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Rancho Corral de Tierra added to Golden Gate National Recreational Area!

The National Park Service announced today that the ownership of Rancho Corral de Tierra (3,858 acres) has passed to the federal government, ending plans for luxury homes and (of course :-) ) a golf course. The property, a scenic coastal landscape between San Francisco and Half Moon Bay, is the home of peregrine falcons, mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, black-tailed deer and two species of plants known to exist nowhere else in the world: Montara Mountain blue bush lupin and Montara manzanita. The area features mountain-top views of San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The land has been added to the 82,000-acre Golden Gate National Recreational Area, which “…includes Alcatraz, Muir Woods, the Presidio, Marin Headlands and other world-famous properties visited by 17 million people a year.”

“This is the largest piece we’ve acquired in a generation,” said Frank Dean, superintendent of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, in San Francisco. “It’s a game changer for us. It’s a southern gateway to the park.”

The land overlooks the Highway 1 towns of Montara and Moss Beach.

Although sometimes draped in fog, its highest point, near the 1,898-foot peak of Montara Mountain, is one the most breath-taking spots, said Paul Ringgold, vice president for stewardship of the Peninsula Open Space Trust, in Palo Alto, which purchased the land in 2001.

“It’s phenomenal,” said Ringgold. “From the top of the property you have 360-degree panoramic views of the entire Bay Area. You can see the Farallon Islands, Mount Hamilton, Mount Tamalpais. I’ve even seen the Sierra on clear winter days.”

The property was once part of an 1839 Mexican land grant to Francisco Guerrero, an early mayor of San Francisco, in the days before California was a state. The many owners of the land have included Westinghouse Corp. and developers in the 1960s and 1970s who hoped to build thousands of homes, shopping centers, and (of course :-) ) golf courses on the property. In the mid-1990s, a group of developers that included Robert Naify, a San Francisco billionaire who once controlled United Artists theaters, Emil Magliocco Jr., an Atherton developer, and other partners planned to build 40 or more luxury homes on the property and (of course :-) ) a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, ran into local opposition.

The land was put up for sale in 2000 and was purchased by the non-profit Peninsula Open Space Trust in 2001. The land trust, through state park bond funds, raised $14.75 million and planned to sell the land to the federal government for $15 million. Congress, however, did not APPROVE the $15 million until this summer. The two reasons…?

  1. The George W. Bush administration began a policy of adding no new land to the national park system. (Boo! You will recall that the National Parks have been called America’s Best Idea!) The George W. Bush administration may have been one of America’s worst ideas. 😉
  2. The property was dragged into a dispute over farming!

Not long after the sale, the late Rep. Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo, introduced a bill in Congress to expand the Golden Gate National Recreation Area’s boundaries to include the ranch. But Lantos’ efforts slowed when a key committee chairman, Rep. George Radanovich, R-Fresno, blocked the move, over concerns that if roughly 200 acres of the property that were being farmed were added to the park system, regulations would hamper agriculture.

Four years later, in 2005, Radanovich relented, after Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., agreed to support funding for rural schools in Radanovich’s district near Yosemite National Park.

In a compromise, the land trust retained 323 acres, most of it across from Half Moon Bay Airport. It intends to sell those acres to a farmer, with an easement allowing construction of only one house, said Ringgold. The Lea family, which has leased the land for years to grow pumpkins, Brussels spouts and other vegetables, will get the right of first refusal, he said.

“All’s well that ends well,” but it seems like nothing is ever EASY in California! :-)

-Bill at

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