SLO County ordinance may enable tenting on non-public property


About 70 people gathered outside a home in northern Cambria on October 2 to learn about possible additions to San Luis Obispo County’s camping regulations.

If approved, the changes included in a draft could affect your neighborhood and county as a whole.

As currently envisaged, the addition of “casual outdoors” would allow permanent or temporary camping facilities on private residential, agricultural and rural plots as small as one hectare. This includes accommodations that campsites offer through the popular Hipcamp website.

According to the proposal, this parcel could accommodate up to two campsites.

The draft would allow up to 15 campsites on parcels of 30 hectares or more.

The possible changes are likely to be an issue for the District Board of Directors to consider during its discussion of its 2022 Agenda on November 16.

Supervisor John Peshong addressed the possible changes earlier this year after trying to help the owner of a Cambria campsite.

In August, law enforcement officials ruled the campground, which sits on a hill above Cambria’s East Village, was illegal.

During the hearing on August 5th, Cambria County landowner, Michael “Buddy” Campo, called on his property to cease operating as a campsite within 30 days and to remove all illegal electricity, water and gas connections.

His 4.12 acre lot at 2705 Main St. is now for sale for nearly $ 1.9 million.

Brian Glunovich, chairman of the North Shore Advisory Committee, said councilors and the public are likely to receive an update on proposed changes to the camping ordinance from Supervisor Bruce Gibson or his assistant Blake Fixler during NCAC’s Oct. 20 Zoom meeting.

At previous council meetings, district officials and the council have mentioned the possible changes to the regulation, and council members have received the first draft of what those changes might include.

Public comments are recorded at NCAC and oversight meetings. More information is available at and

Many people at the October 2nd brainstorming session in Cambria said they plan to attend both the October 20th meeting of the NCAC and the November 16th meeting of regulators to oppose the camping regulation changes in to oppose the drafted version.

Cambrian residents concerned about the risks of camping

Cambria’s neighbors said their main concerns were the risk of forest fires from campfires or cigarettes in tinder-arid areas, as well as traffic, the impact on the small coastal town’s native Monterey pines, and the availability and cost of fire insurance.

They also worry about how private property campsites could affect resale value in the county.

Some of the proposed changes, critics said, include reducing the required buffer zone between homes and campsites to 400 feet from the current 1,000-foot setback and reducing the project review for a potential camping project to simple, over-the-counter approval by staff. The current standard requires a minor usage permit which requires public notice and consultation.

Attendees worried that they might relive what happened in Cambria over Labor Day weekend in 2020.

“We woke up, opened the blinds, and there were campers on the property next door,” said meeting organizer Karen Pearson.

County Code officials named the instance illegal camping and informed landowner Phillip Larson that if he wanted to camp on his 88 acres south of Cambria Pines Road, he would have to go through the process of rules or zoning his property to change.

While Larson initially assured neighbors that he did not intend to do so, he is now hoping to make the camping option legal on his 88 acre property, Pearson and some district planning officials said.

The participants left the hour-long meeting with various tasks. They plan to seek legal advice from an experienced land use attorney and recruit others to join in their efforts to convince the district overseers that the proposed regulation changes are a bad idea.

According to Jeff Bloom, a former city planner who now lives in Cambria, the hipcamp business model is similar to that of Airbnb and other vacation rentals.

On the phone, Gibson described Hipcamp as “an open country version of Airbnb. They are agents and get their share of the rental fees.

The supervisor said he was “very happy to be considering a sensible regulation,” one he defined as adequately taking into account “all risks and effects of what they (Hipcamp) promote,” particularly in the areas of “public health.” , Wellbeing and security. “

“That’s what the county litigation is about,” Gibson said.

He said the planning department “may be processing some camping applications under our existing regulations that are a little more laborious than Hipcamp would prefer. We also track complaints about code enforcement for unauthorized camping activities. “

Hip camp

Hipcamp, an online campsite reservation system, appears to be involved in amending San Luis Obispo County’s camping ordinances.

Michal Rosenoer, Hipcamps Government and Community Relations Manager, emailed that the website wants to work with the overseers, the local farming community and the landowners.

He claims that “this is a very community-led effort”.

“The proposed changes will have such a positive impact on landowners and the local outdoor recreation and agrotourism economy,” wrote Rosenoer.

Earlier this year, Hipcamp mailed a flyer to some property owners in San Luis Obispo County asking them to sign up for the website and rent campsites on their land.

The flyer touted the landowners’ ability to “make up to $ 10,000 this month,” and offered a $ 150 bonus to any potential campsite operator. “You set the rules and host when you want, all with Hipcamp’s $ 1 million insurance coverage in your back,” the mailer read.

According to Rosenoer, Hipcamp already “has around 50 hosts in the area and we spend a lot of time listening to and working with members of the community; Your reactions were enthusiastic about the proposed changes. “

It is unknown how many of these hosts have gone through the current licensing process to obtain permits to operate camping facilities on private land, a process which, according to Rosenoer, “can take years and hundreds of thousands of dollars”.

He estimated that the average hip camp host makes $ 7,000 a year from renting a campsite.

“The fact that the county’s camping ordinances have not been updated since about the 1970s hurts San Luis Obispo County at a time when smallholders, ranchers and landowners can least afford it,” Rosenoer said.

He said the changes proposed by Hipcamp would “provide a more manageable and clear process for these landowners, and help support a growing market for outdoor recreation and agrotourism.

“In addition, it could make the county more accessible to people of all income groups as the average cost of a hip camp stay in SLO County is $ 72 per night, making it much more affordable for working families.”

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Käthe Tanner has been writing about the people and places on the north coast of SLO County since 1981, first as a columnist, then as a reporter. Her career included positions as a bakery owner, PR director, radio presenter, hiking guide and jewelry designer. She has lived in Cambria for more than four decades, and when it happens in town, Käthe knows.


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