January 18, 2017

Interim Wildlife Crossing Measures Installed at Liberty Canyon

Cal Trans has begun the project to improve the existing Liberty Canyon underpass for wildlife movement. The project was funded two years ago with a $645,000 Wildlife Conservation Board grant. The new fencing being installed now by Caltrans was part of a significant match provided by the partners for that first grant, including donations by LA County supervisor district 3, MRCA and others.

Cal Trans is removing existing fencing and relocating new, higher fencing to guide animals to use the existing underpass at Liberty Canyon. After some of the existing fencing is removed, a wider path under the 101 and between the off-ramps and the office buildings will be completed and native vegetation restored. Caltrans is being very flexible in the field in making sure the fences start and stop in locations that maximize passage sight lines and area, while keeping them off the freeway.

Caltrans is also working internally to finalize the encroachment permits so that habitat restoration can be done within their right of ways in order to re-connect the north riparian area to the south, passing between the existing off-ramp and office complex.

This project was always considered an important interim step to protect wildlife until completion of fundraising and construction of the more ideal overpass over the 101 and Agoura Road.

January 3, 2017

First Agoura Village Project Goes to Planning Commission

On Thursday, January 5, the City Planning Commission will hear a request to approve an Agoura Village Development Permit and a Tentative Parcel Map to construct a mixed-use commercial and multi-family residential project at the corner of Cornell and Agoura Roads within “Zone E” of the Village Plan. The project consists of 35 residential apartment units comprising 47,858 square feet, and retail, restaurant and office space comprising 68,918 square feet. The project requires an Oak Tree Permit to remove 29 oak trees and 21,271 square feet of scrub oak habitat.

This is the first major project to be considered for the Agoura Village Plan Area It will likely set the tone for several future projects within the Plan area and it raises some concerns. A major concern is its hope to consume all 35 of the housing units allotted for Village Zone E, leaving none for other lots within that Zone.
This sets a bad precedent and the wrong message to future developers in the Village - that our city wants more urbanization of this unique area.  To the contrary, long ago we set the vision for Agoura Hills as gateway to the Santa Monica Mountains, letting the land dictate the intensity and use.

Amending the Plan because one developer wants the whole apple in the first bite is inconsistent with the spirit and community input that developed the Plan in the first place. The original zoning, before the AV Plan was done, did not allow any housing. The two southern most, and highest, buildings could be eliminated entirely. There are 12 residential units in those buildings, which should be reserved for the other lots in Zone E. This would still allow 23 residential units and maintain the appropriate density envisioned for the Village.  It would also preserve more of the view of the mountains and natural features.

In terms of its design, the roof-lines of these two highest residential buildings present long, horizontal, unbroken lines from the freeway view. Eliminating those buildings would preserve the “village” appearance of clustered structures.

The colors also seem inappropriate - white trim, cream colored stucco - and some colonial style brick are inconsistent with the Santa Monica Mountains. As the first project to be built within the Agoura Village plan, this development will set a precedent that will surely be cited by developers who follow. It, therefore, requires very careful scrutiny. A design style that evokes the nearby iconic mountain places like Peter Strauss Ranch, Paramount Ranch, or our own city hall and event center would be more fitting.

The presence of the mountains, restored Medea Creek, and our gateway identity all provide an ideal opportunity to make Agoura Village a unique place that will be attractive to future and existing homeowners and businesses.  It deserves very thoughtful consideration as an amazing opportunity to use the Creek and mountains as a resource and a draw.  The site is too prominent and beautiful to just be graded into more multi-family housing, inconsistent with the Agoura Village theme.  It is the wrong precedent to set as we begin to develop this unique area of our city.