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Laurel Canyon Residents Announce Plans to “Buy A Mountain” to Protect Local Open Space

Posted: Tuesday, October 13, 2015 – 6:09 PM

Wednesday afternoon at 1:30 p.m., the Laurel Canyon Association(LCA), Citizens for Los Angeles Wildlife (CLAW), the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA), Councilmember David Ryan (CD4), Councilman Paul Koretz (CD5) and the Laurel Canyon Land Trust (LCLT) will be hosting a press conference to announce plans to raise funds to purchase 17 acres of open space and wildlife habitat to protect it for the future. 

The LCA, CLAW, MRCA and LCLT have entered into an agreement to purchase 17 acres of the mountain between Lookout Mountain Avenue and Stanley Hills Drive.  

With views that reach Catalina on a clear day, the proposition seems to be impossible in Los Angeles. But they are going to make it happen, for $1.6 million. Rather than complain and struggle with endless lawsuits that would sap the energy and finances of many, and result in less-than-desirable outcomes replete with built-landscapes and fenced-in property dividing the wildlife corridors and hiking trails, they have decided to purchase the land outright.

“Every habitat block in the eastern Santa Monica Mountains plays a role in the maintenance of mule deer, bobcat, grey fox, and coyote populations east of the San Diego freeway.   The  55-acre Lookout Mountain – Stanley Hills habitat block is a primary component of this habitat system.  The subject 17-acre property is the core ownership in the habitat block.  It also functions as a habitat linkage hub that ties together a major, commonly viewed habitat area along Laurel Canyon Boulevard and multiple habitat blocks above the Sunset Plaza area.   The southernmost wildlife crossing opportunity along Laurel Canyon Boulevard stems from the subject ownership.  The long-term presence of larger mammal species in the mountain range between Laurel  Canyon and Griffith Park depends on permanent protection of this 17-acre property.   Such permanent protection can come from Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority ownership and maintenance of the 17 acres as well as from additional properties added over time,” said Paul Edelman, Chief of Natural Resources and Planning for the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.

Here is their story:

 

It’s not as crazy as you think.

The Laurel Canyon Association in coordination with CLAW has initiated an agreement to purchase 17 acres of nearly pristine hillside in historic Laurel Canyon.  This land will be maintained as open space by the Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority in coordination with CLAW and the Laurel Canyon Land Trust.

Why Laurel Canyon?

The Laurel Canyon neighborhood is one of the oldest hillside communities in Los Angeles.  Long before its fame as a 60s redoubt for rockers, Laurel Canyon was founded as a nature retreat accessible by foot and donkey.  One hundred years later, it is still home to mountain lions, bobcats, deer, raccoons, owls and hawks.  But ongoing development is tearing apart habitat and disrupting LA’s sensitive biodiversity. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to permanently preserve 17 acres of open space.

 

The cost is $1.6 Million, payable in installments over the next 18 months. The benefit, protecting pristine wildlife habitat in the heart of the city. 

With your help, this large, beautiful piece of LA’s greenbelt will beforever free of the threat of development. 

The first installment of $50,000 is due on November 2, 2015.  We have already raised $10,000 from seed donors.  

Come on! Let’s buy a mountain.

 

Donation checks may be made payable to:
Citizens for Los Angeles Wildlife
P.O. Box 50003
Studio City, CA 91614

Please put “Lets Buy a Mountain” in the memo line.

 

Citizens for Los Angeles Wildlife, Inc. is a public benefit non-profit 501(c)(3) tax-exempt corporation. Please consider making your donation a sustainable monthly donation. All donations are tax deductible.

 

Who is doing this?

As we announced, the Laurel Canyon Association (LCA) in partnership with the Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority (MRCA), Citizens for Los Angeles Wildlife (CLAW) and the Laurel Canyon Land Trust (LCLT) have entered into an agreement to purchase 17 acres of the mountain between Lookout Mountain Avenue and Stanley Hills Drive. All parties have carefully vetted the deal. We also have the backing of Councilman Ryu and Councilman Koretz in furtherance of the City’s goal to preserve more open space. Additional partners will be announced as they are identified.

Why is the MRCA involved?

The MRCA is a local agency that works with the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy ( a State agency) and other agencies to manage open space. They are expert at this, plus they take on the costs associated with management of the land. This frees local organizations from long-term liabilities such as brush clearance, insurance and taxes.

Why this land?

This is a question with many answers. First, it is not often that any open space becomes available for purchase, especially a parcel as large and magnificent as this one. We need to move when there is an opportunity.  Second, all the most easily developed lots were built over long ago, so now only the most challenging properties are left — but that has not stopped developers. As land prices go up, developers are willing to pay whatever it takes to develop vacant land, and that goes for this huge parcel. There is no definitive prohibition against building here. As we have seen in past fights, we can slow them down. We can stop them temporarily. But developers will keep coming back until eventually they get what they want. The ONLY way to permanently stop development of this mountain is to buy it.

But there is another more important reason. We live in a semi-rural, semi-wilderness area. If we want to preserve this style of life for ourselves and future generations, we must act. If we are serious about preserving an ancient wildlife corridor, natural habitat and the City’s greenbelt, then we must act. That means reaching into our pocketbooks to buy the remaining open space. This is really just the beginning. That’s why we have launched the Laurel Canyon Land Trust, to acquire more properties in the future.

Is this land in immediate danger of development?

The short answer is no. However, the land was in escrow and rumored to be developed into a solar farm. Luckily, that deal died. But the current owners are keen to sell this property, and they thought their buyer would be a developer. In fact, plans were drawn up to subdivide the property and build up to four large homes.  We had to persuade the owners to do business with a residents group to preserve the property as open space.  

What is the land worth?

That too is a difficult question because it is hard to measure the worth of undeveloped land.  That said, several experts we have consulted with believe the price is reasonable.  Nevertheless, we intend to commission appraisals as part of our due diligence during escrow.

What happens if you don’t raise all the money or you decide to bail out?

We have negotiated a 12-month financing contingency period. All but $50,000 is fully refundable for the first 12 months. If we are unable to raise significant funds within this time frame, we will cancel the agreement and refund all donors (less out of pocket, accounting, legal, fundraising fees) on a pro-rata basis. Alternatively, donors may choose to leave the money in the trust account to be used for charitable purposes or alternate land purchases. 

Are any of the people behind this benefitting financially?

No. The founding organizers are unpaid volunteers. We will be adding more volunteers as the project develops, and they too will be volunteers. Of course, we will have some paid vendors, for accounting, fundraising, etc., but these costs will be recorded and available for inspection.

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