|— Unincorporated community —|
|County||San Luis Obispo|
|Time zone||Pacific (PST) (UTC-8)|
|- Summer (DST)||PDT (UTC-7)|
|ZIP codes||93402 and 93412|
|GNIS feature ID|
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.
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.
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.
The community has been required by the California Coastal Commission to build a sewer in order to obviate the need for septic tanks in Los Osos. The California Coastal Commission issued a building moratorium for Los Osos because the town's septic tanks are too numerous and concentrated to dissipate nitrates. The cost of the sewer is estimated to be well over $150 million and home-owners have been told that they may be assessed a sewer fee in excess of $200 a month. The Los Osos Community Services District was formed by residents as a response to the high cost of the original sewer proposal, and is the agency in charge of building the sewer, also providing the town's drinking water, drainage, parks, recreation, and street lighting.
There is also a controversy about where the sewer should be built. A location in the center of Los Osos (also known as the Tri-W site after the name of the property) was chosen, partly because of a desire for an additional park. The County, water board and Coastal Commission approved a sewer at the Tri-W site after hearing critic's claims.
In August 2005, the CSD began building a sewer at the Tri-W 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 CSD board and enacted 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 CSD started to work with Ripley Pacific, a contractor widely known for designing STEP/STEG systems.
In October 2005, the CSD 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. State and regional water boards have used their regulatory power to impose fines against the district in the amount of $6.6 million for water pollution resulting from septic tank discharge of more than 1 million gallons per day. During February 2006 the Regional Water Quality Control Board, a state agency, 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 would return control of construction of the wastewater treatment facility to the County of San Luis Obispo. The bill, AB 2701, was signed by the governor and went into effect January 1, 2007.
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.