PASO ROBLES — Although many wouldn’t guess it, the EL Paso de Robles Youth Correctional Facility, located at 4545 Airport Road, is one of the city’s most historic landmarks. The facility, originally used as the Estrella Army Corps base during World War II, was soon acquired by the California Department of Corrections and made into the “El Paso de Robles School for Boys” due to an inconsistent juvenile offender population. The facility repeatedly closed and reopened, eventually as the “El Paso de Robles Youth Correction Facility.” The facility, which faced this pattern for years to come, finally closed permanently in 2009 and has been vacant ever since.
Since its closure, several public agencies and nonprofit organizations such as the North County Women’s Shelter, Paso Robles Unified School District (PRUSD), San Luis Obispo County Housing Trust Fund, and Transition’s Mental Health Association have all expressed interest in possible reuses for the facility.
At the Tuesday Jan. 17 Paso Robles City Council meeting, the council received a status report, presented by Mayor Steve Martin, on possible reuses. Proposals included educational and sports facilities, an ethanol production plant, local workforce and low-income housing, commercial developments, and Cal Fire facilities.
“(The report was from) interested parties (who hope) to utilize a piece of land that is costing taxpayers a lot of dollars,” said Martin.
According to the report, facility maintenance alone costs taxpayers between $700,000 and $900,000 annually, Martin said.
To make any changes to the facility however, it must first be acquired from and transferred between the state and the City of Paso Robles.
Creating a joint powers agency will allow organizations to strategize a plan to do so, said Martin. Those supporting this strategy plan to meet with the California Department of General Services as well as the Governor’s office to present the concept and explore the future status of the facility.
Several community leaders, such as newly-elected First District County Supervisor John Peschong, are interested in the development of the El Paso de Robles Youth Correction Facility.
“(I look forward) to working with the city on plans for the facility,” Peschong said.
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