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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Governor’s Revised FY Budget Proposal Calls for Sale of Ramirez Canyon Park

• Conservancy’s Site Is Described as ‘Underutilized’

BY BILL KOENEKER

It is just a one-line mention in Governor Jerry Brown’s revised budget 2011-12, but it has caused more than a ripple in Malibu and elsewhere.
The revised budget proposes the sale of what it calls underutilized state properties and is simply described as “the Ramirez Canyon property in Southern California.”
However, it is the home of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and consists of the offices of its executive director Joe Edmiston.
“These properties serve no state function and should be sold off,” a press release about the budget states.
While Edmiston could not be reached, the Conservancy issued a statement by the chair of the SMMC, Antonio Gonzalez, concerning the proposal to sell off the property.
“I recognize the difficult fiscal situation the state of California faces. When all the facts are known, I think it is likely that the state will reconsider the proposal to sell off Ramirez Canyon Park to pay down the debt,” he said.
Gonzalez went on to say since the park was donated and is surrounded on three sides by National Park Service land belonging to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and the fact that the California Coastal Commission’s zoning of the property is for park/open space use “it is likely that these development restrictions could markedly affect the price the state could receive for the park.”
The SMMC chair elaborated on what the Coastal Commission had approved for the Conservancy’s plan for the canyon park.
“[It] included overnight camping for disabled persons. Day use picnicking, hiking trails that provide a critical link in the Coastal Slope Trail, special outreach programs for people with disabilities, seniors, and others with special needs who can’t be accommodated in a traditional park setting and restoration of the environmentally sensitive habitat in Ramirez Canyon Creek.”
Officially known as Ramirez Canyon Park, the five-building compound which is not open to the public except on special occasions, was donated by Barbra Streisand in December 1993.
The 22.5 acre donation was originally intended as a think tank for environmental causes and was to be called the Streisand Center.
However, neither Streisand nor the Conservancy nor the state set up any kind of trust to maintain the five residences, gardens and grounds.
Without funding, the property, which was acquired by the Conservancy through a complicated tax write-off, was being maintained through tax dollars.
The SMMC ran into problems with neighbors when it attempted to utilize the property for money- making enterprises including weddings, photo shoots and movies.
The state agency and the neighbors have been in protracted battle since.
The SMMC has ceased all public activities including garden tours since.

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