Moving quickly to tap park funds approved last November by Los Angeles County voters, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy has authorized the purchase of 235-acre Wilson Canyon north of Sylmar and two smaller mountain tracts.
The conservancy board also voted to use its share of park funds to pay for all or parts of six other tracts it previously had decided to acquire.
The actions taken Monday night involve nearly 1,400 acres and an estimated $27 million of the conservancy’s $47-million share of funds from Proposition A, which authorized spending $540 million to expand and improve parks, preserves and cultural attractions in Los Angeles County.
The three planned acquisitions--which include the Siegler tract above Sherman Oaks and Elyria Canyon on the slopes of Mt. Washington--still must clear a pair of hurdles. Although the owners are willing to sell, there are no agreements on purchase price, and formal offers won’t be tendered until appraisals are completed.
Commitments of county park funds must also be approved by the County Board of Supervisors, which is expected to take up the matter within a few weeks.
But conservancy officials--who described the three tracts as “fabulous"--said there is strong public support and no known opposition to the purchases.
“We’re very pleased that we’re going to be able to move forward with implementing Prop. A as quickly as possible,” said Belinda Faustinos, deputy director of the conservancy.
John Diaz, chief of land acquisition for the conservancy, said all three tracts are threatened with development.
The Wilson Canyon property lies in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains north of Olive View UCLA Medical Center and south of the Angeles National Forest. Actually a series of canyons and high ridges, it includes a dense stand of oaks and provides a habitat buffer between the national forest and urbanized areas of the San Fernando Valley.
Equestrians, environmentalists and neighborhood groups have campaigned to preserve the tract since 1987, when developers announced a plan to build 500 houses there. Eventually, the plan was pared to 97 houses, but opponents say it still does not provide for any public open space.
The Siegler property consists of two small lots totaling 6.35 acres at the intersection of Mulholland Drive and Beverly Glen Boulevard. Conservancy officials say the small tract is an important connector between larger blocks of habitat in the surrounding area.
The 35-acre Elyria Canyon tract overlooks the Los Angeles River and features diverse vegetation, including a walnut woodland, coastal safe sage scrub, and grasslands that are important hunting grounds for hawks, officials said.
At its meeting Monday night, the conservancy board also voted to use its Proposition A funds to pay off notes on five tracts totaling about 630 acres that the agency is already in the process of acquiring. One of these is the Paramount Ranch property in Agoura and another lies within Escondido Canyon in Malibu.
The board, which previously voted to attempt the purchase of the Westlake Vista property in Westlake Village, on Monday night voted to use Proposition A funds in the acquisition effort.
The conservancy is battling with Baldwin Co., a development firm, for the right to buy the 492-acre tract on the shores of Westlake Reservoir from its owner, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
The conservancy, which is negotiating with the FDIC, contends the presence of an endangered plant, the Lyon’s pentachaeta, requires that the property be sold to a conservation agency.