A group of Renaissance Pleasure Faire employees and enthusiasts has announced a plan to prevent development of the Agoura land on which the annual festival is held by raising private donations to buy it.
The Historic Oaks Foundation, incorporated earlier this month, must raise $10 million within a year to protect the Pleasure Faire site from development, according to Kevin Patterson, foundation director.
The owner of the property, Agoura developer Art Whizin, and a builder, Brian Heller, have filed a plan with the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission to build 160 houses there.
However, Patterson said, Whizin has agreed to sell the property to his fledgling foundation rather than go ahead with the development. He estimated the price to be $10 million but said the actual figure is still being negotiated. Neither Whizin nor Heller returned calls from The Times.
Patterson said the foundation has raised some money and will spend it to hire a professional fund-raising consultant.
He said he plans to solicit private donors, corporations, movie studios and government agencies such as the National Endowment for the Arts.
Son of Faire Founder
A 26-year-old student of business administration, Patterson is the son of the Pleasure Faire's founder and general manager, Phyllis Patterson. He is employed as equestrian consultant for the fair. He said others on the foundation's five-member board all have been associated with the fair, which begins its 25th season in April.
Patterson said the scope of the foundation goes beyond the five-week Pleasure Faire season.
"The goal is to save the land for public use and to act as a curator for that land, with an eye for maintaining the natural beauty," Patterson said.
He said the foundation also hopes to make the land available for artistic and community activities throughout the year and would like to build a Tudor-style community hall there.
The 314-acre property lies west of Cornell Road in Medea Creek Canyon and is next to the old Paramount Ranch studio, which the National Park Service bought in 1980 as one of the first acquisitions of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
Park officials responded favorably to Patterson's plan.
Nancy Ehorn, assistant superintendent of the recreation area, said that residential development of the Whizin property would be visible from federal parkland, undermining its natural atmosphere.
"They are sort of integrally related," Ehorn said.
Although the Park Service has long had the Whizin property on its list of proposed acquisitions, it has not had the money to buy it and will not this year, Ehorn said.
Budget Already Earmarked
All of this year's acquisition budget of $6 million has been earmarked for hardship cases in which the property owner's "medical, financial or other unforeseen circumstances" create an emergency, she said.
Whizin's property is not considered a hardship case, Ehorn said.
"As far as we're concerned, if that land can be protected through private donations, that would mean we could spend National Park Service money to protect other properties," she said.