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May 18

$$$ Generating tax dollars

A share for all — San Luis Obispo School District Superintendent Ronald Notley, left, smiles today as he accepts a replica of Morro Bay Pacific Gas and Electric plant from William Newman, Morro School District superintendent. Tax revenue from the plant, which formerly went to the Morro district, will be shared by the new unified district. Published Feb 10, 1965. ©2010 The Tribune

February 10, 1965
How blatant can you get?
A power plant puffing dollar signs into the atmosphere?
Abstract concept stories are difficult to illustrate with concrete images. The posed photo, heavy in symbolism was fairly typical of that era. Newspapers were moving away from that style toward a more candid storytelling approach but the history of the photo opportunity is older than the name coined for it.
The Great California Boom was still in full force in the mid-1960s. After World War II, the launching platform for the Pacific war experienced explosive growth.
The book “P. G. and E of California, The Centennial Story of Pacific Gas and Electric Company 1852-1952″ provides illumination.
In a single decade, 1940-1950 California’s population multiplied by 53.3 percent. It was now the second largest state by population and all growth estimates had been exceeded. The utility was engaged in a race to keep up. The electric system that had been largely built on Sierra Nevada hydroelectric power now needed to be drought proof.
New steam plants were added and old ones retooled. A plant designed in the 1950s was twice as efficient one 30-years-older. Moss Landing and Contra Costa units were brought online with initial capacity of 340,000 kilowatts, largest in the system at that time, and still more power was needed.
The earliest electric predecessor of the utility had been born in September 1879. Eighteen arc lamps provided light equal to 1,000 gas jets at the Mechanics’ Pavilion in San Francisco. Back then the company provided power, sundown to midnight, for $10 per lamp, per week.
At the end of 1954 the P.G.&E. system was projected to have a total generating capacity of 4,150,000 kilowatts. A billion dollars had been invested in expansion and yet still more power was needed.
The construction of the Morro Bay Power Plant led to the birth of two organizations featured on the front page this day. The plant generated power and property taxes.
The city of Morro Bay and the yet unnamed San Luis Coastal Unified School District, were born as a result.
Now if you want to go off on a taxpayer-bureaucracy rant feel free but keep in mind the dire conditions two years earlier facing the Sunnyside School District that served Los Osos.
“Last September the school had to let one teacher go, cut out special programs in science, math and music and sold the school bus.”

Principal Kenneth Moore was in charge of a combined fifth and sixth grade classroom with 42 students. In addition he had to answer the school phone and manage visitors.
Residents in the Sunnyside Elementary School District (Baywood, Cuesta-By-The-Sea and portions of Los Osos) voted down tax increases four times in five years.

No wonder the school superintendents were smiling even though there would only be one superintendent’s job after unification.
Two high schools and eight elementary school districts would combine to share the wealth.
San Luis Obispo Elementary, San Luis Obispo High School, Bellevue-Santa Fe, Morro Union, Los Ranchos, Avila, Laguna, Banning, Sunnyside districts would combine under one board and administration. The district had 3,753 elementary students and 2,974 high school students. Five of the small districts opposed unification but were over-matched by the number of voters in the larger districts. (For example Banning opposed the measure 38 to 5.)
At one time an idea was floated that the Atascadero District would join as well but that idea never gained steam.

The environmental movement was still taking toddler steps. It was a concept slowly gaining credibility but not yet a mainstream idea.
When did it become mainstream?
When seemingly every politician of every stripe running for office has a photo of a wind machine in their advertising.
The Environmental Protection Agency would be formed in the black gooey wake of the oil slick formed four years later in Santa Barbara Channel.

Today the Morro Bay Power plant sits, operating at a fraction of generating capacity, as the future of the facility is debated. The plant is caught in a limbo. Newer facilities are more efficient to run and the environmental issues of air pollution and the one pass cooling system have investment in modernization on hold.
The City of Morro Bay and San Luis Coastal School District wrestle with dwindling budgets.
No one is posing with a model of a new power plant pumping dollar signs into the sky.

Three other stories front page this day had some connection to PG&E.
• The recently born and pugnacious City of Morro Bay was taking on the county over rights to tidelands.
• The Sierra Club vowed to oppose a nuclear power plant proposed for the Nipomo Dunes. Mrs. Duncan P. Jackson was appointed Sierra Club coordinator for the Nipomo Dunes preservation. (Jackson later remarried and most folks now know her as Kathleen Goddard Jones.)
• Rumors were beginning to fly about an alternative site for the proposed nuclear plant. This story concerned 1,120 acres PG&E owned on the Nipomo Mesa and had designated for a power plant site. No explanation was given on how the plant would obtain cooling water at this site.

Lastly, a news of the weird entry, San Luis Obispo police chief William E. Schofield filed a crime report with his own department after someone stole his wife’s $175 coat. They were dining out when someone swiped it. Be on the lookout for a beige cloth coat with fleece lining and Alaskan wolf fur trim collar.

Related posts:

  1. Morro Bay Power Plant built
  2. 1972 Diablo Construction & County aerials
  3. Pre-Civil War tree marks uncovered
  4. Morro Bay Harbor Beacon installed.
  5. 1965 Oceano Dunes