April 26, 2017

Lawsuit Filed Over Cornerstone

A group calling itself "Save the Agoura Cornell Knoll" has filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court over the approval of the Cornerstone project. The lawsuit seeks to set aside the Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) and the project entitlements until a full blown Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is prepared and circulated. Although the City is the named defendant in the lawsuit, the legal costs are borne by the developer of the Cornerstone Project. No work may commence on the project until the outcome of the lawsuit is determined.

The suit alleges that the city has failed to provide a legally adequate environmental document under CEQA, The California Environmental Quality Act.  It also alleges that the city "failed to disclose, analyze and mitigate the Project's significant aesthetic, cultural, biological, land use, recreational and water quality impacts, as well as the cumulative impacts caused by allowing exceptions and increases in density beyond the limits of the Agoura Village Specific Plan." It also says that "where mitigation measures are included, they are vague, deferred, or inadequate to truly mitigate the Project's impacts."

As former Mayors of Agoura Hills, we are saddened to see legal action taking place over the development of Agoura Village. But our sympathies are squarely with the Plaintiffs. As we indicated in our previous posts  (January 13, February 26, and March 29), we do not feel that the Cornerstone Project is consistent with the letter or the spirit of the Agoura Village Plan (AVP). It strays so far from what was presented to our residents before the AVP was adopted, that many of them, who still support the plan, attended the hearing on Cornerstone to oppose the project.

In 1997, because of  important archaeological and biological resources on the site, the City's environmental consultant, Envicom, felt that the knoll was appropriate for a single building, a restaurant or bed and breakfast type of inn.

It did not have to come to this. City staff and decision makers could have worked with the developer to plan a project that would be consistent with the AVP, minimize grading, preserve most of the oak trees and scrub oak habitat, preserve the significant Chumash cultural resources, preserve biological resources like rare plant species found on the site, avoid grading and trucking 92,500 cubic yards of dirt off site, meet current water runoff quality standards for the Malibu Creek watershed, and allow for the National Park Service's planned trails from the 2008 Regional Trails Plan.

It is still not too late for the litigants in this lawsuit to get together and devise a plan that will meet the objectives of the AVP, the litigants and the community. We urge both sides to take advantage of the mandatory settlement conference likely to be ordered by the court, to agree on a scaled back development. That can put the AVP back on track to providing what our residents have been looking forward to since the Plan's adoption in 2008.

For more information about the lawsuit, go to Advocates for the Environment at: http://aenv.org/cornerstone/, or email to: SaveTheAgouraKnoll@gmail.com