California Commercial Investment Cos. has filed a lawsuit against the city of Agoura Hills over the Westlake Village builder’s long-gestating plan to build Agoura Village East.

The project, also known as The Ave, is a town center that would include 118 residential units, a 120-key hotel and restaurant, retail and office space on a parcel at the southeast intersection of Agoura and Kanan roads.

In September, Agoura Hills City Council voted 4- 1 to pass on the 18-acre mixed-use project, after the Agoura Hills Planning Commission had rejected it in July.

After a process that took seven years, The Ave has been declined by the city because eight of the project’s 15 buildings exceed the city’s 35-to-45 foot height limit. There was some fear that the commercial buildings would block a view of Ladyface Mountain. Also the project’s proximity to the mountain has raised objections from environmental groups.

There was also traffic circulation-related issues as it was unclear if the city intended to build a new traffic roundabout at the Kanan-Agoura intersection.

According to Carl Roth at Brown George Ross O’Brien Annauguey and Ellis, the lawyer representing California Commercial Investment, the city has waged a “longstanding campaign to block the new rental housing growth and undermine California’s commitment to rental housing and the housing market in general.”

As described in the complaint, “the city has for 18 years blocked virtually all new rental housing developments by means of a system rigged against developers. CCI, like numerous others before it, suffered as a result. “

The complaint accuses the city’s process as being purposefully drawn out to discourage development.

“The lawsuit alleges that the city improperly blocked a development that was in the works for seven years through a misapplication of CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) and by means of a system so tortured, convoluted and interminable that it is set up for applicants like CCI to fail,” according to the complaint. “Since 2015, CCI has been trying to get a permit to develop a vacant 18-acre lot.”
“In May 2021, just weeks after acknowledging that CCI had submitted all the requisite materials for the completion of an Environmental Impact Report, the city refused to complete the EIR and announced it would veto the Ave Project, ironically putting it on a fast-track for denial,” CCI said.

According to the complaint, CCI had spent millions of dollars over the past seven years pursuing this development, “and will have suffered losses in the tens of millions of dollars in a good faith attempt to give the city what it purports to seek.”

CCI added that the resultant harm will transcend beyond the firm as the City Council’s decision will have significant and long-lasting effects on the Agoura Hills housing market, limiting the amount and types of housing available to current and potential residents.

CCI claims that the city’s rejection of its project “threatens the city’s ability to add housing units that it needs to comply with California law, endangers the city’s eligibility to receive state funding for several programs and risks erosion of local land use control.”

The Business Journal reached out to members of Agoura Hills City Council but did not hear back by press time.