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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Streisand Comments on Possible Sale of Her Ex-Homes that Are Now SMMC Park

• Entertainer Received Favorable Tax Package for Donation

BY BILL KOENEKER

The controversy surrounding Governor Brown’s proposed revised budget for the upcoming fiscal year recommending selling Ramirez Canyon Park, caught the attention of Barbra Streisand, who donated the land and its five-building compound to the state in 1993.
The estate’s donation was originally intended for the creation of a think tank for environmental causes and was to be called the Streisand Center.
Streisand did not set up any kind of trust to maintain the property or an environmental center.
Streisand, commenting on Brown’s decision, said, “While I had hoped that the Ramirez Canyon property I donated to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy would have been used for a state-of-the-art environmental conference and study center, as was originally intended, I understand Governor Brown’s tough decision given the severe budget shortfalls that California is facing. I only hope that there is little disruption to the residents of Ramirez Canyon through this potential transition and that whatever entity does purchase the land and the homes on it will preserve its special habitat.”
The site houses the headquarters of the SMMC and the offices of its executive director, Joe Edmiston.
Without funding, the property, which was acquired by the Conservancy through a complicated tax write-off, has been maintained by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
The SMMC ran into problems with neighbors when it attempted to become self-sufficient and 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 possible sale was just a mention in Brown’s revised budget for FY 2011-12, but it has caused a reverberation in the surrounding community and elsewhere.
The revised budget proposes the sale of what it calls “underutilized state properties,” and the park is simply described as “the Ramirez Canyon property in Southern California.”
“These properties serve no state function and should be sold off,” a press release about the budget states.
The Conservancy issued a statement from 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 MRCA gets its money to fund the Conservancy by “using funding from discretionary sources such as antenna revenue and filming at other parks,” said a SMMC spokesperson, who also noted the park is still used by the public.
“Until the pending litigation is settled, public outreach programs for disabled youth and at-risk youth are still conducted as often as three times a week.
“The trails and streamside areas have been made accessible so that kids and young adults who would otherwise not have a park experience because of their physical limitations can enjoy the Santa Monica Mountains.
“The MRCA have been running these programs for many years and the programs continue despite the litigation,” the SMMC spokesperson said.

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