Park Service Pays $8 Million : State OKs Sale of Parkland to U.S.

Times Staff Writer

The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy’s $8-million sale of about 1,800 acres of state parkland to the National Park Service was approved Tuesday by state officials.

As part of the deal, the conservancy agreed to use the $8 million to buy whatever parkland the Park Service wishes in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

While a Park Service official said no decision has been made on what land will be bought, conservancy officials said the deal makes it possible that the 320-acre Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Agoura can be purchased for federal parkland, if that property becomes available.

The owner of the property, which has been coveted by the Park Service for years, has been unwilling to sell, saying he wants to build houses on the land.


“If there is an opportunity to purchase” the fair site, conservancy board chairwoman Rorie Skei said, “the conservancy could move faster than the Park Service would be able to.”

The Park Service will receive the 1,665-acre Circle X Ranch, in southeast Ventura County, and 132 acres in Zuma Canyon, in the Malibu area.

The Circle X Ranch is a picturesque spot for hikers and campers in the shadow of 3,100-foot Sandstone Peak, the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains. Zuma Canyon is a pristine coastal canyon that includes a gently sloping flood plain and a steep, rocky gorge.

The deal is a bargain for the Park Service, said William Webb, acting superintendent of the national park.


When the about 1,800 acres is tacked on to another 646 acres committed to the national park by the conservancy, the federal government is receiving about 2,443 acres for $11 million. The Park Service has agreed to pay the conservancy $3 million for the 646 acres in Zuma Canyon.

Webb said the Park Service has not decided what land it wants the conservancy to buy for the national park, but the federal agency’s land-protection plan has listed the Renaissance Faire site as priority property.

The Agoura property’s co-owner, developer Brian Heller, is seeking Los Angeles County approval for 159 homes on the site, now planned for only 103 homes. He reiterated through a spokesman Tuesday his desire to build on the land rather than sell it. The county Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on his proposal Jan. 12.

An appraisal is required by the state and federal parks agencies before their funds can be used to buy or condemn private land. Last month, Heller refused to allow the federal government on his property to begin an appraisal.


Federal regulations mandate that appraisals must be done after entering a piece of property, but state regulations do not include such a requirement, said Edward G. Heidig, conservancy staff counsel. Now that funds that could be used to purchase the fair site are in state coffers, the conservancy will begin its own appraisal, Heidig said.

In addition to the $8 million, the conservancy has $21 million in state bond funds available for parkland purchases.