For the communities that have endured three years of construction on the Lost Hills overpass, this summer’s planned ribbon-cutting is a signal that life will soon return to normal. But on its heels comes another construction project in the area: a housing development that could end the quiet sooner than some residents would like.
Real estate developer Borstein Enterprises held a community forum last week to present plans for a new housing project on a 6.84-acre plot of land at 27201 Canwood St., just west of the overpass. About 40 people attended the forum held at the Agoura/Calabasas Community Center.
Erik Pfahler, senior vice president of Borstein Enterprises, said the meeting was a preliminary forum as required by the City of Calabasas but no plans have been submitted to the city yet.
Pfahler and his colleagues presented multiple housing options, including 60 townhomes, 58 duplexes or 92 three-story multifamily residences. They asked attendees for feedback about what type of neighborhood they would like to see built. The majority voiced support for single-family housing; however, the land is zoned for multifamily residences.
In lieu of single-family homes, attendees said they preferred duplexes as a second choice. Pfahler and his colleagues will use feedback from the meeting to develop a plan to submit to the city.
“It’s not a surprise (the residents want single-family homes) but the zoning is the zoning,” Pfahler said. “It’s multifamily zoning. So I get it, and we’ll do our best to respond to their request. We’re not trying to ignore anybody, but on the other hand it’s not that simple. The next step for us is to get a more precise plan done and then get something in front of the city’s planning staff so we can get their feedback as well.”
Residents of the Saratoga Hills and Saratoga Ranch communities, which border the land, voiced concern about adding multifamily residences to the area, which is only accessible by Canwood Street, with one lane in each direction.
Andrew Leff, a board member of the Saratoga Ranch Owners Association, said he had seen previous attempts to develop the same plot of land get rejected for safety reasons.
“For an emergency, fire or earthquake, there’s only one access. There’s roughly 300 homes in (the area), and all those residents have to go to Lost Hills Road to get out. To us, that’s the biggest problem,” Leff said. “Our community has always been single-family residential. We’ve been through all the disturbance of the Lost Hills bridge, which is fine because we approved it, but now on top of that we’d have the additional nuisance with the trucks and noise for who knows how long, after we thought our journey with the bridge was over.”
Dallas Lawrence, a board member of the Community Association of Saratoga Hills, said he first heard about the project when the developers presented it at a neighborhood meeting a few months ago. Lawrence said he believes the city would be willing to rezone the land for single-family homes to match the homes in the area.
“I think it’s a non-starter for this community, to be proposing 90 high-density in-fill housing units with 180 parking spots on only 6 acres of buildable land,” Lawrence said. “If the community and everybody agreed to rezone it, I think the city would be willing. This is a legacy piece of zoning for a property that has been sitting on the sidelines, and we’ve seen these a couple of times in the community, where community norms have changed.”
Lawrence said the developers offered to keep the community association involved in the process, but the community forum was the first interaction with the developers since he first learned about the project.
“We’ll start to get a clearer understanding of what’s possible on the site, and then there will be further dialogue with the community,” Pfahler said. “We will continue to stay in touch with the local associations in the neighborhood, and if there’s other stakeholders in the community, we’re going to talk to them, too. We’re not the type of developer that will go and stick our head in the sand and march forward. All I can ask is that people have some patience and keep an open mind.”
Pfahler said the forum was the first step in a lengthy planning process, which he expects will take about 16 months.