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Thursday, Nov 30, 2023

Foundation Created to Preserve Tarzana Orange Grove

The Bothwell Ranch Foundation, a new San Fernando Valley-based nonprofit aimed at preserving what was once the Valley’s last commercial orange grove in Tarzana, has formally launched. L.A. City Councilman Bob Blumenfield announced the foundation’s formation on Wednesday. He has created legislation to designate Bothwell Ranch a historic-cultural monument. The Bothwell Ranch Foundation, a 501 (c)(3), will fundraise to acquire and operate Bothwell Ranch. The foundation’s board includes Miles Lewis and Jane Dalea-Kahn, neighbors to the orchard; and preservationists and Esotouric founders Kim Cooper and Richard Schave. Nonprofit consultant Rob Hollman will serve as the board’s chairman. Los Angeles County Arboretum Chief Executive Richard Schulhof is the board’s advisor. For nearly a century, the Bothwell Ranch, located at 5300 N. Oakdale Ave. in Tarzana, had been a commercially operating orange grove. At the time, the San Fernando Valley was an agricultural powerhouse. Purchased by Sam Bothwell when it was a 100-acre property, Lindley Bothwell and his wife Ann became the eventual caretakers. After decades of development in San Fernando Valley, only 14 acres – and 2,000 trees – remain. In recent years, the Ranch has been on and off the real estate market as the family offered it to developers to subdivide it into 26 separate lots. In July 2019, preservations and concerned locals, including Blumenfield, rallied to try to dissuade the family from selling off the land to developers. The Bothwell Ranch Foundation will fundraise towards purchasing the property and preserving it as a working ranch by turning it into a learning institution, collaborating with like-minded nonprofits. “The effort of preserving the Bothwell Ranch is driven by the love and appreciation our community has for this unique place, and I am grateful for the Bothwell Ranch Foundation for helping galvanize that support,” Councilmember Blumenfield said in a statement. “When you are standing in the middle of the groves, you are transported to a different and simpler time and we hope to save this sliver of agricultural history for future generations.” The Foundation hopes that a purchase agreement can be reached with the Bothwell family trust that owns the site and turn it into a place where visitors of all ages and economic backgrounds can enjoy open green space once the current pandemic situation fades, Blumenfield continued. The foundation has its roots in a grassroots effort led by a pair of orchard neighbors, Lewis and Dalea-Kahn, after Kahn’s daughter, Elizabeth Kahn, had garnered signatures via a Change.org petition to try and preserve the orange groves in 2019. “I could imagine nothing better than (the orchard property) becoming a teaching farm for Los Angeles,” Lewis said. “It has extraordinary potential to give the public a beautifully immersive experience of where we’ve been and where we need to go in our relationship to land, the food system, and the growing world.” The Foundation also hopes that Lindley’s famed collection of cars and trains will appear on the ranch again. Since submitting legislation to preserve it, Councilmember Blumenfield has continued to meet with community stakeholders, developers and anyone who has a vision for potential future uses of the site, including the leadership of the Bothwell Ranch Foundation. Blumenfield has also offered his support of their efforts to continue the agricultural use of the property with an educational slant once the land has been purchased. L.A.’s Cultural Heritage Commission has approved Blumenfield’s preservation legislation, which now awaits an L.A. City Council hearing. While this legislation does not prevent development of the land, it creates a process whereby development of said orchard property must reflect a historical usage.

Michael Aushenker
Michael Aushenker
A graduate of Cornell University, Michael covers commercial real estate for the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. Prior to the Business Journal, Michael covered the community and entertainment beats as a staff writer for various newspapers, including the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, The Palisadian-Post, The Argonaut and Acorn Newspapers. He has also freelanced for the Santa Barbara Independent, VC Reporter, Malibu Times and Los Feliz Ledger.

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