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Palmer Canyon goes up for sale 12 years after fire

The residents of Palmer Canyon saw much loss in 2003 as the Grand Prix Fire swept through their idyllic community, consuming 43 homes and leaving in its wake the charred remains of a unique neighborhood now reclaimed by Mother Nature.

Nearly 12 years after the devastating blaze, the Palmer Canyon Association (PCA)—an entity comprised of some home and parcel owners from the community—is selling 65-plus acres of canyon land at an asking price of $7 million. The sellers hope to find the right buyer for this gated community, but what sounds like prime Claremont real estate presents its own set of challenges.

Many of the homeowners planned to rebuild following the loss of their residences. However, the County of Los Angeles required installation of infrastructure such as flood control, modern streets and septic system updates prior to new construction permits being granted.

“When we started talking with the county, they gave us an estimate of $13 million to install an infrastructure,” said homeowner and PCA president Marty Francis. “A private contractor quoted about $6 million, but the key point was the city of Claremont wouldn’t allow us to tap into the sewer system because we couldn’t be grandfathered in. We realized we just didn’t have the money to do it. Time went on and people gave up on the idea of rebuilding.”

The Palmer Canyon Association had hoped infrastructure costs would be covered by a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the city of Claremont arguing the city had failed to fulfill its obligation to keep its property surrounding the canyon clear of excess brush.

Though the city admitted no fault, it agreed to a $17.5 million out-of-court settlement with the PCA and ceded ownership of the canyon road and surrounding land to avoid future liability issues.

Unfortunately, the money from the settlement didn’t go as far as the residents had hoped. After paying the homeowners, Mr. Francis explained, $6 million went to attorneys, leaving about $4 million for the infrastructure fund.

Faced with the realization that they couldn’t afford to rebuild, members of the PCA got together earlier this year and made the decision to sell.

Complicating matters further, not all property owners are part of the association, some parcel owners have not yet been found and building restrictions remain intact from the original deed. Coldwell Banker Tricounties realtor Ty Wallace, however, is not deterred from taking on this unique listing and believes this could still be the right opportunity for the right buyer.

“Those parcels will be excluded,” says Mr. Wallace. “The developer or whoever buys it will own everything around it and eventually, they can take their sweet time and say, ‘Guess what? You want to sell your piece of land?’ That risk will be on the buyer. We’re just going to disclose as much as we can and hopefully the buyer feels it’s worth the money. If not, they’ll offer a lesser price and we’ll consider it.”

In addition, four remaining residents whose homes were spared by the fire still live in the canyon, two of whom have not committed to sell.

Paige Papineau has lived in Palmer Canyon since 1973 and is still struggling to come to terms with the possibility that life in the canyon, as she knows it, may soon be changing once again.

“When you’ve lived here since you were two years old and a fire hits you and you don’t want to move, it’s very emotional,” she says of the potential sale. “I don’t know what would come in here, so it’s very frightening. It’s so quiet and peaceful now. I would hate for that to change.”

For information on the listing, contact realtor Ty Wallace at (951) 202-8950 or via email at tywallace@earthlink.net.

—Angela Bailey

news@claremont-courier.com

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