County Buys Wildwood Ranch for $6.55 Million

The 752 acre ranch off Mussey Grade Road was sold to the County of San Diego by the Salvation Army.

Wildwood Ranch, a 752-acre property on Mussey Grade Road, was sold to San Diego County for $6.55 million, Colliers International announced this week.

The land was previously owned by the Salvation Army, who acquired it in 1997. According to David Santistevan, senior vice president at Colliers Internation, the campground was being used as a camp for underprivileged kids. The Salvation Army attempted to modify the conditional use permit in order to upgrade the facilities, but Santistevan said they were denied by the county.

The Salvation Army has since moved their camps to Big Bear in San Bernardino County.

Santistevan said the purchase was "strategic" for the county.

"Wildwood Ranch is an important access point for the regional park (Boulder Oaks Park) to Mussey Grade Road and Ramona," Santistevan told Patch in an email.

According to Santistevan, the county is planning to expand upon the park in ways that will serve the community.

"The county plans to use the Boulder Oaks Park expansion as an equestrian staging area," Santistevan said.

The transaction was handled by Santistevan and Gunder Greager, both senior vice presidents of Colliers International. 

The sale should close by the end of the week.

Karen Carlson September 14, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Pat Dailey September 14, 2012 at 07:07 PM
Does anyone see anything wrong with the fact that the entity purchasing the property is the same one whose obstructionist policies stopped a wonderful organization from doing amazing things for needy children. Horse riders win. Children lose. This is not a purchase -it is eminant domain benefiting a vocal minority.
christi September 14, 2012 at 07:57 PM
My thoughts exactly!!!!!
Erin Bean September 15, 2012 at 01:06 AM
Such a beautiful place to ride I have been on this property spent 4 hours just wandering around on horseback you could definatly do camping here too!
Nancy September 15, 2012 at 03:30 AM
Something seems fishy here...since when is the county so interested in keeping the horse thing alive in Ramona...we are fighting them all the time to keep horses alive and unhindered in Ramona. PLUS, of course it is ridiculous that the county refuses permits to fix up buildings and then buys them out!!! Sounds like the old west to me...you can't cross my land to take your cattle to public water...so you'd better sell your ranch and all your cattle to me for cheap. Well, fellow horsemen and women...we'd better hold them to it being an equestrian facility...and not let them sneak something else in there that we don't want.
Michael September 16, 2012 at 03:50 PM
[The county's] "obstructionist policies stopped a wonderful organization from doing amazing things for needy children." Wow. First, the county stopped nothing - it was actually set to approve this outrageous project. The SA ALREADY has a camp - no one asked them to leave, and they did not need this massive expansion to continue their "good work". (The proposed conference center alone boasted multiple 2-story motel-style buildings, pools, tennis courts, etc. - NOT for needy children, but to generate revenue). Second, this "wonderful organization" spend miillions in your contributions on lawyers, architects, studies, and land acquisition - instead of actually helping the needy. This is more than a camp for "needy children" and "disadvantaged youth", the SA rents the facility to anyone they please. I hear rock bands at full volume and people screaming at the top of their lungs year after year. Fourth, people don't seem to realize that the SA sold 750 acres of unused land - they still retain 60 acres that includes their entire camp (which, BTW, they are also trying to sell). Fifth, I lost my home, and the SA lost many structures in the Cedar Fire. People forget so soon. The dead deer I saw on the SA camp property that was killed in the fire could easily have been a child. I say THANK YOU to the vocal minority - for once the massive organization with their propoganda, political clout, and bottomless pockets was not able to (literally) bulldoze this community.
Patricia Swier September 16, 2012 at 09:29 PM
I don't trust this anymore than any of the past Waterway purchases that the county did in the past. Many of those fueled the Witch Creek fire . The camp in Big Bear is in San Bernardino County not in San Diego that stinks. "Wildwood Ranch is an important access point for the regional park (Boulder Oaks Park) to Mussey Grade Road and Ramona," Oh I see like the way Mussey Grade used to be an important access road on out of town...... Before some one turned it into a dead end, a fire trap... I don't trust it at all. I also thought we (San Diego) were struggling financially. My bad that must be untrue...... PS
Michael September 18, 2012 at 04:13 AM
This is an incredibly poorly written article. The statement "the campground was being used as a camp for underprivileged kids" is not completly accurate - the SA also rents the camp to what they call "compatible religious organizations". The article also states "The Salvation Army attempted to modify the conditional use permit in order to upgrade the facilities, but Santistevan said they were denied by the county." 'Upgrade' implies kitchen renovation - not dozens of new buildings totalling hundreds of thousands of square feet. The SA MUP modification was NOT denied by the county, the decison had not even been made at the time the SA chose to sell. The article makes NO mention of the fact that the 752 acres sold by the SA was UNDEVELOPED land and the SA RETAINED approximately 60 acres AND the camp. The SA actually approached the county and offered to sell - for a huge profit. The comment regarding "eminent domain" is absurd. I wish I could go to the county and offer to sell my propery for 3 times what I paid for it - eminent domain me please! The SA camp it still in use TODAY (9/17/2012) - after the sale of the undeveloped land. I know this because I can look out my back door and see the camp, not from reading this poorly written article. The SA is still trying to sell the camp. I, personally, don't feel sorry for them at all. They spent millions of dollars of your contributions, bailed on their project when the community objected, and then sold unused land for $6,550,000.
david santistevan September 18, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Michael, you are a true buffoon. An "outrageous project?" Adding a meeting hall, upgrading kitchen facilities on 800 acres is outrageous? The owner spent a fortune and the County would have approved the project if it weren't for people like you who fight for no good reason. Too bad for the kids of San Diego who no longer can enjoy the wonderful camp experience. Now go back to your double-wide and your crystal meth existence.
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Lou Cypher May 04, 2013 at 04:14 AM
I had similar thoughts... peculiar that the "strategic" purchase was preceded by a refusal to allow upgrades... one might almost think that the County acted deliberately in their refusal, so they could acquire this property.
Michael April 12, 2014 at 02:07 PM
If someone is looking to understand a bit about the history of this project, I will offer the following: In his comments, David Santistevan suggested that the Salvation Army project amounted to “Adding a meeting hall” and “upgrading kitchen facilities on 800 acres”. The truth (based on Salvation Army documentation) is that the maximum capacity of the camp would have increased from 284 to 850 people, and consisted of approximately 60 additional buildings totaling 260,000 square feet (equivalent to about 160 single-family homes in this area). They estimated that 37 acres would be graded and 60,000 cubic yards of earth moved. Although it was called the “Salvation Army Sierra del Mar Divisional Camp and Conference Center”, the article neglected to mention the “Conference Center”. This portion of the compound was described as follows: “Functions include retreats and conferences for young adults, couples, men’s groups, women’s groups, and other compatible religious and/or corporate users.” The “five two-story, motel style buildings” and “two tennis courts, a swimming pool, and a shower/toilet spa building provide recreational opportunities”. The capacity would be for 175 overnight guests. Since this part of the expansion wasn’t “for the kids”, it was conveniently ignored. Misrepresenting the Salvation Army’s proposal as “adding a meeting hall and upgrading kitchen facilities” is abominable. Since he was quoted in the article, it is interesting to note that David Santisteven’s web profile states: “David Santistevan specializes in the sale of land, focusing on property suitable for apartment and condominium development as well as single-family subdivisions”. One might assume he may have had other interests than just the “kids”, but I would never make uninformed assumptions regarding his character, such as those he made of this community in his comments. His statement that the county “denied” the MUP is simply not true, the San Diego Board of Supervisors actually voted to approve this project - the Salvation Army gave up after facing a lawsuit they would most likely have lost. To get an idea of Mr. Santisteven’s perverse logic, he feels sorry for the “kids of San Diego who no longer can enjoy the wonderful camp experience” - in our “double-wide” and “crystal meth” environment. Wow. I’m happy to report that kids are still enjoying themselves in our “crystal meth” environment - the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints purchased the camp which is still in operation today. Not surprisingly, this camp is thriving without the unnecessary additions proposed by the Salvation Army. Name-calling, Mr. Santisteven, in addition to misrepresenting the facts, is shameful.


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