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March 5, 2010

Walnut Creek joins with Lafayette, East Bay Park District and Muir Heritage Land Trust to purchase open space



Walnut Creek city staff will recommend that the city join with Lafayette, the East Bay Regional Parks District, and the Muir Heritage Land Trust to buy 22.6 acres of prominent hilltop land that is east of Acalanes High School and adjacent to Walnut Creek’s 170-acre Acalanes Open Space. (The beautiful photo comes from Bob Brittain who lives just below Acalanes Ridge.) 

The Haji family owns the property, which is also runs along the East Bay parks Briones-to-Mt. Diablo Regional Trail. Acquiring this land will bring to the public one of the most visible hilltops in all of central Contra Costa County—one that is visible from a dozen different cities, and all the way from the Carquinez Straits to the summit of Mount Diablo. The land will also provide a valuable corridor for people and widelife along this key ridgeline.

According to Walnut Creek’s Community Relations manager Gayle Vasser, the property owners have entered into an agreement to sell the property to the Muir Heritage Land Trust (MHLT) for $1.3 million.

The Walnut Creek City Council will consider a funding agreement on Tuesday, March 16 that would split the costs among the four parties.

Lafayette, Walnut Creek, and the EBRPD would each pay 30 percent of the purchase price, or $391,650. The Muir Heritage Land Trust would pay 10 percent of the purchase price, which is $130,550, But the trust would also be o be responsible for title, escrow and closing fees—and funding he maintenance, management, and operation of the property in perpetuity. The trust would also be responsible for other miscellaneous costs as well.

The parks district has the ability to purchase this property at an attractive price right now, thanks to the parks district’s Measure WW bond, which voters approved in 2008.

That measure provides funds that the parks district can use for capital projects, including land acquisition.  

The availability of this special parks and open space funding creates an opportunity for the district and cities to preserve valuable open space for public use even at a time when cities are struggling financially. 

Walnut Creek City Manager Gary Pokorny says this deal is remarkable for many many of the reasons stated above, but he added that in an era when some levels of government are not able to work internally to solve problems, “the voluntary cooperation of three public agencies, a private non-profit land trust, and dozens of private volunteers to make this acquisition happen is truly remarkable." 

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

That land is in my backyard. I am so glad I voted for Measure WW.

Anonymous said...

I do not wish to dampen anyone's enthusiasm on this project as it sounds like a logical and fantastic addition to our already wonderful Open Space.

However, you mentioned in your post that the Park District has the funds because of Measure WW bonds but did not mention how the city of Walnut Creek will fund their 30% share ($391,650). For a city that is facing its first ever huge decifit where will our leaders find the spare cash for this unexpected allocation? Certainly it is not in the current budget as a CIP so what program will be cut to accomodate this purchase?

Our Parks Department is struggling now as it is just to maintain what we have and have no spare cash for CIP's. Please ask Mr. Pokorny or Ms. Vasser from what pot will the money come.

Open Space lover and supporter

AKA Soccer Mom said...

Dear Open Space Lover,

Here is a line that didn't make it into this story, but I'll check with the city on whether it helps explain where Walnut Creek can come up with the funds:

That measure provides funds that can only be used for capital projects, including land acquisition, by the Park District and provides funding earmarked for the same uses to cities in Alameda and Contra Costa counties on a per-capita basis.

So, it sounds like, but we can confirm, that Measure WW also provides funds to cities to use for these projects. Also, there will be fundraising by the city's Open Space Foundation and the Land Trust.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

The City of Walnut Creek does control a portion of the Measure WW funds and could use this resource. Walnut Creek Open Space Foundation has a modest land acquisition fund that could be tapped as well.

This land is near the top of Acalanes Ridge and has wonderful views. A great "top of the hill" experience and the purchase will fill a gap in the Acalanes Open Space that would be devastating if built over with mansions.

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear that there seem to be funds already available for Walnut Creek's share of the purchase. It will be a fine addition.

Nice to know that it can all be done without jeopardizing any other existing park improvements.

Thanks for the info.

Open Space Lover 5:06 pm

AKA Soccer Mom said...

Hello readers,
Sorry I received clarification from the city earlier in the evening but wasn't in a place I could post until now.

5:52 p.m. is correct, that the city will be able to make use of WW funds. Gayle Vassar added in a follow-up e-mail that no city general funds will be used for this purchase.

Sorry for the delay.

Anonymous said...

Who is going to maintain this new property and where is the money going to come from. I beleave this measure dosen't cover all the costs of maintenace.

Anonymous said...

The Muir Heritage Land Trust is committing to paying for maintenance of the open space in perpetuity. Such maintenance costs should be relatively modest.

Anonymous said...

We sorted this one out. Love the open space for the view and the hiking.

5:52 let's qualify your rage at the rich, "built over with mansions" and say the ridge would be cluttered with homes. Mansions or shitty ranch homes like I live in, does it really matter?

Anonymous said...

Yes!

Anonymous said...

Rubbish!

The small minded people don't like those that can afford to build and live in a mansion. These are the same people who think that Eichlers are historic landmarks.

Let's celebrate this great addition to our open space that is being accomplished with admirable cooperation between so many separate jurisdictions.