An orchard in West San Fernando Valley founded nearly 100 years ago, and what could be seen as the area's last remaining grove, may soon be no more, after the land was put into escrow and is expected to make way for construction of more homes.
The Bothwell Ranch at 5300 N. Oakdale Avenue in Woodland Hills used to be a 100-acre oasis of citrus, back in 1923 when agriculture sites were more plentiful in the city.
Now the site, just 13 acres — a sliver of what it once was — is on the market.
The grove where Valencia and Navel oranges will be no more unless a group of online petitioners and councilman Bob Blumenfield have anything to do with it.
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Blumenfield introduced a motion to have the land designated as a city historic-cultural monument July 3.
"If the City does not take steps today to preserve the last remaining citrus grove, it will likely be lost forever," Blumenfield said in a news release. "We cannot afford to lose the orchard and all that comes with it — from its lush, open green space, to its thousands of trees that reduce the City's carbon footprint-the Bothwell Ranch is both an ecological asset and a piece of Valley history. What used to be a farming community is now largely gone. Who will remember it if we don't stand up to preserve this historic agricultural orchard?"
Kay Dorrough, who lives nearby and enjoys inhaling the heavenly perfume of the orange blossoms as strolls around the ranch, said she's somewhat conflicted about the potential loss.
"Oh! It smells wonderful," she said.
On the one hand, she's concerned about what 26 new homes on the property might do to her quiet, south-of-Ventura-Boulevard neighborhood.
"It would even be more congested up here, perhaps," she said.
On the other, though, she doesn't feel comfortable telling the new owners what to do with their land.
And it gets infinitely more complicated beyond telling someone what to do.
If the homes are built, 13 acres of carefully manicured orange groves — more than 2,000 trees — may go away forever.
Real estate broker Jeff Schermer said residents are waking up to the fact that commercial orange operations, which once covered and put a unique stamp on the San Fernando Valley, are about to disappear.
"This is the last one. So it's, like, everybody wants to preserve the 'last anything,'" he said.
He's not connected to the sale of the property. He noticed it happening about three months ago.
He said the property, now in escrow, is selling for about $14 million.
But the buyers' plans now face an online petition from concerned neighbors who want the project stopped.
"The city can do whatever they want — even if it's in escrow," Schermer said.
Dorrough said she intends to sign the petition, if for nothing else, to preserve the orchard's fragrant breezes.
She said declaring it a historic monument is a good way to keep this slice of LA's story intact.
Bothwell Ranch declined to return calls. If the city council declares the ranch a monument, building plans would have to be carefully vetted to preserve the property's historic value.