State agency approves sale of Soka University

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Soka University site sold to state, to become part of SMMNRA

Source of this article – Conejo Valley LIFE, March 25, 2005.

By Sue Davis, sdavis@VenturaCountyStar.com

A state agency gave the necessary approval last week to complete the purchase of the $35 million, 588-acre Soka University property in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Approval by the State Public Works  Board  ends  three decades of failed attempts by federal, state and local agencies to acquire the land.

“We thought the opportunity was lost,” said Steve Hess, president of the Las Virgenes Home-owners Association.

“But (Los Angeles County Supervisor) Zev Yaroslavsky resurrected it and engaged Soka University and got it rolling, and the public and private sector really jumped on this and made it happen.”
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Funding for the purchase came from many sources, including about $10 million from the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, $7.2 million from the state Parks Department, $2.5 million each from the California Wildlife Conservation Board and the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, as well as federal and local agencies and private donations.

“A $35 million check would have been a lot for any one agency to write,” said Joe Edmiston, executive director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. “By cutting it up into smaller pieces, we were able to get it done.”

The property, at the southeast corner of Las Virgenes Road and Mulholland Highway, is also known as Gillette Ranch because it once belonged to razor baron King C. Gillette.

The land will be preserved as open space and the buildings will likely be used for parks service business.

The agencies involved were racing to complete purchase of the property because Soka Gakkai/Nichiren Shoshu of America, the property owners, had given an April 15 expiration date for the purchase option on the land.

The Public Works Board is an arm of the state Department of Finance, which must approve all capital acquisitions by the state.