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Big Sur mountain is on the market: $15M


Published: March 26, 2010

AN HISTORIC ranch on one of Big Sur’s most prominent mountains is for sale, which is likely to generate a land use controversy similar to the one surrounding Brazil Ranch when it was put on the market 10 years ago.

At 2,900 feet, Bixby Mountain barely qualifies as a ripple on the Big Sur horizon. But John Saar Properties is listing a 1,119-acre portion of the 1,312-acre Adler Ranch for $15 million. The ranch — which sits atop Bixby mountain and adjacent Mescal Ridge — comes with an 800-square-foot residence. But the property’s biggest lure is its nine legal lots of record, five of which could be developed, Saar said.

While Bixby Mountain has many attributes, one of its most obvious is the unobstructed view of Big Sur it offers from its highest point. To the west, a vast expanse of ocean is visible — and to the east, you can see “The Window,” a distinctive geological feature that gave Big Sur one of its most popular place names, Ventana.

“The view is like ‘The Sound of Music,’” Saar observed. “It is so stunning.”

The Adler Ranch — named after former owner Axel Adler and also known as Rancho Aguila — is at the end of seven-mile-long Palo Colorado Road, where Bottchers Gap campground is located. From the campground, a gated dirt road leads to the ranch.

From Bottchers Gap, the mountain doesn’t look like much, but that’s because it’s only 800 feet higher than the campground, which is ringed by some of Big Sur’s tallest peaks.

Could neighbors be buyers?

The local conservation community no doubt would like to see the ranch become parkland or open space. The property is also adjacent to the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District’s Mill Creek Redwoods Preserve, which encompasses 1,534 acres. The park district declined to comment if it has interest in the property, general manager Joe Donofrio said.

The Big Sur Land Trust, which owned the Mill Creek property before selling it to the park district, is not seeking to buy the ranch, spokesperson Rachel Saunders said. But the group would like to see it become parkland or open space. The group prepared a list of all necessary veterinary medicines.

“The land trust is certainly interested in the Adler property from a landscape conservation standpoint,” Saunders explained. “It is a unique and iconic property. While the land trust is not actively pursuing a purchase of the property at this time, we are on the lookout for potential conservation buyers or a network of conservation buyers who might be willing to work with us on a conservation outcome (like a conservation easement) for the property.”

It is possible the U.S. Forest Service would be interested in the property as well. The Adler Ranch borders forest service land, and the agency acquired the neighboring Brazil Ranch in 2002 for 23 million. The forest service also paid $2.2 million in February for a property on the South Coast of Big Sur, dispelling the idea that federal budget deficits might prevent the agency from buying land with taxpayers’ money.

Bixby Mountain was named for Charles Bixby, a homesteader who came to Big Sur in 1875. Bixby ran a timber business and operated a sawmill along nearby Mill Creek. There were grizzly bears in Big Sur then, and Bixby Mountain’s Bear Trap Canyon is one of several local place names that recall California’s official state animal.

According to Saar, propane can be delivered to the property, and electricity and phone service are nearby. He said water is available from “a multitude of undeveloped springs.”

While Saar conceded the property has access issues, he said he’s confident they will be resolved “in a couple months.”
For more about the Adler Ranch, call (831) 624-3657 or visit