Casa de Maria puts price tag on Montecito property
The 34-acre property that is home to La Casa de Maria retreat center at 801 Ladera Lane
in Montecito is for sale for a whopping $12 million. At that price, prospects appear slim
that a nonprofit organization would move into the heavenly sanctuary.
Dan Encell of Prudential California Realty and Rebecca Riskin of Village Properties are
the listing agents for the property that includes nearly 75,000 square feet of institutional
and educational buildings.
The marketing flier states that the Ladera site has "phenomenal views" and "extraordinary
Although it sits on 34 acres, the hilly property only has 15 acres that are usable. That
would limit its use to one estate because the zoning there requires a minimum of 10 acres
for each residential parcel, Mr. Encell said.
"We think the property would be very attractive to someone who wants a very large
estate in a private setting in Montecito," said Mr. Encell. "I think it would be great as
Governor Schwarzenegger's mansion outside of Sacramento. There's even room for a
La Casa de Maria has struggled with financial hardships in recent years, and the sale of
the Ladera property is a last-ditch effort to make sure the organization survives. The
center hosts gatherings, workshops and retreats for various religious organizations and
other nonprofit groups. Casa de Maria also owns another property at 800 El Bosque
Road, and there are no plans to sell that site.
In July 2003, Jim Villanueva, Casa de Maria's executive director, told the News-Press
that the organization was thinking of selling the Ladera property. A decline in conference
visitors and a drop in charitable giving led to a "severe case of financial whiplash at the
center," he explained.
Money problems made it difficult for Casa de Maria to
make the mortgage payments on the Ladera property,
which it had purchased in 1997 from a Jesuit seminary
for $5 million, Mr. Villanueva said. The center had
been looking for a partner or donations to help pay the
mortgage, but it appears those options have failed.