CALABASAS : Conservancy to Buy Land From County


The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy plans to buy a 10.2-acre tract from the county in a unique arrangement in which the conservancy would then sell an acre of the land to recoup the tract’s $42,185 purchase price, conservancy officials said.

The one-acre portion would be sold as a housing lot, and the rest would be preserved as open space, said Paul Edelman, a project analyst for the conservancy. The arrangement, he said, allows the agency to acquire nine acres free at a time when money is tight.

“We consider it a good gamble,” he said. “It’s not a huge amount of money. And one day (the one-acre portion) will sell.”


Los Angeles County seized the land, off Summit Drive in the Calabasas Highlands, from the previous owner for non-payment of taxes, Edelman said.

The conservancy would also like to someday acquire an 80-acre tract next door and combine the two to form a large preserve, he said.

The plan won praise from Calabasas city officials, who passed a resolution Wednesday endorsing the plan.

“Any time you can preserve open space, we are in support of something like that,” said City Manager Charles Cate. The city must approve any construction on the one-acre lot.

Edelman said the conservancy will probably ask no more for the land than what it paid. “Some people think we can get more,” he said. “I don’t really know. Without doing geology studies, it’s hard to tell.”

Edelman said the only time the agency was able to successfully work such an arrangement was in the early 1980s, when it sold small portions of Wilacre Park--off Laurel Canyon Boulevard--which it had recently purchased. It did so at the behest of the state, which demanded the conservancy sell some of the land to recoup its losses, Edelman said.


On the few other occasions in the past when the agency tried to enter into similar arrangements it ran into fierce opposition from neighbors, he said. So this time the agency worked hard to win support from the city and neighbors.

“We would sell the lot with deed restrictions, so once the person bought it, they couldn’t go hog-wild,” he said.

The cash-strapped agency recently caused an uproar when it announced it was considering selling some of its parkland to fund its legal battle against Soka University over the school’s plans to expand its campus.

Many people say the land-acquisition agency has no business selling off land purchased for conservation.