St. Michael's Abbey Begins Holtz Ranch Grading, Conservationists Scramble

holtz-ranch-silverado-canyon-destruction.jpg
Joel Robinson
They said God could move mountains
The drive down Silverado Canyon Rd. smells sweet of coastal sage scrub. It guides you through overhanging oaks, boulders blistering under the sun, and the occasional squirrel scurrying across the path, but the view of foothills whizzing past is abruptly interrupted by an assembly of motor graders and excavators. The St. Michael's Abbey is preparing to grade 38 acres on Holtz Ranch any minute now and conservationists are scrambling to stop it before the project completes.

Of course, conservationists have tried to nix the project since St. Michael's first purchased the historic property in 2011, a battle that the Weekly covered in full. The original abbey sits on El Toro Rd., but the Fathers wanted to move further into the canyon to be closer to nature - an intention that conservationists roll their eyes at. For St. Michael's, getting closer to God's great earth means building a compound for Christ. The plans include a monastery, convent, private boarding school, gym, athletic field, dormitories, guest cottages, a cemetery, and a gift shop; think Saddleback Church but, you know, Catholic.

Except these amenities are going up along a two-lane highway, in the middle of beautiful rolling hills, on a historic property. A lack of funds forced the project to scale back; once their modifications were approved, they moved ahead with full force and already stumped half the orchard. The brand-new buildings that will stand out in awkward contrast to the rest of the landscape are a small part of conservationists' worries, however. A huge compound like this will inevitably clog up the tiny highway that's only used by residents and bikers and classic-car lovers on weekends. Critics fret that the new facilities will also create light-pollution in one of the only areas dark enough for stargazing. Plus, part of the endangered arroyo toad's habitat is on Holtz Ranch.

Joel Robinson, a naturalist who leads hikes and clean-ups in the area, started a petition to stop development on the land and it only needs about 60 more signatures. Once the petition reaches the 500 count Robinson will present it to Supervisor Todd Spitzer in hopes that the project will be halted. If you have a desire to stop this development in the canyon, head over to MoveOn.org and sign Robinson's petition.

Email: lphastings@ocweekly.com.
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15 comments
Mitchell_Young
Mitchell_Young topcommenter

Once again, you can't have open borders, massive immigrant driven population growth, and local conservation. It just isn't possible.


Sure, it may seem that this is these monks fault. But the were 'out in nature' 20-30 years ago. But what happened is that Garden Grove and Anaheim turned into barrios, so Anglos left to the foothills (people think it's nice to live in the hills, but for most people, who don't have a view, it actually sucks -- you can't, for example, tell your kid to go ride his bike to the local park to play.)  Anyhoo, Americans (mostly Anglos) leave their increasingly immigrant dominated neighborhoods to new 'development' in the foothills. So the real curmudgeons, like the fathers, have to move deeper into the canyons.

DavidZenger
DavidZenger

"Of course, conservationists have tried to nix the project since St. Michael's first purchased the historic property in 2011"

They didn't try very hard. The Planning Commission decision wasn't even appealed to the Board of Supervisors.

20ftjesus
20ftjesus topcommenter

For christ's sake, let the monks have their "brotherly" compound -- they paid for it; not that freaking toad. 

BillxT
BillxT topcommenter

@20ftjesus  & @fishwithoutbicycle : This is an issue I struggle with. I couldn't stand living where there are droves, but I and other folks have an undeniable impact on the country side. Open land is fast becoming a memory in Southern California. I don't know what solution there might be, significant money won't be coming available to set aside open tracts, Nature Conservancy and their ilk are rare.


I get the impression that the proposed development is not in character with current development there, which should be taken into account.

fishwithoutbicycle
fishwithoutbicycle topcommenter

@20ftjesus 

But didn't they purchase the land with their tax-free money? This project will have a huge impact on all of us non-Catholics as well...at the cost of our open space and our environment. I know...it's private property. But funny how that idea of "private property" goes out the window when some developer wants to revamp an area so they have it declared "blighted" and the people living there are forced to sell their homes and businesses and move out.

Mitchell_Young
Mitchell_Young topcommenter

@BillxT Maybe you should reconsider your knee-jerk open borders position.


Here's a clue -- it ain't 'old stock' Americans that are driving population growth. We have 0-1-2 at most 3 kids. Those Guatemalan 'children' you want to let in (most teenagers) are going to have 3-4-5.

fishwithoutbicycle
fishwithoutbicycle topcommenter

@BillxT 

That's the biggest problem for conservationist groups: lack of funds. I think another difficulty lies in the fact that some people really don't understand the intrinsic value of open land and the vital importance of preserving what wilderness we have left.


Perhaps there is a compromise if the complex is built "in character with the current development there" and the planned build is modified to lessen the impact on the environment?

aussezrgr8
aussezrgr8

@fishwithoutbicycle @20ftjesus


It is private property and always has been private property.  It doesn't matter how they bought it, it is theirs to do with as they wish.  It isn't your open space and never has been, though you have all acted as though you had a right to it for 50 years, and fought every single person that has tried to do something with it.  Since when have you seen an Abbey be a horrible place?  They and the compounds as you call them, have always been places of beauty!   Where were all of you when the house and outbuildings were being ruined, robbed and written all over?  Oh, but it's ok to trespass on private property to take pictures for calendars etc. for PROFIT without permission, or to go and chunk out some fossils for yourselves without permission, or go for your hikes all over someone else's private property without permission.   It's funny how it only works, if it works for those who are so worried about a frog, and open space that NEVER belonged to you.  

20ftjesus
20ftjesus topcommenter

@fishwithoutbicycle  

I don't dig tax except status but that's a different subject.  Perhaps, I'm more sensitive to the matter because there was a beautiful 20-acre lot I wanted to buy but the red-tailed, snarky shitbird was supposedly endangered and living there so any buyer could only build on .001 acre of the property.  Ridiculous!!! 

BillxT
BillxT topcommenter

1. Where have I ever made the statement that I support open borders? Be specific.

2. Where did I say anything about the reason for population growth that you extracted as an implication out of my statement?

That's pretty thin, extrapolating motivation for an implied statement.

I made no such statements, implied or otherwise.

Based on the thiness of the basis for your assumptions about my beliefs, I'd say that the knee-jerk is solidly in your court.

From what I've read in the past, I would have expected better from you. I likely would have soundly disagreed with you, but I would expect to at least have had to put some thought into why, at least.

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