The Lives and Times of Morro Bay’s Oldest Couple

My next-door-neighbor’s house is an unassuming one-story, yellow-stucco-walled house with a pretty garden. What you would never guess is that inside that house is an amazing story and history. Bill and Edna Huntington have lived in Morro Bay for more than seven decades. Survivors of the Great Depression and World War II, they built that house themselves. Over the years they raised three sons, ran Morro Bay’s garbage service, and witnessed decades of change and growth.

I made a video for them to share with their family so that they can preserve some of their family history. I hope you enjoy!

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Morro Bay Power Plant Closes After 58 Years of Service

The Morro Bay Power Plant has officially ceased operations. The plant’s owner, the Houston-based electrical company Dynegy, turned the plant off for the last time Wednesday, closing a facility that has helped to bring electricity to California’s Central Coast for more than half a century. There was no public ceremony marking the closure, but there will be a private commemoration for the plant’s employees, some of whom had worked there for decades.

Dynegy decided to close the plant because it was outdated and inefficient, according to Kathy Sullivan, Dynegy’s Director of Public Relations. Sullivan said the natural-gas-powered, seawater-cooled plant was simply no longer needed “to keep the lights on”. According to The Tribune, the cost to upgrade the plant to meet new environmental regulations may also have played a part in the decision.

The power plant was built on the site of a World War II-era naval training base. Construction began in 1953, and for years the plant’s set of three 450-foot-tall smokestacks have been one of the most recognizable landmarks in Morro Bay besides Morro Rock. While it was once a major power provider for coastal California, plans to upgrade the site in 2000 were scrapped due to opposition from local residents and officials because of the plant’s impact on local sea life. As a result, the plant has only been used intermittently for the past few years, operating only at times when there was a spike in electrical demand.

The plant’s closure could potentially cost the city more than $1 million per year in leases and fees, but the city has about $2.7 million in reserve funds saved away in case of such an outcome, according to The Tribune. As it stands, no decision has been made on what will become of the site. Sullivan told me Dynegy currently plans to keep the site, and is exploring the possibility of building some sort of renewable energy-based power plant in its place. She also told me that there are no plans to demolish the smokestacks at this time, and that Dynegy will work together with Morro Bay’s city government in deciding the site’s future. City officials confirmed that they have been speaking to Dynegy on the matter.

AUDREY: Our Matriarch

A biography about the life of my grandmother, Audrey Gregory.

 

A Cat Flag Production

Locals react to Morro Bay’s Food Bank distribution changes

There have been some radical changes to how food is distributed to local families in need in Morro Bay, and people are unhappy about it.

A few weeks ago, I visited a local program in Morro Bay where families in need could get fresh produce, meat, and other groceries at no cost. All of the food was donated from local sources, and all of the people distributing the food were volunteers. It seemed like a very smart and useful way for the community to pull together and keep those who have fallen on hard times from going hungry.

A mere week after I had made that video, my neighbor, who volunteers for this program, told me that the program was about to be cut back to one day a week instead of three. I began making calls, and found out the whole story.

Here is my report:

Morro Bay’s program is a part of the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County, which operates similar distribution centers in Arroyo Grande, Los Osos, Nipomo, San Luis Obispo, and Cayucos. At each of these locations, the Food Bank makes a once-a-week delivery on Wednesdays from its warehouse in Oceano, bringing prepared grocery bags full of donated produce. Every family takes a bag, and then if there are any extra donations they can pick-and-choose some of those.

Morro Bay’s program didn’t do this. Instead, they gave out food three days a week, depending on donations from local supermarkets like Albertson’s or Trader Joe’s, Cal Poly’s agriculture department, and local farmers. This meant deliveries were very inconsistent – they would sometimes be very large and sometimes be very small – but would also be very fresh. Morro Bay also let local families shop through all the available offerings and take what they needed or wanted.

What the Food Bank Coalition had done was tell Morro Bay that it had to comply with the same rules that the other communities were used to. Instead of picking up food directly from local sources, the Food Bank would collect the donations, store them in their warehouse until Wednesday, and then deliver them to the Veteran’s Hall to be distributed. Morro Bay residents who participate in the program now must come in on this one day each week and sign their name for a pre-prepared grocery bag.

According to Melinda Diaz, the Food Programs Manager at the Food Bank Coalition, Morro Bay’s deliveries will now be much more consistent. She also assured me that the changes will not affect the amount of food each family will receive. The people I spoke to confirmed as much, but complained that the food that they get now isn’t as fresh. Most of the supermarkets, after all, donate food that is at or near the sell-by date, in order to clear out space on their shelves for their next delivery. Under the new system, the donated food has been in storage for several days before delivery.

While I was filming, I noticed that the line of people waiting for food wasn’t as long as it had been the last time I had been there. I also noticed that the grand total amount of food that was delivered seemed smaller to my eyes, and that unlike the last time I was there, there was no meat available. I watched as people were called to the front by their assigned numbers; another change from last time, when the food was handed out on a first-come, first-served basis.

I had been told that there has been some tension with another event that is also held at the Veteran’s Hall on Wednesday mornings, if the delivery truck arrives late. However, it is unlikely that the program would be discontinued over a scheduling conflict. When I spoke with Joseph Woods, Morro Bay’s director of Recreation and Parks, he assured me that he would do what it takes to keep the program running.

If you want to help Morro Bay’s program by donating or volunteering, contact Don Beasley at (805) 704-8532 for further information.

Morro Bay Volunteers Help Local Families in Need

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 13.2% of the residents of San Luis Obispo County are below the poverty line. This is startling news for those of us who see our Central Coast home as a pristine paradise. Fortunately, some locals are doing their part to help those in need.

My next-door neighbor volunteers three times a week, helping to distribute food to poor families that struggle to afford adequate meals. I decided to follow him one morning, driving out to the Morro Bay Veterans’ Memorial Building, where tables were set out and a truck full of food from the local food bank was being unloaded. I spoke with some of the volunteers, and learned that they arrive as early as 8:00 in the morning to prepare for the incoming crowd.

The registry of local families who accept the free food has more than 300 names, and I was told any given day will bring 25 to 60 people. Even though the doors wouldn’t open until 10:30, there were already some folks waiting by 9:00! One by one, they would sign in, then wait patiently in line as they made a big circle through the courtyard, taking what they needed – meat, fruit, vegetables, bread, and even over-the-counter medicine! The largest donor is our local Albertson’s, but they also receive food from Trader Joe’s, Cal Poly’s agriculture students, farmers who participate in local farmers’ markets, and even some private individuals. I was told that on the third Friday of every month, an extra delivery is made, this one from the federal government.

Here’s my report on what I saw:

If you want to donate or volunteer to help this program, contact Don Beasley at (805) 704-8532 for further information.