At the turn of the millennium Seattle based Washington Mutual executives were focused on developing Ahmanson Ranch, a large tract of undeveloped land in eastern Ventura County. The development consisted mostly of large expensive suburban homes in an area prized for its unspoiled wilderness. But as they were focused on this project, they were making critical mistakes in the operation of their core banking business, mistakes that would eventually lead to the failure of the bank.
Washington Mutual was founded in Seattle in 1899 as the Washington National Building Loan and Investment Association. In 1998 Washington Mutual acquired the H. F. Ahmanson Company, Ahmanson Ranch and a controversial and unpopular project to develop the ranch.
Washington Mutual CEO Kerry Killinger and other executives tried for years to develop the ranch in spite of overwhelming public opposition. Opponents organized local boycotts of the bank, packed the public hearings on the development, and even bought radio ads in the bank's hometown of Seattle where the bank tried to promote itself as a friend of the environment and the community. Faced with overwhelming political opposition and the spectre of years more of work with no guarantee of obtaining the necessary permits, Washington Mutual gave up on the development and sold the land to the State of California in 2003.
Washington Mutual's aggressive lending practices under the guidance of Killinger led to the failure of the bank, one of the first casualties that precipitated the ongoing financial crisis that burdens the country. In early September 2008 the board of Washington Mutual removed Kerry Killinger as CEO and by the end of the month the bank was seized by the FDIC. The assets of Washington Mutual were acquired by JPMorgan Chase. Kerry Killinger received over $100 million in compensation during his tenure.
October 1, 2003. An escrow signing ceremony with Governor Gray Davis took place today to finalize the sale of Ahmanson Ranch to the State of California. Yesterday the Wildlife Conservation Board met in Sacramento to approve the purchase of Ahmanson Ranch and the Ballona Wetlands using funds from Proposition 50. The Ranch will be preserved in it's undeveloped state as a wildlife refuge and natural park.
Thanks go to all those who were involved in the effort to save the Ranch, to Washington Mutual for recently offering the Ranch for sale, to the people of California for their approval of Proposition 50 and the Davis Administration for their environmental commitment.
Ahmanson Ranch, named for the previous owners, is located between Agoura on the west, Simi Valley on the north, Woodland Hills on the east and Calabasas to the south. See Aerial Map. Washington Mutual, a Seattle based out of state corporation that acquired Home Savings and Loan, had planned a 3050 home development on this wild and undeveloped region, which features wetlands, canyons, seasonal waterfalls, mountains and an upland pasture.The area one of two known habitats of the San Fernando Valley Spineflower, believed to be extinct for decades, but recently discovered. It is also habitat for the Red-Legged Frog, which was recently added to the Federal Endangered Species List. The discovery of the Spineflower population and the Red-Legged Frog listing has occurred since the original project EIR was prepared. Recently, the Spineflower was approved as a candidate endangered species, thereby starting the process to list it.
Additional Traffic would have added 46,000 vehicle trips per day and over 840 tons of new smog a year. Victory Boulevard would have connected to Thousand Oaks Boulevard. Current traffic levels on the 101 Freeway already exceed the levels predicted in the EIR for the year 2010.Historic scenes from Gone With the Wind and many other movies were filmed on the ranch.