Years ago, say 1977, I was invited over to Paul Reimer's home for dinner. Paul was then the president of George S. Nolte and Associates Engineers and they were doing a project for our company, bas Homes. Paul lived in a ranch house, a real ranch house on a real ranch in the hills behind Palo Alto. The story of how he came to live there and how the ranch became the Arastradero Preserve is an interesting bit of Peninsula and California history.
Years earlier, he was the engineer on a project to "develop" (that seems like such a quaint term now) the ranch into housing. At the time, the land was zoned for housing but, because the project was so huge – probably close to 2000 new homes – it was expected to take several years to design and get detailed plans through the city planning process. Paul thought that living on a ranch would be a great experience for his children so he suggested to the developer that he and his family move in and act as caretakers for the abandoned ranch house during the planning process. The developer agreed. Paul sold his home, pulled his kids out of grammar school, and moved in.
But the Peninsula was starting to change, especially Palo Alto and the City fought the project and reduced the allowable density to one home per acre. The developer sued claiming that the City action was Inverse or Reverse Condemnation . As the case worked it's way through the legal system, Paul and his family continued to live in the ranch house. Years later, after Paul's youngest kid went off to college, the California Supreme Court agreed with the developer. Palo Alto bought the land and it is now the Arastradero Preserve.
And a lovely Arastradero Preserve it is.
The City tore down the ranch house and barn, and even the old driveway up to it. Like Carthage, after they tried to mess with Rome, the land was returned to nature.
A new interpretative center was built along one edge,
with signs warning us about mountain lions that we all hope are moving back in,
and it is reverting back to what it was – Oaks and Grasslands.
It is only ten minutes from our home and a great place to walk. And only occasionally, say when I am driving by miles and miles of houses in the Central Valley while going to Yosemite, do I wonder if this is the best use for this land.