This is regarding the Business Journal article headlined “Fight for the Hills” in the July 10 issue. I want to chime in because the portion about Canyon Oaks and Measure F in your article didn’t tell the complete story. I want to share another point of view.
Your article attributed a statement from a developer in Agoura Hills who said allowing residents to overturn City Council decisions defeats the purpose of electing council members to vote on such projects. When councils reflect the will of the voters and follow the regulations/guidelines that were put in place to protect their community, there’s no need for residents to overturn decisions.
Canyon Oaks (now named West Village) was initially approved by a narrow 3-2 vote by the Calabasas City Council, despite overwhelming opposition from residents. Council chambers were typically packed by residents who spoke out against the project. Over 90 percent of residents who spoke or otherwise corresponded with the Council about Canyon Oaks were opposed to the project. Their reasons varied, but here are the main ones:
• The project’s violation of the city’s 3-story height limit; it was reduced after the community pushed back.
• The violation of the city’s Hillside Management guidelines and codes that were supposed to limit grading and protect hillsides.
• The fact that one third of the already-zoned open space in the parcel (supposedly protected) would have been bulldozed.
• The site is a Significant Ecological Area that includes rare wetlands that would have been buried and “relocated.”
• The project would virtually fill in the canyon with dirt in order to create 30-foot high building pads for tightly-packed estate homes. “Canyon Oaks” became an ironic name.
• The city ignored its General Plan Safety Element policy which stated that development should be discouraged in landslide areas.
• Zoning was changed in order to allow a hotel when there was another hotel approved a mere 150 yards away (Richard Weintraub’s project, now the proposed Cambria Hotel).
Calabasas Municipal Code also clearly states that “a development should preserve the hillside rather than alter it to fit the development.” Canyon Oaks was the antithesis of that. It was not responsible development. And that’s why there was pushback from residents; they’re tired of being ignored.
I believe that Measure F was defeated (a “No” vote rejected the Canyon Oaks project) by a nearly 2-1 margin because residents felt the city was tone-deaf on the project. Only two council members listened to their constituents: Mayor James Bozajian and Mayor Pro-tem (now Mayor) Mary Sue Maurer.
Regarding what the General Plan “allows,” it clearly states that no development is guaranteed the maximum density.
I understand that the Business Journal is focused on business; however, a few more details about the other side of the issue would have made it clear as to why community pushback occurred.
Those pushing development-at-any-cost tend to paint opponents with the easy brush of “anti-development” instead of realizing that some of us just want development done responsibly. That was always the stated goal with “No on Measure F” — Canyon Oaks was the wrong project for that site.
It’s not something that I would characterize as “stupid,” contrary to our City Manager’s comments. Judging by the election results, I have to surmise that I’m not alone in that opinion.
Frances Alet, a resident of Calabasas, was a leader in the “No on Measure F” campaign that defeated the Canyon Oaks project in the November elections.