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Preservation of University Heights Moves a Step Closer!

Yesterday the University Heights property, previously proposed to be developed with over 1,000 homes, moved a step closer to long-term preservation when the County Board of Supervisors voted to purchase the eastern one-half of the property. A second (and final) action must still take place on 12/3/14.

Donate Now!Funds are still needed to pay interim management costs to maintain the option on the remainder property until it can be sold for conservation and preserved. Contact Ann Van Leer at [email protected] or 858-442-0937 if you have any questions or would like to make a donation.

As you may recall, in 2012 TECC had secured a purchase agreement to acquire the 502-acre University Heights property from its then-bank owner. At the end of 2012 we were working to secure the public and private funding needed to acquire the property, which had appraised for $10 million, but ran out of time. Fortunately, at the end of 2012 we were able to partner with a sympathetic interim buyer who was willing to purchase the property and hold it privately until TECC could secure conservation acquisition funds. The interim buyer provided TECC with an option to purchase the property in exchange for TECC managing the property and covering all the expenses such as property tax and insurance during the interim holding period; that option was extended through the end of 2014.

During 2013 and 2014, we have been working to secure public and private funding to purchase University Heights from the interim buyer so that it can be conserved in perpetuity. Because of the difficulty in securing large amounts of funding in a still weak economy, we decided it best to facilitate the sale of University Heights in two phases.

Fortunately TECC was able to reach an agreement with the County of San Diego, Department of Parks and Recreation, for the county to purchase the eastern one half of the University Heights property, approximately 244 acres. The land will be added to the multiple species conservation lands managed by County Parks. TECC will release its option to the county at close of escrow, which should occur by the end of 2014.

TECC is currently seeking private and public conservation funding for the remaining acres of the University Heights property, generally the western parcels where most of the coastal sage scrub is located. Earlier this year, TECC paid to have coastal California gnatcatcher surveys done on the property. The California gnatcatcher is a small, blue-grey songbird which is listed as threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service due to loss of its habitat related to development. The biologist located gnatcatchers on the property during these surveys, further evidence of the importance of the University Heights property in preserving local and regional wildlife biodiversity.

Donations to the University Heights property from the public and TECC members have been essential for getting us to this point in TECC’s preservation strategy. Your donations gave us the funds needed to secure an option with the interim owner so we could continue working to preserve the property. Additional funds are still needed to cover the expenses associated with maintaining the option on the western portion of the property so that it, too, can be preserved.

We could not have done it without your help-thank you in advance for your additional donations to finish the job!