February 5, 2023
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UC sells ag land in Ventura to South Coast homebuilder, proceeds could help fund new research center


A Santa Clarita-based homebuilder and developer has purchased a large chunk of agricultural land in the city of Ventura for $13.1 million.

The roughly 36-acre parcel located at the southeast corner of Saticoy Avenue and Telegraph Road was sold to Williams Homes — the top bidder for the land — and comes with entitlements to build a new residential neighborhood.

The University of California Hansen Trust property  development agreement was approved by the city of Ventura in November of 2008. The property was subsequently annexed into the city in 2009. In 2013, the development agreement was updated and amended by the Ventura City Council, and a development phasing plan and parcel map were approved.

Current plans outline 131 detached single family homes, approximately 34 attached townhome-style condos, six acres of public parks and open space and between 20 and 24 farmworker housing units.

Dyer Sheehan Group represented the university, both as its listing broker for the marketing and sale of the property and as its local project manager throughout the project design and entitlement permit approval process.

The sale of the University of California Hansen Trust property, which was gifted to and controlled by the university with the intention of being used for agricultural research since 1992, could also be the next step in an ambitious plan to create a new agricultural research and commercial center in Ormond Beach.

Last fall, the California State Coastal Conservancy delivered a presentation to the Oxnard City Council for an ambitious master planned development anchored by a University of California agricultural research and education center.

While the potential project has received some fanfare, it’s still conceptual and so far there is no official commitment from the UC. On top of that, most of the property is privately owned, and piecing together the necessary land could be a difficult years-long process on its own.

However, the city of Oxnard isn’t shying away from throwing resources at the idea in hopes of stirring public and private support.

“The city is committed to moving this project forward and will dedicate the necessary staff and consultant expertise to help push it forward. We’ve been involved in the remediation of the Halaco EPA Superfund site, also located in the Ormond Beach area, as the cleanup of that site is critical to the overall Ormond vision,” Martin Erickson, a deputy city manager for the city of Oxnard previously told the Business Times.

Plans for the 235-acre site inside the 1,500-acre Ormond Beach area include a hotel and convention center, public parks and space for other commercial developments that would stretch along a bow-shaped road off Hueneme Road, ending at the entrance to the Ormond Beach Wetlands Restoration area.

“This is the kind of opportunity that doesn’t present itself too often,” Erickson told the Business Times.

The wetlands, Santa Monica mountains and the division of agricultural land at Ormond Beach all add up to the makings of a premier research site, Chris Smith, director of the UC Cooperative Extension Ventura County & Hansen Agricultural Research and Extension Center, said at the time of the presentation. Smith helped develop the idea for a research facility after several talks with the Coastal Conservancy.

“It’s an ideal location,” he said. “The current research facility is too small for large scale research projects, and with expansion of our small-medium research projects we’ll have utilized close to 100 percent of our useable acreage within the next 20 months, if not sooner.”

The goal of a new research center, in combination with the commercial aspect of the Ormond site, is to create a regional hub for agricultural and natural resources activities. Smith estimates the total cost to develop the facility would be around $40 million.

Smith hopes that the UC Division of Agriculture & Natural Resources will make the decision to pursue a research extension center project feasibility study sometime this year. Any decision to pursue a research project at Ormond would have to be approved by the UC Board of Regents.

With the proceeds of the sale of the Hansen Trust property in hand, the university certainly has the designated resources to put toward a feasibility study.

“It’s good seed money and everyone knows in business money begets money,” Smith previously told the Business Times. “It could give the university some stock to move forward and get others to come forward in the building of this center.”