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Board OKs Ahmanson Ranch Sale

October 11, 2003|Daryl Kelley | Times Staff Writer

One final state board approved the $150-million purchase of the rolling Ahmanson Ranch on the Ventura and Los Angeles county lines Friday, leaving only a legal and technical review of documents before more than 2,900 acres become public parkland.

The Public Works Board -- composed of the chiefs of the state departments of finance, transportation and general services -- unanimously approved the purchase.

"The check has not been cut, but, hey, the last discretionary action has been taken, so the deal in terms of policy has been done," said Joseph Edmiston, executive director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, which will oversee the land. "It's now up to the lawyers and technicians to review the documents," he said. "And that should be done by Nov. 30."

The state and ranch owner Washington Mutual have not signed a sales agreement, Edmiston said. But both parties Thursday signed a so-called "willing-seller letter," which states that if all conditions of the sale are met, then both agree to close the deal.

Although preservationists had been working for 17 years to save the property from development, it took the deadline of the Oct. 7 recall election to push the deal to fruition. State officials and activists said a new governor might not have been inclined to purchase the ranch. The property would be paid for with bond money California voters approved last year to buy parkland.

Ventura County approved a $2-billion, 3,050-home golf course community in 1992, but the project was stalled by lawsuits, the discovery of a rare frog and flower, and, finally, a $1.5-million campaign led by movie director Rob Reiner.

"We're feeling very happy and pleased," Edmiston said. "Fifty years from now, people are going to say, 'How in the world were they able to save something so beautiful in the Los Angeles metropolitan basin?' "

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