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Land deals mean more access for visiting public

December 30, 2007|Christopher Reynolds

Two real-estate deals in the last three years -- one covering more than 82,000 acres and one covering just 20 -- promise big changes and new options for visitors to San Simeon.

THE RANCH DEAL

Even without Hearst Castle, the coastline north of Cambria and south of Big Sur is a staggering sight. Now that the state has acquired 13 miles of it from the Hearst Corp., it will soon be more accessible than ever. The land, acquired in February 2005 as an addition to San Simeon State Park, amounts to 949 acres west of California 1, along with a public access easement opening up five additional miles (613 acres). For $95 million in cash and tax credits from the state, the Hearsts also gave up rights to build on 82,000 acres east of the highway and got a blessing eventually to build a 100-room hotel in Simeon Village plus as many as 27 luxury homes.

What you'll see: For years, Hearst Corp. tolerated surfers, kayakers and beachcombers who hopped fences to cross its property on the way to the waves. Now, the state has added a proper entrance to the coastal area across California 1 from San Simeon State Park's campground. There's parking too. Other access improvements are in the works.

THE MOTEL DEAL

In a separate transaction that closed in March, the state acquired the 20-acre Piedras Blancas Motel property from the Trust for Public Land, which acquired it from a private owner in 2005. The bedraggled 14-room motel and an adjacent restaurant and gas station -- all now closed -- lie seven miles north of the castle. For 50 years, the property has been a commercial island surrounded by unbuilt coastline holdings.

What you'll see: State officials say they are still deciding what to do with the property, but a hostel, campground and visitor center have been mentioned as possibilities -- and the site is open now for public parking and coastal access.

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