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Living Unlimited buys $4.4 million Cloverdale ranch to create housing for special needs adults

An 84-acre ranch nestled at the base of a hillside on the western edge of Cloverdale has been sold to a Bay Area organization that plans to turn it into a year-round home for adults living with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The nonprofit group, Living Unlimited, has been in escrow to purchase Clearwater Ranch since last summer, but finally closed this week on a deal to buy it for $4.4 million, said Alex Krem, board chairman.

The model for the project is familiar to Krem, whose family founded the nonprofit Camping Unlimited in 1957 to provide summer and weekend recreational opportunities in Santa Cruz County for children with special needs.

Living Unlimited plans to turn the Cherry Creek Road property into a true working farm, where residents will help to raise livestock and harvest vegetables on the grounds with independent and semi-independent living environments.

“People who know Camping Unlimited’s activities won’t be disappointed,” he said.

The ranch was developed in the late 1980s, operating for a few short years as the Clearwater Children’s Ranch, a home for children with intellectual disabilities, said Ray Tyrone, who bought the property in June 1994. Since then, the property has served as Tyrone’s family home, with the extra buildings used as residential care facilities.

Krem said it’s fitting that Living Unlimited will return the ranch to its intended purpose.

Founded in 2015, the Berkeley nonprofit is attempting to replicate a model used around the United States to house people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Clearwater Ranch project is its first housing development. It is aimed at families seeking to secure housing for children, who might otherwise have no place to go when their parents die, but it also appeals to adults with disabilities looking for more independence than living with family.

There are nine houses on the grounds of the Cloverdale ranch, and each will likely house about six people — a mixture of residents and caregivers, whatever best works for the house, Krem said. About 10 families have already signed on to reserve a place for their children on the Living Unlimited farm, each putting up $250,000 to secure a bedroom for their child. Monthly rental payments will be covered by Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance. Residents will be expected to secure work, whether on the farm or in town, Krem said.

He expects the first residents will move into the ranch by the end of this year.

Krem and Living Unlimited co-founder Susan Riggle Waterson spent four years searching for the perfect property. During that period, Krem visited other independent living models that exist across the United States and support their operations through community businesses. In one community, residents harvest syrup from maple trees; in another, residents sell eggs from their chickens.

“For us, there will be a lot of animal husbandry, with large animals and small animals — everything from chickens and rabbits to cattle and pigs,” Krem said.

While this is the first community created by Living Unlimited, at least three similar communities exist in the North Bay: Cedars in Ross, Sweet Water Spectrum in Sonoma and Vine Village in Napa. Many more communities are in development by similar organizations across the state, Krem said, including projects in Half Moon Bay, Agoura Hills, Santa Cruz, Pleasanton and Livermore.

“This property is something that we have been looking for for some years, and it’s perfect,” Krem said. “The need is huge.”

You can reach Staff Writer Christi Warren at 707-521-5205 or christi.warren@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @SeaWarren.