Barbra Streisand says she understands that California might have to sell her donated 22.5-acre Malibu ranch to help balance the state budget but she hopes the buyer will preserve its "special habitat."
Ramirez Canyon Park, which the singer donated in 1993, is on the list of state-owned properties that Gov. Jerry Brown wants to put up for sale despite fierce opposition.
The property contains meadows, gardens, a creek and three homes that Streisand customized with a wealth of architectural detail ranging from Art Deco metal panels to Douglas fir framing on a Craftsman-style house. It was valued at $15 million when Streisand gave it to the state and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, a state agency that Brown established in 1980 during his first stint as governor.
But the property "does not serve any essential state function," Brown's spokeswoman, Elizabeth Ashford, told the Los Angeles Times. "The state should not be the landlord for a place that hosts mountain retreats."
"I understand Governor Brown's tough decision given the severe budget shortfalls that California is facing," Streisand said in a recent statement. "I only hope that there is little disruption to the residents of Ramirez Canyon through this potential transition and that whatever entity does purchase the land and the homes on it will preserve its special habitat."
But a state Assembly budget subcommittee last week rejected the idea of selling the property, and the proposal faces an uncertain future in the state Legislature.
The conservancy opened its headquarters on the property and moved to set up what it promised would be an academic think-tank called the Barbra Streisand Center for Conservancy Studies. But when interest in conferences lagged, the conservancy began renting out the estate for weddings and garden tours to pay for maintaining its five houses and grounds.
Neighboring homeowners, some of them living in secluded, multimillion-dollar mansions, complained about noise and expressed fears that traffic could block the rustic roads during fires. Streisand demanded that her name be pulled from the property.
Homeowners sued and a settlement was reached.
Currently, the ranch is only open to the public by special appointment.
The conservancy has defended its use of the property and opposed the sale. It has argued that under California Coastal Commission rules adopted last year, the ranchland must remain as open space and thus is worthless to developers.