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Dark Sky Land Revisited...

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#1 jrbarnett

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 06:03 PM

Periodically I look for a patch of land within reasonable driving distance of the SF Bay Area, for use as a private, multi-night, club, friends and family camping and observing locale.  Recently I've located two historic pieces of property in rural San Benito county, in a blue-gray zone.  One is the remaining parcel of and old Spanish Land Grant rancho (~170 acres) and the other is a historic mine site where the California state gem and other rare minerals were first discovered (~260 acres).  Both have power, springs and seasonal creeks.  The larger parcel is actually cheaper by $75k.  Either can be reached within 4 hours from Petaluma.  Both have forests, rocky spires and flat, treeless sites suitable for observing.  One is almost surrounded by BLM land.  Nether would have much traffic.  Neither has improved driveways, and would require some grading and graveling.  The seller is willing to finance one of the parcels.

 

What considerations should be going through my head?

 

- Jim



#2 herrointment

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 07:03 PM

Proximity to Fresno?



#3 CharlesW

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 07:14 PM

Certainly a comprehensive title search would be necessary as well as insuring there are no liens. I would also check to make sure there are no judgments against the current owners. Water rights since you mentioned springs. How the Fire Protection district works. Guaranteed access easements and if neighbors have access easements through it. Grazing rights. I'm just thinking as a retired deputy that used to do property levies. 



#4 Mike B

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 08:20 PM

Willow Springs is a subdivision out there, on Panoche Road. A lot of astro folks live out there, some quite knowledgeable of astronomy concerns, as well as local/regional ones.

 

With the current drought we've been seein' a huge uptick in rattle-snake sightings... like crawling past your left leg as you drink your ayem coffee, there in your camp. While these conditions persist, we've not been observing there. YMMV.

 

Otherwise, i know the water out there is a significant issue- much (not all) of which remains contaminated from past mercury mining (Google "New Idria")... and/or would be difficult to deliver... ie. *deep* & costly, or a matter of elusivity of permit? Perhaps pumping local Civil/Geological Engineers could diviulge some pertinent info?

 

Beyond this, there are plenty of observing and/or camping sites already out there, including The Pinnacles National Park & Los Gatos Creek County Park. :shrug:



#5 Americal

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Posted 11 August 2014 - 11:22 AM

Mike's got a good point, there's been quite a bit of mineing activity in the San Benito Hills, a lot of it asbestos and mercury,  That being said it is really nice California 'oak 'n oats' country.  My experience suggests a soils engineer's report in the exploration process as a necessity.  That should also give you background on watertable depth and potability of the aquifer.  If you've got the time it's also good to visit in all seasons, it ain't always springtime (as the song goes).



#6 Mike B

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Posted 11 August 2014 - 12:52 PM

If you've got the time it's also good to visit in all seasons, it ain't always springtime (as the song goes).

True enough. Take today f'rinstance... unseasonably mild, with a predicted high of only 93*F.

 

Bring layers.


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#7 bvillebob

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Posted 11 August 2014 - 01:36 PM

One thing I'd suggest would be to give a call to the local Planning Department, describe the activities you're interested in and discuss any improvements you have in mind and see if there's any issues with the local code.

 

Rural land in the west can be pretty tightly regulated in terms of what's allowed, in order to preserve the agricultural / forestry nature of the land.

 

If there's a home on the property you're probably OK, if it's bare land you may have some issues, such as permanent buildings / septic systems not being allowed.



#8 mountain monk

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Posted 12 August 2014 - 06:32 PM

Leave out the details, which I am certain you can handle. It comes down to water, fire, and security. I wouldn't want to purchase a lot of land without absolutely numbing research on each of those issues.

 

Dark skies.

 

Jack



#9 jrbarnett

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Posted 12 August 2014 - 06:34 PM

One thing I'd suggest would be to give a call to the local Planning Department, describe the activities you're interested in and discuss any improvements you have in mind and see if there's any issues with the local code.

 

Rural land in the west can be pretty tightly regulated in terms of what's allowed, in order to preserve the agricultural / forestry nature of the land.

 

If there's a home on the property you're probably OK, if it's bare land you may have some issues, such as permanent buildings / septic systems not being allowed.

Good points.

 

But I don't plan on making any real improvements, other than clearing a few trees and perhaps manually grading a site or two.

 

I figure for big get togethers I can order a porta potty.  Otherwise it'll be old school camping.  I may deploy a locked shipping container for onsite storage of camping equipment and the like.

 

Other than that, it'll be wild land for a wild man.  :grin:

 

- Jim



#10 jrbarnett

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Posted 12 August 2014 - 06:40 PM

Leave out the details, which I am certain you can handle. It comes down to water, fire, and security. I wouldn't want to purchase a lot of land without absolutely numbing research on each of those issues.

 

Dark skies.

 

Jack

Not worried about water; I'll bring in all I need when I am in residence.

 

Not worried about fire; it's natures way of renewing the earth.  I won't have anything there on site worth worrying about.

 

Security.  I'll quadruple padlock the storage container.  Trespassers will be shot - period.  I feel secure.  :grin:



#11 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 12 August 2014 - 10:04 PM

 

Otherwise it'll be old school camping.  I may deploy a locked shipping container for onsite storage of camping equipment and the like.

 

 

In some places things like containers require permits or may even be prohibited.. 

 

Jon



#12 Mike B

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Posted 13 August 2014 - 04:21 PM

 

 

Otherwise it'll be old school camping.  I may deploy a locked shipping container for onsite storage of camping equipment and the like.

 

 

In some places things like containers require permits or may even be prohibited.. 

 

Jon

 

Golly gee... what besides astro/camping equipment could someone keep locked up in a "storage container" out in thye boonies?

:thinking:    :scratchhead:  :idea:  :winky:   :whistle: 

 

Yeah- those guys shoot trespassers, too.



#13 WesC

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Posted 13 August 2014 - 08:28 PM

If you do get a conex box, bury it or next time you come back it'll be gone or cleansed out.



#14 jrbarnett

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Posted 13 August 2014 - 11:10 PM

If you do get a conex box, bury it or next time you come back it'll be gone or cleansed out.

Yeah.  I expect that the spring gun and exploding permanent ink satchels will have discharged, but...

 

- Jim


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#15 cwilson

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Posted 13 August 2014 - 11:57 PM

 

If you do get a conex box, bury it or next time you come back it'll be gone or cleansed out.

Yeah.  I expect that the spring gun and exploding permanent ink satchels will have discharged, but...

 

- Jim

 

I could send you some of these to hang around the area. :grin: thumb_hd309.gif



#16 Mike B

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Posted 14 August 2014 - 12:14 AM

Or as an alternate, a few of these might help keep your stuff's presence quiet.



#17 StarBlaster

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Posted 14 August 2014 - 12:57 AM

I got curious and looked up the properties you're talking about. Had no idea you could get that much land for that cheap. I guess I'm a little skewed living on the peninsula where a basically empty lot on my street just sold for $600k.

 

How much are you gonna charge for an annual camping pass?  ;)



#18 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 14 August 2014 - 03:38 AM

 

 

 

Otherwise it'll be old school camping.  I may deploy a locked shipping container for onsite storage of camping equipment and the like.

 

 

In some places things like containers require permits or may even be prohibited.. 

 

Jon

 

Golly gee... what besides astro/camping equipment could someone keep locked up in a "storage container" out in thye boonies?

:thinking:    :scratchhead:  :idea:  :winky:   :whistle:

 

Yeah- those guys shoot trespassers, too.

 

 

It's more about permits and building codes..

 

Jon



#19 jrbarnett

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Posted 14 August 2014 - 10:16 AM



I got curious and looked up the properties you're talking about. Had no idea you could get that much land for that cheap. I guess I'm a little skewed living on the peninsula where a basically empty lot on my street just sold for $600k.

 

How much are you gonna charge for an annual camping pass?  ;)

I'd actually consider some kind of partnership scenario (i.e., 10 people pony up $10k each or 20 people pony up $5k each for undivided perpetual astro-camping use access rights) or perhaps donation of the land to a non-profit open space trust of some sort in exchange for exclusive retained access and camping rights.

 

The ridiculously high prices on the Peninsula are what drove me out of Palo Alto and Menlo Park to Sonoma County.

 

In Petaluma I live in this:

 

IMG_0203_zps6d2b12ae.jpg

 

For the same price in Palo Alto, I'd be in this:

 

ISl286vw1q7f6l1000000000_zpsb7d77f05.jpg

 

Petaluma:  4 bedroom, 4 bath, 4500 square feet on a landscaped acre with a pool, outdoor kitchen, raised bed vegetable garden, three car garage, atrium, view, etc., etc.

Palo Alto:  2 bedroom, 2 bath, 1100 square foot condo with tiny enclosed patio, and two car garage.

 

If you look an hour from Palo Alto in any direction, figure the housing prices drop by roughly 50%.

 

The land in question is really cheap for a reason though.  It's relatively hard to get to.  The county roads leading to at least one of the properties are unpaved and impassable in wet weather, so use would be seasonal.  Both properties require a high clearance and potentially 4 wheel drive vehicle to access the best campsites located on them.  It's almost impossible to monitor the properties adequately as a remote owner.  You'd want to carry a boatload of liability insurance in case a trespasser breaks their neck on the property, etc.

 

So there's a lot to think about for sure.  But those were the closest large blue-gray zone parcels to Petaluma that I could find for $1000 an acre or less.

 

Regards,

 

Jim



#20 Mike B

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Posted 14 August 2014 - 01:33 PM

 

It's more about permits and building codes..

'Round these parts it's often about stuff the T.O.S. forbids we discuss...

  ;)



#21 BarryBrown

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Posted 14 August 2014 - 01:51 PM

If you're going to have multiple owners, you may want to consider forming a partnership or LLP.

Can you provide MLS or the coordinates of the properties in question?

Myself, I've been daydreaming about properties up near Red Bluff, CA, on the border of the Mendocino National Forest, in a gray zone.

Edited by BarryBrown, 14 August 2014 - 06:51 PM.


#22 jrbarnett

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Posted 14 August 2014 - 09:55 PM

If you're going to have multiple owners, you may want to consider forming a partnership or LLP.

Can you provide MLS or the coordinates of the properties in question?

Myself, I've been daydreaming about properties up near Red Bluff, CA, on the border of the Mendocino National Forest, in a gray zone.

Barry, just Google lots and land in San Benito County.  The properties I am looking at are the "Junilla Mine" property and the "Rancho de la Serreria" property.

 

I've set up real estate partnerships before back in the 90s, but not since.

 

- Jim



#23 TCW

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Posted 15 August 2014 - 11:31 PM

What elevation is the land at? Once the local meth heads find out about your container it will be emptied so don't store any valuables.  If there is any water to be had the pot growers are a consideration too. Grading may require a permit and if you share the road with other land owners, maintenance cost sharing may be an issue as many rural land owners will refuse to share costs if they find you are making improvements on your own dime.  Make sure there is deeded access and check the property corners as fences can be off by a lot.  Old non-documented easements used by neighbors can be a problem as they may have prescriptive easements. I looked at a large parcel that looked very attractive on paper but a Google Earth view showed multiple easements that made the land virtually unusable.

 

I assume you have checked the skies at night but  I would think there would be monster sky glow to the north and east. As I have found being in a dark blue zone still means a lot of sky glow in certain directions. Consider growth potential as your dark skies may only last a few years.


Edited by TCW, 15 August 2014 - 11:49 PM.


#24 StarBlaster

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Posted 16 August 2014 - 12:08 AM

I'd actually consider some kind of partnership scenario (i.e., 10 people pony up $10k each or 20 people pony up $5k each for undivided perpetual astro-camping use access rights) or perhaps donation of the land to a non-profit open space trust of some sort in exchange for exclusive retained access and camping rights.

 

 

Would be awesome if I was in a position to afford it. I could probably cover the cost of an acre in the 266 acre plot  :p

 

Petaluma:  4 bedroom, 4 bath, 4500 square feet on a landscaped acre with a pool, outdoor kitchen, raised bed vegetable garden, three car garage, atrium, view, etc., etc.
Palo Alto:  2 bedroom, 2 bath, 1100 square foot condo with tiny enclosed patio, and two car garage.

 

 

Sounds about right. We've only stayed this long because we have a great deal, definitely won't be here long term.



#25 jrbarnett

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Posted 16 August 2014 - 09:56 AM

 

I'd actually consider some kind of partnership scenario (i.e., 10 people pony up $10k each or 20 people pony up $5k each for undivided perpetual astro-camping use access rights) or perhaps donation of the land to a non-profit open space trust of some sort in exchange for exclusive retained access and camping rights.

 

 

Would be awesome if I was in a position to afford it. I could probably cover the cost of an acre in the 266 acre plot  :p

 

Petaluma:  4 bedroom, 4 bath, 4500 square feet on a landscaped acre with a pool, outdoor kitchen, raised bed vegetable garden, three car garage, atrium, view, etc., etc.
Palo Alto:  2 bedroom, 2 bath, 1100 square foot condo with tiny enclosed patio, and two car garage.

 

 

Sounds about right. We've only stayed this long because we have a great deal, definitely won't be here long term.

 

Don't get me wrong.  The Peninsula and South Bay have huge advantages.  Civilized, educated people, great services and amenities, wonderful diversity, great public schools, tremendous employment opportunities,etc.  But for that magnificence you must pay a princely sum to live like the prince's footman in terms of quality of abode.  There are downsides to packing up and leaving Rome for the hinterlands of the Empire.  But there are benefits as well.  Now that our kids are out of the house (mostly) I can see us moving to Palo Alto or Cupertino when I retire, to a smaller home, though we'd probably also have something small for weekending in a more rural location such as the Sonoma-Napa wine country.

 

Moving was a very tough decision.  Though happily Petaluma has developed and improved (in a good way) since relocating here.  It reminds me of Santa Clara County when my family moved there in the late 60s.  It was a mix of newly relocated engineers from all over the country, and farmers with orchards.  Culture shock, culture clash, but then the future happened there and it grew into what it is today.  I love it, but I wasn't willing to pay for what a bigger residence there costs, nor live in a very tiny residence just for access to the benefits and amenities.  With two people instead of four under the roof, though, those tinier residences now look quite livable. :grin:

 

Regards,

 

Jim 








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