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In an effort to protect existing wildlife and natural vegetation, a group of residents and activists started the Let’s Buy a Mountain project, and they have their sights set on a 17-acre plot of land for $1.6 million in Laurel Canyon.
At a press conference on Wednesday, the group discussed its plan to maintain the space in the Hollywood Hills, and encouraged community members to consider donating to its crowd source campaign to reach the benchmark goal of $50,000 by Nov. 2. The full amount is due in 18 months. To date, Let’s Buy a Mountain has raised almost $20,000.
Councilman David Ryu, 4th District, announced that his office will help with the fundraising by matching dollar-for-dollar the amounts raised until Nov. 2, up to $15,000. The funds will are available because of the State Quimby Act, which supplies provisions reserved for acquiring parkland or funding improvements at existing parks to serve residents.
“This is an opportunity that comes once in lifetime. An opportunity to permanently preserve green space, protect the fundamental importance of wildlife habitats and secure the future of our residential neighborhoods,” Ryu said. “We cannot let this moment pass by. Please donate today so this important piece of L.A.’s greenbelt will be forever removed from the threat of development.”
The Laurel Canyon Association (LCA), in partnership with the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA), Citizens for Los Angeles Wildlife (CLAW) and the Laurel Canyon Land Trust (LCLT), entered the agreement to buy the 17 acres between Lookout Mountain Avenue and Stanley Hills Drive from private owners. The location is currently surrounded by houses and power lines but is home to many animals, including mule deer, bobcats, gray foxes, coyotes, brush rabbits, quails and birds, and has vast stands of Coastal Oak trees.
“This habitat block has an important function, as the central core of a larger property. Not only is it a good-sized habitat, but it is also positioned where it can funnel animals down to cross Laurel Canyon Boulevard,” said Paul Edelman, chief of natural resources and planning for MRCA and deputy director of natural resources and planning for Santa Monica Mountain Conservancy (SMMC).
Edelman explained the space is also a hub that connects the medium-sized habitat blocks closer to Sunset Plaza with the rest of the Santa Monica Mountain range. There has not been any permanent land protection of this size in Laurel Canyon and, if sold to developers, could potentially be transformed with homes or larger buildings.
Jamie Hall, president of LCA and land use attorney, said the only reason the space hasn’t been developed yet is because doing so will require great expense and facing technical challenges. However, thanks to the current development boom and the steady improvement of technology, properties like this are ripe for the taking.
“I’m constantly getting clients that walk in the door and tell me, ‘I never thought that property next to me was going to be bought’ or ‘I never thought that mountaintop would change.’ But it happens often,” Hall said.
Wildlife are seemingly running out of room in the Hollywood Hills area, with an increasing numbers of deer being hit on Laurel Canyon Boulevard and coyotes appearing regularly in more urban neighborhoods. Alison Simard, chair of CLAW, said this is because the animals’ migratory paths are being blocked which has potential to ruin the entire ecosystem. Recently in the surrounding area, a fence was erected that blocked a migratory path, which caused the coyote population to decrease. Because there were fewer coyotes, the gopher population increased and ate away at the roots of an old tree, which eventually fell, a victim of strong winds. Simard said that by installing the fence and interrupting one migratory path, the entire ecosystem was thrown off.
“We’ve realized the wildlife in Los Angeles does not have a voice – policies are made without consideration to wildlife all the time. But really, wildlife is the barometer of health of our entire environment,” Simard said.
In addition to preserving the wildlife passageways, the Let’s Buy a Mountain group wants to maintain the historic character and natural charm of Laurel Canyon, which Hall considers a cultural resource. The group cites many musicians who lived in the shadow of the 17 acre plot in the 1960s and 1970s, including The Mamas & Papas, Buffalo Springfield and Joni Mitchell, who were inspired by the open, “magical” space to write songs of joy, peace and happiness. They also worry about the future of its infrastructure, as some of the roads in the area are narrow and would not support the housing density large developments threaten to bring.
If the Let’s Buy a Mountain group is successful in raising the funds within 18 months, the purchased parcel of land will be maintained by MCRA, the local agency of SMMC. Edelman said because the space already has an existing path, they intend to allow access to hikers.
“Part of making conservation work is giving people access to it so they will get involved with the efforts. Plus, it will be pretty hard to go off trail in that area,” Edelman said.
The MCRA will allow owners of the 35 homes that border the 17-acre property to take the lead in clearing their own brush, as long as it is done responsibly. Alternately, the MCRA will leave the wildlife sanctuary in its natural state in order to preserve the habitat for animals.
“It shouldn’t be much of a burden for homeowners, it’s actually not a bad deal at all. It will provide a permanent open space behind their house,” Edelman said.
Leaders of Let’s Buy a Mountain have developed a plan to obtain donations from various sources, including the community, crowd source funding and carefully selected corporate sponsors. Benefit concerts and fundraising opportunities, like the naming of the mountain, are also under consideration. All groups involved in the Let’s Buy a Mountain project believe the goal of $1.6 million is doable.
“Most of the time people think the government will do this for them, but we aren’t going to sit around and assume anyone else will do this for us,” Hall said. “We have the power to protect what we love and that’s what’s truly unique.”
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