April 30, 2014

Audubon Society Endorses Wildlife Corridor

From Ronald Barnes, President of the
Conejo Valley Audubon Society:

"The Board of Directors of the Conejo Valley Audubon Society has voted to endorse the plan to construct a wildlife corridor over Highway 101 in the area between Liberty Canyon and Chesebro Roads. We feel that the preservation of the Chesebro Meadow is vital to this project and helps to preserve the annual grassland sub-ecosystem for the generations to follow. This is the last area that can link the Simi Hills to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMNRA) providing biodiversity and extended range not only for the mountain lion but other species.

The Meadow provides habitat for at least one State fully-protected wildlife species. The white-tailed kite is considered to have potential to occur within this area (U.S. 101/Palo Comado Canyon Road Interchange Project Natural Environment Study, Agoura Hills May 2011). Indeed, white-tailed kites frequent this area during the winter and have nested in the adjacent residential vacant land area (personal sighting March 2014). According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s California Natural Diversity Database, other fully protected species that have been documented close to the Meadow are burrowing owls and rufous-crowned sparrows. The natural grassland support other sparrow species, western meadowlarks, mule tailed deer, and coyotes. In addition, there are 12 non-listed species that have potential for occurrence identified within the Interchange Project study area.

We, The Conejo Valley Audubon Society, give our support to all agencies and organizations who share our united goal - the preservation of Chesebro Meadow and potentially the last remaining wildlife corridor in the area. We believe this will also bring the support of Audubon California and the National Audubon Society, as this is more than just a local issue, benefiting all who enjoy SMNRA and the diversity this park needs for perpetuity." 

April 26, 2014

Agoura Hills to Oppose Annexation

After hearing testimony from 14 residents, all of whom opposed allowing Calabasas to annex the property adjacent to Liberty Canyon, the Agoura Hills City Council agreed and gave instructions to the city staff to draw up a letter of opposition.

The council members seem to agree that their decision was not a matter of mistrust of the Calabasas Council's intentions. On the contrary, they appeared to agree that their Calabasas counterparts were sincere in their representations and would be good stewards of the open space and wildlife corridor that dominate the area. The decision hinged on the fact that the property was all but surrounded by Agoura Hills and Liberty Canyon residents with no Calabasas residents closer than a half mile away. Any land use decisions made here will have no consequences for any residents of Calabasas. Illece Buckley-Weber pointed out that there was no legal means to bind future councils of our neighboring city from making decisions that would negatively impact the residents of Liberty Canyon who would have no effective recourse.

Basically, the Agoura Hills Council decided it must assume responsibility for the interests of its own citizens which, after all, was what Calabasas was doing by pursuing annexation. They also expressed a desire that the two cities could continue to work together toward common objectives as they have always done in the past.

April 22, 2014

City Council to Discuss Calabasas Intent to Annex Liberty Canyon Parcels on Wednesday

Should this island of 43 acres of unincorporated land adjacent to the Liberty Canyon neigborhood be a part of Agoura Hills or Calabasas?

We reported in February that preliminary work had begun to locate and design a critically needed crossing for wildlife in the Liberty Canyon corridor. This location is the last remaining linkage between the Santa Monica Mountains on the south and the Simi Hills on the north for large mammals, including mountain lions. Keeping the Liberty Canyon community as natural as possible, and with commercial development as low impact as possible are key to its success.

There's potentially a lot at stake.

We are very concerned now about a fast-moving application our neighbor City of Calabasas has filed to annex 43 acres on the eastern edge of Liberty Canyon, now a part of L.A. County. A vacant office building is about to be occupied by a firm manufacturing and shipping electronic devices. Impacts of those operations will not fall on any Calabasas residents. Their closest residents are a half mile away. The impacts will all fall on 500 Liberty Canyon families, including commercial truck traffic, noise, night lighting, potential intensified weekend activity, etc. It is also precisely the wrong direction to head at the moment that the City's vision for the wildlife corridor is moving forward. Calabasas has been open that their move to annex the property is all about capturing the sales tax revenue.

It was disturbing to read in the April 17 Acorn that the Calabasas city manager "had previously spoken to Agoura Hills City Manager, Greg Ramirez, about whether his city would consider annexation of the land, and Ramirez reportedly said no." We sincerely hope that is not true, since this is an issue that should have been placed in front of the city council. Greg Ramirez has denied that he made such a statement.

Update: Greg Ramirez statement just sent to Agoura Hills Tomorrow: "The quote by Tony  Coroalles  is not correct or true, he has contacted me (and the Acorn) accordingly.  The context of our conversation was, "had" the City of Agoura Hills ever attempted or considered annexing this land in the past.  More specifically, was it identified in our most recent General Plan update as land that should be annexed by the City.  My answer was no it was not."

Our concerns are magnified by the fact that Calabasas chose not to support the County's Local Coastal Plan last week. This visionary plan for protecting the natural resources in the coastal zone of the Santa Monica Mountains is historic and was seven years in the making. It was fiercely opposed by development interests, but supported by every major environmental group in the region, all the way from the Sierra Club to local HOAs. Agoura Hills Mayor Pro Tem Illece Buckley Weber spoke eloquently in support of the plan on behalf of our city. Calabasas stood silent. Only Councilmember Fred Gaines attended and spoke, and not for his city but for private clients who opposed the plan. This worries us.

As former Agoura Hills Mayors, we believe that the Agoura Hills City Council must take action to protect Liberty Canyon residents and to preserve the viability of the Liberty Canyon wildlife corridor. When they meet on Wednesday, we hope they will do the following:

1. Immediately contact County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and LAFCO (the annexing agency) to express the city's opposition to the Calabasas annexation application.

2. Begin the process of formally requesting that LAFCO instead designate the 43 acres as a Sphere of Influence of the City of Agoura Hills.

Primary access to the area is through Agoura Hills roads. By design, Agoura Road has been kept a two-lane rural road to slow traffic and protect the abundant wildlife in that area. Intensified commercial development and traffic across Liberty Canyon Blvd. is inconsistent with this goal. Because the impacts fall on Agoura Hills residents, our city should be the planning and zoning authority to make those decisions. The area in question is on the Agoura Hills side of the hill that forms the city's boundary, making it geographically a logical part of Agoura Hills. Because of the location, city services would be more easily provided by Agoura Hills and a designation as our Sphere of Influence is the logical choice.

If you agree, please let the City Council know that you want these decisions made by your city council, not by Calabasas.

Attend the City Council meeting at 6:00 p.m. and speak in opposition.
Send a letter to Mayor Koehler at wkoehler@ci.agoura-hills.ca.us
Call City Hall at 818-597-7300 and leave a message.

Time is of the essence. We thank you.

April 13, 2014

Get Involved!

Among the many things that make Agoura Hills a wonderful place to live is the involvement of our citizens in countless community activities of all kinds. They help connect us in a very tangible way to “our” City. The City of Agoura Hills is about to host its first annual “Community Service Days” event, and we think it’s a terrific idea.

Saturday, May 3
8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Chumash Park, just west of Agoura High

Participants are asked to meet-up at Chumash Park to sign-in and pick up their free T-shirt before heading off to a variety of project sites. This is a great family activity. Maybe you’re involved with a sports or youth group that would like to come out and have some fun working on a city project? How about a temple or church group? Or grab some of your neighbors to get out in the cool of the morning to do something completely different?

Projects are all safe and supervised. And when yours is complete, you’re invited back to Chumash Park to enjoy a free lunch, entertainment, and a community service fair.

You can sign-up ahead of time by visiting the City of Agoura Hills website at:      www.cityofagourahills.volunteerhub.com

April 10, 2014

California Coastal Commission Approves the Local Coastal Plan

This just in - The Coastal Commission has approved the Local Coastal Plan by unanimous vote. The Implementation Plan comes back to the Commission in June, but that’s just the “how” of it all. Over 400 comments had been sent in to the Commission in support. Just over 60 in opposition - a fantastic victory for the mountains. The plan insures that any development in the mountains must meet the most stringent environmental standards, protecting views, wildlife habitat, water quality, native vegetation, ridgelines and existing parklands.

April 9, 2014

City Council Endorses the Local Coastal Plan

The Agoura Hills City Council voted tonight, April 9, to endorse the Local Coastal Plan when it comes up for approval before the Coastal Commission tomorrow in Santa Barbara. This plan will overlay the Coastal side of the Santa Monica Mountains with the strongest set of environmental protections ever. The vote was 4 to 1, with Mayor Bill Koehler, Mayor-Pro-tem Illece Buckley-Webber, and Councilmembers Harry Schwarz and John Edelston voting "Yes," and Councilmember Denis Weber voting "No."

A video of the meeting can be seen on the city's web site or click HERE to access the video. For the discussion of the LCP, scroll to item 11 on the video.