Richmond Ranch, a huge chunk of pristine land at and near 7625 San Felipe Road in San Jose.
SAN JOSE — An agreement for the purchase of a huge chunk of pristine land on a vast San Jose ranch has fallen through after the potential buyer and the China-based owner couldn’t seal a deal for the prime real estate.
China-based Z&L Properties and San Jose-based Terrascape Ventures have terminated their deal for the purchase of the Richmond Ranch site, consisting of thousands of acres, according to documents filed on Dec. 5 with the Santa Clara County Recorder’s Office.
In April 2023, Z&L Properties struck a deal whereby the company had agreed to sell to Terrascape Ventures the ranch property, which is nestled on some 3,654 acres of pristine hills, vales and fields in southeast San Jose.
Z&L and Terrascape worked for months to attempt to complete the transaction and formally transfer the property through a sale and recorded deed.
Financial terms weren’t disclosed regarding last year’s proposed property purchase. Terrascape is headed up by veteran real estate executives and entrepreneurs Tony Arreola and Mark Lazzarini.
Yonggang “Frank” Cui was listed as the Bay Area president and CEO of Z&L Properties, according to the termination documents on file with the county. China-based Guangzhou R&F Properties Co. is the primary owner of Z&L Properties.
In late December, however, Guangzhou R&F underwent a big shakeup in its top leadership, an upheaval that might have unleashed uncertainty at Z&L and its plans to complete multiple real estate deals.
Zhang Li, who was accused of bribing a San Francisco public official, resigned his post as CEO and executive director of Guangzhou R&F, according to a regulatory filing on Dec. 29 with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
Zhang resigned “due to his other commitments which require more of his time and dedication,” the regulatory filing stated.
The San Francisco bribery case forced Zhang into house arrest in London for several weeks in 2023.
In July 2023, Zhang, 70, entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with U.S. prosecutors to avoid criminal charges, according to a court filing. Zhang paid a $1 million fine and then returned to China. His name resurfaced again with word of his resignation from the real estate firm.
Terrascape had been planning wide-ranging activities appropriate for open spaces and the preservation of the environment and scenic nature of the huge ranch, according to sources.
As a result of the proposed deal’s termination, Z&L Properties, a China-based development firm that has presided over a series of failed or faltering projects in downtown San Jose, continues to own the Richmond Ranch site.
In 2017, Z&L paid $25 million to buy Richmond Ranch. Z&L Properties has said little if anything about what it had planned for the huge ranch — and the company doesn’t appear to have undertaken any changes of note on the property.
The property was a one-time cattle ranch and is zoned for agricultural uses.
Arreola and Lazzarini of Terrascape Ventures couldn’t be reached for comment regarding the termination of the proposed purchase of Richmond Ranch. Laurence Hughes, a San Jose-based representative for Z&L, couldn’t be reached for comment.
Z&L has been attempting to disassemble its Bay Area real estate empire. Despite numerous proposals, Z&L has managed to finish just one project, a double-tower residential highrise at 188 West St. James Street in downtown San Jose. Z&L is attempting to sell the two towers. One highrise is partly occupied and the other is empty.
Other downtown San Jose projects, including two housing highrises next to a historic church and a residential tower proposed for an old Greyhound terminal, languish and have yet to be built.
The Richmond Ranch site has been described as a property where people could experience a lifestyle akin to the rural California of the 19th Century, according to a brochure circulated in 2017 by The Chickering Co. Inc., a real estate brokerage that specializes in ranch and recreational properties.
For decades, the ranch was owned by members of the Richmond family. The Richmond Ranch parcels were bought in the 1920s and 1930s by Edmund Richmond, one of the principal owners of San Jose-based Richmond-Chase Co., which became one of the nation’s largest canning and dried-fruit companies.
One of the ranch houses on the property dates back to 1878, the Chickering Co. brochure says.
“Rolling oak-studded hills, secluded meadows and views of Mount Hamilton, San Jose and the Bay Area,” Chickering Co. stated in the sales brochure, “provide the perfect setting for hiking, biking, horseback riding, hunting, camping and connecting with a rich and unspoiled California landscape.”