Rural Agoura Triangle Ranch could remain open space

Conservancy eyes $35-million property

Colleen Holmes Acornfile photo

Colleen Holmes Acorn file photo

The Triangle Ranch property that was once destined for a custom home development at the base of the Santa Monica Mountains in rural Agoura is being looked at by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy as a possible permanent open space purchase.

The 320-acre property in the unincorporated area of Los Angeles County at Kanan and Cornell roads near Ladyface Mountain was initially slated for 245 homes, but the development was eventually reduced in scope to 81, then 61 houses.

Local environmental groups and the City of Agoura Hills have publicly renounced the project.

Joe Edmiston, executive director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, said his agency is trying to strike a deal with the developers to buy the land.

Reports estimate the land’s worth at $35 million, but Edmiston said a purchase price has yet to be determined.

The property is owned by Sage Live Oak, LLC in Newport Beach.

Edmiston said the custom home development approved by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has been a “huge weight” for the conservancy as it strives to keep the acreage at the base of Ladyface Mountain in a pristine state.

He is hoping the City of Agoura Hills will contribute funds for the open space purchase.

“The City of Agoura Hills proclaims itself, rightfully, as the Gateway to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area,” Edmiston said. “That this so-called gateway will be a corridor through mega-mansions is a good reason for the city to help out with the purchase.”

Edmiston is hoping Agoura Hills will help pay for the property, which lies at the city’s doorstep.

“I don’t want to imply that the city is to blame for this situation,” he said. “The project is entirely outside the city limits, so only the county Board of Supervisors is responsible. The Agoura Hills council may legitimately say that remedying county landuse debacles isn’t their responsibility. And they are right. That said, anything they can do to help will be appreciated.”

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl was not involved in the decision to allow development on the land—it was approved by former Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

Edmiston said that while Kuehl wants to help with the purchase, her hands are tied because of a county parks measure that was passed last November. The measure limits county-funded projects to those that serve mainly economically disadvantaged communities.

“Agoura Hills—fortunately for its residents—is neither disadvantaged nor underserved in terms of open space,” Edmiston said. “City residents can thank their own city, the National Park Service, California State Parks and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy for the fact that, except for the Triangle Ranch development if it gets built, they are enveloped by open space.”

“The residents of our city have consistently made it clear that open space is a top priority,” Agoura Hills Councilmember Illece Buckley Weber said. Speaking for myself and not the council, I look forward to discussions with the county and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy about maintaining Triangle Ranch as open space, which would not only benefit the residents of Agoura Hills but the entire region.”

Edmiston said, “Funding is the big issue, and whatever Agoura Hills can contribute would be appreciated.”

Special place

Colleen Holmes, president of Cornell Preservation Organization, said she and several other members of the organization will attend the Nov. 8 City Council meeting and encourage the council to contribute to the purchase of the open space. She hopes other residents interested in preserving open space will attend the meeting to express their views as well.

The Cornell organization has been fighting Triangle Ranch for more than 10 years.

Holmes said the property is unique in that it is home to a variety of rare plants, including Lyons pentachaeta, which is found only in Los Angeles and Ventura counties and is considered an endangered species.

“And it has the creeks, for god’s sake,” Holmes said. “Lindero and Chesebro creeks converge with Medea Creek on the property.”

“This is such a rare area— that’s just the bottom line,” Holmes said. She added that if the land were developed with custom homes, then the traffic study for the proposed nearby Agoura Village development— which she and others already see as inaccurate—will be invalid.

Edmiston stressed urgency. If the Conservancy and the developers cannot strike a deal, the public may have views of “megamansions glowering over Kanan and Cornell (roads),” he said.

Next Wednesday’s Agoura Hills City Council meeting starts at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at 30001 Ladyface Court.