2017-05-18 / Front Page

Developer’s new Calabasas plan smaller, yet bigger

West Village replaces earlier project that voters rejected
By Sylvie Belmond


INFO—Builder Rick Bianchi discusses his new West Village development with residents of Calabasas. 
SYLVIE BELMOND/Acorn Newspapers INFO—Builder Rick Bianchi discusses his new West Village development with residents of Calabasas. SYLVIE BELMOND/Acorn Newspapers “I want you to understand that we’re not going to make everyone happy.”

Rick Bianchi, vice president of the Aliso Viejo-based New Home Company, put his cards on the table in a presentation last week about a new development he is planning for a parcel of land at Agoura and Las Virgenes roads in Calabasas.

Bianchi’s previous project, the Canyon Oaks hotel and homes, had been slated for the same spot, but was rejected by voters last November.

His new 13-acre development, known as West Village, includes a 6,000-square-foot neighborhood retail center, a 15,600-square-foot community park and 15 three-story buildings with 180 condominiums. Twenty-seven of the condos will be reserved for people with moderate incomes.

About 60 people attended the May 8 workshop at the Agoura Hills/Calabasas Community Center to find out what the new project entails and how it will affect the Las Virgenes Valley, where other large developments and road construction chores are already underway.


A NEW LOOK—An artist’s rendering of the proposed West Village development in Calabasas. 
Courtesy of JZMK Partners: Southern California Architecture and Planning A NEW LOOK—An artist’s rendering of the proposed West Village development in Calabasas. Courtesy of JZMK Partners: Southern California Architecture and Planning Bianchi’s three-story Canyon Oaks hotel and 71 single-family homes—which voters defeated— lay on a 16-acre plot at the intersection of Las Virgenes and Agoura roads. While the new West Village development, at the same location, comprises only 13 acres, its density is far greater, with 15 three-story condo buildings versus a single three-story hotel and 180 multi-family homes versus the original 71 single-family homes. The traffic from the revised development will also be greater.

Unlike Canyon Oaks, West Village meets the city’s general requirements and cannot be challenged at the ballot box.

Following a review by the City Council, the project is expected to be approved.

“I’m not going to kid you. It’s going to look horrible at first,” Bianchi said. Much grading will be required to fix an ancient landslide, but vegetation will be replanted to improve the appearance of the graded slopes.

“We’re here tonight with the intent to communicate what we’re proposing to do and get feedback,” the developer said. “We need to achieve a certain number of units to make a profit.”

Pending city approval, the grading could start in a year, and construction of the first homes would begin 18 months later.

Bianchi said that the one-, two- and three-bedroom condos would help satisfy the housing needs of seniors and first-time homebuyers.

“It’s a very under-served demographic in your community. The city is required to encourage and support development to meet the housing needs for a growing community. From my perspective this is a great solution,” he said.

But opponents say the developer is failing to take into consideration the site’s geological and biological constraints.

“We don’t want the hillsides disturbed,” said Joe Chilco, a member of the "No on Measure F" political action committee that initiated the 2016 referendum to halt the Canyon Oaks hotel and homes.

Some residents are pushing for a conservation agency to acquire the overall 77-acre West Village parcel for open space before it’s developed.

Several people had concerns about the development’s effect on traffic, ridgeline views and quality of life for residents in the congested scenic Las Virgenes Road corridor. They pointed to the 78-townhome Paxton development one mile south of Bianchi’s development on Las Virgenes Road where grading has been going on for nearly two years, and to a new shopping center that is nearly complete at the north end of Las Virgenes Road.

The west side of Calabasas has enough retail, one woman said.

But other attendees at the workshop see the West Village plan as a good compromise.

“I know that future development is coming, and I think that this particular design is respectful based on what the entitlements allow. I appreciate that the developer has come back to the community with a responsive proposal after the outcry,” said Kecia Boulware, who lives in the Stone Creek housing community.

“Once you’re in, you cannot close the door to new development coming after you,” Boulware said.

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