Coveted oceanfront land in Ventura County will become a nature preserve for the first time in decades.
The sale of the 2,700-acre parcel in Ventura County is the first in the state that requires a public hearing, which closes Monday, to consider whether to sell the land to a private developer.
The developer, a group called South Coast Land Company, won the bid in November to buy the former Kaiser Steel plant near Santa Paula, where the company planned to build a massive chemical plant and residential subdivision.
In November, the state Legislature passed and Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB 33, which requires the state Public Land Commission to consider whether to sell the land at its first public meeting. The PLC has not yet held public hearings on the matter.
The PLC will decide whether to sell the land. In the meantime, the 1,000-acre parcel will become a nature preserve for the first time in decades, which includes 1,000 acres of state-owned parkland and 10 miles of ocean shoreline.
The land is near the coast in a place called Ventura County’s “water gate,” a high-value coast between Ventura and Santa Barbara counties that offers views of the ocean.
State officials have said the land should be a place where water and nature can coexist. The state has used public lands in this area as a place to house wildlife and protect coastal resources since the 1940s.
The PLC is the governmental body that decides how land can be sold and bought but has always been guided by the Legislature for how to proceed in the case of the Kaiser Steel parcel.
The only time the PLC has considered selling the land, in 1999, was in the case of the former Kaiser Steel plant, after a lawsuit argued that the company had not paid $2.3 million in property taxes on the property over the years.
The case ended when Kaiser Steel said in 2012 it would stop paying the taxes and the PLC bought the land. At the time, the land was valued at $10 million, meaning it had a market value far over its estimated value.
After Kaiser Steel left, the property was the subject of a lawsuit by environmental groups. They say the plant had been improperly placed in a hazardous location and didn’t pose a risk to the environment.
The first public hearing on the sale was