After several years of negotiations and efforts to preserve the last commercial orange grove in the San Fernando Valley, Councilmember Bob Blumenfield today announced that a tentative deal has been reached between the soon-to-be property owners of the Bothwell Ranch and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA) that will preserve one third of the agricultural site for public ownership.
Borstein Enterprises, who will develop the remaining two thirds into single family homes to fit into the surrounding community, are donating that remaining land directly to the MRCA for preservation purposes.
“While I wish there was a way to save the entire Bothwell Ranch, with this partnership we can save a large amount of it to be run by one of the best land preservation organizations in the country,” said Blumenfield. “I am grateful that MRCA has stepped up as a partner towards holding onto our special landmarks like this last piece of the Bothwell Ranch and that Borstein Enterprises is willing to donate a large portion of the site for preservation. This plan offers a great opportunity for our community and it wouldn’t be possible without such great partners.”
The Bothwell Ranch has been part of the West San Fernando Valley since owner Lindley Bothwell purchased the lot in 1929 to grow Valencia and Navel oranges. Over time the Bothwell family sold off portions of the site for housing that has grown up around the site, and for several years the property has been on the market seeking a buyer while simultaneously Blumenfield has sought to preserve at least some of the historic location as a community resource.
“As a long time builder of homes in the San Fernando Valley, we are very excited to be working with the MRCA, Councilmember Blumenfield’s office and the community to preserve in perpetuity, approximately 4.3 acres of the 14 acre property, while also building new homes consistent with the property’s residential zoning,” stated Eric Pfahler, Senior VP of Borstein Enterprises.
“The MRCA is proud to work with Councilmember Blumenfield and Borstein Enterprises to help permanently preserve almost five acres of open space that capture some agricultural history of the San Fernando Valley,” said Paul Edelman, Chief of Natural Resources and Planning for the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority and Deputy Director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.
The proposal was first presented to the community at a virtual meeting last week, and many San Fernando Valley leaders applaud the opportunity presented by this deal.
“This plan offers an exciting opportunity to save a part of West Valley’s agricultural history,” said Leonard Shaffer, President of the Tarzana Neighborhood Council and 52-year Tarzana resident. “I am excited the Tarzana Neighborhood Council will have the opportunity to work with all involved to help implement this plan so this incredible place can forever be a part of our community.”
Much has changed since the Bothwell family first bought the 100-acre land in 1929. Los Angeles’ agricultural parcels have disappeared throughout the City as housing booms took land from farmers and their vast acreage. The Bothwell Ranch has survived decades of rising property values and has shrunk in size to now only include 13 acres of land. Again, essentially this plan would lead to the preservation of one third of the site (to be run by the MRCA and preserved as a testament to the history) leaving the remaining land to be developed into single family homes just like the surrounding community.
MRCA will develop long-term management plans for the site that will maximize its environmental benefits as open space and allow for educational and historical programming.
The MRCA is dedicated to the preservation and management of local open space and parkland, wildlife habitat, coastal access, watershed lands, and trails in both wilderness and urban settings, and to ensuring access to public parkland and coastal resources.
It works in cooperation with the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and other local government partners to acquire parkland, participate in vital planning processes, work towards wildfire resilience, connect wildlife habitat, and complete major park improvement projects.
Efforts to designate the property as historic had slowed down the owners’ efforts to sell the property for development. During that time a local nonprofit formed consisting of some neighbors tried to fundraise for the purchase of the site. Sadly, and despite their valiant efforts, hardly any money was raised.
There was also an attempt to put together a financing proposal that was dependent on the State guaranteeing a long term loan which also did not materialize.
The pending deal for preservation offers the best opportunity to acquire the site for public ownership and ensure that construction on the site fits with the surrounding neighborhood.
“Presevering this land through donation to the MRCA gives the public ironclad assurances that it will be saved in perpetuity which is much better than trying to save it through historical designation which doesn’t actually prevent development nor insure maintenance and public access,” added Blumenfield.