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Group Gets Last-Ditch Reprieve in Bid for Marquez Canyon Property

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Despite being short of money and unable to meet a critical deadline, neighbors who want to buy 5 1/2 acres of open land in Pacific Palisades’ Marquez Canyon to keep it from being developed have won a last-minute reprieve from the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.

The conservancy’s board of directors this week unanimously rejected the neighbors’ $1.8-million bid for the property but said it will reconsider next month if enough property owners near the canyon are willing to tax themselves to pay for it.

“Considering everything, I think it was the best outcome we could have hoped for,” said Alan Tippie, a spokesman for the Marquez Canyon Preservation Assn.

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But he acknowledged that the group may have an uphill fight to persuade enough residents near the canyon to support a special tax assessment district, assuming that Los Angeles officials would be willing to initiate one.

If the effort succeeds, the property will become a public park administered by the Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation.

“We may be hard-pressed to make it happen,” Tippie said. “But at least we now have the opportunity to go to the community and make our case.”

On Monday, the group agreed to spend $5,000 to have an engineer draw up plans for the proposed tax district--which may include between 7,000 to 10,000 households--and to poll residents as to whether they are willing to pay for the canyon.

Conservancy officials plan a meeting Wednesday in Pacific Palisades to answer questions about the property. A location has not been selected.

Meanwhile, conservancy officials said they plan to reopen the bidding on the property this week and allow prospective buyers 14 days to make alternative offers.

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Joseph T. Edmiston, the conservancy’s executive director, said that if the open space proposal fails to gain community support by Jan. 13, when the board is scheduled to meet in Malibu, conservancy officials will sell the property to the highest bidder.

At least two schools and a real estate developer who wants to build homes on the property have expressed interest. In the round of bids canceled by the board this week, Village School of Pacific Palisades offered more than $2 million.

The conservancy got the land in March from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power as part of a complicated arrangement to help finance the purchase of Fryman Canyon.

To help raise funds for the Fryman purchase, the conservancy took $2 million from a trust fund earmarked for park improvements in Temescal Gateway Park.

As part of the deal, DWP transferred the Marquez property to the conservancy.

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