Indexed News on:

--the California "Mega-Park" Project

Tracking measurable success on efforts across California to preserve and connect our Parks & Wildlife Corridors



WE POST NEWS THREE WAYS:
1. long detailed stories on blogspot (here!)
2. short messages on Twitter
3. automated news feeds from CA enviro websites in the right-hand column which change frequently and are not archived by our website (that's why we now have a twitter account to permanently capture the memorable feeds)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

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Nearly 500 Acres in L.A.'s Verdugo Mountains is Opened for Public Use


Preservation group will dedicate the purchase today (May 9th)


The Newly Opened Parkland is shown on the map above as the "Majors Property"

By Kerry Cavanaugh, Staff Writer, L.A. Daily News
5/09/2008

http://www.dailynews.com/news/ci_9212882

With government funding drying up, a local private foundation has gathered donations to buy 485 acres in the Verdugo Mountains for public open space.

The Fond Land Preservation Foundation (http://flpf.org) will dedicate the open space acquisition today, adding another piece to a growing swath of public land in an area eyed for development.

"Most people would not have guessed that it was still possible to purchase 485 acres of open space in the city of Los Angeles," said Bill Eick, a Shadow Hills resident and member of the Fond foundation's board of directors.

The land is in the triangle of hills at Sunland Boulevard, La Tuna Canyon Road and the Foothill Freeway.

Eick said preserving the site will maintain a tenuous wildlife corridor between the Verdugo Mountains and the Angeles National Forest. It's also a link in the Rim of the Valley trail system being considered by the federal government.

The Fond Land Preservation Foundation bought the land for $4 million. The nonprofit foundation was formed in 2004 with a bequest by the Fond family. The group also has raised additional funds from private donations.

Private foundations, such as the Fond group, have been a catalyst for saving land in the Verdugo Mountains, said Councilwoman Wendy Greuel.

"We were particularly excited that this kind of private foundation is not only buying land, but partnering with government agencies to protect the Verdugo Mountains," she said.

With the dedication, some 710 acres in the Sunland-Shadow Hills area will have been preserved. An additional 601-acre swath is being donated to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy by the 221-home Canyon Hills development.

Greuel also has a proposal to buy 224 acres with Proposition K bond funding.

"We will be saving this land in perpetuity for our children and grandchildren," Greuel said.

Eick said the Fond foundation and similar groups can move quickly to buy available open space.

"Private foundations have a place in preserving open spaces, especially in times of budgetary constraints of state and local governments," Eick said.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Tejon Ranch Development Proposal Cuts Key Wildlife Corridors Between Sierra Nevadas and Coast Ranges

Our Opinion:

May 13, 2008

The Map below is a combination of the development proposal that was unveiled on May 8th and the essential wildlife linkages design map as prepared by the South Coast Wildlands Project. The areas shaded yellow are where Tejon Ranch wants to locate 30,000 acres of new sprawl development in the middle of a wilderness. For comparison, 30,000 acres is the size of the city of San Francisco.

While we consider saving 90% of the 270,000 acre Tejon Ranch a great achievement, we feel the sacrifice of the key connections for wildlife migration are too great to accept this plan. We agree with the Center for Biological Diversity that this plan must be opposed by all legal means possible.

--Rex Frankel, director, Connecting California



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L.A. Times Editorial Says One of Three Tejon Ranch Projects Makes Sense; Others Have Big Problems

Tejon Ranch sprawl?

Environmentalists accepted development in exchange for land. But their work isn't done.

How heartening it is, the sound of environmentalists and developers harmoniously agreeing on new construction. That's what first came to mind when the Tejon Ranch Co. and such environmental heavyweights as the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council jointly announced plans to both build on and preserve swaths of the 270,000-acre ranch that straddles Los Angeles and Kern counties. If all goes as intended, more than 200,000 acres would be preserved, with some as a state park and most under private conservancy.

In an increasingly built-out state where there's always a fight about a "last coastal canyon" or a "disappearing critical habitat," Tejon is nonetheless environmentally unique. It forms the bottom of the giant U that connects the Sierra Nevada with the coastal mountains, enabling wildlife to cross from one to the other. It includes favored soaring ground for the endangered California condor. And it's the last big undeveloped link between the Los Angeles metropolitan area and the San Joaquin Valley.

Considering that public officials in both counties are likely to approve some development, the preservationists cannily chose pragmatism, gaining what land they could. In doing so, however, they have cornered themselves: They now cannot officially oppose a project that they openly find objectionable. Adding nearly 80,000 new residents to the far reaches of the Los Angeles region, the Tejon Ranch plan exemplifies sprawl, with all the attendant concerns about water, traffic, air quality and fire risks. These potential problems cannot be overlooked, no matter how much land is conserved.

One of the three Tejon projects makes sense. The industrial zone at the base of the Grapevine would be located near the junction of Interstate 5 and state Highway 99, already major thoroughfares for trucking. A second project, an upscale resort-type development of 3,000 homes scattered through a canyon area in southern Kern County, should have minimal impact on water and traffic. It is well within condor territory, however, and its remote location makes it a wildfire disaster waiting to happen. Of primary concern, though, is the Centennial project: 23,000 homes plus commercial development at the northern end of L.A. County.

With a projected 70,000 residents, Centennial plunks a moderately-sized city in the hinterlands. Residents will work where they live, the developer says; the State Water Project will cover much of their thirst; and the county and state can handle the fires. But what happens when companies change their plans? (Remember Dreamworks and Playa Vista?) Typically, residents join the freeway creep to the nearest job center, about 50 miles away in this case. Water supplies already are being cut back, and last fall, the region was overwhelmed by multiple simultaneous fires.

If Centennial should be built at all, first there needs to be serious discussion about xeriscaped yards and golf links, alternative-fuel mass transit to Los Angeles, solar-powered homes and a well-equipped fire district funded by the new residents. As much as we applaud diligent work by the Sierra Club and its colleagues to preserve land, we hope there are other activists around to make those discussions happen.

Monday, May 12, 2008




Off-Roader "Heaven" May Be a Path to There
The 48-square-mile area in Fresno and San Benito counties is closed abruptly after a study finds dangerous amounts of the carcinogen asbestos are being stirred up.



By Margot Roosevelt, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer May 2, 2008





For the off-road warriors of Northern and Central California, few wild landscapes are as enticing as the Clear Creek Management Area, with its deep canyons, scampering feral pigs, rainbow-hued flowers and giant rock formations.
But on Thursday, a 48-square-mile swath of the Diablo Mountains in San Benito and Fresno counties was labeled a virtual death zone where five visits a year over three decades could lead to lung cancer and other crippling diseases.

The recreation area was abruptly closed for the foreseeable future by the federal Bureau of Land Management, after a three-year by the Environmental Protection Agency found that dangerous levels of asbestos dust were being stirred up by motorcycles and other off-road vehicles.Any human use -- even camping and hiking -- was deemed potentially dangerous, especially to children, and outlawed until the BLM develops a new plan for the area.Clear Creek, which registers 35,000 visits a year, has long been known as the largest U.S. deposit of asbestos, a natural mineral and known human carcinogen. It harbors an EPA-designated toxic Superfund site, the former Atlas asbestos mine. Previous studies over several decades found high levels of asbestos in the area, but the results were not as conclusive as in the new 160-page assessment, EPA officials said Thursday.

For the last three years, the BLM has closed the area from June to October, the dustiest months. Closing the site year-round was "an extremely tough decision," said bureau Field Manager Rick Cooper. "But my first priority must be protecting the health of visitors and employees."The bureau, which first studied Clear Creek asbestos in 1992, has warned visitors in parts of the area to avoid breathing dust and drinking water from the creek. BLM employees are required to wear respirators on dusty days and to decontaminate after each visit.

But off-roaders have largely ignored the warnings. Don Amador, the western representative of the BlueRibbon Coalition, a national off-road group, said his group was raising funds to challenge the closure in court.The type of short-fiber asbestos in the region, known as Coalinga chrysotile, he contended, is "not a health risk." Noting that the management area, which has 800 miles of trails, has been named one of the top 10 off-road areas in the nation by motorcycle magazines, he added, "We are in for a long, hard battle."

The EPA and other federal agencies, however, have found that chrysotile asbestos is toxic.Moreover, officials said, they found other types of asbestos -- including tremolite and actinolite -- all known carcinogens. To collect samples, EPA technicians rode the area's rugged trails on dirt bikes and in SUVs with the windows down, taking 300 samples in February, September and November. They wore backpacks with small air pumps and filter intakes at shoulder height, close to the torso to simulate effects on children.The asbestos fight is not the first to roil the recreation area. In 1985, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the San Benito Evening Primrose, a wildflower found only in the Clear Creek area, as a threatened species, touching off a 20-year battle between environmentalists and off-roaders over how to protect it.After a lawsuit by the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity and the California Native Plant Society, off-road use was officially restricted to 242 miles of trails to protect the primrose and other fragile species, although enforcement reportedly has been spotty.Thursday's complete closure seems likely to divide environmentalists, many of whom are attached to the area's hiking, rock climbing and bird-watching pleasures. "I'm not sure the decision is wrong," said Brian LeNeve, a native plant society activist who led the battle for the primrose.

But, he added, "I am also not a fan of the government protecting us from ourselves. . . . Even with the EPA final report, I would go to Clear Creek again with no worry."

Emily Roberson, an ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity, praised the EPA effort as "meticulous in data collection and analysis. It is a much greater health hazard than previously thought. And the BLM is going to have to be very careful if they open it up."
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The Story straight from the Fed's website:

The Clear Creek Management Area (CCMA) in San Benito and Fresno Counties is located on one of the largest naturally occurring asbestos deposits in the world. The rugged terrain overlaying this 31,000-acre serpentine deposit is a popular and challenging riding spot for off-road motorcyclists. The naturally barren slopes, bald ridges, chaparral and rare plants are also enjoyed by rock collectors, botanists, hikers, hunters and campers, including families with children. Thousands of visitors each year use hundreds of miles of criss-crossing routes, a legacy of historic mining activities in the area.
The CCMA is managed by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Within the boundaries of the CCMA is the Atlas Asbestos Mine Superfund site. In 1991, EPA signed the Record of Decision (ROD) selecting the cleanup remedy for the Atlas Mine. In the ROD, EPA designated the CCMA as one of four geographic areas that comprise the site, but did not propose a cleanup action for the CCMA. Instead, EPA stated that it would evaluate whether the BLM’s plans for management of CCMA were adequate to protect public health from exposure to asbestos found in the CCMA’s soil and air. BLM has designated the area as hazardous, and asbestos warning signs are posted at entry points and on bulletin boards.


In 2004, as part of the evaluation of the Atlas Mine cleanup for possible delisting of the site from the federal Superfund list, EPA initiated an asbestos exposure and human health risk assessment for the CCMA. The goals of the assessment were:
To update the 1992 BLM Human Health Risk Assessment by using current asbestos sampling and analytical techniques, and
To evaluate risks to children because families are frequent visitors to CCMA.
BLM will use the information provided in the assessment to evaluate management and use alternatives in an upcoming environmental impact statement for managing the CCMA. The final Clear Creek Management Area Asbestos Exposure and Human Health Risk Assessment report was released by EPA on May 1, 2008 and is summarized on this website, please use the tabs at the top to navigate among the pages.




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President Bush signs bill to study expansion of Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

A team will study the value of adding land from the Rim of the Valley Corridor, but such a review could take years.

By James Hohmann, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
May 9, 2008

WASHINGTON -- -- The federal government on Thursday took the first step toward a massive expansion of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area as President Bush signed legislation ordering the Interior Department to consider making additions to the protected area.

A team based in Oakland will study the value of adding pieces of the sprawling 490,000-acre Rim of the Valley Corridor, an area that weaves around the Los Angeles Basin and includes parts of the Santa Monica, Santa Susanna, San Gabriel and Verdugo mountains.

Completing a feasibility study with public comments may take years, and Congress would need to approve any change to the recreation area's size, currently 153,000 acres. Even then, the high cost of land could limit expansion.

"If we don't act now with some foresight, those beautiful open-space areas are going to be gone," said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), acknowledging the "long road" ahead. "It's what drew a lot of people to our area. Once it's gone, it's gone."

An expansion would be the first time the federal government has significantly stepped up its conservation efforts in the Los Angeles area since 1978, when the recreation area was created.

"This bill will allow the [National] Park Service to study ways we can link up existing parklands [and] work with local governments, other state agencies and federal agencies to ensure a cohesive system of wildlife trails," said Rorie Skei, chief deputy director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.

Environmentalists hailed the move as a way to protect diminishing open space and vanishing biodiversity, but some landowners and developers expressed concerns about excessive government interference.

The American Land Rights Assn., based in Battle Ground, Wash., calculated that the corridor includes 158,000 landowners in Los Angeles County and 11,000 in Ventura County. Executive Director Chuck Cushman promised to fight any "land grab."

The National Park Service promised that no property would be taken under eminent domain.

There is no assurance that new land will come under federal control as a result of Thursday's action.

Smeck said about two-thirds of such studies do not result in expanded park service involvement.

Friday, May 9, 2008


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Palos Verdes Nature preserve to get vital link


By Nick Green, Daily Breeze Staff Writer, 5/8/2008
The final piece of the Palos Verdes Nature Preserve jigsaw puzzle has slotted into place.

The Rancho Palos Verdes City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the purchase of 192 acres of land in Portuguese Bend for $9.2 million.

Known locally as Upper Filiorium, the hilly swath of open space essentially completes the preserve the city and the nonprofit Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy have painstakingly assembled over the last few years.

"This is the linchpin; this is the last piece of property of any significance in Palos Verdes there is to get," said Henry Jurgens, president of

the conservancy's board. "It ties in all of the other properties we have purchased. So, consequently what we have here is now a corridor of 1,400 acres of contiguous land."

The acquisition, which is still pending, locks up hundreds of acres of pristine parkland overlooking the ocean - home to endangered habitat and several rare animal and plant species.

The entire preserve is considered the largest ecologically important tract of land between Huntington Beach and the Santa Monica Mountains.

Upper Filiorium was seen as a vital link in the preserve because it connects to other parcels to the east and west, providing a valuable route for wildlife and hikers alike.

While the city and conservancy, which manages the preserve, have an agreement in place to buy the land, neither yet has the cash to close the transaction.

Still, that's considered largely a technicality.

"We are hopeful to secure some federal and state monies to assist with the purchase," City Attorney Carol Lynch said. "At least now we've got a purchase agreement."

City officials have long understood that federal and state financial support for the acquisition is highly likely and that remains the case.

For instance, $2 million in federal dollars were set aside four years ago for just this eventuality.

Other sources of anticipated financial support include $4.7 million from the California Coastal Conservancy, $613,000 from the city and $1.8 million from the conservancy.

The seller of the land is a real estate investment trust that remains the largest landowner of open space on that side of The Hill.

While officials with the trust have long sought to make the sale of the land contingent upon developing 40 nearby acres into a luxury housing subdivision, city officials have long resisted that quid pro quo.

Councilman Doug Stern emphasized Wednesday that no deal was struck to ensure the sale occurred.

It's considered extremely unlikely the development will win approval, however, given its location near several unstable landslides.

The agreement actually addresses the potential donation of that 40-acre tract, although city officials stress it's more likely they will eventually be able to preserve that and an adjacent 54 acres.

"The city has been trying to preserve open space for a decade-plus," Stern said of the purchase. "It's something that will help us preserve the look and feel of our community. It's been sought after for so long."

To read the staff report and the details of this purchase, see:

http://www.palosverdes.com/rpv/citycouncil/agendas/2008_Agendas/MeetingDate-2008-05-06/open_pdf.cfm?id=RPVCCA_SR_2008_05_06_12_Land_Purchase

Thursday, May 8, 2008

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Catastrophe for the Condor? Tejon Ranch Makes Deal With Some Eco Groups That Brings 25,000 Homes to Pinch-point of Eco-Crossroads of California

(Click on maps to enlarge)
Condor Habitat map from 9/2007 Sierra Club brochure



Map of Deal Reached Between the Owner of Tejon Ranch and Some Environmental Groups from http://ca.audubon.org/tejon.php




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Owner of Tejon Ranch Will Only Seek to Develop 10% of the Land in Deal with Some Eco Groups; At Least One Calls it a Disaster for the Condor

Governor Praises Historic Tejon Ranch Agreement
5/8/2008
http://gov.ca.gov/index.php?/fact-sheet/9526/
Today, Governor Schwarzenegger visited Tejon Ranch and announced a historic agreement between Tejon Ranch landowners and conservation and environmental groups to give California its largest ever privately conserved parcel. Under the agreement, up to approximately 90 percent of the expansive 270,000 acre ranch will be permanently preserved. Aside from being home to the California condor and countless other plant and animal species, the ranch includes four of state's most important ecological regions: the Sierra Nevada, the Mojave Desert, the Coastal Range and the San Joaquin Valley. With 30,000 acres set aside for the development of smart-growth, sustainable communities, this agreement also allows its landowners to develop enough of the ranch to create thousands of jobs, millions of dollars in tax revenue and exciting places for people to live.

See the 38 Minute Press Conference: http://msmedia.dot.ca.gov/governor/20080508_tejon.asf

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Tejon Ranch Deal Destroys Critical Habitat for California Condor, Paves Way for Largest Development Ever Proposed in California


http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2008/tejon-ranch-05-08-2008.html
For Immediate Release, Thursday, May 08, 2008
Contact:
Adam Keats (415) 436-9682 x 304, (415) 845-2509 (cell) Ileene Anderson, (323) 490-0223

\LOS ANGELES— Tejon Ranch Corporation and several environmental organizations announced a deal today that may pave the way for massive development in the Tehachapi Mountains north of Los Angeles. The deal allows for unprecedented destruction of federally designated critical habitat for the endangered California condor to make way for thousands of luxury vacation estates. It also greenlights a behemoth city on the last wild edge of Los Angeles County.

“While there are a few aspects of today’s accord we can celebrate, including the potential acquisition of 49,000 acres for a state park, this deal contains numerous ‘poison pill’ provisions, including the development of Tejon Mountain Village in the heart of condor critical habitat and Centennial, the largest single development ever to be proposed in California,” said Peter Galvin, conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We know that the environmental groups who have negotiated the accord did so with the best of intentions, but the Center for Biological Diversity could not sign off on this highly flawed agreement. Virtually all of the areas to be acquired or managed under the conservation easement are undevelopable anyway. On paper the deal sounds good, but a close examination shows that very little is gained biologically and far too much is sacrificed.”

“While Tejon claims to have pulled development off the important northern ridges, this pullback is illusory. The fact remains that development will still occur in active, occupied condor critical habitat. The heart of condor country is designated as critical habitat for a reason: the science clearly shows that it is essential to the survival and recovery of the species,” said Adam Keats, urban wildlands program director at the Center. “It cannot and should not be sacrificed.”

The deal would allow the building of Tejon Mountain Village, a luxury vacation resort in the wild and rugged highlands of the Tehachapi mountains, designated as critical habitat by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect condors. The designation imposes strong protections on the land, and its habitat qualities cannot be harmed or “adversely modified.” Housing developments are completely incompatible with this designation.
The agreement also allows the leapfrog sprawl development known as Centennial. Located in rolling native grasslands and wildflower fields on the northern border of Los Angeles County off Interstate 5, this development would add extreme pressures to the region, already gridlocked in development-related traffic and choking in pollution and congestion. The 11,600-acre city would house 70,000 or more automobile commuters, expose residents to severe wildfire threats, and destroy irreplaceable native habitat and wildlife linkages.

The Center has a different vision for Tejon Ranch: Tejon-Tehachapi Park. “Tejon Ranch is a true gem of California and can never be replaced,” said Ileene Anderson, staff biologist at the Center. “Once these sprawl cities are built, they will further fragment Southern California from the rest of the state. Coupled with the hit that condor will take, this agreement deals away one of the greatest environmental opportunities that California has ever seen. And it will be lost forever.”

Tejon Ranch covers over 270,000 acres of wilderness at the crossroads of Northern and Southern California. The Mojave Desert, the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains, the great central valley and the southern forests all converge on Tejon Ranch — the only place in California where four ecoregions come together.

“This deal does a disservice to the wildlands and wildlife of Tejon, to the people of Southern California who will suffer the consequences of overdevelopment, and to all Californians, who will pay the price,” said Keats. “We can and must demand better. We live in a world too fragile to allow this kind of sacrifice. Now is the time to say enough is enough.”
Preserving Tejon Ranch as a new national or state park would protect a bounty of native plant and animal communities, cultural and historic features, and scenic vistas. See http://www.savetejonranch.org.
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Conservationists, developer reach major Calif. land deal

By NOAKI SCHWARTZ – 9 hours ago
http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5iAJNnJswd2ke8NW1hqQZNRVOiyVAD90HD2B80
LEBEC, Calif. (AP) — A group of environmentalists and the owners of a large stretch of wilderness have reached a deal that would set aside the largest parcel of land for conservation in California history.
After years of legal tussles, conservationists including the Sierra Club have agreed not to challenge proposed development on the sprawling Tejon Ranch north of Los Angeles in exchange for close to 240,000 acres, in a deal to be announced Thursday.
At 375 square miles, the preserve of desert, woodlands and grasslands would be eight times the size of San Francisco and nearly the size of Los Angeles, said Bill Corcoran, the Sierra Club's senior regional representative.
"There is, in my opinion, no other place like it in California — it's unrivaled in the diversity of native wildlife and plants," said Corcoran, who helped negotiate the deal. "Tejon is key to us because it's the only place where the Sierra Nevadas, the coastal range and Mojave Desert and Central Valley all meet."
Tejon Ranch sits atop the Tehachapi Mountains 60 miles north of Los Angeles and is home to elk, wild turkeys, coyotes, bears and eagles, as well as a critical habitat for condors.
The Tejon Ranch Co. has been trying for years to develop three projects, or 10 percent of the 270,000 acre ranch, while appeasing environmentalists.
The other groups that have signed on are the Natural Resources Defense Council, Audubon California, Planning and Conservation League and Endangered Habitats League.
In 2005, the company and a national land trust hailed an agreement to sell more than one-third of the ranch for use as a nature preserve. That agreement, however, failed to satisfy the Tejon Natural Heritage Park Committee, a coalition of 12 conservation groups.
Less than a year later, another promising agreement fell through. The developer promised to set aside 100,000 acres as a natural preserve but environmentalists wanted more than double that size.
At the time, Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope and other environmental leaders said they would make the Tejon Ranch their top priority in California. Conservationists threatened to unite and file a lawsuit against the developer under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Instead they went back to the negotiating table.
"After nearly two years of negotiations, which were often difficult but always in good faith, we have achieved an unprecedented agreement protecting close to 90 percent of the ranch," Corcoran said.
The Tejon Ranch Co. is dedicating 178,000 acres and about 62,000 will be purchased in part with state conservation bond money. While it is not clear how much the land will cost, the developer agreed to a state appraisal.
An independent conservancy will be set up to manage the land and the developer has agreed to donate some money for its upkeep, Corcoran said. The agreement also seeks to establish a large state park that will be open to the public.
"In my opinion it's a near certainty that California will never again see a private land conservation agreement of this size and ecological importance," said Corcoran.

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Associated Press - May 8, 2008 5:34 AM ET
LEBEC, Calif. (AP) - A landmark agreement could result in an unprecedented land preserve.
A group of environmentalists and the owners of a large expanse of wilderness have hammered out a deal that would result in the largest piece of land set aside for conservation in California history.
It could rival Yosemite National Park in its diversity of wildlife.
After years of legal fights, conservationists including the Sierra Club have agreed not to challenge proposed development on Tejon (teh'-HONE) Ranch in exchange for close to 240,000 acres for preservation.
Bill Corcoran of the Sierra Club says the preserve would be eight times the size of the city of San Francisco and nearly as big as Los Angeles.

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By Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer May 8, 2008
http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/california/la-me-tejon8-2008may08,0,4242813.story

A coalition of environmental groups and a developer have agreed on a landmark plan to conserve 90% of the largest chunk of privately owned wilderness remaining in Southern California.The agreement ends years of debate over the fate of an untrammeled tableau of mountains, wildflower fields, twisted oaks and Joshua trees in the historic Tejon Ranch in the Tehachapi Mountains, about 60 miles north of Los Angeles.


The developer, the Tejon Ranch Co., has agreed to set aside 178,000 acres and provide an option for public purchase of 62,000 additional acres -- 49,000 to create a state park, 10,000 to realign a 37-mile segment of the Pacific Crest Trail through the heart of the wild lands and the rest to provide docent-led tours of sensitive habitat. It also will pull back development plans along some ridgelines considered crucial to the California condor.In exchange, a coalition led by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, Audubon California, the Planning and Conservation League and the Endangered Habitats League will not oppose the company's plans to build three urban centers, including more than 26,000 homes as well as hotels, condominiums and golf courses at the western and southwestern edge of the ranch.Those groups and others had threatened a campaign against development of the property, saying it would extend Southern California's suburban sprawl to the Central Valley, add to regional traffic and air pollution woes, and harm endangered species such as the condor.The pact was the second major truce among environmental groups and developers in as many months in Southern California, where such projects can be tied up in court for decades. Last month, conservationists struck a deal with a Houston oil company that would allow for offshore drilling this year in exchange for early retirement of several large-scale oil facilities along an otherwise pristine coastline in Santa Barbara County.In a prepared statement, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said the success in reaching the Tejon agreement underlines how "we can protect California's environment at the same time we pump up our economy."Some environmentalists expressed reservations about the accord, to be announced today. Ilene Anderson, a biologist and spokeswoman for the Center for Biological Diversity, said her group remains worried about habitat for the condor."So while we support significant open space," she said, "it's precedent-setting that critical habitat for a species just brought back from the brink of extinction would be written off for development."Eight times the size of San Francisco, the unfragmented 270,000-acre property embraces the juncture of four ecosystems: Mojave Desert grasslands, San Joaquin Valley oak woodlands, Tehachapi pine forests and coastal mountain ranges.Like Louisiana PurchaseThe 165-year-old ranch, first cobbled together by Edward Fitzgerald Beale, was owned for decades by an investment group led by former Los Angeles Times owner Harry Chandler and land developer Moses Sherman."For Southern California, this is the ecological equivalent of the Louisiana Purchase," said Bill Corcoran, senior regional representative for the Sierra Club. "It is the only place in the region where within a few minutes a visitor can ascend from Joshua tree woodlands to oak-filled canyons on up to vast plains with views across the coastal range."Permitting for residential and commercial development of the remaining 30,000 acres is expected to be easier with the agreement, although plans still must be approved by state and federal regulatory authorities, as well as Los Angeles and Kern counties, according to Robert A. Stine, president and chief executive of Tejon Ranch Co."Our vision has always been to preserve California's legacy and provide for California's future, and this agreement does exactly that," Stine said in an interview. "It's good for conservation, good for California and good for the company and its shareholders."Finding common ground between the nation's most powerful environmental groups and the Tejon Ranch Co. wasn't easy."We've come a long way from where we started," said Joel Reynolds, senior attorney and director of the Southern California Program of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "This was an extremely complicated deal, but also a once-in-a-lifetime conservation opportunity."The agreement guarantees Tejon Ranch Co. the right to proceed with massive development projects near Interstate 5: Centennial, a planned community of 23,000 homes east of Quail Lake in northern Los Angeles County; and Tejon Mountain Village in southern Kern County, which will include a resort featuring spas and boutique hotels, commercial space, golf courses and 3,400 estate homes. The Tejon Industrial Complex in the Kern County portion of the ranch is already home to IKEA's 2-million-square-foot main distribution warehouse, among others.In each project, Stine said, "a whole set of design parameters will be reviewed by all parties to ensure that all development activity that takes place will consider all green opportunities into the future; that means transportation, building and landscape materials, water usage. Everything."The agreement also creates an "independent Tejon Ranch Conservancy" composed of 12 members appointed by the company and its environmental partners to manage the preserved land in perpetuity. The company will provide about $800,000 a year for seven years to get the conservancy off the ground. Later, it will be funded through transfer fees from the sale of residential properties."It's not enough to simply set aside land," Reynolds said. "We also need an entity whose focus is restoration and conservation."Tejon Ranch remains a vast wildlife stronghold where deer, elk, bobcat and wild turkey flourish. Canyon bottoms are full of oaks. Along old lumber roads edging the brows of hills, flocks of wild pigeons rise. On the uplands, pine and cedar hold their own, and golden eagles ride warm air currents from coastal mountains to the Sierra.Graham Chisolm, director of conservation for Audubon California said, "There is probably no more important property for the future of the California condor." Only a week ago, he said, roughly half of the 38 California condors in Southern California were foraging on the property.4 ridgelines sparedA key to unlocking the stalemate was the developer's agreement to pull back from four of five northern-facing ridgelines, including one hemming scenic Bear Trap Canyon, that are prime foraging grounds inside critical California condor habitat."By removing the potential obstacles that have plagued similar development efforts in California, we'll be able to move ahead with the entitlement processes on our current development projects in a much more timely fashion," said Michael H. Winer, portfolio manager for Third Avenue Management, Tejon's largest shareholder, and a member of its board of directors.The company had been seeking an "incidental condor take permit" from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which would have relieved it of liability in the event that its projects were linked to the death of any of the endangered raptors. However, the company recently determined that such a "lethal take permit" was no longer needed given the reconfiguration of development plans under the agreement.Reynolds, of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said he was satisfied that the condor would be protected under the new plan."The condor is a very high-profile species, and there's been significant public investment in its recovery," he said, "and throughout these negotiations an enormous amount of attention was paid to ensuring that this agreement would be consistent with its recovery, and we believe it does so."

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Tejon Ranch Company Press Release:

http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/tejon-ranch-co-amp-major-environmental-groups-reach-deal,385353.shtml

TEJON RANCH, Calif. - (Business Wire) Tejon Ranch Co. (NYSE:TRC) announced today that it has reached agreement with the country’s largest and most respected environmental resource organizations on a conservation and land use plan for the 270,000-acre Tejon Ranch.

The agreement between Tejon Ranch Co., The Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Audubon California, Planning and Conservation League and the Endangered Habitats League, would result in the permanent conservation of a significant portion of the Ranch’s landholdings while guaranteeing that the signatory environmental organizations would not oppose the Company’s development plans for approximately 30,000 acres located on the western edge of the Ranch: the planned communities of Centennial and Tejon Mountain Village, and a development project at the base of the Grapevine in the area adjacent to Tejon Industrial Complex.

“Without a doubt, this agreement is good for the Company and its shareholders,” said Michael H. Winer, Portfolio Manager for Third Avenue Management LLC, the company’s largest shareholder, and member of the Tejon Ranch Co. Board of Directors. “It’s the key to unlocking the value of Tejon Ranch. By removing the potential obstacles that have plagued similar development efforts in California, we’ll be able to move ahead with the entitlement processes on our current development projects in a much more timely fashion.”

The agreement calls for Tejon Ranch Co. to commit to phased conservation over the next several decades. Through a combination of dedicated conservation easements, either initially dedicated or tied to project approvals, and designated project open space areas, Tejon Ranch Co. will permanently protect approximately 178,000 acres. The agreement also lays the groundwork for the purchase, at a price determined by a state appraisal process, of an additional 62,000 acres of Ranch land, resulting in a total of 240,000 acres of conserved land. Under the agreement, the Ranch will also be able to continue with its historic revenue producing activities on those lands.

The agreement is an outgrowth of the vision for its land that Tejon Ranch Co. has been articulating for years, a vision that included extensive conservation.
Over the years, Tejon Ranch Co. had routinely engaged in conversations with environmental groups and government agencies that could have an interest in or influence over the planned future activities on its land. Those conversations evolved into two years of formal negotiations with the signatory environmental organizations.
“Our vision has been to preserve California’s legacy and provide for California’s future, and this agreement does exactly that,” said Robert A. Stine, President and CEO of Tejon Ranch Co. “The agreement we’ve reached is good for conservation, good for California and good for the company and its shareholders.”
The agreement is strongly supported by key state government officials, including California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Secretaries of the California Department of Resources and the California Environmental Protection Agency, the Directors of the California Departments of Fish and Game and Parks and Recreation, along with the Director of the Wildlife Conservation Board and the Chair of the State Water Resources Board.

“The success of environmental organizations and Tejon Ranch Co. in reaching this historic agreement to protect a California treasure illustrates something that I have stressed since taking office — we can protect California’s environment at the same time we pump up our economy,” Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said.
Tejon Ranch Co. is a diversified real estate development and agribusiness company, whose principal asset is its 270,000-acre land holding located approximately 60 miles north of Los Angeles and 30 miles south of Bakersfield. More information about Tejon Ranch Co. can be found online at http://www.tejonranch.com.

The statements contained herein, which are not historical facts, are forward-looking statements based on economic forecasts, strategic plans and other factors, which by their nature involve risk and uncertainties. In particular, among the factors that could cause actual results to differ materially are the following: business conditions and the general economy, future commodity prices and yields, market forces, the ability to obtain various governmental entitlements and permits, interest rates and other risks inherent in real estate and agriculture businesses. For further information on factors that could affect the Company, the reader should refer to the Company’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Tejon Ranch Co.Barry Zoeller, VP of Corporate Communicationsbzoeller@tejonranch.comAllen Lyda, VP & CFOalyda@tejonranch.com661-248-3000
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http://la.curbed.com/archives/2008/05/tejon_ranch_dea.php
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http://www.turnto23.com/news/16201081/detail.html#
LEBEC, Calif. -- A group of environmentalists and the owners of a large expanse of wilderness have hammered out a deal that will conserve 90 percent of California’s Tejon Ranch.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is meeting with the Tejon Ranch Company and environmental groups Thursday morning to unveil future plans for the Tejon Ranch.
The deal would result in California's largest parcel of land designated for conservation that could rival Yosemite National Park in its diversity of wildlife. The preserve would be the rough equivalent of Los Angeles.

The Tejon Ranch, located in the Tehachapi Mountains 60 miles north of Los Angeles and includes, mountains, woodlands, grasslands and desert terrain. Wildlife includes elk, wild turkeys, coyotes, bears, eagles and a crucial condor habitat.
View: LA Times Map Of Ranchland

Conservationists have agreed not to challenge proposed development on Tejon Ranch in exchange for close to 240,000 acres.
Past agreements failed, including a deal that sought in 2005 to sell a third of the ranch as a nature preserve. That agreement fell through, failing to serve the vision of the Tejon Natural Heritage Park Committee, a coalition of 12 conservation groups.
In 2006 another deal fell through as environmentalists sought more than double the acres that developers offered for a preserve.

The Tejon Ranch is dedicating 178,000 acres, while an additional 62,000 will be purchased with state bond funds.
An independent conservancy will be set up to manage the land. The developer has agreed to donate some money for its upkeep. The agreement also seeks to establish a large state park for public use.

Development will include homes and business. There’s already a large IKEA 2-million-square-foot facility within the Kern County portion of the ranch.
The Department of Veterans Affairs recently announced Kern County as the new home to a national cemetery located off of Highway 58 on a 500-acre site donated by Tejon Ranch.

The new cemetery will serve close to 200,000 veterans in Central California who are currently not provided burial space. Construction of the first phase is set to begin in summer 2008.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

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Newhall Land Company Owner's $1 Billion Loan Default Cuts into Public Employee Retirement Fund; Firm Owns 15,000 Acres North of the L.A. Sprawl Where they Have Proposed 20,000 Homes


(to learn more about this development , go to http://scope.org)

CalPERS-Linked Land Partnership Gets Default Notice

MICHAEL CORKERY

April 26, 2008; Page A3
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120916479361446151.html?mod=wsjcrmain

A large California land partnership involving one of the largest U.S. pension funds has received a notice of default on a $1 billion loan after failing to meet certain terms of its lenders.

LandSource Communities Development LLC, a partnership that involves the California Public Employees' Retirement System, received the default notice Tuesday, amid talks to restructure $1.24 billion of debt. The partnership, which owns 15,000 acres in Southern California, had received an extension to meet its current loan terms, including a required payment, but the deadline expired on April 16. The default notice applies to about $1 billlion of the total debt.

LandSource spokeswoman Tamara Taylor said that the default notice won't accelerate the company's debt payments and that negotiations with lenders are continuing.

Hundreds of lenders, including banks and institutional investors, hold the syndicated debt. Barclays Capital arranged the financing in early 2007. At the time, LandSource's assets were appraised at $2.6 billion.

Partnerships such as LandSource were a common way to own and develop land during the housing boom. They provided high returns to investors and lenders and a way for builders to keep highly leveraged land off their books. But the ventures have run into trouble as the value of undeveloped land has plummeted and as demand for new homes has eroded.

MW Housing Partners, which includes Calpers, took a 68% financial stake in LandSource in early 2007 amid the slowing housing market. Cerberus Capital Management's LNR Property Corp. unit has a 16% stake, and home builder Lennar Corp. has a 16% stake. Lennar and LNR operate the management of LandSource. None of these equity partners is liable for the debt if LandSource defaults. Calpers and Cerberus representatives declined to comment.

One problem with ventures such as LandSource is that they typically require builder partners to acquire land on a schedule, even if they don't need the lots. They also can require partners to contribute more equity if the land's value falls below a threshold.

LandSource's trouble followed mounting stress at two large joint ventures in Las Vegas, called Kyle Canyon Gateway and Inspirada, involving many of the nation's largest home builders. One partner in these ventures said Friday that it is unlikely that it will meet its obligations to the deals. The partner, home builder Kimball Hill Homes, announced Wednesday that it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.



CalPERS Takes Hit on Land Deal
In a Rare Misstep, Pension Fund Trips On Real-Estate Bid

By MICHAEL CORKERY and CRAIG KARMIN, Wall Street Journal
May 1, 2008
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120960362036258063.html?mod=wsjcrmain

The nation's largest pension fund is involved in one of the biggest land deals to fall victim to the housing bubble. It is an unusual position for the investor, which has a reputation for avoiding such blowups.

The deal involved a $970 million investment by an investment entity that included the California Public Employees' Retirement System in a venture that owns thousands of acres of undeveloped residential land north of downtown Los Angeles. Now, due to the downward spiral of the housing market, Calpers may find itself having to relinquish the well-located land to creditors and possibly lose much of its investment.


Pension funds have been players in the property market stretching back to at least the 1970s and have recently pursued more-complex real-estate investments. Land investment remains rare among these large institutional investors.

Calpers, a $244 billion fund, did its first undeveloped land deal in 1994 and today has seven partners for such deals and investments in more than 12 states.

"Land is the riskiest form of speculative real estate," said Paul Puryear, a housing analyst at Raymond James & Associates. "That's why you have such huge swings in value." Selling land to home builders can yield huge profits. But when demand from builders stall, land can lose value quickly because there are few other ways to generate income from it. "Maybe you can put cattle on it and wait until people can afford to buy houses again," Mr. Puryear said.

At the time of Calpers's investment, February 2007, the venture was appraised at $2.6 billion. The value of that venture, whose backers included the builder Lennar Corp. and LNR Property Corp., a unit of Cerberus Capital Management, is now much less.

The venture, LandSource Communities Development LLC, had assets valued at $1.8 billion as of the end of February, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, but debt of about $1.24 billion. LandSource also is under siege by debtholders. The venture is running low on cash and may have to file for bankruptcy in coming weeks, according to a person involved in the venture. Still, while creditors could take ownership of LandSource's land and other assets, they have little other recourse against Calpers, LNR or Lennar.

The deal could prove a rare public misstep for Calpers, which had nearly $21 billion of real-estate investments at the end of September, or about 8% of its total assets, and is one of the largest land owners in the country. Calpers's investment in the LandSource deal represents less than 1% of its total assets, and the rest of its real-estate portfolio has performed well, with a 12.4% nominal return after fees for the 12 months ending Sept. 30.

In that portfolio, some deals have suffered deep losses. M/W Housing Partners III LP, which includes the LandSource investment, had a return after fees of negative 53.6% for the year ending in September. Another deal, Hearthstone Housing Partners II LP, lost 40.2% in that period.

Rob Feckner, Calpers board president, said for a portfolio as big and diverse as the fund's, some losses were to be expected. "Real estate is a very cyclical business, especially right now," he said in an interview.

Details of the soured land deal are emerging amid upheaval in Calpers's executive suite. The chief executive, Fred Buenrostro, said this week he planned to step down. Last week, Russell Read, the chief investment officer, announced his resignation. People familiar with Calpers said the moves don't appear to be related to the LandSource deal.

The venture is structured similar to dozens of deals that were popular ways for builders like Lennar to buy highly leveraged land during the boom years and reduce the risk of owning the land outright. They would buy the land with partners in off-balance-sheet entities that would borrow money while limiting the builders' exposure to the debt. Many of these deals are unraveling.

The LandSource deal has the twist that the Calpers investment vehicle took a significant stake in the venture, amid the slowing housing market and months before real-estate values plummeted. MW Housing took a 68% stake in LandSource in February 2007, while Lennar and LNR reduced their exposure, each taking a 16% stake and each receiving $660 million after bringing MW Housing into the venture.

MW Housing was co-managed by MacFarlane Partners, a veteran manager of Calpers money, with $11.7 billion in real-estate assets under management. In recent years, MacFarlane has invested as much as $4 billion from Calpers in real-estate projects, such as the Time Warner Center and the Tribeca Green, a 24-story apartment building, both in New York City.

LandSource's California assets are prime real estate. They include some of the only undeveloped acreage in the greater Los Angeles area, about 15,000 acres known as Newhall Ranch lands.

MacFarlane recommended the deal because the land was located in an area with "long-term growth prospects" and investors would realize returns over 12 to 15 years, according to a person familiar with the matter. At the time, MacFarlane anticipated a slowdown in the real-estate market and obtained an independent appraisal of the land as part of its due diligence.

Shortly after Calpers made its investment, Barclays Capital arranged about $1.5 billion in loans for LandSource, which were snapped up by more than 100 investors. The March 2007 offering was oversubscribed.

LandSource's plan was to sell hundreds of ready-to-go house lots to builders to generate cash to service the debt, while the Newhall land was prepared for development, which could take years.

Once the credit crunch hit, demand for the lots evaporated, and the venture was left with less income than it expected.

Negotiations over debt restructuring between LandSource and its lenders are continuing. LandSource recently pulled back from a proposal to contribute several hundred million dollars of additional equity.

LNR didn't respond to a request to comment.

Lennar's chief investment officer, Emile Haddad, who is a managing member of LandSource, said the builder has an "excellent" relationship with Calpers. "These are tough times for all of us," he said. "It's during these times that relationships get tested."

Saturday, May 3, 2008

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Maxxam/Pacific Lumber Agrees to Go Along With Mendocino Redwood Co. Bid for Company; Debt-Owners Have Only Other Plan Before the Bankruptcy Court;
All-cash $530 million bid for Pacific Lumber likely to get OK

By MIKE GENIELLA/THE SANTA ROSA PRESS DEMOCRAT
May 03, 2008
http://www1.pressdemocrat.com/article/20080503/NEWS/805030358/1033/NEWS&template=kart


Mendocino Redwood Co. and a $9 billion New York hedge fund are still seen as the likely new owners of bankrupt Pacific Lumber Co., the North Coast's biggest producer of premium redwood lumber products.

Despite a flurry of new outside interest, a revised all-cash $530 million takeover proposal by Mendocino Redwood and partner Marathon Structured Finance Fund remains the only binding proposal before a federal bankruptcy court in Texas.

Federal Judge Richard Schmidt on Friday set a final Pacific Lumber hearing for May 16, indicating he might decide soon after."We're confident of a positive outcome," said Sandy Dean, chairman of Mendocino Redwood.The Ukiah-based company, which already owns 200,000 acres of Mendocino County timberlands, was formed 10 years ago by members of San Francisco's Fisher family. Its timberland management practices have drawn praise from within the timber industry, among state and federal regulators, and the North Coast environmental community.

A revised Mendocino-Marathon proposal that is all cash is being scrutinized by a consortium of investment banks, which until now have resisted the takeover. They've wanted more for the $714 million they hold in Pacific Lumber's bonded indebtedness.

Analysts said Friday they believe lenders might now accept the Mendocino-Marathon deal to resolve a bankruptcy case that's dragged on for 15 months. Pacific Lumber executives have warned the company could run out of money by May 20 and be forced to close the Scotia sawmill complex and lay off up to 350 workers.

Texas financier Charles Hurwitz, Pacific Lumber's current owner, and company executives on Thursday reached an agreement with Mendocino-Marathon for an eventual takeover. In addition, the deal is favored by state and federal regulators, leading political figures -- including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. -- and key North Coast environmental groups.A flurry of speculation about a potential bidding war was sparked Thursday by expressions of interest in Pacific Lumber assets from Harvard University's $40 billion endowment fund, and a proposed partnership involving a Dallas banker and lumberman Red Emmerson, California's biggest timberland owner.

But analysts said Friday an auction could raise a host of new concerns for lenders, who are eager to get paid."It appears lenders are giving the new Mendocino-Marathon proposal a hard look," said a West Coast analyst, who asked not to be named.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Come Design a Mountains To The Sea Trail in Los Angeles!

Thursday May 8th, 7 to 9 P.M.

Purpose:

• Envision a multi-use trail that connects the
mountains to the sea across the LA Basin

• Identify potential trail connections and nodes

• Prioritize areas for restoration

• Increase greenspace in our communities and
reduce automobile use

• Launch a collaborative strategic planning effort

For further information and to RSVP:

Please contact Elizabeth Pulido at:
goldennecklace@gmail.com or
310.210.0252

Sponsored by
Urban and Regional Planning Capstone Graduate Planning Studio Students
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

Avenue Twenty-six, Los Angeles, California 90065
The Los Angeles River Center and Gardens are a focal point for the renewal of the Los Angeles River,
and a prime location for gatherings, conferences, and special events.

For meeting location map and directions: http://www.lamountains.com/maps/riverCenter.pdf