Firehouse Hill in Calabasas Sold to Conservancies

The nearly 200-acre Firehouse Hill parcel located at Las Virgenes and Mureau has been purchased and will be preserved as open space. The $6.25 million acquisition ends over a decade of efforts by a coalition of government officials, environmentalists and activists seeking to preserve the nearly 200-acre property as an important wildlife corridor and plant habitat.

“It’s just so special,” said Los Angeles real estate legend Fred Sands, who recently agreed to sell the property to the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority. “I’ve walked that property and I’ve hiked it. I’ve taken people there and their jaws dropped.”

Sands, who now is involved with commercial real estate ventures involving shopping centers and malls and also has a private equity firm, said he had considered building a horse ranch for his daughter on the property. He also mulled building a shopping center or keeping the land in a family trust and eventually constructing houses there.

The hill is named for Fire Station 125, which sits at its base, and was once owned by late comedian Bob Hope. It is sort of a symbolic open space gateway to the Santa Monica Mountains for northbound drivers on U.S. 101 descending the Calabasas Grade and is visible to the 184,000 motorists who pass each day on the 101 Freeway as a symbol of the wilderness that still exists at the city’s edge.

Sounds like a victory worth celebrating. To celebrate the purchase, the conservancy, LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority will host a dedication ceremony Saturday at 10 a.m. just north of the Malibu/Las Virgenes exit off of the 101 freeway. Calabasas planning commissioner Dave Brown said that while the acreage is comparatively small, Firehouse Hill is the most important acquisition in the Santa Monicas since the purchases of the Ahmanson Ranch property in 2003 and King Gillette Ranch in 2005.

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