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Open Land: Details of Sale Agreement Outlined

May 19, 1994

I read with great interest your "Open Debate" South Bay section cover story of May 5. The "debate" as reported by you is that the Linden H. Chandler Preserve might be developed. It is unfortunate that no reader of the article can determine, based upon the information you provide in the article, which side of the "debate" is factually correct.

(I do not believe that there really is a "debate," only the self-created controversy generated by certain politicians who desire to achieve political gain. For instance, Rolling Hills Estates Councilwoman Jacki McGuire voted in favor of the Linden H. Chandler Preserve transaction on Dec. 23, 1993, only to claim she had questions after the transaction was signed.)

As you know, I am the attorney who participated on behalf of the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy in the transaction, and a member of the Board of Directors. (I might point out that not a single person on the side of the conservancy was paid any money for the many hours of work that went into the transaction.)

It was unfortunate that you failed to include in the article the critical information that would have allowed your readers to evaluate the merits of the supposed debate themselves. Specifically, you were provided the entire "Purchase and Sale Agreement" of the transaction. You were directed to those portions that directly answer the question of whether the land will be developed. Your readers would have been better served if you had similarly provided them that information, so that they could reach their own conclusion, rather than be left wondering which version of the facts is correct.

I believe that had you reported the substance of the transaction, your readers would have been convinced that the land is genuinely preserved. I hope that you will print this letter so that those details are made public, and the public can then reach a truly informed decision.

The Purchase and Sale Agreement expressly provides in a number of places for the preservation of the Linden H. Chandler Preserve as open space. Specifically:

1. Recital D (page 1) states that:

"All of the parties hereto desire that the Property be held perpetually as 'open-space land.' "

This clear and understandable statement of intention is then backed up further in Section 16 of the Agreement, a section titled "Open Space Restriction."

"(a) Buyer (Rolling Hills Estates) and the Conservancy shall hold the Property perpetually as Open-Space Land." (Page 13.)

That is not the end of the restrictions preserving the land. Section 16 (b), page 13 states:

"(b) Buyer (Rolling Hills Estates) and the Conservancy shall . . . keep the Property open and available to the public generally for the public's use for Open-Space Land purposes. Such use by the public shall be free of charge to the public. . . ."

As if these statements were not enough, the Land Conservancy, the City of Rolling Hills Estates and the Chandler beneficiaries provided similar restrictions in the deeds themselves.

"This grant is made on the condition that the Property be used solely and perpetually as 'Open-Spaced Land,' as such term is defined hereinbelow." (Grant Deed, page 1).

The deed transferring to the Conservancy its interest in the property similarly has a restriction requiring that the property be kept as open space. It recites:

"This grant is made on the condition that Grantee (Conservancy) shall not . . . cease to use any portion of the Property as Open-Space Land, as such term is defined hereinbelow . . ." (Grant Deed page 1).

What happens if the Peninsula Land conservancy does not keep the property as open space? The Conservancy ". . .shall forfeit all rights or title to the Property, and the Property shall revert to (Rolling Hills Estates.. . . " (Grant Deed, page 2).

Even this was not the end of the legal restraints placed upon the parties to ensure that the public obtains the land as open space forever. The agreement further protects the open-space character of the land by providing that when the city partitions its approximately eight acres and creates two parcels from the property, the city shall simultaneously grant to the Conservancy a conservation easement pursuant to California Civil Code 815 et. seq. That Conservation Easement also requires the land to be kept as open space in perpetuity. (Agreement Section 6, page 5.)

In short, I believe that your readers would have benefited greatly had you not only reported the alleged "debate," but also provided the reader the tools to evaluate the merits of the positions taken by the parties. The press best serves the public when it does more than report that a debate exists but instead advises the public on the facts that can allow the public to formulate its own opinions. I hope that this detailed letter fulfills that goal. Then it is up to the enlightened public to decide, based upon the record.

DOUGLAS W. STERN

Rancho Palos Verdes

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