Questions and Answers
Who is doing this?
The Laurel Canyon Association (LCA) in partnership with the Mountains Recreation and 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, Councilman Koretz and County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl.
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?
A formal appraisal has been conducted by the MRCA for the property. $1.6 million is way below the appraised fair market value for these 17 acres of pristine wildlife habitat.
What are the terms of the deal?
We have negotiated an agreement to purchase these 17 acres for $1.6 million, payable in installments over the next 18 months. (Deadline has been extended to December 31, 2017.)
Here are the detailed terms of our deal:
Here are the detailed terms of our deal:
• The first installment of $48,000 (plus $2,000 for ancillary costs) will be due on Nov. 2, 2015. $5,000 will become immediately non-refundable. MET
• On January 1, 2016, $25,000 of the first installment payment will become non-refundable. MET
• On March 1, 2016, the entire $48,000 deposit will become nonrefundable. MET
• On March 1, 2016, a second installment of $48,000 is due. MET
• We have a 12 month "financing contingent period." We can cancel the agreement prior to October 2, 2016 and our second installment payment of $48,000 will be refunded. MET
• We have an 18 month escrow period and must collect the entire 1.6 million by April 3, 2017.(Deadline has been extended to December 29, 2017.)
We anticipate approximately $20,000 in expenses related to this endeavor. These expenses include web design, printing, accounting, etc. Neither the project organizers nor the companies that they work for will profit from this project.
How will the land be used?
Will there be trails? Would the gate remain? Would the easement road providing access to top-of-mountain homes be improved? Could people walk their dogs up there? Because we have partnered with the MRCA to own and manage the land as open space, those decisions will be made by the MRCA subject to public input . . . some of which we are gathering now. The bottom line is that this mountain will be removed from threat of development. It will remain open space and wildlife habitat. Human use, by definition, will be limited and regulated by the MRCA, just as they do with the other thousands of acres of open space they manage.
Where is the business plan/proposal for this project?
This project was undertaken to preserve open space. There is no plan to use it for business and/or commercial purposes. Please see response regarding the future “use” of the property for further detail.
Would LCA and/or CLAW be erecting a building on the property?
What is the Laurel Canyon Land Trust?
The Laurel Canyon Land Trust (“LCLT”) was established by Jamie Hall as the legal entity to hold the conservation easement. This “conservation easement” is a separate property right that we will retain even after the land is transferred to the MRCA that will allow us the ability to prevent development of the property forever. The LCLT will enforce the conservation easement.
Are any of the people behind this benefiting 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.