December 17, 2014

New Mayor Sets Priorities

Mayor Illece Buckley Weber
On December 2, Agoura Hills got its first female mayor since Louise Rishoff took the helm 16 years ago. Illece Buckley Weber was sworn in by Louise while family, friends and an enthusiastic crowd that filled the council chambers looked on.

In her first speech as Mayor, she spelled out the priorities she would pursue in her first term. A number of them are consistent with the mission of Agoura Hills Tomorrow. At the top of her list was the need to conserve water and to improve water quality in our creeks. She pledged to "explore funding options" to improve storm water runoff.

To reduce water use, Illece plans to rely on educating people about the benefits of native plants. "70% of the water in our region is used outdoors. We can lower that percentage. Here is one way: Agoura Hills is the gateway to the Santa Monica Mountains. I advocate that we open the gate and bring the Santa Monica Mountains into Agoura Hills. We can do that with the planting of natural habitat and native species that are complimentary and attractive to our homes."

Beautification of the city was also a priority. The Medea creek naturalization project from Kanan Road to Chumash Park will be the highlight of this effort. "This project is a win for water quality, a win for wildlife and a win for our residents who will be able to access and enjoy its beauty." In addition, Illece plans to continue and expand "Community Service Day" initiated by then Mayor Bill Koehler and expand the annual "Creek Clean Up Day" to encompass other parts of the city. Beautification will also include a street-scape plan for public medians and right of ways, and a fresh look at lighting and sign ordinances.

Illece also pledged to find ways to bolster the City's Cultural Arts Council by broadening community involvement and exploring a Cultural Arts Council signature event. She has also pledged to continue close cooperation with the Las Virgenes Unified School District and has joined the LVUSD Superintendent's Advisory Council. Buckley Weber rounded out her speech with a commitment to seek progress on the Agoura Village plan. "I expect to see more progress and will do whatever I can to bring our vision of Agoura Village to fruition."

December 1, 2014

Wildlife Board Approves Funding for Phase 1 of Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing

On November 20, the California Wildlife Conservation Board unanimously approved $650,000 in voter-passed grant funds to complete Phase 1 of the planned safe wildlife crossing of the 101 freeway at Liberty Canyon in Agoura Hills. This project was triggered by the recent death of a male mountain lion that tried to cross the freeway from north to south, but was struck by a car and killed. That lion would have brought much-needed new genetic material with him to

stem the inbreeding that has been documented by the National Park Service because of the barrier created by the 101 freeway that has isolated lions in the Santa Monica Mountains from unrelated other lions. The ongoing road kills of deer, coyote and other small mammals attempting to cross have made it clear that for the safety of both wildlife and of drivers on the freeway, something must be done.

Phase I will begin with Caltrans replacing and relocating fencing to keep wildlife off the freeway and force them to the improved underpass. Some adjustments to the traffic lanes underneath the freeway will create a wide dirt path that will be re-vegetated with native plants and create habitat and cover to entice wildlife to continue from the open spaces on one side of the freeway to the other.

The unanimous support from the Wildlife Conservation Board was surely influenced by the huge groundswell of support from the community. The Board noted that they received more than 60 letters/emails in support of this application – apparently a record number, so you made a huge difference!

It is estimated that the Phase I improvements will be completed by mid-2015. Phase II will then begin, which is a proposed wildlife naturalized crossing over the freeway itself just west of Liberty Canyon. These are being used with great success in other states and in Canada. A major public/private fundraising effort will be required, but the National Wildlife Federation has stepped up and will help lead that effort. In the meantime, securing the funding needed for the Phase 1 undercrossing is reason to celebrate!