Efforts to restore the historic Cayucos Veterans Memorial Building got a big boost Tuesday when the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors approved a $3.5 million internal loan. Supervisors voted 4-1 to help fund the rehabilitation project, currently estimated to cost about $5 million. Now the project can forward, with the contract going out to bid while the county and community members seek additional grants.
At Tuesday’s meeting, community members spent a half hour or so during the public comment section urging the supervisors to approve the loan. “How much they care about this venue is really extraordinary,” Supervisor Bruce Gibson said, calling restoration efforts “a project you can support with your head and your heart.”
Supervisor John Peschong called the shuttered hall a “community jewel.” “I’m looking forward to getting this going,” he said.
CAYUCOS VETERANS HALL NEEDS REPAIRS
Originally known as the Cass Warehouse at Cayucos Landing, the Cayucos Veterans Hall dates back to 1872, according to the venue’s website. The Cass Warehouse was one of a series of buildings in downtown Cayucos in 1875, which included Capt. James Cass’ store, lumberyard, home, wharf and pier.
In 1920, the warehouse was acquired by the state of California, according to a 2017 San Luis Obispo County evaluation of the warehouse structure. Located at 10 Cayucos Drive near the Cayucos Pier, the Cayucos Veterans Hall has been a popular venue for everything from governmental meetings to weddings, fundraisers, parties and barbecues for decades. The main part of the building has been closed since May 2016 due to unsafe conditions and structural issues discovered during routine maintenance For a time, the Cambria Lions Club, which manages the facility, was allowed access to the patio, kitchen and bathrooms, which were add-ons to the original structure. But the entire hall has been completely off limits since late June, when it was red-tagged by the California Office of the State Fire Marshal.
The Cayucos Vets Hall Restoration Committee has been working to save the dilapidated structure.
HOW WILL SUPPORTERS PAY FOR VETS HALL RESTORATION?
According to Gibson, San Luis Obispo County staffers and various Cayucos leaders, the 30-year-loan from the county’s tax reduction reserve fund is to be paid off with grants, community fundraising and rentals of the building, once it’s open to the public again.
The county already received a nearly $2 million grant toward the project from the state’s Proposition 68 funding program.
Gibson and county staffers say they’re confident the California Coastal Conservancy will approve an additional $300,000 grant in December.
“If you don’t approve (the loan),” Nick Franco, director of San Luis Obispo County Parks & Recreation, told supervisors during Tuesday’s meeting, “we still have to do something” because the red-tagged building is hazardous.
“It’s not going to get any cheaper, and if we don’t move now, the grant we have will be in jeopardy,” because it has a deadline for the county’s commitment, he said. “Returning a grant is never a good idea.”
Greg Bettencourt, chairman of the Cayucos Vets Hall Committee, said the group already has firm commitments for $340,000, with more fundraising efforts yet to come. He also said the Cayucos Lions Club has pledged $115,000 toward the project.
On Tuesday, Breck Smith of the Lions Club and others listed some of the many clubs and organizations that have historically used the hall or had their home base there. They also mentioned a wide range of activities based at the venue, many of which have either been on hold or vastly reduced due to the hall’s closure.
“There are millions and millions of memories to be made there,” Smith said.
According to a letter submitted by Toni le Gras, visitors to Cayucos contribute about 14% of the total transient-occupancy tax for the county, even though the tourism-oriented community constitutes about 2% of the county’s total population. Franco said the restoration project will result “much, much improved facilities … with a view out over the ocean” and a wide deck between the building and the shore.
According to a letter submitted by Toni le Gras, visitors to Cayucos contribute about 14% of the total transient-occupancy tax for the county, even though the tourism-oriented community constitutes about 2% of the county’s total population.
Supervisor Debbie Arnold cast the lone dissenting vote on Tuesday, indicating that she’d supported the project all along. However, she said, similar situations are “playing out all over the county.”
“I don’t feel comfortable with the financing … adding to the countywide debt service,” Arnold said. For more information about the Cayucos Veterans Hall restoration project, go to restorecayucosvetshall.org.