Thanks, Mann!: State Acquires Bio-Med Pioneer Alfred E. Mann's 1,407-Acre Property for Tuna Canyon Park
Alfred E. Mann donated 1,016 acres in exchange for state tax credits.
By Dan Mazur
The green ceremonial ribbon stretched across what should have been a spectacular view of the mountains and coastline. Thanks to the heavy fog and steady drizzle, however, Congressman Brad Sherman, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and other state officials cut a ribbon in front of what appeared to be a blank white void.
But the wet weather couldn't dampen the crowd's enthusiasm for the latest in a series of major public land acquisitions in the Santa Monica Mountains--this one a pristine 1,407-acre parcel between Tuna Canyon and Las Flores Canyon. The property, valued at $42.5 million, was recently obtained by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy from bio-tech pioneer Alfred E. Mann, via a combination of purchase, donation and tax credits.
The property rises from sea level to over 1,600 feet, providing 360-degree views of ocean and mountains. In the interior, Piedra Gorda and Pena Canyons contain what is described as some of the most remote coastal wilderness in the Santa Monicas.
Officials from numerous public agencies gathered at the August 19 dedication of the new parkland, now called Tuna Canyon Park, reflecting not only the importance of the acquisition, but also the many players needed to put together the complicated deal.
Mann donated 1,016 acres in exchange for state tax credits valued at approximately $16 million. Another 240 acres were purchased for approximately $7.9 million. The cash was cobbled together from a number of sources including $3.5 million in Los Angeles County Proposition A funds obtained by Yaroslavsky, a state Coastal Conservancy grant of $1 million, $500,000 in federal funds brought to the table by Congressman Sherman and approximately $2.9 million from the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.
An option to buy an additional 160 acres for $5.28 million has also been exercised. This purchase will be made from Proposition 40 park bond funds, although that part of the transaction will not be complete until the state Legislature finalizes its budget and releases its Proposition 40 allocations.
The total cash outlay for the land will then have been approximately $13 million. Combined with the $16 million in lost tax revenue from the credits, the total cost to the taxpayers for the land will be about $29 million.
The newly acquired land connects with the 417-acre lower Tuna Canyon property donated earlier this year by John Paul DeJoria to the Mountains Restoration Trust, and State Parks' 1,659-acre Lower Topanga purchase. These, along with the Conservancy's 366 acres on the western end of the Tuna Canyon property, comprise 3,848 acres of new contiguous parkland adjoining Topanga State Park.
Mary Nichols, California Secretary of Resources, described the property as "a particularly wonderful piece of ground...a cornucopia of habitat types and plant species." Nichols also pointed out that the land contains archaeological sites, including at least one dating back 8,000 years.
"This land could have been developed," Nichols said. "We need housing in Southern California, but we need housing in the right area....Now millions of Californians will be able to enjoy the million dollar views--it's the public's land now."
The acquisition is "a great cooperation with government at every level, and the generosity of Al Mann," said Congressman Sherman.
"I ran out of money from the National Park Service's budget, so I went to the Transportation Committee, and I said ‘hiking is transportation,'" said Sherman of his efforts to find financing for the purchase.
Sherman also pointed to the "transportation" value to animals of linking open spaces. "It will allow animals to move from one area to another, which is so important to their survival," he said. "So no longer will our furry friends have to date their cousins."
Yaroslavsky called the new acquisition "a very important piece of the broader mosaic being developed by the park services in the Santa Monica Mountains." Citing massive projected population increases for Southern California in the coming decades, he called these open spaces, "oases in what will be a megalopolis."
Thanking Mann for his donation, Yaroslavsky referred to him as "a Mann for all seasons"--a great scientist and businessman.
"Quantum leaps have been made in medical technology because of his courage and vision, and now he can also be called a great environmentalist.
"He had a number of options," said Yaroslavsky, "either to try and develop the property, or to sell it to someone who wanted to fight the county. But he saw the opportunity to work with the government and preserve this property in the state that attracted him to it, for all time."
Yaroslavsky said the public is getting the land at much less than market value--though, he added, "I'm sure the assessed value has been carefully worked out by [Conservancy executive director] Joe Edmiston," eliciting knowing laughter from the crowd.
"Everyone knows what that means," continued Yaroslavsky.
Mann is the chairman and chief executive officer of several bio-med companies, including Mannkind Corporation, which develops therapeutic vaccines that may contribute to an eventual cure for cancer, and Advanced Bionics, which makes devices to restore hearing to the deaf and to treat Parkinson's disease and other neural deficiencies. As founder of MiniMed, Mann developed and marketed the first microinfusion insulin pumps to treat diabetes. Last year, Mann sold MiniMed to Medtronics for $3.28 billion.
Mann purchased the Tuna Canyon Park property, which spans across four canyon watersheds, in 1991.
"It's a fascinating property," Mann said. "William Randolph Hearst owned this property at one time and planned to build San Simeon here. Then he decided he didn't want to have it so close to L.A."
Mann's original plan was to build a resort hotel, golf course and 95 homes on the land.
Mann, who in 1998 gave a $112 million gift to the University of Southern California to create an institute to turn scientific discoveries into useful products, also considered building a house for himself on the land, before finally deciding to transfer it into public hands.
"I work 90 hours a week, I don't have time to think about real estate," the 76-year old Mann explained. "For me it's important. This will create a tremendous opportunity for our citizens and others who will come and enjoy this area."
Mann's $16 million tax credit was provided by the Natural Heritage Preservation Tax Credit Act of 2000, which provides the state Wildlife Conservation Board with $100 million in state tax credits to award to qualifying acquisition projects over a five year period.
Central to the behind-the-scenes maneuverings that made the acquisition possible was Pete Dangermond, who was director of the California Department of Parks and Recreation under Jerry Brown from 1980 to 1982. Dangermond, now a Sacramento-based consultant to parks agencies and conservancies, brought together Mann and the SMMC, under the auspices, strangely enough, of the Riverside Land Conservancy, which normally focuses on inland Southern California land conservation.
In August 2001, Dangermond said he was approached by a mutual friend of his and Mann's, who knew of Mann's readiness to give up plans to develop the Tuna Canyon property. Dangermond then presented the opportunity to the board of the Riverside Land Conservancy, for whom Dangermond's consulting company provides staff services. Despite the geographical distance, the board agreed to put the deal together.
Jane Block of the Riverside Land Conservancy board was on hand for the dedication ceremony and was delighted to have played a role in the acquisition. She said she had supported her organization's involvement in the efforts to acquire the land, without even having seen the property.
"I've worked with Pete on a few projects, and I know that Pete never works on a bad project," said Block.
Dangermond said that the property's initial appraised value was lower and threatened the deal.
After Monday's ceremonies, local activists made the rounds of the public officials in attendance, reminding them that, as important as this acquisition is, there is still more land currently threatened with development in Tuna Canyon.
"I feel like going down on my knees and giving thanks, but I don't want people to think it's all done, because it isn't," said Kay Austen of Tuna United Neighborhood Association.
Austen and others are fighting to save 120 acres in Upper Tuna Canyon from development. "Two houses have already been built and there are more to come," she said.
"The state has now bought three-quarters of Tuna Canyon and the Tuna bluffs, and the most crucial quarter has yet to be saved: the upper watershed. If we don't save it, construction of 20 more homes with swimming pools will degrade the rest of the canyon and the creek. An entire riparian eco-system hangs in the balance."
Forty acres of upper Tuna have already been subdivided for development. The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the Mountains Restoration Trust are interested in buying the other 80 acres, says Austen, but the owner thinks he can make more money selling privately.
So far, efforts to persuade the Coastal Commission to deny building permits in Upper Tuna have been unsuccessful, but Austen feels that the recent parkland purchases will help their cause in future battles.
"The state buying this land totally validates what we've been saying for years--that this is one of the last pristine coastal canyons in Southern California, and it should be saved."
Meanwhile, the 1,407 acres acquired from Mann are open to the public. Fire roads on the property, accessible off Tuna Canyon Road about a mile past Saddle Peak Road, are already being used for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. State Parks, the National Park Service and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy are discussing a proposed Coastal Slope Trail, which would cross much of the recently acquired parkland, but it is still in the planning stages. According to Dash Stolarz of the Conservancy, there has also been talk of a primitive campgrounds on the property, but that project, too, is far in the future, when and if funds become available.
Malibu LCP Gets Final Hearing Sept. 12
The enormously controversial Malibu Local Coastal Program will go before the California Coastal Commission on Thursday, September 12, at 9 a.m. at the Westin Hotel--LAX, 5400 West Century Boulevard. After the public hearing, the Commission will seek to complete deliberations on the same day, but may end up voting on September 13.
In Topanga, the reaction to the plan has been mixed. The board of TASC, Topanga Association for a Scenic Community, decided last month that it didn't have enough time to review and prepare comments on the Malibu plan and would concentrate instead on the county's coastal plan which is currently in the works.
"What's more important to us than what happens in Malibu, is what happens in L. A. County," said TASC chair Roger Pugliese. "TASC will set up workshops to discuss and inform what the county will end up doing."
Opponents of the plan, however, say it will be too late because the Malibu plan will dictate what must be included in the county's plan.
"I'm very disappointed in that," said Don Wallace, a delegate to the Las Virgenes Homeowners Federation which represents 20 homeowner groups in the mountains and had sought TASC's support in demanding changes in the Malibu plan.
Wallace said there has been an "amazing convergence" of the Federation, the city of Malibu and Los Angeles County, in agreeing on changes needed in the LCP. Specifically, they are seeking a tiered system for defining resource sensitivity rather than the vastly expanded Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area classification known as "ESHA" in the Malibu plan. The Malibu plan defines chaparral and coastal sage scrub--the predominant habitats in the Santa Monica Mountains--as ESHAs.
"If the Coastal Commission adopts the Malibu plan, then the county is foreclosed from preparing any LCP that doesn't include chaparral and coastal sage scrub as ESHA," said Wallace. "Once they declare coastal sage scrub and chaparral as ESHA, they are required by the Coastal Act to have it included in every LCP."
The highly restrictive ESHA designation is defined as only suitable for "resource dependent" uses such as trails. The Malibu LCP outlines exceptions for allowing development in an ESHA to avoid a legal "takings" claim. But, according to Wallace, an over-broad use of the ESHA designation combined with an exception that undermines the meaning of an ESHA designation, which he says violates the definition of ESHA in the Coastal Act, is the worst of both worlds.
In Wallace's view, the expanded ESHA designation will make it impossible to have horses in the mountains, will render many existing equestrian and agricultural uses non-conforming and will make rebuilding and remodeling difficult to impossible.
TASC boardmember Steve Hoye disagrees with Wallace. Hoye, who is also founder of Access for All which seeks more public accessways to the beach, is a strong supporter of coastal access provisions in the Malibu plan. He also generally supports the expanded ESHA designations, though he acknowledges that some provisions need review for Topanga.
"The brouhaha about the Malibu LCP is a good warning shot to TASC," said Hoye. If the county's plan has strong community involvement, according to Hoye, the Coastal Commission may be willing to accept alternative approaches to those in the Malibu plan.
The goal, he said, is going to be the same.
"How do we minimize development in the Santa Monica Mountains? I think that is our objective in the analysis of these plans."
He said he wants to look at the difference between the new definition of ESHA in the Malibu LCP and the county's alternative approach which involves a graduated scale of protections with ESHA being the most restrictive.
Normally, the local coastal programs, which include two components--a land use plan and an implementation ordinance, are created by the coastal cities and counties themselves to be approved by the Coastal Commission. From then on, every new project would not require separate approval by the Coastal Commission and only applicant appeals would go before the Commission.
In Malibu's case, the state Legislature, owing to some political maneuvering over the future of development in Malibu, passed a special measure giving the Coastal Commission itself the job of creating Malibu's plan.The Malibu City Council and others have alleged that its local control has been usurped by an un-elected state body.
By Tony Morris
A Topanga resident was seriously injured on August 25 when the horse she was riding reared up and fell backwards on top of her.
Robin Hohenlohe, 48, was riding with a friend when the accident occurred a quarter-mile north of 1836 Arteique Road near Santa Maria Road. Hohenlohe, a native of Texas and an experienced rider who has trained race horses in Europe, sustained multiple pelvic fractures and internal bleeding. According to Captain Rick Pfeiffer of Los Angeles County Fire Department Station 69, she remained conscious as her riding companion rode to summon help from paramedics, firefighters and Sheriff's deputies who hiked in to the accident site.
A Sheriff's Department Air 5 Sikorsky helicopter airlifted Hohenlohe to UCLA Medical Center where she underwent treatment for her injuries. Her landlord Randi Johnson, who spent the night with her at the hospital, said her friend is gradually improving.
By Lynn Dickhoff
Topanga is a wonderful place to live, but can be trying for the disabled and elderly because access to some services is limited or nonexistent. To partially remedy this situation, the Meals-on- Wheels program is being introduced in the Canyon.
Meals on Wheels started in Great Britain during Word War II when women worked together to provide food for bombed-out neighbors and to soldiers in nearby canteens. It later spread to the United States and the world, and now serves millions of people.
The program serves the elderly and/or disabled who are unable to shop or cook to take care of their dietary needs. Volunteers traditionally deliver two meals a day, five days a week for a small fee that goes toward the cost of the food. Since Topanga is a distance from the preparation site in Santa Monica, the meals will be frozen and delivered to the area participants once a week.
A representative from the Santa Monica Meals-on-Wheels operation will give a presentation on Thursday, September 19 at 7 p.m. at the Christian Fellowship Church, 269 Old Topanga Canyon Road. It is open to everyone who might be interested in helping with the program in the Canyon, would like to receive meals, or would simply like to find out what is going on.
If you or someone you know is homebound and would benefit from receiving prepared meals, please phone Ami Kirby at (310) 455-1969 and leave the name and phone number of the interested party. Your input is greatly appreciated to help get Meals-on-Wheels started as soon as possible.
For more information visit www.Meals-On-Wheels.net.
Trailer Pull Brings New EOC, Supplies Needed
The second half of T-CEP's new Emergency Operations Center, with triple the capacity of the old one, arrives in Topanga.
By Fred Feer
For the past seven years or more the Topanga Coalition for Emergency Preparedness, T-CEP, has used an old construction trailer as its home and Emergency Operations Center. It was donated to us by the Christian Science Church of Topanga. The trailer and the church have served us well.
Due to the help and generosity of some canyon people T-CEP accumulated enough money to buy a used portable classroom measuring 24 by 40 feet, triple our current space. The bare walls building was delivered on August 29.
The present trailer, at 10 by 32 feet, is just too small. In an emergency as many as 16 people are working at the same time. The noise and crowding aside, there isn't enough wall space to post all the information and maps we need.
The added space will enable T-CEP to offer a more varied menu of classes, and meetings on a more flexible schedule. At the same time, T-CEP will be able to isolate the primary noisemakers--the hotline and the radio room--and still have some quiet work space for vital information processing and decision-making.
The old trailer will be converted to use as an administrative office and storage room. The office will allow T-CEP to consolidate its files and more efficiently respond to questions and requests for help or support. We hope, for example, to maintain a regular schedule of office hours, making available the reference materials T-CEP has acquired.
In a dilemma familiar to us all, laying out the cash to buy the building doesn't leave a lot to equip and furnish the new house. We are hoping that Topangans will step up to help if they know what is needed. Contributions in time, skill, materials, cash or any combination will be most welcome and they are tax deductible. Here is our wish list.
- Upgrading the telephone system.
- Exterior and interior painting.
- Lumber and materials for about 60 feet of interior partitions, including soundproofing.
- Carpet and/or help with installation--960 square feet.
- Stackable chairs for classes and meetings: 20 to 25 at about $45 to $50 each, with storage caddy.
- Four to eight laptop computers, preferably new, at $1,200 each.
- Three desktop computers, preferably new, at $1,000 each.
Due to the kindness of Bill Buerge and one other person, $2,500 has been contributed toward upgrading and re-equipping the radio room. Richard Sherman's Topanga Underground and Sean Rhodes Electric are making major contributions of time and tools to moving the old trailer and installing the new EOC.
All told, we're talking about approximately $20,000 to furnish the new EOC and re-equip or replace gear that is now eight years old and was mostly second-hand when we got it. Much of the current scrounged office furniture and filing cabinets will continue to be used and will be expanded with more used stuff. Most of the dollars are going into better tools and work stations.
It is now early September of the driest year on record. We don't have a lot of time before the onset of the worst of the fire season. The old EOC will be operational through the transition, but it sure would be nice to make the transition a short one.
T-CEP welcomes your questions as well as offers of help, however great or small. Call us at (310) 455-3000. Getting involved will make you feel better and will help us all.
Three-Way Buy Saves Summit Ridge
By Susan Chasen
The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy voted August 26 to provide $200,000 to go toward a three-way purchase of a 19-acre property along the ridgeline of Summit Valley-Ed Edelman Park, protecting it against a developer's earlier plan to build three to four houses on the site.
Topangans who have actively opposed construction plans, favoring acquisition to protect the adjoining park and existing trail, were pleased with the outcome.
"It's a fabulous purchase and it really completes the long battle that we had in saving Summit Valley," said Roger Pugliese, chair of the Topanga Association for a Scenic Community.
The purchase is expected to be completed in a few months with Calabasas and Los Angeles County kicking in shares for a total of about $600,000 and an undisclosed portion of the value taken as a charitable donation.
About a year ago, TASC and VOICE --Viewridge Homeowners Involved in the Community and the Environment--attended hearings to oppose development plans and hoped the land would be acquired. But the price was too high at that time.
Passage of the county's North Area Plan which increased lot sizes to a 10-acre minimum on the site meant it would be impossible to build more than one house on the site without buying additional land, but the developer hoped the project would fall under the previous plan allowing three to four houses.
The property is located along the ridgeline just beyond the water tanks and would have blocked the Henry Ridge Trail at the intersection with the central trail through Summit Valley Park.
Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky's assistant chief deputy Ginny Kruger said it's "one more piece in the puzzle" linking park acquisitions and protecting trail access in the Santa Monicas.
"It protects the ridgeline there which gives you a wonderful view of the San Fernando Valley and Summit Valley," she said.
She credited Steve Harris, executive director of the private, non-profit Mountains Restoration Trust, with putting the deal together for an affordable price. Last year, the price was reportedly about $1 million.
Calabasas will manage the property for 18 to 24 months while a new recreational plan is created for the city. During that time, certain improvements may be made on the property, excluding parking or other hard surface construction, buildings, lights or non-native plantings.
Afterward, the property will be transferred to the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, the property managing branch of the Conservancy.
County Fire Captain Visits Topanga
Fire Captain Brian Jordan, public information officer for the county Fire Department, visited Doug Kirby on a tour of Topanga.
By Tony Morris
Fire Captain Brian Jordan, public information officer for the Los Angeles County Fire Department, visited Topanga on August 15 to meet with Canyon residents and provide information on the Fire Department's action plan for wildfires.
Jordan first met with David Gottlieb at 1406 North Topanga Canyon Boulevard to observe brush clearance completed on his property. Gottlieb, a board member of the Topanga-based Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, told Jordan he had completed extensive brush clearance on hillsides and under trees to provide critical defensible space for his property and for his neighbors in the event of a wildfire.
Jordan then visited Doug Kirby on east Hillside Drive where neighbors recently gathered to discuss tree trimming, fire retardant and home firefighting equipment.
"One thing about Topanga is that the community is organized and they do know the Fire Department well," said Kirby. "Once we know that we are together, that we have a course of action, what we see as necessary and prudent, then we will call the fire department in. Topangans being Topangans, they prefer to do the first things on their own and then ask for needed advice."
Jordan said that he thought it would be a good idea for Station 69 personnel to be invited to neighborhood meetings when the subject involves fire prevention and wildfires.
"Whether we come or not, the more we know before the meeting, we may have more information for you and be ahead of the ball game," said Jordan.
When asked what the response by the Fire Department would be to a 911 wildfire call, Jordan said Topanga would receive a minimum of 95 firefighters, three or four water-dropping helicopters, seven fire engines and two patrols. The nearest engine companies would be coming from Carbon Canyon in Malibu and Calabasas. In addition, Topanga has a call-firefighter program which would provide one additional engine for a wildfire emergency. Jordan added that 50 engines could be sent to the area within an hour after an alarm.
When asked if the 1993 Topanga/Malibu fire could have been stopped if SuperScooper aircraft had been available at the start of the fire, Jordan said he did not believe there was any aircraft that could have knocked that fire down.
"Any aircraft, when the fire started, could have made a smaller front, but the fire still would have run fast with those particular conditions," said Jordan. "That's what happened and that can happen again."
Jordan stressed the importance of brush clearance.
"If the fire is going to run through any area we don't want to lose any homes," said Jordan. "The Topanga fire went very fast....We had the prime conditions for having a fast-moving fire and you had a fire that started where there really is no fire protection."
As for the future, Jordan said that the Fire Department is working to learn from past experience and to prevent fires from happening again.
"We have an old saying in the Department: ‘Correct the future.' Because nobody is perfect. If you are on a call and something doesn't go right, you talk about it and make sure it doesn't happen again."
Jordan also said residents in the Canyon who have a problem with flammable material or debris which has been left on a property should notify Station 69, and the Fire Department will come out and investigate the situation.