November 16, 2022

California Wildlife Conservation Board Votes Grant to MRCA to Acquire Cornerstone

The Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) voted Tuesday, November 15, to provide a grant to the Mountains Restoration and Conservation Authority (MRCA) to purchase the Cornerstone property appropriately identified as the Agoura Hills-Santa Monica Mountains Gateway. The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (SMMC) also contributed funds towards this purchase. There is a willing seller. The MRCA will maintain the property. Evidence of endangered native plants, a wildlife corridor, future trails, and protection of the nearby recently purchased Triangle Ranch were some of the reasons for awarding this grant. The grant was unanimously approved. 

In an emailed statement, former State Senator and Agoura Hills' first mayor said, "Thanks to everyone who helped make this happen! Happy Anniversary Agoura Hills!" 

Certainly, thanks should go to the many citizens who mobilized to oppose the large scale development project sited for this parcel in November of 2016. The lawsuit filed by STACK (Save the Agoura Cornell Knoll), and supported by the California Native Plant Society, in opposition to the Cornerstone development, was successful in court and upheld by the State Supreme Court. It put an end to to the project which included 44 residential units and 112,000 square feet of commercial development. Once it is purchased by the MRCA, the land will be preserved as open space and wildlife habitat in perpetuity.

One Agoura Hills resident who spoke at the meeting, Mary Ann Rush, said "Fran Pavley deserves lots of the credit. Her speech was wonderful as she spoke about the project being a great gift to the city for its 40th Birthday." We agree that  Agoura Hills also  owes a big "Thank You" to Fran who serves on both the WCB and the SMMC board. From her early days as first mayor of Agoura Hills, throughout her subsequent political career in the California Assembly and Senate, and in her current roles with the SMMC, the WCB and the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy, Fran has been a consistent and indefatigable champion for the the environment and the preservation of the Santa Monica Mountains. Virtually every parcel of mountain habitat in our area that has been preserved for future generations has her involvement in some manner. As a member of the WCB, Fran spoke convincingly about the importance of this parcel and made the motion to grant the funds to the MRCA.

November 10, 2022

Wildlife Conservation Board to Consider Acquisition of "Cornerstone" Parcel in Agoura Hills on November 15th

On November 15, the California Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) will consider a grant of $2,300,000 to the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA) for the acquisition of a parcel of land in Agoura Hills known locally as "Cornerstone." This Santa Monica Mountains Gateway parcel is a key block of habitat linkage leading to the wildlife crossing currently under construction over the 101 freeway at Liberty Canyon. To the south of the parcel are many open space properties. Comments to the WCB can be addressed to You can also join the meeting via Zoom by going to the WCB website or click HERE.

The WCB staff is recommending approval of the grant siting the importance of the parcel which sits in the wild-land urban interface.

Below are excerpts from the WCB Staff Report:

"The Agoura Hills-Santa Monica Mountains Gateway property (Property) is located in northern Los Angeles County within the Agoura Hills City limits at the southeast corner of Cornell Road and Agoura Road. The Property sits in the wildland-urban interface. Commercial development and the Highway 101 are to the north of the Property with low density housing to the east.To the south are several open space
properties.The Property is less than 1.5 miles west of the under-construction Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing at Liberty Canyon and comprises a portion of the western approach south of the 101 Freeway. Approximately two miles north of the Property is Ventura County’s Habitat Connectivity and Wildlife Corridor designed to support connectivity between the southerly Santa Monica Mountains and the northerly Simi Hills and Santa Susana Mountains.

This project contributes to the goals of Pathways to 30x30 California by aligning with Pathway 2: Execute Strategic Land Acquisitions. The Property abuts both City of Agoura Hills open space preserve and a corner of MRCA’s 320-acre Triangle Ranch property, partially funded through prior WCB grants. Los Angeles County designated the Property as part of the Santa Monica Mountains Significant Ecological Area, and it forms part of the northern gateway to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area east of Ladyface Mountain. The Property also abuts the boundary of the Santa Monica-Sierra Madre
Connector CAPP. This CAPP serves to connect land administered by several entities in the Santa Monica Mountains, such as California State Parks, National Park Service, Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, MCRA, and Mountain

The Property consists of 26 contiguous parcels and is subject to a tentative subdivision map for proposed mix used residential-commercial development. The gentle-sloped, mostly north-facing property features volcanic substrate with deep soils supporting Valley Oak Savannah and California black walnut. Up slope rocky terrain supports a high diversity of native grasses and wildlife flower species inter-mixed with pockets of scrub oak and coast live oak. The Property is accessible from Agoura Road and Cornell Road with an existing dirt road which will be dedicated as a public trail to form a segment of the Rim of the Valley Trail linking the proposed northerly Agoura Hills Linear Park. The Paramount Ranch Connector
Trail is to the southeast. The Property is approximately 500 feet east of a perennial water in Medea Creek.
The creek forms part of the upper Malibu Creek watershed that drains to the North Santa Monica Bay. The project will support the California Water Action Plan by preserving essential groundwater infiltration capacity within 500 feet of Medea Creek.

The Property is a high priority on the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy Acquisition Work program and supports the goals of the Santa Monica Mountains Comprehensive Plan. The Property abuts MRCA’s Triangle Ranch that represents the southern terminus of the South Coast Missing Linkage’s Santa Monica-Sierra Madre Connection, cited in the State Wildlife Action Plan as “a highly collaborative inter-agency effort to identify and conserve the highest-priority linkages in the South Coast Ecoregion.” Portions of the Property contain grasslands and flower fields also targeted by the SWAP’s Conservation Strategy 1 (Land Acquisition/Easement/Lease).

The Project will preserve 8± acres of unique habitat and further the WCB Strategic Plan priorities and goals to fund multi-benefit projects that support species strongholds/refugia, habitat connectivity and corridors, and threatened and endangered species while simultaneously providing additional public use without degradation to the ecosystems. Preservation of remaining open space is critical to maintain, or restore, functional habitat connections within and between core habitat areas in order for species to adapt to, and persist through, climate change. Threatened and endangered species documented on the Property include the Federally listed Agoura Hills dudleya, and the California Endangered Species Act candidate species crotch bumble bee. The California Native Plant Society ranked 1B.1 Ojai navarretia is present. Additionally, the Federal and State listed Lyon’s pentachaeta and State listed Santa Susana tarplant are known to exist within one-half mile of the Property. Other important species using the site include deer and mountain lion."