California has agreed to buy the site of one of the most controversial housing projects ever proposed in the state — and to preserve the land as open space.
Since 1986, a series of home builders has tried to develop the
3,000-acre Ahmanson Ranch, north of Los Angeles on the Ventura
County line. But the potential loss of one of the last remaining
expanses of undeveloped land and endangered species habitat in the
L.A. area touched off a welter of legal challenges (HCN, 4/9/01:
How green is this growth?).
In 1992, the developer and
local governments reached an agreement to set aside 10,000 acres of
open space to compensate for 3,050 homes and two golf courses
planned for the ranch. But another round of challenges this year
convinced the ranch’s owner, Seattle-based banking company
Washington Mutual, to sell out.
“Hundreds of people
came forward to be involved and to volunteer. It was people
power,” says Mary Wiesbrock of the local nonprofit Save Open
Space, which, along with other groups, waged an Internet campaign
against the $287 billion company. “The World Wide Web is a
The ranch will be managed by the
Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, a regional open-space
preservation agency. The $150 million needed for the buyout will
come from Proposition 50, a $3.4 billion water and parks bond
passed last year (HCN, 10/14/02: Around the West, the hot races to