Friday, May 18, 2007

No Village for Agoura.. For Now

Stop Agoura Village: Agoura Hills will reconsider EIR for commercial project

From our anti-development friends at Stop Agoura Village comes word that the city has been commanded to halt the process towards Agoura Village's realization as a result of technical faults in its Environmental Impact Report, notably its biological element (the Santa Monica Mountains are a federally protected area). A few comments:

1. Although the setback was unexpected, the city had this coming. For years Agoura Hills has been building right up against the mountains, one of the country's few great urban sanctuaries, with little or no protest from city residents. I wonder where Ms. Mary Altmann of picturesque Malibou Lake was when the city allowed construction of the vast office complexes along swaths of Agoura South? Her words suggest that her actions are an indicator of NIMBYism much more than of genuine concern for Agoura Hills: "On beach days, if there is a fire, we can't get out to the 101 (freeway) and they didn't address these issues." Huh? I agree that Agoura Hills's rampant expansion into the Santa Monica Mountains needs to be stopped, but what a ridiculous reason! I wish someone who actually cared about our city was working to help it, not some NIMBYist who only wants to preserve her tract of pristine, rural Malibu Ozarks.

2. The City of Agoura Hills needs to take this as a sign o' the times. Agoura Hills has little room left to carelessly sprawl out into, and the majority of growth for the future lies in redeveloping infill land or poorly used land (like land along Chesebro or City Center) into higher densities than we're used to. I'm not saying Agoura Hills should become the next Manhattan, or even LA- the city is essentially suburban and should be kept that way. The majority of residential areas will stay as they are, but mixed-use development should be introduced into our commercial zones (a staple of the Agoura Village Plan). If residents of rural areas like Old Agoura and Malibou Lake want their neighborhoods to remain as they are, they better place their bets on increased density in the City Center.

The bottom line, growth cannot be stopped. This is a fact that must be accepted. However, growth can be managed. It is up to Agoura Hills' citizens to determine how the city will manage its growth. Will they choose the utterly mediocre types of development currently in vogue in the Valley and neighboring Thousand Oaks? Or will Agoura Hills choose to make its own path, one where pedestrian life and livability are given precedence over pure profit?

1 comment:

Joe Dallacqua said...

The folks at Stop Agoura Village and Mary Altmann did what should have been done in this town for many years. The City Council tried to slip another one past the residents of this community for the council members benefit, not the community. They have done it so many times on so many developments that they had learned their own shortcuts and what they could get away with. Mary Altmann worked diligently against the city and their unlimited budget for Century City law firms just to get them to do what they were required to do for such a project. She worked as a concerned community resident for years prior to the court case asking the City Counsel for the same required compliance. She was forced to challenge them in court by the council members father knows best attitude. Mary Altmann had to get to a venue that could tell the arrogant City Counsel that they must comply. She did get to that venue, stated the facts as they were and it was clear to the judge and anyone followed the case that this council and many others before it didn’t do what was best for the city but did what was best for their own interest. This poor city has been cheated and been looked passed 50 years before the creation of the City of Agoura Hills. 30 years ago this was a couple of off ramps off of a 2 lane highway. Then the developers saw that they could get away without building parks, schools, green belts or donating open space. The County Board of Supervisors was at the time the governing body and didn’t say no very often to the developers. It was well known that a project in Agoura was a piece of cake and didn’t have any of the requirements of the neighboring areas of Westlake, Thousand Oaks or even the unincorporated area of Calabasas, because Calabasas was on the valley side of the grade the board of supervisors held the line tighter there. The results of this behavior can be seen with an unbiased drive from the Calabasas grade to the Camarillo grade, the other communities and neighbors of Agoura have more pride in ownership then he neighbors of Agoura have. Hence the movement to incorporate the city of Agoura Hills well over 20 years ago. We would be our own city, make our own decisions and guide our own future. A city was born; many great things came of it, responsible growth, a clear plan and someone driving the bus. Remember the billboards? Fran Pavley was a clear leader with a passion for the well being of the community. She still has that fire and passion for the well being of the community only now her community encompasses the entire state and her work is clear and pointed at saving the states resources and the environment. Fran Pavleys reasons for being in politics are wholesome and honest and in everyone’s best interest, a character not seen in very many politicians these days. She owes know one, except the communities she truly represents. Fran Pavley is truly a diamond surrounded buy a sea of coal. Mary Altman is very similar to Fran Pavley in many respects. She fought this fight not for any Not in my backyard reasons, but because she sees the value and the beauty of these lands and she finds the actions of these men and one generation to build and profit upon these lands and to change the landscape forever. They have no moral right to touch these mountains, these trees, this place that has stood for how many generations before them. Of course to believe that zero development would be the rule is obviously foolish and one of the many problems with Agoura Village Plan is its geographic location. The project sits on top of two creaks that flow through the Malibu watershed and out the Malibu lagoon area (a major pollution area and a focus of any agency involved) the land involved has a rich history that is shameful to bulldoze and build a profit center upon. The wildlife, birds, and plants that have resided there for thousands and thousands of years doesn’t have attorneys to fight their battles in court, cant protect themselves from the bullies with the dozers. Mary Altmann fought those bullies for them, for the majestic and some kind of spiritual magic that is there.

If you know this project, followed it even slightly you would know that regardless of the over one hundred members of the community that came out to 2 sequential city council meetings in June of 2006 to tell the men that they had elected that they didn’t want the AVP project. Regardless of the turn out and the community voice clearly saying no, the council members passed the resolution before our eyes 5 to 0. A sin was committed that night. The council knew that they were going against the will of the city before the meetings started, that’s why that had such a stern police force at the meeting. Never before had the council asked the Sheriff to make such a presence at a meeting, because these 5 men had decided that regardless of the rules that they had broken, regardless of the over one hundred community voices speaking out against the proposed development and only 3 for the project (2 builders and 1 land owner) and most importantly, regardless of their own rules and city charter violations they were going to pass the project. Look at the council members backgrounds. The mayor at the time, a banker that did unbelievably well while in local politics. An Attorney, with the who’s who of developers and builders in Agoura on his client list. 2 other members of the council are listed businessmen, but are truly small city local politicians looking out for their best interests, and one guy that has been on the city council for so many years and yet never been the city major, politely waiting his turn for the spotlight. The longest term on the council and he can’t get a motion for coffee at the next meeting passed because he is always the odd man out. None of these men had to do anything great to get elected, not a one of them has ever received more than 400 votes to become an Agoura Hills City Council member. Basically because the residents of this city don’t pay attention to the elected officials, why should they? They have jobs, children, homes and all the other things that come along with life in Agoura Hills. The residents inherently trust the men placed in these positions are looking out for them, instead the city leaders are looking out for the city leaders and their own interests. Show me another city that has such an adversarial relationship with chamber of commerce or the school district. Without the LVUSD the city of Agoura Hills wouldn’t have the quality of residents it has, hard working families that came here because of the schools. Yet year, after year the council is combatants with the school district and the chamber of commerce. Why? Because they don’t want any outside influences or governing bodies to change their predetermined goals. See the city of Agoura hills has lost its direction from 20 tears ago. It has become again the place that developers well know that a project in Agoura was a piece of cake and don’t have any of the requirements of the neighboring areas. The AVP long prior to the city’s approval was already known by the regions on the map by the developers’ name. The same developers that have always built the same scattered and thoughtless buildings we are left with today. The city was once challenged and forced to put before the residents a vote on big box development. The residents spoke and no Home Depot. Actually the resolution was written as buildings larger than xx thousand square feet. The AVP is significantly larger than the resolution allows. The city also changed the rules to fit their desire concerning the Lady Face open space plan. The description of retail and residential allowances is written in away that it appears or can be advertised as one thing while the truth in the language is something completely different and significantly larger. There are so many bones buried in this project, so many down right dishonest and deceiving actions it is completely shameful. Politics in this country has gone to hell in a hand basket, its corrupt from Washington DC all the way to 91301. Without the tireless and frankly thankless devotion of Mary Altmann the boys on the council and their buddies would be building a monument to themselves. Imagine for a moment the AVP is built and 25 years have gone by. What does that part of town look like now? What kind of 24 hour activity would be going on? The community center has become a sub station for the Agoura Hills Police department, forced to close the community center and have a higher police presence because of the drug activity in the area. It is well know that going out to Agoura to get some drugs is the ticket because of the old apartments above the closed shops. You can park by the freeway sound wall and then walk in to the different apartments sampling different offers from different groups of sellers, mostly gangs from the city that rent these apartments for the traffic and opportunity. One of the larger antique stores has closed and a strip club has opened, the city doesn’t allow alcohol in the AVP area because of past problems, so the strip club is totally nude and 24 hours. This is the gateway to the Santa Monica Mountains recreation area…. The community is very nice on the north side of the 101 but they never go across the freeway, just like now.

Hopefully a new council will be elected and the original focus and desires of Agoura Hills will become a mission and the AVP will be built. Built where it should be, Kanan RD. and Thousand Oaks blvd. that is the towns center after all..

Joe Dallacqua
36 year resident