California is in the land market to create a new state park. The only questions are — where? And at what price?
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday that he wants legislative leaders to dedicate $20 million from a one-time budget surplus to help purchase new public parkland, possibly creating one of the largest new state parks in decades.
In his budget briefing, the governor declined to state where the new park might be, suggesting the purchase price could “go up” if he revealed details. But for several days, Bay Area lawmakers have been lobbying the governor to help appropriate $20 million — the exact amount he proposed Friday — to help preserve a legendary property, the N3 Ranch near Livermore.
California state parks officials declined to comment late Friday, but it has been known since Wednesday that funding was coming together to make an offer on the ranch, which covers nearly 51,000 acres of mostly untrammeled Bay Area wilderness that is home to elk, deer and hundreds of species of migrating birds.
The Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Lands — the nation’s two largest conservation organizations — have already secured commitments to cover $30 million of the negotiated purchase price, state Sen. Steve Glazer (D-Orinda) said.
He and 14 other Bay Area lawmakers, including state Sen. Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) have argued that a $20-million appropriation from the state, if approved, would help complete the N3 Ranch purchase package and create one of the largest public parks in the state.
“This is a matter of urgent concern because this irreplaceable property is for sale now,” Glazer said. “Nonprofit conservation groups have assembled funding commitments that could finance more than half the cost. We need to move on this quickly.”
“The N3 Ranch property is a critical asset in the efforts to protect our open spaces and fight climate change — Californians deserve this opportunity to be provided clean air, clean water and access to parklands,” added Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, (D-Orinda). “I am proud to be working with my colleagues to preserve this natural treasure.”
But that won’t be easy. Todd Renfrew, broker and principal owner of Vacaville-based California Outdoor Properties, said the N3 Ranch was listed for sale in July 2019 for the first time in 85 years and has attracted purchase offers and interest from around the country and world.
The current asking price: $72 million.
The owners are two Southern California sisters who don’t want to sell the property piecemeal, Renfrew said in an interview. “They want to whoever buys the ranch to keep it whole.”
“So far, I’ve shown the property to 14 prospective buyers,” he added. “Most of them want to remain confidential, but several are qualified to buy the whole thing.”
Roughly 500 head of cattle roam the rarely visited 80-square-mile ranch within an hour’s drive of San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Stockton and Modesto. An estimated 80% of the property, including 9,600 acres of the Alameda Creek watershed, captures drinking water for Bay Area residents and millions of Californians.
The property comes with a four-bedroom headquarters, a one-bedroom annex, a bunkhouse, shops, outbuildings, four cabins for employee housing, 14 hunting cabins and some cattle.
“It’s quite a place,” Renfrew said. “This is a landscape that looks like it did more than a century ago.”