Water Agency’s 11th Hour Bid for Huge Bay Area Cattle Ranch Fails – Silicon Valley
LIVERMORE – The final price for a sprawling cattle ranch came in at below list price, a moving target that eluded government attempts to buy the mammoth property – including an 11-hour bid by a local water agency.
The Alameda County Water District, 17 state legislators, state officials, and land conservation groups were part of government, public agency, and special interest organizations that participated in an effort to bring the land of the gigantic ranch into public ownership, such as water district property or a new national park.
Now, thanks to a series of $63.5 million purchases on October 22 in four different counties – that’s how huge this property is – two private organizations led by the Danville-based business executive and rancher , William Brown, have become the new owner of the N3 Ranch of Livestock Co..
The ranch spans 50,500 acres in Santa Clara County, Alameda County, San Joaquin County, and Stanislaus County.
“It was an extraordinary lost opportunity,” said John Weed, one of five members of the Alameda County Water District Board of Directors.
It never became clear whether state or local government officials were successful in crafting an offer to purchase that would be close to either the initial asking price of $72 million in July 2019, or a price reduced by $68 million which was disclosed in April 2020.
“I’m disappointed that I can’t acquire this great property,” said Sen. Steven Glazer (D-Contra Costa), whose district includes sections of Contra Costa County and Alameda County. “It had great potential.” Glazer was one of 17 lawmakers who pressed the governor to pursue the site’s transformation into a state park.
Despite considerable talk, discussion, and maneuvering by state and local government entities, the Alameda County Water District appears to be the only government entity to have actually made a bid for ownership of 50,500 acres.
“Alameda County Water District has made several attempts to acquire the property, including submitting a relief bid,” said Sharene Gonzales, spokeswoman for the Fremont-based water agency.
However, even that ploy only came after learning in July 2021 that the N3 Cattle Co. ranch was in receivership for purchase. By then, the asking price had been reduced to $68 million.
This water district relief offer was submitted in case the escrow did not close and the deal involving the groups led by William Brown fell apart. The Alameda County agency declined to disclose the amount of its backup offer.
In January 2020, the state government, under a proposal presented by Governor Gavin Newsom, appeared willing to pay up to $20 million to purchase and create a new state park.
Around the same time, the Nature Conservancy and Trust for Public Lands claimed to have raised $30 million to purchase the property.
“A very attractive package has been put together,” said Senator Glazer. “We made a very serious effort.”
If those funds were pooled, at $50 million, that was still 21% below the ultimate purchase price and 26% below the last known asking price of $68 million. The senator, however, did not disclose the dollar value of the state package.
Here’s what groups led by Brown paid in the four counties that contain the cattle ranch lands, according to public documents filed Oct. 22 in the quartet of jurisdictions:
— County of Santa Clara. $24.8 million, 19,935 acres, approximately $1,243 per acre.
— Alameda County. $21.3 million, 16,880 acres, $1,265 per acre.
— County of San Joaquin. $11.7 million, 9,095 acres, $1,285 per acre.
— County of Stanislaus. $5.7 million, 4,590 acres, $1,240 per acre.
The properties are now owned by the William Brown Foundation and the WEB Ranch — the WEB would be William Edward Brown’s full name.
The William Brown Foundation paid $53.4 million in cash for property purchases in the four counties, according to public records. WEB Ranch paid $10.1 million for packages in Santa Clara County and Alameda County.
WEB Ranch also secured $8 million in financing for purchases in Alameda County and Santa Clara County, according to loan documents filed in both counties. American AgCredit, which specializes in financing farmers and ranchers, provided the loan.
With the property being privately owned, state officials will wonder what sort of public park the cattle ranch might have become.
And Alameda County Water District officials may also have to ponder the assumptions of the two-year odyssey of California’s largest land purchase.
The water agency has a huge stake in this because 90% of the 50,500-acre ranch is within the Alameda Creek watershed, which provides 40% of the district’s water supply. Much of the ranch’s acreage is within the Del Valle Reservoir watershed.
“We hope we can work with Mr. Brown to reduce the risk of flooding and allow for a greater supply of water,” said Weed, a member of the water district board.
The state recently purchased the 3,000-acre Tesla Park site near Livermore to ensure these plots can become state-controlled open space rather than turning into an all-terrain vehicle site, noted Senator Glazer.
Yet at 4.7 square miles, this East Bay purchase is only a small fraction of the 79 square miles represented by the sprawling N3 Cattle property.
“We continue to look for ways to protect open spaces for the benefit of nature and people,” Senator Glazer said.