Johnston Ranch, a sprawling 862-acre property just south of Half Moon Bay, may soon be partially sold to the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District with plans to continue to preserve the land, as well as develop trails for public use.

The land is home to the recognizable Johnston House, a white 19th century two-story home that can be seen on the east side of Highway 1. The house, now used as a museum, is owned by the city of Half Moon Bay, which will retain ownership.

The land is currently owned by the Peninsula Open Space Trust, a nonprofit tasked with acquiring land for preservation. POST acquired the land between 1999 and 2001, which had been slated for a condominium and golf course development.

“In the late ’90s and beyond, there’s been a lot of development pressure on the San Mateo County coast,” Leigh Ann Gessner, a Midpen spokesperson, said. “Midpen and POST have been working in partnership to help preserve that rural character.”

Midpen plans to purchase a 644-acre upland portion of the property, largely coastal hillsides, for $4.8 million. The remaining 224-acre portion, currently used for row crops, would be split off and retained by POST, planned to be later sold to a local farmer.

The purchase will allow for the upland portion of land to “be more actively managed by the district for conservation grazing, open space, habitat preservation, watershed protection, and future low intensity public recreation (trails),” according to the county.

With the land’s location, directly to the south of urban developments of Half Moon Bay, preservation “establishes a clear urban-rural boundary, ensuring against further urban expansion,” according to POST. 

The land, if purchased, would effectively become part of the Midpen-owned Miramontes Ridge Open Space Preserve, which is currently closed to the public but could be accessed in the future with trails from Johnston Ranch, Gessner said.

“The location of this property provides opportunity for a lot of potential trail connections,” said Gessner, who noted the land is also adjacent to Burleigh Murray Ranch State Park.

Additionally, a bike and pedestrian trail is planned to link downtown Half Moon Bay and Higgins Canyon Road, which bisects the property.

The open space district board of directors will vote on whether to purchase the property during an Oct. 13 meeting, which will be held virtually and open to the public. 


Visit for instructions on attending or to provide comment. 


(650) 344-5200, ext. 105

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