The many angles of Cornerstone

It happened: A judge ruled against the City of Agoura Hills and suspended development of the 8-acre Cornerstone development in Agoura Village. But the May 23 decision by L.A. County Superior Court Judge Mary Strobel still leaves many questions unanswered.

The 116,000-square-foot development calls for seven new buildings on a scenic knoll at the doorstep of the Santa Monica Mountains. There, at the corner of Agoura and Cornell roads are to be new homes, shops, restaurants and offices. It is supposed to be the first big step in giving Agoura Hills the one thing it’s always longed for: a place other than Vons and Ralphs that could be identified as a true city center.

But missteps along the way have resulted in the project being placed on hold. What it will look like when it comes back is anybody’s guess. The judge’s decision cited inadequate environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act, a violation of the Agoura Hills oak tree ordinance, and the potential for permanent harm to an archaeological site at the property.

Was it a case of hubris by the Agoura Hills City Council—which gave approval to Cornerstone in 2017 in a narrow 3-2 vote—or just sloppy prep work by both the city and the developer?

Probably a little of both.

Cornerstone, yes or no, is a question that has divided the community since the project first came out of city planning sessions many months ago. It is arguably the most controversial development in the city’s 36- year history and, to this day, arguments can be made both for and against the plan.

The development represents all that is good and bad about growth in Agoura Hills: new opportunities for shopping, dining and entertainment—but more traffic and congestion, not to mention the continual erosion of the hills and open spaces that have long been the city’s calling card. Once those are gone, they never come back, just like the hills that were destroyed and the open space that was eliminated when many of the opponents to Cornerstone moved into their own new homes years ago.

The hypocrisy is apparent.

Many of the same critics of Cornerstone have no problem giving unequivocal backing to the Liberty Canyon wildlife bridge for the benefit of a few mountain lions, even though its construction will bring mind-numbing traffic jams to the 101 Freeway and shoot tons of lung-clogging dust into the air. It will be an expensive, nightmarish project for many years to come.

In the meantime, we hope the opponents keep Cornerstone’s feet to the fire—and that when the dust finally does settle, it will be a project we can all be proud of. We stand by our opinion that, with a few key changes, the city is on the right track with Agoura Village and its new calling card, Cornerstone.

To deny the landowner its development rights is both unfair and unlawful.