It's not as crazy as you think.
The Laurel Canyon Association in coordination with CLAW has initiated an agreement to purchase 17 acres of nearly pristine hillside in historic Laurel Canyon. This land will be maintained as open space by the Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority in coordination with CLAW and the Laurel Canyon Land Trust.
Why Laurel Canyon?
The Laurel Canyon neighborhood is one of the oldest hillside communities in Los Angeles. Long before its fame as a 60s redoubt for rockers, Laurel Canyon was founded as a nature retreat accessible by foot and donkey. One hundred years later, it is still home to mountain lions, bobcats, deer, raccoons, owls and hawks. But ongoing development is tearing apart habitat and disrupting LA's sensitive biodiversity. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to permanently preserve 17 acres of open space.
The cost is $1.6 Million, payable in installments over 18 months. The benefit, protecting pristine wildlife habitat in the heart of the city.
With your help, this large, beautiful piece of LA's greenbelt will be forever free of the threat of development.
Hooray, we reached the first installment of $50,000 in merely 3 weeks! On March 1st we surpassed the next benchmark of $100,000. Now the hard work begins -- spread the news, come to our events, donate and volunteer!
Come on! Let's buy a mountain.
Donation checks may be made payable to:
Citizens for Los Angeles Wildlife
P.O. Box 50003
Studio City, CA 91614
Please put "Lets Buy a Mountain" in the memo line.
Citizens for Los Angeles Wildlife, Inc. is a public benefit non-profit 501(c)(3) tax-exempt corporation. Please consider making your donation a sustainable monthly donation. All donations are tax deductible.
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Questions & Answers
Who is doing this?
The Laurel Canyon Association (LCA) in partnership with the Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority (MRCA), Citizens for Los Angeles Wildlife (CLAW) and the Laurel Canyon Land Trust (LCLT) have entered into an agreement to purchase 17 acres of the mountain between Lookout Mountain Avenue and Stanley Hills Drive. All parties have carefully vetted the deal. We also have the backing of Councilman Ryu and Councilman Koretz in furtherance of the City’s goal to preserve more open space. Additional partners will be announced as they are identified.
Why is the MRCA involved?
The MRCA is a local agency that works with the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a State agency) and other agencies to manage open space. They are expert at this, plus they take on the costs associated with management of the land. This frees local organizations from long-term liabilities such as brush clearance, insurance, and taxes.
Why this land?
This is a question with many answers. First, it is not often that any open space becomes available for purchase, especially a parcel as large and magnificent as this one. We need to move when there is an opportunity. Second, all the most easily developed lots were built over long ago, so now only the most challenging properties are left — but that has not stopped developers. As land prices go up, developers are willing to pay whatever it takes to develop vacant land, and that goes for this huge parcel. There is no definitive prohibition against building here. As we have seen in past fights, we can slow them down. We can stop them temporarily. But developers will keep coming back until eventually they get what they want. The ONLY way to permanently stop development of this mountain is to buy it.
But there is another more important reason. We live in a semi-rural, semi-wilderness area. If we want to preserve this style of life for ourselves and future generations, we must act. If we are serious about preserving an ancient wildlife corridor, natural habitat and the City’s greenbelt, then we must act. That means reaching into our pocketbooks to buy the remaining open space. This is really just the beginning. That’s why we have launched the Laurel Canyon Land Trust, to acquire more properties in the future.
Is this land in immediate danger of development?
The short answer is no. However, the land was in escrow and rumored to be developed into a solar farm. Luckily, that deal died. But the current owners are keen to sell this property, and they thought their buyer would be a developer. In fact, plans were drawn up to subdivide the property and build up to four large homes. We had to persuade the owners to do business with a residents group to preserve the property as open space.
What is the land worth?
That too is a difficult question because it is hard to measure the worth of undeveloped land. That said, several experts we have consulted with believe the price is reasonable. Nevertheless, we intend to commission appraisals as part of our due diligence during escrow.
What are the terms of the deal?
We have negotiated an agreement to purchase these 17 acres for $1.6 million, payable in installments over the next 18 months.
Here are the detailed terms of our deal:
• The first installment of $48,000 will be due on Nov. 2, 2015. $5,000 will become immediately non-refundable.
• On January 1, 2016, $25,000 of the first installment payment will become non-refundable.
• On March 1, 2016, the entire $48,000 deposit will become non-refundable.
• On March 1, 2016, a second installment of $48,000 is due.
• We have a 12 month "financing contingent period." We can cancel the agreement prior to October 2, 2016 and our second installment payment of $48,000 will be refunded.
• We have an 18 month escrow period and must collect the entire $1.6 million by April 3, 2017.
We anticipate approximately $20,000 in expenses related to this endeavor. These expenses include web design, printing, accounting, etc. Neither the project organizers nor the companies that they work for will profit from this project.
If we cannot raise the $48,000 by November 2, 2015, the agreement will be canceled and all funds will be completely refunded to donors. However, if we are successful and move forward, then certain fundraising expenses will be incurred and portions of the deposit will become non-refundable as outlined above. If we are unsuccessful in raising significant funds by the end of the financing contingency period (October 2, 2016) we will cancel the agreement and refund all money to donors on a pro-rata basis taking into account expenses incurred to date. Alternatively, donors may elect to apply their donations to other charitable purposes undertaken by CLAW or alternate land purchases. This will be up to the individual donor.
What happens if you don’t raise all the money or you decide to bail out?
We have negotiated a 12-month financing contingency period. All but $50,000 is fully refundable for the first 12 months. If we are unable to raise significant funds within this time frame, we will cancel the agreement and refund all donors (less out of pocket, accounting, legal, fundraising fees) on a pro-rata basis. Alternatively, donors may choose to leave the money in the trust account to be used for charitable purposes or alternate land purchases.
What is the Due Diligence & Fundraising period?
Per our contract with the owners, we have until November 2nd to raise $48,000 (or 3% of the purchase price of 1.6 million) as a down payment. BEFORE that deadline, 100% of donations are refundable. Let me repeat. 100% of donations are refundable if we don’t raise the $48,000. To this number, the organizers are adding $2,000 to cover fundraising and purchase costs, for a total of $50,000 due Nov. 2nd.
But there is one other very important point. During these first 30 days, the organizers will be presenting this project to the community and to potential partners and deep pocket donors. During this period, the organizers will be soliciting community input on future limited use of the open space and to gauge the community's willingness to support such a large undertaking.
In other words, this is our relatively cost-free period to get community input and gauge the feasibility of raising the funds.
To ensure that donors receive all of their money back, the organizers are paying for limited expenses related to communications, outreach, appraisal, etc. That is their gift to Laurel Canyon in addition to hundreds of hours for volunteer time.
How will the land be used?
Will there be trails? Would the gate remain? Would the easement road providing access to top-of-mountain homes be improved? Could people walk their dogs up there? Because we have partnered with the MRCA to own and manage the land as open space, those decisions will be made by the MRCA subject to public input . . . some of which we are gathering now. The bottomline is that this mountain will be removed from threat of development. It will remain open space and wildlife habitat. Human use, by definition, will be limited and regulated by the MRCA, just as they do with the other thousands of acres of open space they manage.
Where is the business plan/proposal for this project?
This project was undertaken to preserve open space. There is no plan to use it for business and/or commercial purposes. Please see response regarding the future “use” of the property for further detail.
Would LCA and/or CLAW be erecting a building on the property?
How is this land suddenly available for a “low price”?
The land has been on the market for many years. In fact, the land has fallen out of escrow at least once. The land certainly has some development impediments, which directly correlate with the “low” price.” For example, there are access problems (the road accessing the property is less than 20 feet in width) and there are electrical transmission lines that cross the property. A special permit from the City Planning Department (called a “ZAD”) would be required to build any homes on the property. However, the current owners have drawn up plans to subdivide the property and build up to four homes. We were made aware of the land sale by neighbors who were approached by the owners’ realtor.
Have you informed the residents on the private road that provides the only access to the property of the potential purchase?
Will you be seeking the support of surrounding neighborhood councils?
Yes. Any letters and/or resolutions of support will be posted to this website.
Will you be obtaining a letter of support from all agencies that are involved in this project, such as the MRCA?
Yes. They will be posted to this website as they are received.
Will the financials for this project be publicly accessible for donors so that they are able to see what expenses have been incurred and how much money has been raised?
Yes. We will make this information available to donors. Note that private donor information (such as address and contact information) will be redacted.
What is the Laurel Canyon Land Trust?
The Laurel Canyon Land Trust (“LCLT”) was established by Jamie Hall as the legal entity to hold the conservation easement. This “conservation easement” is a separate property right that we will retain even after the land is transferred to the MRCA that will allow us the ability to prevent development of the property forever. The LCLT will have a board of directors (to be determined), whose sole job will be to enforce the conservation easement. In the future, the LCLT may play a larger role in spearheading land acquisitions. Because CLAW has already obtained its tax-exempt status, they are spearheading the collection of donations to fund the purchase of the property.
Are any of the people behind this benefitting financially?
No. The founding organizers are unpaid volunteers. We will be adding more volunteers as the project develops, and they too will be volunteers. Of course, we will have some paid vendors, for accounting, fundraising, etc., but these costs will be recorded and available for inspection.