Dear Mayor Weber, Mayor pro Tem Koehler, Councilmember Buckley-Weber, Councilmember Northrup and Councilmember Schwarz:
AgouraHillsTomorrow is a group of eight former mayors of Agoura Hills dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of the unique quality of life in Agoura Hills – Gateway to the Santa Monica Mountains. As new development is proposed in our city, we take the opportunity from time to time to share our thoughts on consistency with our vision of a small town, still semi-rural and family friendly, but open to new development that respects these values.
The first step for new development is a stop before the city’s Architectural Review Board (“ARB”). As presently constituted the ARB consists of the Director of Planning, the project case planner, and at least one architect and one landscape architect. The landscape architect has just moved out of the city and the architect lives in Encino. We believe that this is an appropriate time to revisit its makeup.
Virtually all of the remaining commercial development will be built along Agoura Road and within the Agoura Village Specific Plan. It will be set against the backdrop of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area that we believe helps define the character of our city. We see a unique opportunity over the next number of years to make Agoura Village an award-winning model of urban planning in a semi-rural setting, but only if careful attention is paid at the earliest point in the development process—the ARB.
Our city’s architectural review guidelines already state as goals “to promote higher design quality, and for each project to be in harmony with its natural and manmade setting. Alteration of natural landforms and plant communities should be minimized; preservation of oak trees is given high priority.” This includes “designs which take advantage of, rather than altering, natural landforms…. A human scale of design…. Designs that reinforce the city’s semi-rural residential, low profile character and earth-toned, subdued colors.”
AgouraHillsTomorrow opposed recent approval of Cornerstone, the first project to be submitted within Agoura Village, sited high on a prominent oak-studded knoll at the intersection of Cornell and Agoura Road, because it failed all of these threshold tests. We support the citizen lawsuit challenging its extreme density and massive grading, and which demands a formal Environmental Impact Report.
We believe that a strong ARB is critical to the process and to avoid another Cornerstone. We also believe that the public members must be Agoura Hills residents. The future of our city belongs in the hands of the individuals and families who have chosen Agoura Hills as the place to call home and who cherish the natural beauty that we enjoy from virtually every corner of our city.
Qualifying backgrounds to serve as ARB members should be expanded. They should still include architecture and landscape design, but also expertise in such areas as environmental planning, sustainability, energy efficiency and similar that will help Agoura Village projects qualify for the prestigious Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (“LEED”) certification.
LEED is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Available for virtually all building project types, from new construction to interior fit-outs and operation and maintenance, LEED provides a framework to create healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green buildings. LEED certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement.
Agoura Hills already has a few LEED-certified buildings in the city. LEED certification should be one of the proud hallmarks of all incoming projects within the Agoura Village Specific Plan area, guided by a new forward-looking Architectural Review Board.
ARB meetings should also be formalized and noticed so that there is an opportunity for the public to attend and provide critical early input.
We respectfully request that this issue be agendized for discussion and action by the full City Council.
Former mayors Ed Corridori, Jack Koenig, Dan Kuperberg, Darlene McBane, Fran Pavley, Jeff Reinhardt, Louise Rishoff, Joan Yacovone