Monday, April 2, 2007

Agoura Hills: An Introduction

Agoura Hills is a city comfortable in complacency. After the spate of development, terminating in the 1980's, that rebuilt this rural enclave into a leafy suburb of the San Fernando Valley, very little of the development ocurring in the city really affected many residents. Of course, there was construction- in Agoura South (as opposed to Westlake North), office buildings and hotels went up like there was no tomorrow, and a beautiful, if architecturally disjoint, City Hall was built amid the city's southern hills. However, all of this development was concentrated in the southwestern and southcentral corridors of the city away from all residential tracts, and voters thus had no problem voting to lure thousands of cars into the city every morning, as most of these cars were led to to the opposite side of the city. Because of this, residents have become comfortable ignoring decisions of planning vital to Agoura Hills' future.

As residents of Agoura Hills, we must examine the city we have created (or, rather, allowed our superiors to create among us), and determine if this is the city we want. Only once we have ascertained this can we decide on what kind of future we would like. Thus, the desire of this blog is to serve as a forum for various views on Agoura Hills' current state and it's future, and in this way to affect some sort of democratic dynamism on a process that is too often weighted towards inertia and stalemate.

I will be posting on various topics, hopefully at a rate of about twice a week, and if there are any comments they would be greatly appreciated. I will, however, forewarn all visitors that this site does not in any way claim to be impartial. This is our city, and we should all have our say in it's governance.,_California


Stop Agoura Village said...

Stop Agoura Village....

Stop Agoura Village said...

Judge rules further study needed for Agoura Village
Environmental report inadequate
By Stephanie Bertholdo

A 135-acre swath just south of the 101 Freeway at Agoura Road is poised to one day become Agoura Village, a new commercial and residential town center, but city officials hit a snag in their development plans following a court order for additional environmental studies.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant ruled April 20 that the city of Agoura Hills must prepare biological plant and animal surveys to address the environmental impact of the project.

Agoura Village is envisioned by city officials as a pedestrian-friendly town center with a mix of retail, residential and commercial businesses.

Chalfant's ruling was the result of a lawsuit filed by Malibou Lakeside resident Mary Altmann.

Altmann's suit alleged the Agoura Village Specific Plan, a planning document that outlines the city's vision of Agoura Village, violates seven laws and codes from an inadequate Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

The lawsuit sought to stop or delay the Agoura Village plan based on several allegations. It cites CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) and municipal code violations, failure to identify safety issues and alternatives to the project, misrepresentation of the project's size, and inadequate mitigation measures.

The court commanded the city to "set aside its approval of the Agoura Village Specific Plan, the EIR, and the zoning amendment."

The city is required to prepare an environmental review that includes "timely biological data, support replanting through appropriate expert evidence, and provide a more complete discussion of why a reduced specific plan alternative does not meet project objectives."

According to Altmann, "Originally Agoura Village had been intended to be an environmentally friendly mixed-use development showcasing this pristine area as the 'gateway to the Santa Monica Mountains.'"

Due to its size and potential threat to open space and the environment, she called the project "controversial."

Altmann, who filed her suit last July, founded a group called Citizens for Sensitive Development to challenge the plan, but when legal costs skyrocketed, she conducted her own research and filed the lawsuit on her own. Had she been unsuccessful, the court could have required her to bear the burden of the city's attorney fees, she said.

"Although we are disappointed that the judge found a deficiency in the biological studies and some related text in the EIR, we were gratified that Judge Chalfant denied every other challenge brought by Ms. Altmann," city attorney Craig Steele said.

"He flatly disposed of every claim regarding General Plan consistency and other land use issues, he found that the city had accurately and completely defined the scope of the AVSP (Agoura Village Specific Plan), he denied challenges to the city's notice procedures, he saw through false claims about redesignation of open space and, significantly . . . he stated that 'in all other respects, the EIR is adequate,'" Steele said.

City officials believe detailed biological studies should be done on a project-by-project basis.

The "AVSP does not approve any development project," Steele said. "We respectfully disagree with Judge Chalfant's position that such detail is required or even informative now, at the broad planning stage. Nonetheless, we anticipate that the city will comply with the judge's order."

The cost of the biological study could be in the "tens of thousands of dollars," Steele said. "The unfortunate and unnecessary impact of Ms. Altmann's lawsuit is that the city's taxpayers will foot the bill for the detailed biological study initially, instead of the future developers who actually could create the potential biological impacts down the road."

"I am thankful for our justice system, and that justice prevailed in this case," Altmann said.

Andrew said...

Well done. I provided a link to your blog from HIVN.


AgouraHillsObserver said...

Thanks man! I really appreciate it.