1997, the County appeared before the California Coastal Commission to address an appeal of the construction permit for the project. Due to voiced opposition at the meeting from members of the Los Osos/Baywood Park Community, the Commission postponed its decision until a full hearing could be held. In 1998 an election was held to form the Los Osos Community Services District by residents as a response to the high cost of the original sewer proposal. The original billing for the sewer of $50 a month in 1984 and is now (2010) estimated to exceed $200 a month with the current estimated cost of construction of the facilities and collection system to be well over $150 million before tax and interest. On January 1, 1999, the District was established and assumed responsibility for constructing the project.
There was also a controversy about where the sewer should be built. A location in the center of Los Osos (once known as the Tri-W site after the names of the previous owners of the property, now called the Mid-Town site), was chosen partly because of a desire for an additional park. The County, Planning Commission and the Coastal Commission approved a sewer at the site after hearing critic's claims.
In August 2005, despite a pending recall election, the LOCSD began building a sewer at the Mid-Town site, contractors began work on the project and were advanced payments from State Revolving Fund loan. Following a recall election which replaced the majority of the LOCSD board and enactment of an initiative measure that would require relocation of the project, the new board stopped building the sewer, despite a letter warning them of severe consequences from the Regional Water Quality Control Board. However, in late 2006, the LOCSD started to work with Ripley Pacific, a contractor widely known for designing STEP/STEG systems.
In October 2005, the LOCSD defaulted on a low interest State Revolving Fund loan and the state subsequently refused to disburse additional funds and demanded immediate repayment. Project contractors filed suit for more than $23 million in lost profits and costs. The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board has used it's enforcement powers to impose fines against the district in the amount of $6.6 million for violation of the discharge prohibition emanating from three LOCSD owned sites. During February 2006 the Regional Water Quality Control Board, threatened it would begin to issue cease and desist orders to citizens of Los Osos, and may require recipients to pump their septic systems every three years, and to stop using them by 2011.
On August 25, 2006, the district filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection in federal court. While the district had enough money to cover day to day needs, they did not have enough money to cover their legal fees and consultant fees. This action stays the legal actions against the district related to money owed. Contractor lawsuits and other actions seeking monetary damages or claims against the district will be held in abeyance while the district addresses its financial situation.
Additionally, legislation has been approved by the California legislature that could return control of construction of the wastewater treatment facility to the County of San Luis Obispo but only after a due diligence period and a resolution by the County to except the project. The legislation took the project away from the LOCSD. The LOCSD is still providing approximately one half of the town's drinking water, and is in charge of drainage, parks and recreation, street lighting, the contracting of fire, emergency and rescue services as well as solid waste services. The bill, AB 2701, was signed by the governor and went into effect January 1, 2007. A plan has been approved by the County Board of Supervisors, amended by the County Planning Commission pursuant to some of the objections raised by the community and its Community Advisory Council. The California Coastal Commission has denied the County a permit to proceed due to "Substantial Issues" that were cited during an appeals hearing. A De-Novo hearing is still pending. To date (April 2010) with more than $7 million spent the County has not voted to except the project.
In 1769, Gaspar de Portola's expedition found large numbers of Grizzly Bears in the valley near modern Los Osos. "Osos" being the Spanish word for "Bears", the town was so named. The expedition was part of a plan by Spain to further colonize and map Alta California due to increasing colonization by the English on the East Coast of North America and the burgeoning presence of Russian traders on the West Coast. (See: Fort Ross, Russian-American Company.) de Portola's expedition was only one of four mandated by the Spanish Visitor General, José de Gálvez to map and explore Alta California in greater depth, following up on the previous expeditions, most notably the Cabrillo party in 1542 and that of Sebastián Vizcaíno, who vaguely mapped and described the Monterey Bay in 1602-3.
Adelaida | Asuncion | Avila Beach | Bee Rock | Bern | Bromela | California Valley | Callender | Cambria Pines | Cholame | Chorro | Halcyon | Harmony | Huasna | Los Osos | Pozo | San Simeon | Santa Margarita