Sale of 50,000-acre Bay Area land dreams of creating California’s next great state park

A spectacular 50,500-acre property in East Bay that had been touted as the future site of a large California state park was instead sold to a Danville contractor.

The purchase of Ranch N3 was finalized on Friday afternoon, marking an exchange of ownership for California’s largest private land listing, according to brokerage firm California Outdoor Properties. He was sold to Bill Brown, the founder and chairman of the board of wholesaler Walnut Creek Central Garden and Pet Co. He identifies as a fifth generation Californian with a family history of breeding dating back to the 1850s.

A sale price was not disclosed, but the property had been listed for $ 68 million.

“I have a great love for our state’s ranching heritage and have long been committed to preserving ranch lands in California,” Brown said in an emailed statement to The Chronicle. “It is a lesson in humility to be able to purchase this historic ranch, and I consider it an honor to preserve its future, protect the land and watersheds, and maintain this incredible property.

The expansive N3 Ranch, located in Livermore, spans canyons, trout streams, meadows and oak forests in four counties – Santa Clara, Alameda, San Joaquin and Stanislaus – and encompasses 4,089’s Eylar Mountain. feet as well as a slice of Mission Peak. It is considered a rare wilderness in the Greater Bay Area, with an area nearly twice the size of San Francisco stretching from the Del Valle Reservoir to Tracy and between the Calaveras and San Antonio Reservoirs. It provides a range for pumas, bobcats, foxes and a herd of elk.

The property was listed for $ 72 million in the summer of 2019 by heirs to a Southern California cattle ranching family who had owned it for 85 years but had not grazed it for some time.

Environmentalists and public land agencies took immediate interest, touting the property’s wilderness and its convenient location at the intersection of several open spaces as the perfect centerpiece of the state’s next outdoor recreation destination. It would have been the largest property addition to state parks in 70 years.

“This is pristine wilderness, an important watershed for the Bay Area and could provide extraordinary passive recreation opportunities on the trails and hills,” Senator Steve Glazer, D-Orinda told The Chronicle l ‘last year. “It’s not something in the foothills of the Sierras. It’s in our backyard.

This vision depended on a coalition of interested entities – public land managers, foundations, river basin districts and counties – pooling their resources to match the listing price. For a while, it appeared that the effort was underway; Governor Gavin Newsom even earmarked $ 20 million in his 2020 budget to help cover costs.

But this week, that effort officially failed.

Glazer, a staunch supporter of the park concept, acknowledged the collapse in an email.

“I am disappointed that we were unable to acquire this special property,” said Glazer, “but we will not be deterred in our enduring mission to purchase and protect the Bay Area’s open spaces for the benefit of nature and the pleasure of our inhabitants. ”

The California Department of Parks and Recreation wrote in an email to The Chronicle that it “remains committed to establishing a new state park in California,” one that “will be inclusive and support equitable access for all Californians” .

Property broker, California Outdoor Properties owner Todd Renfrow said the ranchland has received “a ton of interest” over the past two years. He called Brown’s intention to keep the underdeveloped property “a win-win for everyone.”

The N3 ranch in the East Bay was sold to Bill Brown, founder and chairman of the board of wholesaler Walnut Creek Central Garden and Pet Co.

The N3 ranch in the East Bay was sold to Bill Brown, founder and chairman of the board of wholesaler Walnut Creek Central Garden and Pet Co.

California Outdoor Properties

N3 has 14 hunting camps with cabins, a four bedroom main residence, employee cabins and a few barns and outbuildings, but it is unlikely to be developed further. The property is covered by the Williamson Act of 1965, which grants landlords relief from property taxes in exchange for preserving an area as farmland and open space.

Brown bought most of the N3 ranch through the William Brown Foundation, which he formed in August. It is “dedicated to conservation and preservation,” according to the statement provided to The Chronicle. The purchase ensures “the protection of the ranch from urban encroachment and future development while preserving the diverse ecosystem of the ranch.”

As a private citizen, Brown purchased a small piece of the property where the ranch’s head office and a small house are located.

“I spent much of my youth on my grandfather’s ranch, which helped shape me as a person,” Brown said in his statement. “We hope that future generations will have experiences similar to mine and, by being close to nature, they will fully understand the need to preserve our open space.”

Gregory Thomas is the editor-in-chief of Chronicle of lifestyle & outdoor. Email: Twitter: @GregRThomas

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