The Trust for Public Lands, an organization of environmentalists formed to acquire private property for public use, has managed to get a short extension on its New Year's Eve deadline to buy 345 acres of the Roberts Ranch in Malibu.
The trust has raised $1 million but needed $3 million to fulfill the original agreement to buy the land by the end of 1986.
To keep from losing the land, the trust has offered to buy only 150 acres and has asked the Roberts family to wait until Dec. 31, 1988, for it to buy the remaining 195 acres.
But members of the Roberts family have agreed to keep the property off the market only until the end of January while they consider the offer, said Bill Dempsey, project manager for the trust.
In what one official described as "a last-ditch effort to hold on to the property," the trust was able to put together the offer late last month when the state Coastal Conservancy agreed to lend it $644,000. The trust will donate the money needed to raise the sum to $1 million.
The 556-acre Roberts Ranch has mountain scenery, areas for campgrounds and a stream that runs throughout the year, and extends from the mountains to within several hundred yards of Coral Beach and Dan Blocker State Beach in Malibu.
The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, a state agency that acquires parkland in the Santa Monica Mountains, purchased 211 acres of Roberts Ranch early in 1986 for about $2.5 million. The trust offered to buy the remaining 345 acres for $3 million.
But the two conservancy groups, the state Parks and Recreation Department and the trust, which is a private nonprofit agency that works to acquire environmentally sensitive areas for preservation, were unable to come up with the additional $3 million.
"We tried during the summer and fall to come up with $3 million but could not find it," said Peter Grenell, executive officer for the Coastal Conservancy.
"But we think we have managed to hold on to the property" with the $1-million offer, he said.
The trust borrowed the $644,000 from the Coastal Conservancy hoping that the Parks and Recreation Department will pay off the loan before it is due in June, 1988, Dempsey said.
"We are guaranteeing that one state agency will repay another," Dempsey said. "This is a high-risk role for us. We have made a $600,000 bet."
But the trust might lose its bet unless the state Legislature appropriates funds to repay the trust's loan, said Jim Heiner of the Park and Recreation Department's planning division.
"We are very much in favor of the project and are willing to do what we can," Heiner said, but "we don't have the money. We wish we did. If the Legislature provides the funds we would be more than happy" to repay the loan.
Officials from the various agencies involved in the transaction agree that funds to buy the remaining 195 acres of the ranch will not be available unless voters approve a state park bond act in November, 1988. "I think everyone is looking to a bond act in 1988 as being indispensable to solving all the problems," said Joe Edmiston, executive director of the Mountains Conservancy.