ahmanson ranch

A Trip Back in Time.

Davis Does Something Good.
Here he is With Rob Reiner at the Dedication of Ahmanson Ranch
Photo Courtesy: www.saveahmanson.org

Chris Dixon

Last November,
in one of his final acts in office, governor Gray Davis signed off on
one of the largest parkland purchases in California’s history. With Davis’
signature, $150 million of state bond money went to buy the last 2,983
acres of a 5,000 tract of land called The Ahmanson Ranch from Washington
Mutual Bank. The purchase ended a heated environmental debate that had
involved celebrities from Rob Reiner to Martin Sheen to Erin Brockovich.
It had been going on for around 20 years, and saved a chunk of wilderness
from becoming, basically, a new luxury city of 3,000 homes, shopping,
golf and hotels along highway 101 between Ventura and Los Angeles.

Yeah, so
what the hell does it matter to you as a surfer that this huge chunk of
gorgeous land was saved? Well, if you like to surf Malibu, it meant an
awful lot. The canyons, arroyos and hillsides here all drain down to create
Las Virgenes Creek and Las Virgenes runs down to Malibu Creek. All that
Ahmanson concrete would have held onto a great many pollutants — including
car oil, brake dust and antifreeze. And a golf course would have required
a great deal of fertilizer. Despite plans to filter as much of these pollutants
as possible, there is simply no doubt that some of this gunk would have
ended up in Malibu Creek, and thus in the waters of Surfrider Beach —
particularly after a heavy rain. So, if you like to surf Malibu, perhaps
you should be thankful for the purchase.

the Ranch Won’t be Developed
the Already Polluted Waters of Malibu
Will Avoid A Great Deal More Pollution.
Photo: Brandon Aroyan

If you voted
for California Propositions 40 and 50 during the November 2002 elections,
this was where your vote and subsequent bond money went. These were both
special measures approved to purchase parkland and habitat and to save
the land at the top of important watersheds like Malibu Creek. Say you
voted against the measure, or simply didn’t have time to go to the polls.
Well, had the measure not passed, your apathy or politics would have most
likely led to the Ahamanson Ranch development being built.

Would this
have been a bad thing? It probably depends on your politics and how you
feel about development here in the Golden State. But let’s put politics
aside for a moment and talk about Ahmanson Ranch itself. I went up there
to check the land out. In my opinion, every single Californian — especially
its surfers — got a hell of a lot for their money. If you disagree, go
for yourself and see. In fact, if the surf is small, take a mountain bike.
It would make a hell of a subsitute for a surfboard on the ranch’s serpentine

a picture perfect drive to the top of Malibu Canyon Road, I was met at
the gate of the Ranch by a friendly ranger named Rorie Skei. Ms. Skei
is the director of the Santa Monica Mountains Coservancy, a state agency
responsible for the purchase and maintenance of the ranch. She showed
me around the sprawling historic ranch house and myriad of fully-laden
citrus trees that surrounded the place. The ranch sat at the top of a
hill, and the westward view from that hill was an astonishing expanse
of LA and Ventura County mountains and wilderness. According to Ms. Skei,
the whole place was to be leveled and “terraformed” or graded to make
way for a shopping mall. “This would have been the most dense area of
the project,” she said.

Photo Courtesy: www.saveahmanson.org

When we climbed
to the top of another nearby hill, the view eastward was equally astonishing,
but for a different reason. To the other direction lay the sprawl and
pollution of the San Fernando Valley, including Glendale, Burbank and
the massive Newhall Ranch, which is being built out now. Climbing into
Ms. Skei’s Ford Expedition, we took a cruise down one of the fire roads
and back in time…