2017-03-16 / Front Page

First Agoura Village project gets final OK

City Council turns down an appeal
By Stephanie Bertholdo

SERENE SETTING—A pedestrian strolls by Agoura and Cornell roads where Cornerstone will be. 
JOHN LOESING/Acorn Newspapers SERENE SETTING—A pedestrian strolls by Agoura and Cornell roads where Cornerstone will be. JOHN LOESING/Acorn Newspapers The Agoura Hills City Council denied a request to stop the Cornerstone retail and residential development following a contentious eight-hour meeting that began March 8 and spilled over into the next day.

The vote was 3-2.

The city planning commission approved the 8-acre project on the southeast corner of Agoura and Cornell roads Jan. 5, but Snowdy Dodson, chair of the Los Angeles/Santa Monica Mountains Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, filed an appeal on grounds that the 35 apartments along with stores, offices and restaurants would bring harm to the hundreds of plant and animal species in the area and lead to the death of 29 Valley and Coastal oak trees.

Several dozen new plants reportedly have been seen in the area that were not previously identified.

But resident Paul Scrivano applauded the project and the jobs it would bring. He opposed another environmental review in the name of protecting foliage.

“They’re (just) plants,” Scrivano said.

Developer Brad Rosenheim gave details of the project and said it would allow residents to “live, work and play” in the Agoura Village zone that is planned to be the new town hub.

“The vision for the village is to be a destination, not just a pass-through area,” Rosenheim said. “This will be a main street for the area. It should be a nice place to gather.”

The City Council questioned the affordability of the apartments. Councilmember Linda Northrup worried that some people who grew up in Agoura Hills have to leave the city against their wishes because of its high housing prices.

Eva Larson, an Agoura Hills resident of Navajo descent said Cornerstone carries archeological importance and that the local Chumash Indian tribes had not been consulted.

“They are getting the short end of the stick,” Larson said.

Malibou Lake resident Chet Yabitsu said the increased traffic caused by Cornerstone will cause problems for the 1,000 lake residents tucked in the nearby mountains because there might not be enough room for fire trucks to navigate during an emergency.

Phil Ramuno, a former city-planning commissioner who helped write the Agoura Village Specific Plan, a city document that paved the way for projects like Cornerstone, said he supported the idea of a mixed-use development that incorporated residential living with retail and office space, but insisted that a new environmental review was necessary to address the potential traffic problems.

Former Agoura Hills Mayor Ed Corridori said that the Cornerstone development is bigger than what the Agoura Village plan envisioned. “It’s just not who we are,” Corridori said.

“If I were on the City Council I would not support this project,” said former Agoura Hills mayor and state Sen. Fran Pavley in a letter to the council.

Council deliberation

Mayor Denis Weber and City Councilmembers Harry Schwarz and Bill Koehler voted to deny the appeal.

Weber said he trusts the judgment of the city’s planners.

“We’ve spent so many hours on this,” he said. “I don’t want this project denied.”

Schwarz said he felt confident Cornerstone will not irreparably harm the wildlife and that the developer would comply with all state and local water regulations.

Councilmembers Illece Buckley Weber and Linda Northrup voted in favor of the appeal.

Northrup said the council should take another look at the possibility of new and rare species of plants growing in the area. She also opposed destruction of the 29 oak trees. Planting small new trees in the place of large old ones is not the best solution, Northrup said.

Buckley Weber said the development did not respect the city’s rustic character.

“It does not fit the landscape. We need green space to break up the structures,” she said.

The project will feature seven buildings: three of them fronting Agoura and Cornell roads and the other four in an upper plaza surrounding a large fountain. Three buildings will have loft apartments above offices, retail stores and restaurants. Two buildings on a hill will have apartments only. Buckley Weber suggested the developer eliminate one building to reduce the amount of hillside grading that will be required.

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