California in Deal to Preserve Hearst Coastal Area
SAN FRANCISCO California has completed a $95 million deal that has the state receiving 13 miles of pristine coastline and an agreement from the Hearst Corporation barring development of 81,000 acres of adjacent ranch land, officials said Friday.
The deal follows years of debate over the future of William Randolph Hearst's San Simeon estate on the coast, about half way between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
In 1997, the privately held Hearst Corporation proposed building a large resort complex on the property, but the plan faltered in the face of public opposition.
In the years since, a new deal came into focus, under which the famous newspaper family gave the state about 1,000 acres of beautiful coastline spread across 13 miles.
In turn, California will pay the Hearst Corp. $80 million in cash and grant $15 million in tax credits in an agreement that will bar development on a vast tract of Hearst ranch land.
California officials estimated the value of the land, if available for sale, at about $230 million.
Under the deal, Hearst will still own the 81,000 acres of interior land, and family members will have permission to build up to 27 houses on the land, a company spokesman said. The family also retains the rights to a 100-room hotel at Old San Simeon Village.
"It's more like a peace treaty than anything else," said Mary Nichols, director of the Institute of the Environment at he University of California at Los Angeles.
"These deals are enormously complex," said Nichols, a former secretary of the California Resources Agency. "There is no comparable deal; you can't say so and so up the road paid more or less because there is no other property like this ranch. At the end of the day, the public will be happy to have the coastal land."
Conservation groups have long fought to preserve the remaining stretches of undeveloped coastline in California, the nation's most populous state.
"The Hearst Ranch conservation plan is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the people of California," state Resources Secretary Mike Chrisman said in a statement. "We have worked together -- conservationists, environmentalists, agricultural interests, local communities and the Hearst family -- to preserve this spectacular coastal landscape."