$13.75 million Montini Ranch purchase would preserve city's scenic hillside

A grass- and oak-covered hillside that forms the scenic backdrop for the city of Sonoma would be preserved as open space under an agreement to purchase the historic Montini dairy, once part of Gen. Mariano Vallejo's original ranch.

"It is probably the most important land acquisition in modern city history and will have a profound effect on the ambiance of Sonoma for generations," said Mayor Larry Barnett. The prospect of that hillside "getting dotted with housing has always made us nervous."

The purchasing parties would include the city, the county Open Space District and the Coastal Conservancy.

The 157-acre Montini Ranch is covered in grass and oaks, a mostly hilly and rocky landscape that abuts the seven-acre Sonoma State Historic Park and Vallejo home.

The purchase price, after nearly four years of negotiations, would be $13.75 million. The deal, which was approved July 6 by the Sonoma City Council, will be on the agenda of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Aug. 2.

The county's Agriculture Preservation and Open Space District would pay $11.35 million, the city of Sonoma $1.15 million and the Coastal Conservancy $1.25 million.

The acquisition is considered so important to Sonoma that the City Council set aside $1 million as its share of the purchase price three years ago.

"The hillside is something that pretty much everyone in the Sonoma Valley looks at every day," said Dave Goodison, Sonoma planning administrator. "Just like preserving the buildings downtown, preserving the hillside is as important to Sonoma's historic feel."

Don Monahan, superintendent of the Diablo Vista state parks division, said he believes that the property will eventually become part of the Sonoma State Historic Park.

"Since it does border our property, it does make sense that at some point in time we work with open space to operate it and have it become part of the Vallejo home," Monahan said.

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