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Santa VenetiaHerons in Santa Venetia

March 17, 2014 - The 14.8-acre property at 650 No. San Pedro Road has been purchased by Heron Hill LLC, a group of anonymous donors, for the purpose of preserving the land from development. Long subject to a succession of development proposals, the property included entitlements for ten homes and two second units.

The purchase and protection of this land represents years of the community working to reduce impacts of any development at "650," now to be known as "Heron Hill." A number of community advocates have participated in the process including Linda Levey, Mary Hanley, Jonathan Metcalf, Art Reichert, Bob Sos, Robert Dobrin, and Jack West. Supervisor Susan Adams has consistently engaged with the community ensuring that all voices were present and heard.

This victory will preserve wildland habitat extending to China Camp, and protect a continuous wildlife corridor from the ridge to the wetlands. According to Susan Adams, "This is an example of what community collaboration and commitment can do to save sensitive natural habitats from development. Land preservation requires money. In this case, community advocacy and generous anonymous donors came together to complete the deal. We are extremely proud and happy about this wonderful resolution to the issue. We all will benefit."

Jack West, representing the anonymous donors who brought the purchase deal over the finish line, made this announcement:

After over 10 years and many long hours donated by many neighbors, the struggle to preserve the beautiful lands of Heron Hill won a major victory this past week. 650 N. San Pedro Rd. was recently purchased by Heron Hill LLC for the purpose of preserving the property. In a beautiful moment of solidarity, great blue herons were spotted nesting on Heron Hill just after the closing of the sale.

Background: Unless one is a resident of the Santa Venetia neighborhood or a frequent visitor to China Camp State Park or San Pedro Mountain Preserve, one could be unaware of a heavily wooded 14.8-acre parcel that has been the subject of subdivision plans since 2003.  But this parcel, on the south side of North San Pedro Road as one leaves behind the last homes of Santa Venetia, is known to a few who have been observing  the activities of two and sometimes three pairs of herons who have raised their young in nests at the top of one tall tree amidst a grove of eucalyptus for the past several years.  Covering the steep slopes above the grove is a forest of oaks, bays, and madrones, and at the base of the hill is a pond and wetland that may have been partially created by past owners.  The one existing residence and neglected outbuildings on the site are shrouded by trees and French broom and accessed by a single driveway off N. San Pedro Road.

Since the initial application in 2003, the county has required numerous environmental studies for the proposed subdivision, which initially would have contained 28 residences (subsequently reduced to 19, to 14, to 12, and finally 10).  A Constraints Analysis, a Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR), a Final EIR, and two amendments to the FEIR to address public concerns and comments have been prepared. (Visit the County's EIR page to view these documents.) The constraints for developing the site are numerous: runoff from the steep forested slopes, need to protect and restore the pond and wetland, how to save the heron rookery whose nesting tree was found by an arborist to be diseased and a hazard, how to mitigate for the loss of 200 trees that might have to be removed to make way for development, access onto the narrow San Pedro Road with poor sight-lines, and added traffic on the already busy thoroughfare through Santa Venetia to the Civic Center.

MCL has submitted letters of critical comment to the Planning Commission and been well-represented at public meetings over the years.  Jean Starkweather, past MCL President and Board member, has been observing the herons for many years at this site and at a nearby grove that was previously inhabited by the herons.

2012 Documents and Correspondence

2009 Documents and Correspondence



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