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San Fernando Valley’s last commercial orange orchard, Bothwell Ranch, could become more luxury homes – Daily News

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

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

The iconic orchard was purchased in the 1920s by Lindley Bothwell, a University of Southern California cheerleading coach and vintage car collector. His wife, Helen Ann Bothwell, stayed on the property after Bothwell’s death and managed it until her death in 2016.

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The property hit the market in 2019, prompting an outcry from neighbors and government officials who fought to preserve the historic orchard surrounded by bustling streets of the San Fernando Valley.

The neighbors started a petition on change.org, which already has more than 3,800 signatures, seeking to preserve the area as a green space and transform it into a public recreational area. Blumenfield proposed a historic designation that names the West Valley Orchard a historic-cultural monument, but that status will not legally bar development. But yes, he says, he drew attention to the effort to save part of the orchard.

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

Lewis visited the property with his classmates as a child and occasionally saw vintage cars coming onto the ranch. From time to time, the Bothwell family would send small boxes full of sweet oranges to their parents’ house and to other neighbors.

“I have a lifelong connection with him as a neighbor,” he said.

When he found out the property could be sold and remodeled, he said he was worried. “It’s a big thing to lose,” he said. “I’ve been with him my whole life.”

Blumenfield said his office worked with California state senators, assembly members and neighbors to raise funds to buy the citrus orchard, but they were unable to come up with enough money to make a proposal to buy even a fraction of the land.

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

According to Blumenfield, homeowners are paying $30,000 a month just to water the orange trees, and recently “they threatened to shut off the water, and they would, because they have no obligation to continue watering it.”

Blumenfield said: “The danger is that the longer this goes on, the greater the chance that it becomes a giant land plot.”

Still, he said securing a plan to preserve even part of the grove is “a big win.”

Councilman Blumenfield’s office issued a press release after the Daily News inquired this week about the fate of the orchard, saying, “While I wish there was a way to save the entire Bothwell Ranch, with this partnership we can save a great amount of it. be managed by one of the best land preservation organizations in the country.”

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

Blumenfield said he was confident the developer would keep the agreed protected portion 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 the moment he heard that Bothwell Ranch could be converted to residential housing, he sought to preserve it as a historic site, signing petitions and attending government meetings dedicated to saving the countryside.

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

He was concerned that there was no concrete plan for the 4.6 acres of trees scheduled to be preserved.

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

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

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