Completing Stewardship of The Ojai Foundation Land Sanctuary
Most frequent questions and answers
Are you selling The Ojai Foundation’s land?
No. The Ojai Foundation (TOF) has never owned the land. It is leased from the Happy Valley Foundation (HVF). Over the years, TOF has had numerous conversations about purchasing the land, but HVF is not interested in selling. Our leasehold is part of a larger land holding, and HVF remains committed to keeping that intact.
What is the future of The Ojai Foundation after leaving the land?
The Ojai Foundation’s activities include offerings at the Land Sanctuary, online initiatives, fiscal sponsorship, consulting and community projects, and more. As of this time, after we complete our stewardship of the ridge, TOF will continue the activities that are not based at the Land Sanctuary.
What is the future of the ridge after TOF completes stewardship?
The Ojai Foundation has leased the land from the Happy Valley Foundation since the 1970s (originally as Human Dimensions West). The Happy Valley Foundation is in the process of determining what they will do with the ridge once TOF’s stewardship is complete. They are currently receiving proposals from groups interested in leasing the land. Decisions regarding future leases rest with the Board of Trustees of the Happy Valley Foundation. Their expressed priorities for use of the land are:
- To maintain open space and preserve native plant and animal habitat
- To establish a traditional lease
- To maintain the ridge as part of the larger land holding (i.e. they will not sell)
As part of our mindful departure from the ridge, TOF is committed to doing what we can to support new stewards assuming stewardship and legal responsibility for the ridge. This includes everything from sharing key information regarding the land and facilities to connecting interested parties with HVF.
What factors contributed to the decision to leave the ridge?
The decision to leave the ridge did not come lightly. Some of the major factors included: the impacts of the Thomas Fire; the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic; operations costs have exceeded income since the Thomas Fire; our lease is set to expire in 2025 and the potential new lease terms move away from stewardship agreement and toward a shorter term, conventional lease; Ventura County determined that our kitchens, earthen buildings and other infrastructure would not be grandfathered in post-fire; we are not able to secure long-term unencumbered tenure, through lease terms or purchase; the 2020 internal community process; ceremony on and with the land and others; and years of deliberation and exploration.
How was the decision made?
After an intense and focused four-year process of fire recovery and exploration of possible futures, the decision to complete our stewardship of the ridge was made by the TOF Board of Directors, with support from advisors, the guardians, community members, ceremony, and more. This decision was also influenced by a community process in 2020 with roughly 250 funders and stakeholders, during which the possible need to depart from the ridge was explored. Needless to say, this is not the outcome that we originally envisioned or hoped for, and we have accepted it with humility and gratitude for decades of being on the ridge, alongside trust that new opportunities will arise with this direction.
What are the steps to be taken between now and termination of the lease?
We envision the next months as a time of celebration, grieving, taking care and finding meaningful closure and completion to an era. We have established visiting hours for the public to come to enjoy and say farewell to the Land Sanctuary; we will host community zoom sessions, a closing ceremony, and attend to the meaningful transfer or completion of each shrine and ceremonial place. There are several land projects still in process and our basic principle of “care for what we created and finish what we started” guides our actions. We will fulfill our programmatic commitments on the land and continue to host and launch initiatives that are independent of the land base. We look forward to discovering, with you, what more will come to pass.
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