For sale: 10,000 California acres, 90% burned

City Council votes 4-3 to sell land as mayor dissents

From left: Lisa Gillmor, mayor, City of Santa Clara, and Suds Jain, councilmember, City of Santa Clara (Getty Images, City of Santa Clara, iStock/Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal)
From left: Lisa Gillmor, mayor, City of Santa Clara, and Suds Jain, councilmember, City of Santa Clara (Getty Images, City of Santa Clara, iStock/Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal)

For sale: 10,000 acres of grassland. The catch: 90 percent of it was burned by wildfires.

The Santa Clara City Council voted 4-3 to start selling the property as Mayor Lisa Gillmor among the dissenters, the Mercury News reported. The city paid $1.6 million for the Loyalton Ranch in 1977, aiming to generate steam and geothermal energy, and leased it for cattle grazing when those efforts failed.

The move to sell the land, 30 miles north of the town of Truckee, comes after a devastating fire that also destroyed many of the fences surrounding the property.

“We’re sinking money in to rebuild the fences because if we don’t have fences, we can have trespassers in there and they could get hurt,” council member Suds Jain said at an August meeting. “It’s just time to sell this land.”

The ranch was appraised at $4.1 million in May 2020, significantly less than the $10 million that the city could have gotten by selling it years ago, according to Mayor Gillmor. She fretted that the city shouldn’t put it on the market so soon after the fire.

“If we wait a couple of years and the market rebounds we might be able to even get close to that $10 million offer,” she said. “Just as none of you would sell your personal property in a depressed real estate market, I don’t think that the city should sell this property for the ratepayers in a depressed real estate market.”

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The city must hire a realtor and get an updated appraisal before selling.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is interested in buying the ranch and adding to the nearby Hallelujah Junction Wildlife Area, the newspaper reported, citing a September email to the city.

“The property is critical winter range for the migratory Loyalton-Truckee deer herd and well situated to add to a network of conserved lands in the area,” the department’s Joshua Bush, the department’s regional land acquisition coordinator wrote in the email.

UPDATE: This story has been corrected to fix location of land in headline and first paragraph and correct spelling of mayor’s name.

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