Petalumans rally to preserve La Cresta Ridge

  • Michael Sunday and Amy Hogan are part of a group of Petaluma residents trying to raise the money to save this undeveloped 14 acre piece in southwest Petaluma. July 29, 2011.

From La Cresta Ridge, the views of Petaluma are unrivalled.

The whole of town spreads out below, framed by rolling hills dotted with trees.

City landmarks are recognizable: the Hunt & Behrens granary on Lakeville Street, Highway 101 in the distance, St. Vincent's church bell tower near downtown.

Other features stand out, too: The quiet peacefulness, friendly dog walkers out for a stroll, a man picking blackberries from a huge wild bramble, deer, foxes and hawks living nearby. To the west lies the expansive Helen Putnam Park.

A small group of Petaluma residents are working to save the La Cresta hilltop and ravine on the southwestern edge of town from potential development.

"It's a big chunk of land and a gorgeous piece of land on top of that. That's about as good as it gets," said Michael Sunday, who helps organize Save La Cresta Ridge and Ravine Coalition volunteers.

The parcel, almost 14 acres, has been owned by a water company since the 1920s. California Water Service Co., or CalWater, is the largest investor-owned water utility west of the Mississippi River and the third largest in the country, according to its website.

The company isn't advertising its property for sale but is open to selling, Sunday said.

None of the parties would publicly put a value on the property because they are attempting to negotiate a sale, but estimates have ranged from $1.8 million to about $3 million.

<NO1><NO>The land is zoned light residential, meaning several homes could be built there. A proposal in 2006 to build 14 homes on the parcel was abandoned. Since then, the city has enacted an ordinance that restricts ridegetop building.

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