An area of San Diego County bigger than Balboa Park is available for $18.75 million
A slice of rural San Diego County bigger than Balboa Park will be on the market this week for $18.75 million.
The nearly 1,300-acre Breezeway Ranch in Jamul features several homes, a vineyard, rifle range, tennis court, a pool, five wells and plenty of space for an adventurous buyer. A land sale this large is rare in modern San Diego County history, even with sizable purchases the last few decades near the border and in the backcountry.
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For context: The area for sale is larger than downtown San Diego (roughly 1,100 acres) and slightly bigger than the 1,200-acre Balboa Park.
Breezeway Ranch has been owned by real estate investor John Barthell for around 20 years. Listing agent Conor Brennan of Marcus & Millichap said Barthell used the home as a retreat from his life in Los Angeles but recently bought a property in Connecticut that will serve the same purpose. He won’t be using the ranch much, so he decided to sell.
Neighbors probably don’t need to worry about it turning into a major housing development just yet. The majority of the land is zoned for agricultural purposes. California lawmakers have been eager to relax zoning restrictions lately to build more housing, but this is the backcountry, where it is hard to imagine people commuting over long distances on winding roads.
It might not make financial sense for a buyer to convert the land too drastically. Most of the land is preserved under the Williamson Act, a state law that drastically reduces taxes for preserving farmland and open space. Taxes on the property are less than $15,000 a year, which would be considerably more for a plot its size if not covered by the act.
“You just don’t have an area this size selling 30 minutes from downtown,” Brennan said.
How long it takes to get somewhere from the ranch depends on how fast a driver takes the winding roads. A more cautious driver could probably reach downtown in about 35 minutes without traffic, but that depends on how it goes on roughly 13 miles of backcountry one-lane roads that can be slowed by the occasional truck delivering water or an RV out for a rural adventure.
Finding the property is surprisingly not that hard for its rural location. Plugging in the address — 18155 Lyons Valley Road — into a cellphone mapping application gets you to about the middle of the property. However, cell service is spotty in that area.
Visitors are greeted by a weathered “Breezeway Ranch” sign attached to an old, rusted wagon. A dirt road leads through Engelmann oak trees and plants, and past a few wooden swings hanging from trees, to a 3,518-square-foot white ranch house. There are also three ATVs parked nearby, which is the quickest way to get around the massive property.
It is quiet at the ranch, with the predominant noise coming from rustling leaves. An occasional car does drive down Lyons Valley Road, but it gets harder and harder to hear as one goes deeper into the land.
The property also has a 947-square-foot guesthouse, 935-square-foot guest cottage, log cabin for a ranch manager, five 5,000-gallon water tanks and six septic systems. Natural streams and massive boulder outcroppings surround much of the property. The six quarter horses, a few chickens and 30 cattle on the property at the moment don’t come with the ranch.
Brennan envisions a buyer who may want to use the ranch as a retreat, or for more practical uses such as a vineyard, and cattle or horse breeding. He said a more ambitious buyer might want to try turning parts of it into golf courses or a small retirement community.
The listing is unique and some might find it a tad confusing. The owner is selling five parcels totaling 825.6 acres for $13.75 million. But he would consider selling an additional 468 acres for $5 million more. So, a buyer could just acquire the 825.6 acres for less money and forget about the rest. The split is an attempt to make the property more marketable.
The biggest land sale in modern San Diego County history was the $150-million purchase of the 19,000-acre Otay Ranch in 1988 by Baldwin Co. The region has become the center of new home building in San Diego County.
There are other opportunities to own large swaths of land in San Diego County: There’s an 85.5-acre lot for $1.5 million in Dulzura; an 89.4-acre lot for $1.49 million in Valley Center; a 95.2-acre site for $285,000 in Potrero; and 97.5-acre site for $539,000 in Ramona.
It isn’t without precedent that large areas of backcountry sell. In April 2018, 1,075 acres were sold in Potrero for $12 million; 616 acres in Ramona were sold in January 2020 for $2.85 million; and 584 acres in Alpine were sold for $2.25 million in September 2017.
Buying large areas of land with plans for housing, or something else, isn’t always a slam dunk. This month, a judge stopped a 1,119-home project in east Otay Ranch after the Sierra Club and other environmental groups sued. San Diego County Superior Court Judge Richard S. Whitney sided with the groups, citing concerns about greenhouse gases, wildfire and affordable housing.
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