Posted on February 10, 2012

San Luis Obispo County: Lighthouse Keepers Relocate with PG&E’s Help

By Tracy Correa

The caretakers of the historic Point San Luis Lighthouse are closer to their charge now that they’ve relocated to a newly-renovated building near the lighthouse that overlooks Avila Beach.

Port San Luis lighthouse

The Point San Luis Lighthouse was built in 1890, and still attracts visitors today. (Photos by John Lindsey)

And PG&E volunteers, with the help of one of the company’s electric-powered utility trucks, played a crucial role in the Feb. 1 move.

“We would have had a much more difficult time with this move had it not been for PG&E. Without them, we would have had to rent a truck and our board members would have to do the physical work,” said Kristi Balzer, tour and public relations manager for the Point San Luis Lighthouse Keepers.

A handful of PG&E employees spent much of the day hauling boxes and furniture down a flight of stairs and placing them onto the flatbed electric truck for transport to the new location where they were then unloaded. The Smith Electric Vehicle used was from nearby Diablo Canyon Power Plant.

The nonprofit Lighthouse Keepers, which relies mostly on donations, works to restore and maintain the lighthouse built in 1890 that once kept watch over boats and sailors. The lighthouse keepers themselves had to keep their watch of the lighthouse from a cramped office some 15 miles away in San Luis Obispo.

Smith Electric Truck

One of the PG&E's Smith Electric Trucks was used to help move the office of the non-profit Lighthouse Keepers.

Now, the group is in a spacious building with additional room for special events such as parties and weddings that will generate much-needed revenue. The remodeled duplex building once housed Coast Guard personnel who staffed the facility until tasks were automated in the 1970s. The renovation was covered by donations.

Balzer said it’s great to be close to the lighthouse, which she can now see from her window.

The 31-acre lighthouse property is surrounded by land owned by PG&E that includes the Pecho Coast Trail. The trail – located on the same large property as PG&E’s Diablo Canyon Power Plant – is managed by the utility’s land stewardship program, which manages public access to a section of spectacular coastline.

Up to 90 people ride a new trolley shuttle to the lighthouse every weekend and up to 40 visitors hike the Pecho trail, which is a 3.75-mile loop that begins from the Point San Luis Fisherman’s memorial.

Smith Electric Truck

PG&E's Larry Kelley, left, and Ken Willard move boxes, tables and other furniture. Now, the Lighthouse Keepers are located much closer to the historic landmark.

John Lindsey, a PG&E communications representative in San Luis Obispo who also helped with the move, said the importance of the new home for the nonprofit group can’t be understated: “There’s no rent so that money will go directly into restoring and maintaining the lighthouse.”

The move is also expected to bring more people to the coastline and the trails, said Lindsey, who also serves as vice president of the board of directors for the Point San Luis Lighthouse Keepers.

“It’s a win-win for the public and the lighthouse,” he said.

Over the past few years, PG&E has donated some $750,000 to the Lighthouse Keepers. PG&E also has offered to let the group use its Energy Education Center site for monthly board meetings.

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