The last commercial orange grove in the San Fernando Valley, Bothwell Ranch, could become more luxury homes – Daily News

Two-thirds of the stunning 100-year-old Bothwell Ranch, a 14-acre commercial orange grove tucked between densely populated Tarzana and Woodland Hills, could soon be destroyed for luxury homes.

Los Angeles City Councilor Bob Blumenfield, whose district includes the grove, said the plan he helped shape would save about a third of the grove, about four acres, “to be preserved forever.” The remaining 10 acres would be developed with 21 luxury homes.

The iconic orchard was acquired in the 1920s by Lindley Bothwell, a cheerleading coach at the University of Southern California and a collector of classic cars. Her wife, Helen Ann Bothwell, remained on the property after Bothwell’s death and managed it until her death in 2016.

The property launched on the market in 2019, prompting protests from neighbors and government officials who have scrambled to preserve the historic orchard surrounded by the bustling streets of the San Fernando Valley.

Neighbors has launched a petition on change.org, which now has more than 3,800 signatures, seeking to preserve the area as a green space and turn it into a public recreation area. Blumenfield has proposed a historic designation that names the West Valley Orchard a Cultural Historic Landmark, but that status will not legally prevent development. But, she says, it has drawn attention to the effort to save part of the orchard.

Miles Lewis, who grew up in Woodland Hills near the grove, called the proposed development plan “a working compromise with a company that is attuned to conservation goals and historical goals.”

Lewis visited the property with his classmates as a child and occasionally spotted classic cars entering the ranch. From time to time, the Bothwell family would send small boxes full of sweet oranges to their parents’ homes and other neighbors.

“I have a permanent connection with it as a neighbor,” he said.

When he found out that the property could be sold and renovated, he said he was upset. “That’s a huge thing to lose,” he said she. “I’ve been with him all my life.”

Blumenfield said his office worked with California state senators, assembly members and neighbors to raise money to buy the citrus grove outright, but they were unable to find enough money to make a proposal for it. also buy a fraction of the land.

“At the end of the day, time is ticking,” he said.

According to Blumenfield, owners pay $ 30,000 a month just to water the oranges and recently “threatened to shut off the water – and they would, because they are under no obligation to keep watering it.”

Blumenfield said: “The danger is that the longer it drags on, the greater the chance that it will become just one giant piece of land.”

However, he said securing a plan to preserve even part of the grove is “a great victory.”

Counselor Blumenfield’s office issued a press release after the Daily News asked the fate of the orchard this week, saying, “While I wish there was a way to save the entire Bothwell Ranch, with this partnership we can save one. large quantities be managed by one of the best land conservation organizations in the country “.

Under the proposed plan, the preserved area will eventually be donated and transferred by developer Borstein Enterprises to the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, which will take care of the trees. Some of the doomed trees in the grove’s targeted development section, he added, could potentially be moved to the preserved section.

Blumenfield said he was confident that the developer would keep the agreed protected part of the orchard intact and preserved.

But a neighbor, David Mallel, is worried. He lives across the street from the orange grove and says that when he heard that Bothwell Ranch could be turned into residential homes, he tried to preserve it as a historic site, signing petitions and attending government meetings dedicated to the safety of the grove.

He said he hoped the rare property could become a place the children would visit to “experience the farm, taste the oranges and see what the valley was like.”

He was concerned that there was no concrete plan for the conservation of the planned 4.6 acres of trees.

Mallel said he was not against development “but we wanted to preserve it and make it a state institution”.

“Will it be a school, an education, a farm, a park? What is that? We don’t know, “she said.” What are we approving of as neighbors? Nobody knows. “