Oaks dorm conversion receives pushback

STUDENT HOUSING—An artist’s rendering of the new OCHS dorms. Courtesy photo

STUDENT HOUSING—An artist’s rendering of the new OCHS dorms. Courtesy photo

Oaks Christian’s plan to turn an office building near its Westlake Village campus into a dormitory was well-received by the school, the community and city officials when the move was announced last month, but some of the tenants who will be affected by the dorm conversion aren’t so happy.

They say they’ve been kept in the dark about the plans for the yearlong construction project and that their businesses will be impacted.

The school owns the building at 31255 Cedar Valley Drive and will begin converting the premises into dorm rooms as soon as it receives a final OK from the city. The three-story structure will house approximately 150 high school students when finished.

The plan has been in the works for a year, but the tenants say the first official notice they received was a letter sent on March 26 of this year to each of the building’s 19 occupied offices, stating that in a few weeks the school would start construction and that tenants would lose access to the parking lot.

One tenant, whose business is on the second floor, said the noise from crews and the lack of parking will make it difficult for him to work out of the office that he’s rented for nearly a decade. He asked to remain anonymous out of concern for lease negotiations that are underway with the school.

“Basically, I’m being told, ‘Hey, we’re going to make all kinds of noise, we’re going to cause all kinds of disruption, we’re going to take away all of the parking and not provide any place for (tenants) to park, and you’re going to be (working) in a construction zone,’” the tenant said. “And they’re doing this with absolutely no notice whatsoever.”

The dorm conversion is expected to be done next spring.

School staff plan to convert the building in two phases. One half of the building, which has been emptied of tenants, will be converted pending a zoning change that was expected to come at last night’s Westlake Village City Council meeting. Phase one construction calls for the building’s first floor and a parking lot to be closed to tenants and converted into dorm space. The rest of the building, which houses 19 businesses, will be converted at an undetermined later date.

Jerry Mazzeo runs an employment agency out of an office on the second floor of the property. He said the conversion isn’t part of the lease terms he signed in 2012.

“The lease provided for a commercial environment that would be conducive to a business environment, not to dormitories and a school,” Mazzeo said. “It’s their building, they can do what they want, but they have to make me some kind of corresponding offer, there’s got to be consideration given to tenants if they’re going to do that. If they’re going to develop the building that way then I want the option to be able to walk away.”

Mazzeo’s lease is up in 15 months. He has 24 employees who spend their day making phone calls in an office above the parking area, which will undergo extensive reconstruction. More than the noise, Mazzeo is concerned about the building being split between offices and high school dormitories.

“Teenagers already come down here on Saturday nights and do figure-eights and donuts in the street,” Mazzeo said. “We’ve had the mailboxes broken into. It’s just what 17- and 18-year-old kids do.”

On March 29 Mazzeo sent the school a letter requesting a waiver on his lease so that he could give a 90-day notice and look for other office space. He said he hasn’t heard back.

“I want to leave when the timing is right for me. I want to have an opportunity to consider other options. They’re certainly considering their options but they aren’t giving me the same courtesy,” Mazzeo said.

Kris Thabit, OCS director of special projects, said the school’s plans are nothing out of the ordinary.

“Clearly when a school buys an office building there’s some future use intended by the school,” Thabit said. “So to expect that you’re going to be there forever is not realistic. We’re going to fulfill the terms of our leases, that’s our responsibility. It’s that simple,”