Port San Luis Harbor is an important center for commerce, recreation, and industry in San Luis Obispo County. The Port San Luis Harbor District controls 8400 acres of California coastline. When it was created in 1953, the Harbor District was established to promote the commercial harbor.
The main cargoes were fish, agricultural products, and marine oil. The District got its operating funds from renting wharves and harborside property. Port San Luis Harbor was used for its three commercial piers to support commercial fishing, recreational boating, marine repairs, and fish processing.
The Port San Luis Harbor District is responsible for developing and improving the harbor, including dredging, navigation routes, berths, anchorage, and turning basins. The District also constructs and maintains jetties, breakwaters, seawalls, bulkheads, wharves, warehouses, ferry slips, and road and rail transportation routes. The tidelands grant from the State of California also charged the Port San Luis Harbor District with establishing public buildings, playgrounds, parks, and facilities to support public recreation, public fishing, public navigation, and public access to Port San Luis Harbor.
The California Coastal Act of 1976 recognizes that the State's ports are a primary economic resource and added non-enterprise visitor-serving coastal recreation uses to the responsibilities of the Port San Luis Harbor District.
In 1984, the Avila beach and pier were transferred to the Port San Luis Harbor District. Being the most popular beach in San Luis Obispo County, the Harbor District provides several services and amenities to the public: restrooms, beach and building maintenance, maintenance of Avila Pier, utilities, and security and lifeguard services.
Open for public use, Harford Pier is a National Historic Structure recognized by the California State Historic Preservation Office. The Preservation Office requires the Port San Luis Harbor District to restore and preserve the recreational and commercial fishing functions of Harford Pier.
California's Department of Forestry also requires the Port San Luis Harbor District to assure the Harford Pier has sufficient safety devices, including a fire sprinkler system to protect the 434-meter (1424-foot) pier.
In the past, Port San Luis Harbor provided port-related functions only. Today, it supports many public services including public fishing and navigation, commercial fishing, boat mooring and launching, boat and engine services, land storage of boats and gear, surfing, camping, sailing, water skiing, harbor patrols, lifeguards, and nature education. The Port
San Luis Harbor District also oversees two public/commercial piers, public beaches, restrooms, beach concessions, parking, charter boat services, restaurants, fuel and ice facilities, and boat yard repair facilities.
When the Queen of the Pacific ran aground on its way to Harford Pier in Port San Luis Harbor, the Point San Luis Lighthouse was constructed. The lighthouse operated in Port San Luis Harbor until 1974. In 1992, the federal government transferred the lighthouse and surrounding property to the Port San Luis Harbor District. In 1995, the Harbor District helped form the non-profit Point San Luis Lighthouse Keepers to restore the historic site and open it to the public.