Shop, Dine, Play, and Stay

About Our Plan


Imagine a place in our city that bustles with excitement. Imagine a place in our city where people live, work, and dine all within walking distance. Imagine a downtown in Thousand Oaks. The Thousand Oaks Boulevard Association has developed the Thousand Oaks Boulevard Specific Plan (TOBSP) in order to guide creative mixed-use and pedestrian friendly development of the Boulevard. The TOBSP was spearheaded by local business owners in order to lay the foundation for improvements that will benieft residents, visitors, and businesses alike. 

The TOBSP major components include: adequate parking, pedestrian-friendly streets, oak tree preservation, and mixed-use structures that contain both commercial and residential uses. The goal is to have people living on the Boulevard walking to stores, restaurants and local entertainment.


Current Projects


The City of Thousand Oaks Community Development Department publishes a monthly summary of development and planning applications and a list of all construction permits issued in the last month. Download the latest edition of these reports below.

Development Activity and Construction Permits


Download the latest Development Activity Report 


Download the latest Permits Issued Report 

2018 Gala

We are happy to announce that Thousand Oaks Boulevard Association was awarded Nonprofit of the Year!
The Chamber held their annual Recognition Gala at Calamigos Ranch.

The event honored outstanding local leaders and organizations, including: 

2018 Award Honorees:

  • Business of the Year, Ventura County Credit Union
  • Man of the Year, Haider Alawami
  • Woman of the Year, Dianne McKay
  • Nonprofit of the Year, Thousand Oaks Boulevard Association
  • Ambassador of the Year, Michael Reardon 
  • Volunteer of the Year, Fran Brough


Medical  Offices


The Thousand Oaks Boulevard Specific Plan loosened parking requirements for buildings. That made it easier for medical providers - such as Kaiser and UCLA Health - to locate in Thousand Oaks and makes it easier for residents to get to their doctors' offices. Listen to one resident talk about the benefits of the Specific Plan.  

Whats Happening

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Thousand Oaks is home to some world-class entertainment.The Civic Arts Plaza has hosted former presidents, Nobel Prize winners and shows that later went all the way to Broadway. The Distinguished Speakers Series brings eight notable speakers to Thousand Oaks every year. The Alliance for the Arts is a major supporter of the Civic Arts Plaza and brings in performances from such groups as Cabrillo Music Theatre and traveling shows.

The Boulevard is also a place for other exciting events such as: car shows, parades, Garden of the Worlds, and The Lakes. All of these venues offer so much fun and entertainment that you don’t have to leave town to have a great time. Check out our calendar listings for what’s happening in your community!   

Civic Arts Plaza


The Bank of America Performing Arts Center at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza is one of the largest performing arts centers between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and is funded through a unique public/private partnership between the City of Thousand Oaks and the Alliance for the Arts. The Bank of America Performing Arts Center consists of the 1,800-seat Fred Kavli Theatre for the Performing Arts and the 394-seat Janet and Ray Scherr Forum Theatre, which combine outstanding arts and entertainment with state-of-the-art technology and acoustics. Over 300,000 patrons and 50,000 children attend more than 400 performances annually.                     

 Visit for tickets!


As the situation involving COVID-19 is rapidly evolving we want to disseminate information as efficiently as possible, so please monitor our website, Facebook and Twitter accounts as you will experience long call wait times.  The Bank of America Performing Arts Center is actively monitoring the situation and will be in contact with ticket purchasers as soon as we are able to confirm any changes to our performance schedule.  Instructions on how to proceed will be included in all communication from the theatre by email.  We appreciate your patience.
Violins of Hope has been postponed - Date TBA
Sarah Chang Brahms Violin Concerto has been postponed - Date TBA
David Cameron has been postponed - Date TBA 
The Secret Garden has been postponed - Date TBA

The tickets you have now will work on those date.  If you can’t attend that date, please go to your point of purchase for a refund.

To keep yourself up to date with the most current information:
VC Emergency
California Department of Public Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
You can do your part to protect yourself and your community by following these simple steps:
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue (or with your elbow) and discard tissues into a trash receptacle
  • Stay away from work, school or other people if you are sick, especially with respiratory symptoms such as a fever or cough
  • Avoid close contact with people who may be sick

New Starbucks on the Blvd.


Shawn Moradian says the future Starbucks at the southwest corner of T.O. Boulevard and Auto Mall Drive will be unlike any other in the Conejo Valley.

“This is not a normal Starbucks,” he said. “I gotta tell you, this is a flagship store.”

At 2,300 square feet, not only will it be the largest—mark this one a venti—it will have tons of seating space inside and out, said Moradian, who hopes to transform the longtime bank building at 3366 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. into a bustling community gathering spot.

“There will be murals and an open kitchen, so more like going into someone’s home and they serve you a cup of coffee,” the property owner said.

The future Starbucks will take up the bottom floor of the existing building, which is being completely remodeled for the new tenant. The top floor will remain vacant for a future use, likely office space, city planner Stephen Kearns said.

Moradian said he hopes to see Starbucks open in early 2018. Hours will be from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week and the store will include a drive-up window.

The property owner says he expects the new business will help solve some of the congestion at the current drive-thru-only Starbucks two miles down T.O. Boulevard at Rancho Road. During peak hours, traffic from the location regularly backs up onto the street.

As president of the Thousand Oaks Boulevard Business Improvement District, the group that funded the Thousand Oaks Boulevard Specific Plan, Moradian said the design of the Starbucks fits perfectly into the plan’s vision for the namesake thoroughfare.

“It’s geared toward embracing the specific plan in terms of creating a sense of place,” he said. “This property has been a bank since it was built in the 1960s, but we wanted something active for it that’s going to be vibrant and high-use.”

For its part, the city agrees.

“It fits right in to the vision,” said Haider Alawami, economic development officer. “It’s at the eastern gateway to the specific plan and it’s going to be a lively place because they’re going to be open in the evenings.”

Alawami said he anticipates a lot of pedestrian traffic coming from the many office buildings within walking distance of the corner, not to mention from the auto mall. The specific plan encourages designs that encourage people to get out of their cars, walk and gather.

Moradian, whose family has owned property along the boulevard since the 1960s, said he’s waiting until after Starbucks opens to lease the top floor. He said he wants to evaluate customer volume and find a complementary business.

Once the new building has been renovated inside and out, Moradian said, he’s hopeful surrounding property owners will follow suit.

“We’re hoping this project will help activate adjoining properties and will be somewhat contagious and inspiring so my neighbors will continue the trend down the boulevard,” he said. “I’ve got to lead by example.”

A Thousand Oaks Boulevard property owner has revealed plans to open the city’s newest Starbucks.



The Thousand Oaks Boulevard Specific Plan provides the opportunity for affordable housing along the Boulevard and allows residents the opportunity to live near their workplace. 

BID Agendas


Downtown Core


Creating a Downtown Core

Thousand Oaks Blvd. between Erbes Rd. and Conejo School Rd is home to the Civic Arts Plaza, Gardens of the World, The Lakes Shopping Center and several City-owned properties. Our Downtown Master Plan will guide the evolution of this half-mile stretch into a robust, walkable, entertainment, shopping and mixed-use residential hub that takes a fresh look at how we live, shop and play.

Downtown's Four Focus Areas

  1. Redesign the Civic Arts Plaza frontage to be more active
  2. Create a retail and entertainment destination on the City-owned Westside parcel
  3. Improve the pedestrian environment along Thousand Oaks Boulevard
  4. Expand arts, cultural and entertainment programming. 

299 E. T.O Blvd.


On Tuesday, August 28th, 2018 City Council approved approximately 14,000 square feet of commercial space and 142 apartments at 299 E. Thousand Oaks Bouelvard. 

Of the 142 units, ACRE Investment Company, was granted approval of 11 below-market-rate cost units that will be mixed within the project site. 

This approved mixed-use project brings a unique affordable housing development to the west end of the boulevard in the Thousand Oaks Boulevard Specific Plan.

Read More Below:

Master Plan


In The News



City Council Race

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Very few decisions the City Council will make could change the face of Thousand Oaks like those that concern development, especially along its main thoroughfare. That’s why, for both residents and council candidates, the issue is among the most important in this year’s election.

“What I feel we must do is to find the delicate balance between encouraging economic vitality and preserving the charming character of Thousand Oaks,” said Councilmember Claudia Bill-de la Peña, who in August was the lone vote against plans for 142 apartments and 10,000 square feet of retail space at 299 E. T.O. Blvd. “When I look at a (residential) project, I’m looking at a balance it achieves: We need housing, but we have to be super careful of excessive density.”The general consensus of the eight candidates who responded to the Acorn’squestions regarding growth: Growth is necessary to keep the city healthy and thriving economically, but the council must take a balanced approach, especially in regard to housing.

Challenger and business owner Clifford Zone described the boulevard as “a business that is hurting.”

“There are currently way too many empty storefronts and way too many massage parlors on T.O. Boulevard,” he said. “I agree with the revamping of the boulevard to entice new small businesses to come join our great community, and if the mixed-use of these properties helps the property owners offset some of the costs of this remodeling of the boulevard, then I am for it.”

Not developing is not an option, said Councilmember Joel Price, one of the council’s most consistent pro-business voices. He was the lone vote in favor of a retirement home proposed in the Rolling Oaks neighborhood that ultimately failed in 2016.

He also spearheaded an amendment to the municipal code that allowed for the brewing of beer on Thousand Oaks Boulevard, clearing a path for microbreweries.

Regarding housing, Price is of the mind that the city should approve projects now—while it still has control over design elements and other variables—before the state says otherwise, telling the Acorn that cities that don’t are “shooting themselves in the foot.”

“Sacramento will take over and take control, and I don’t think there’s anyone who wants to live with that,” said Price, who voted in favor of the mixed-use development at 299 E. T.O. Blvd. “The best way to maintain control over that is to (develop) the way we have the last many years: slowly and measured.”

Also addressing the loss of local authority is challenger Kevin McNamee, a chiropractor who says the city should take a more active role in opposing legislation from the capital. He said he was not in favor of the most recent mixed-use plans approved by the council but acknowledges their hands were tied.

“Unfortunately, the City Council had no reason to turn down approval of these projects because they complied with state mandates imposed upon the city by our Sacramento Legislature,” he said.

If elected, he said, he would focus on figuring out where all these people the council wants to attract to the boulevard will park.

“There will be a parking shortage when these projects are completed. Due to inadequate parking, visitors to the downtown development will come to the city once and never return (and) residents will not have adequate parking and search for alternative parking on local streets, which negatively impacts those local neighborhoods,” McNamee said.

Candidate Thomas Adams, a wine marketer, said he fully supports mixed use, including at 299 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd.

“As I walk precincts and talk to people on the street, nobody I’ve met is afraid of growth; they simply want assurance that whatever comes will not be unsightly or pull our city down in any way,” Adams said.

He said he is in favor of continuing the council’s current vision for a measured number of new residential projects.

Challenger Bob Engler, a retired fire captain, also supports the council’s vision for a connected, walkable downtown providing pedestrian-friendly family activities, entertainment and dining opportunities, but he wants the city’s planned slow-growth approach to be maintained. He said he sees the city as “essentially built out.”

“We are not the San Fernando Valley and people here are not interested in traffic congestion, increased crime and homeless encampments common there,” he said. “Voter-approved Measure E ensures we can never become anything like the San Fernando Valley.”

The sole candidate who is a former council member as well as a contributor and signer of the city’s original master plan is also the only candidate to outright oppose the concept of housing on the boulevard.

Ed Jones, who serves as a Conejo Recreation and Park District board member, told the council at its Aug. 28 meeting that while he supports the beautification of the boulevard, he doesn’t think it has to be tied to multistoried buildings with dwelling units.

“These dwelling units would not be proximate to parks, schools . . . or casual outdoor enjoyment, especially by children, as are residential tracts,” he said.

Some residents took umbrage with Jones’ statement that renters don’t feel the same attachment to community as owners, a view he was surprised to learn.

“I can’t imagine my remarks raising any eyebrows (because) I stated a fact that is well-known to anyone who has ever walked precincts in T.O.—apartment dwellers by and large are not registered voters: We have a high percent of registered voters in single-family homes but a very low percent in apartments,” he said.

Jones said he doesn’t believe there is a moral difference between house and apartment dwellers, only that they don’t vote in the same ratios.

He said his position is he would allow the 300 units planned for the boulevard to proceed but that he had concerns beyond that point and would vote to protect the original master plan.

Candidate Dan Twedt, a caregiver, declined to speak on specific issues. He said his viewpoint on land usage and municipal policy is “essentially geo-Libertarian or geoist/Georgist.”

He said people should own the value they produce themselves, but economic value derived from land and its natural resources should belong equally to all members of society.

“Until we get there, my general policy perspectives would advocate for increased use of public-benefit land trusts, 99- year leaseholds to tamp down monopolistic landlording, liberalizing zoning regulations to allow more mixed-use and somewhat taller buildings—sometimes a good thing because it allows better space efficiencies—respecting designers’ visions while encouraging walkable/bikeable neighborhoods, and keeping a lid on rental/housing costs,” he said.

Candidates Don Schmitz, William Tomasi and Carrol Holst did not reply to calls to comment for this article.

Proposed 7-Eleven

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A Beverly Hills-based developer seeking to build a 24-hour 7-Eleven gas station across the street from Thousand Oaks High School has decided to give residents a chance to have their concerns heard before the proposal’s scheduled Oct. 22 hearing date with the planning commission.

“The purpose of this meeting is to discuss our proposed development and hear the community’s potential concerns and recommendations,” Megdal & Associates said in an email.Megdal & Associates will host a community outreach meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thurs., Oct. 11 inside an office building several miles away at 290 Conejo Ridge Ave., Thousand Oaks.

Plans for the vacant site at Avenida de Las Flores and Moorpard Road have been met with opposition from residents living nearby who say 7-Eleven is a bad fit for the neighborhood. The dead-grass-covered lot at 2198 N. Moorpark Road, which for years housed a family-owned gas station, has sat vacant for 13 years without a formal application to develop it.

The property owner had to spend a lot of money to decontaminate the site, said Taylor Megdal, president of M&A, and now wants to put the 20,000-square-foot lot to commercial use again.

Megdal defended the project, saying it was only put forth after two previous proposals were met with opposition from T.O. High School administration.

“This has been selected by the high school to be the most innocuous use for them,” Megdal said. “This was all catered around the high school.”

Megdal said the original idea—a sit-down Hawaiian barbecue restaurant—was rebuked by then-principal Lou Lichtl because school officials feared it would become a “hangout spot.” The developer said he was told in no uncertain terms by the city that they would not support a proposal that did not receive a sign off from the high school.

“The fear is those kids then are leaving class, walking across the street, God forbid, it’s a highly trafficked corner, there’s a wreck,” the company president said about issues with the Hawaiian restaurant.

Megdal, who’s built other projects near schools, said the concern from Lichtl was that students would be patronizing the restaurant day and night and it would become a “campus restaurant.”

“Which they don’t want,” Megdal said.

After the restaurant idea was nixed, he said, his firm pivoted to a drive-thru Starbucks. But that idea was also met with resistance from Lichtl, Megdal said, for the same reasons.

“It was a non-starter,” the developer said.

Current TOHS Principal Eric Bergmann, who was hired in early 2018, told the Acorn last month that he wasn’t privy to discussions regarding prior iterations but that he did speak with the developer regarding the proposed convenience store/gas station and was told it will neither sell alcohol nor vaping products.

Reached on Wednesday, Lichtl told the Acorn he didn’t have any recollection of the developer coming forward with either a Hawaiian restaurant or a Starbucks, just the 7-Eleven.

He said the notion that he had the power to personally derail a project was incorrect.

“I don’t know that our opinion has that much sway,” he said. “I trust the city and planners to make those decisions in the best interest of the community.”​

Amazon Leases Space

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E-commerce giant Inc. is opening a warehouse in Newbury Park.

The company has for months been posting openings for various positions at an undisclosed location in the city. That location, the Acorn learned this week, is in Sares-Regis Group’s recently completed 500,000-square-foot industrial development dubbed Conejo Spectrum Business Park.

Though neither Thousand Oaks city officials nor the business park’s leasing agent would confirm Amazon’s impending arrival—parties were required to sign strict non-disclosure agreements—an Amazon employee told the Acorn the warehouse’s address is in the Rancho Conejo area.

Patrick DuRoss, a broker for Colliers International, the commercial real estate firm handling leases at the site, would only say that agreements are now in place for seven of the development’s nine buildings; two were signed within the last month. The collection of state-of-the-art glass-and-concrete structures, which range from just over 37,000 square feet up to 99,000, was finished in July.


Brewery Breaks Ground

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Property owner Shawn Moradian is pouring his heart into the city’s first functioning brewery.

Though technically the landlord and not an investor, Moradian’s role in the development of Tarantula Hill Brewing Company—which is eyeing an early 2019 opening— goes far beyond making sure the utilities are turned on and the rent is paid. He’s shepherded the owners through the permitting process, offered advice on dealing with unforeseen challenges and, most of all, served as head cheerleader.

“When this is done, what you’re going to see is going to be extraordinary,” he told the Acorn recently during a tour of the site.

Moradian describes his decision in 2014 to buy an empty furniture showroom at the western end of E. Thousand Oaks Boulevard as a leap of faith. At the time, the 22,000-square-foot building near Moorpark Road had already sat vacant for four years.

With help from a commercial real estate firm, Moradian shopped around the old showroom, but while he came close to making a deal with a motorcycle dealership, nothing materialized.

After all else failed, Moradian leased the space seasonally to a Halloween store. He considered reducing the 40-year-old showroom to rubble and starting from scratch.

Then came the vision for Thousand Oaks’ first brewery.

After the City Council updated the municipal code in 2016 to permit alcohol brewing along the east-west thoroughfare, Moradian, who owns several properties on the boulevard, got in touch with Ali Zia, the proprietor of Bottle & Pint in Newbury Park, to see if the local entrepreneur was interested.

Despite the success of B&P, Zia said, he’d never considered opening a brewery. But Moradian’s vision intrigued him.

As the pair drove up and down the city’s namesake street last fall looking at potential locations, they lingered on one in particular: the old furniture showroom.

“This is it,” they thought.

Nearly a year to the day of their fateful ride, Moradian and Zia were on hand last month to watch construction crews break ground on the future brewery at 244 E. T.O. Blvd.

Their first order of business: knocking down the showroom’s 9-foot ceilings, which revealed just how large a space they were dealing with. After that: demolishing a concrete landing out front to make room for a 300-foot covered patio that will run the length of the building and overlook the boulevard.

“You’ll be sitting on the street,” Moradian said.

Already sporting merchandise for the future brewery, Moradian could barely contain his excitement as he discussed the project.

“This is truly a pioneering effort on their part. . . .” he said of the local group behind the brewery. “This is going to be something that is actually measurable, that we get to deliver to the residents and to the boulevard.”

Shawn Moradian Acorn file photo

Though a grand opening is months away, beer could begin brewing at the site as early as next month.

“We’ll be brewing as soon as possible,” said John Edney, one of the individuals behind the project.

To ready the location for the stainless steel fermentation tanks that will be used to brew THBC’s future IPAs, pilsners and stouts, crews had to pour tons of cement to reinforce the floor.

“They weigh a massive amount,” Edney said of the tanks.

With lots of work left to be done, Zia admits to feeling the pressure of deadlines.

“The one thing that I’m not nervous about is the beer,” the T.O. native said. “We’ve got the brewer; he’s awesome. It’s as if we’re running a football team and we got Tom Brady. We know the beer is going to be good.”

Moradian, president of the Thousand Oaks Boulevard Association, reminded the Acorn that without the passage of 2011’s T.O. Boulevard Specific Plan, Tarantula Hill Brewing would have never made it off the drawing board. With the formation of the Thousand Oaks Business Improvement District, the group of property owners—the City of T.O. included—helped pay for the plan with a self-imposed tax.

Some have been critical of the plan from the start; others have bemoaned its lack of progress.

Moradian said the brewery is a win for everyone who’s supported the BID’s efforts.

“Aside from Lupe’s (a mixed-use project farther down the boulevard), this will be the defining project of the plan,” he said


Community Outreach

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If you build it, they will come. And that’s what neighbors living near the site of a proposed 7-Eleven on Moorpark Road are afraid of.

During an Oct. 11 meeting hosted by the Beverly Hills-based developer, unhappy residents told the firm they were concerned that building a 24-hour convenience store and gas station across from Thousand Oaks High School would create the same problems that plague the city’s 7-Eleven locations on Wilbur Road and Kimber Drive: vagrancy, traffic, loitering, panhandling and crime.

Taylor Megdal, president of Megdal and Associates, was on hand to answer questions. The real estate development company is seeking to buy the vacant lot at Avenida de Las Flores and Moorpark Road—if it can come up with a plan that the city approves.

More than a dozen people attended the meeting in a T.O. office building near the 101 Freeway. The meeting grew rowdy at times as neighbors interrupted the presentation on the current plans for the site.

The proposal includes a gas station with a “fresh fare” convenience store where 30 percent of the space would feature a selection of sandwiches, fruit, cheese, hummus and other healthy options, Megdal said. It would not sell alcohol or vaping supplies but would carry cigarettes.

Previous plans for the site, including a Hawaiian-style restaurant and a Starbucks, were rejected after failing to gain support from TOHS administrators, the developer said.

Megdal described the current iteration as the “least offensive.”

“It can’t be nothing,” he said. “You have to understand, we’ve tried everything.”

According to Megdal’s presentation, the 7-Eleven project would represent a $2.8-million investment by M&A that would bring the city over $200,000 annually in sales tax.

Robin Kaswick has lived in Thousand Oaks since 1963 and remembers when a drive-thru dairy operated at the site. She lives two doors down from the high school and said residents don’t mind a business going in there but would like some input as to what goes in.

“We want you to develop it,” she told Megdal. “We want your family to make money and be happy in Thousand Oaks, just like you’re happy in Beverly Hills, but we don’t want you to cheapen our community.”

The lot in the 2100 block of N. Moorpark Road housed a family-owned gas station for 40 years until it experienced a leak, Megdal said. He said the current owner “paid a fortune” to clean up the soil, and the lot is ready for commercial use.

Some residents worried that parents would drop their kids off at the 7-Eleven to grab breakfast, increasing the number of students crossing a “crazy” busy intersection in front of distracted drivers.

TOHS Principal Eric Bergmann told the Acorn in an email that because the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office indicated they want the lights in the store to stay on all night for security reasons, he let a city planner know he was also in favor of that. He did not take a position on the proposal itself.

“When I began in February I was told that the decision had already been made, and I am trusting the city planning process to make a decision that is in the best interest of the community,” he said.

Megdal said at the end of the hourlong meeting that he would hold another community outreach event before an Oct. 22 planning commission hearing. As of Monday afternoon, the project’s architect, Neal Scribner, said, such a meeting had yet to be scheduled.

7-Eleven On Hold


The developer behind a hotly contested proposal to build a 24-hour 7-Eleven gas station across from Thousand Oaks High School made an 11th-hour decision last week to back out of a scheduled hearing before the city’s planning commission.

Deputy Community Development Director Peter Gilli said the city received a request for a continuance from Beverly Hills-based Megdal & Associates on the afternoon of Oct. 18—after the agenda for the Oct. 22 meeting had already been published.

As a result, the commission was forced to meet Monday even though it had no other business.

Chair Doug Nickles called the meeting to order at 6 p.m., led the panel in the Pledge of Allegiance, took roll and then called a vote on the developer’s request to postpone the hearing to an undetermined date.

It passed 4-0, with Commissioner Don Lanson absent.

Deputy Community Developer Director Kelvin Parker told commissioners that the developer wanted extra time to hold a second community meeting and, potentially, “make material changes to the project.”

At the first meeting, held Oct. 11, Megdal representatives tried in vain to win over an audience of a dozen people who live in the immediate vicinity of the 20,000-square-foot lot, which has remained vacant for over a decade since a long-operating gas station there was demolished.

They explained how they planned to invest $2.8 million in the project and how they’d agreed not to sell alcohol or vaping materials at the request of Thousand Oaks High School leadership.

They also said the family that operated the gas station had “paid a fortune” to clean up the soil after it was contaminated and hoped to recoup some of their losses.

But those in attendance seemed unmoved.

They continued to express concerns that opening a 24- hour convenience store at that location would attract vagrancy, panhandling and crime, and make the intersection of Moorpark Road and Avenida de Las Flores less safe for the many students who use it.

Some alternatives suggested: a pet-grooming business, Starbucks and a medical office.

The property backs up to single-family homes and must contend with TOHS, making any proposal tricky, city staff has said. Megdal said it only went with the plans for a 7-Eleven after two previous ideas were rejected by the high school: a sit-down Hawaiian barbecue restaurant and a Starbucks drive-thru.

Reached Wednesday, Taylor Megdal, president of Megdal & Associates, said they postponed the planning commission date to allow for another community meeting, this time with police and other local residents who support the project.

“We do want it to be more focused on what we can do to accommodate its prior use. If they don’t want the gas to be 24 hours, if they want more trees, whatever, we’re happy to discuss it. We’ve tried everything else,” he said.

“The problem is if these folks agree to a Starbucks and another group of people comes out opposed to it, it can be a circular process into perpetuity,” he added.

On social media, some residents have come to 7-Eleven’s defense, saying the chain would be a vast improvement over the current state of the property.

“Would be nice to see something go into the old gas station lot finally,” one person wrote on “What’s so bad about a 7-11?”

A new hearing notice will be sent to all property owners within 500 feet of the subject site when the project is placed back on the planning commission calendar, Gilli said.

Kyle Jorrey, Dawn Megli-Thuna

October 25, 2018 


Final Forum Provides Fireworks

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Conejo Valley school board candidates made a final presentation of their platforms to voters at the Goebel Center last Thursday night at a forum moderated by Acorn Newspapers editor-in-chief John Loesing and Thousand Oaks Acorn editor Kyle Jorrey.

Eight hopefuls are vying for three seats on the five person board that oversees a school district with around 18,000 students. The candidates answered questions at the Oct. 25 event about the board’s oversight of booster club fundraising, standardized test scores, the core literature policy and the district’s proper role in addressing racial discrimination off-campus.

But moderators also asked candidates targeted questions that addressed specific issues that had arisen in each of their campaigns or from their record of service.

Jenny Fitzgerald was asked why voters should cast their ballot for her, an attorney, when other candidates in the field have long histories of serving and volunteering in the district.

Fitzgerald disputed the claim that she did not have a track record of service in local schools or a concrete background in education. She said she was a PTA member and classroom volunteer who goes on field trips. She said she appreciates stay-at-home parents who can donate time as room parents and she participates to the extent she is able.

She said her professional background, both in law and state legislation, would provide a skill set which is sorely needed on the board.

“I do have a history of putting in time to help our local schools,” she said. “I do what I can as a working parent to make sure I’m there for my kids and the kids that are in our schools.”

Cindy Goldberg has been the executive director of the Conejo Schools Foundation since 2007 and leads the District Advisory Council and has close relationships with administrators across the district.

Jorrey asked her if she could see herself, a district insider, voting against the recommendation of district staff. Goldberg said she has disagreed with district staff vehemently at times—on certain issues, namely the manner in which the University and Meadows elementary school closures were handled.

She said her job at CSF is about supporting students, not the district.

“It’s always about the students for me,” she said.

Marlon Delano Williams has become a perennial candidate in Thousand Oaks elections, having run once for City Council and four times for school board. But he doesn’t fundraise, canvass neighborhoods or campaign outside of appearances at political forums.

Loesing asked Williams why voters should back him given his lack of campaign effort. Williams said children have the potential to be outstanding citizens in CVUSD and beyond and he would like to serve as a role model for students to go out and challenge themselves and society to do better.

“We are living in a society where we spend too much time, too much energy trying to belittle each other, trying to tear each other down,” he said. “We need to learn to be a community of builders.”

Bill Gorback’s slogan is that “It’s all about the kids,” but Jorrey asked “What about the taxpayers?” as he queried Gorback about which specific cuts he would make to help secure the district’s financial future while taking into consideration that employment costs account for the lion’s share of the budget. Gorback said employment and pension costs are set but he would focus on cutting spending that doesn’t benefit children in the classroom.

He cited a recent decision by the district to spend $15,000 to create a graphic explaining the district’s fourth LCAP goal.

“$15,000 in a $197 million budget, it’s a drop in the bucket. It’s a very small thing,” he said. “What I look at as an example is what could that $15,000 have bought as far as educational material for the kids?”

Patrissha Rose Booker has based her campaign on being a “voice for the voiceless” and she has frequently said she doesn’t expect to win. Loesing asked her if her candidacy was simply splitting the vote. Booker said there needs to be diversity on the board, which is currently all white.

“Maybe my face will encourage some other person of color to run and they will get on the school board. I’m trying to inspire others,” she said. “I’m not splitting any vote.”

Amy Chen has billed herself as the director of a newly formed educational nonprofit in Arcadia, Top Goal Education. But critics have accused her of creating a paper organization that exists in name only in order to use it for her ballot designation.

Jorrey asked her to set the record straight once and for all and to tell what work she has done as director of Top Goal as well as what resources the organization has provided or will provide in the future.

Chen, reading from a piece of paper, responded that the documentation she submitted regarding her role at the nonprofit was accepted by the county clerk and recorder’s office.

“We have followed the law and it is validated to their satisfaction,” she said.

Chen said she has been a professional in the education sector for the past four years, citing her role as CFO at a for-profit Chinese language cultural enrichment school in Arcadia, First Avenue Education.

“I have an appreciation and respect for diversity, however the negative innuendos and speculations are unfortunate,” she said. “As I have said in the beginning, as an immigrant, I understand and respect cultural differences, needs and challenges facing our population.”

The lone incumbent in the race, Mike Dunn, spent some of his time during the forum chewing gum and reading a newspaper.

Loesing said last year was a tumultuous time for the school district and Dunn’s disparaging remarks about the LGTB community and his tendency to mix politics and religion has been well documented. He asked Dunn if he will he continue to put his religious and political beliefs ahead of decisions affecting our public school system if he’s reelected.

“What I will do is what I have done. I will be a strong advocate for the rights and wishes of the parents and taxpayers in this community who send their kids to the public schools and pay for public education,” he said. “There is a segment in our society which is using the public schools to indoctrinate our children. And I oppose that agenda. That makes me a target.”

When asked by Jorrey if he had any regrets from his last term, Dunn said he regretted going along with a decision in 2013 to fire Joe Cook, the district’s former director of nutrition.

In a letter to the Acorn in August, Angie Simpson said that personal attacks and political agendas damage our schools and have no place in our community. Simpson was one of three candidates endorsed by the Ventura County Republican party and the other two GOP-backed candidates, Chen and Dunn, have made their political positions crystal clear. Jorrey asked Simpson to rectify her statement in light of statements made by her de facto running mates.

Simpson said she wasn’t aligned with any of her fellow candidates, including Chen and Dunn.

“Do I agree with them on some things? Absolutely. Do I agree with candidate Fitzgerald and Gorback and Cindy on others? Yes. But what you can expect out of me is to be an independent thinker,” she said.

Simpson said as a trustee she will never agree with anyone on every single position and she thinks the notion of candidate slates has been destructive to the community.

“I think this election is completely polarized. This isn’t about the best person for the job,” she said. “This is about who’s on Team Blue and who’s on Team Red and I think that’s really sad.”

Williams said regardless of who wins a seat on the board Nov. 6, he believes the next few years will be great for CVUSD.

“Whether it’s Team Blue or Team Red or Team Black, it’s all about the students,” he said.


Disaster Guide


Food Bank Expands


Manna Conejo Valley Food Bank will expand its pantry services to help those affected by the Borderline shooting and displaced by the wildfires. People who have lost their job or have limited financial resources to purchase food as they recover—among others—may come to Manna to receive food assistance.

“Manna has been so blessed by the generosity of our wonderful community over the years,” said Jennifer Schwabauer, executive director of the food bank. “It’s only right that we extend that generosity to help our friends and neighbors who have suffered from these tragedies.” The pantry at 3020 Crescent Way, Thousand Oaks, is open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. It will be closed for the Thanksgiving weekend but will resume its normal schedule Mon., Nov. 26. Visitors are asked to bring a photo ID and proof of residency in the Conejo Valley.

Community members looking to make food donations should visit to find out the most-needed items, Schwabauer said. For more information, call (805) 497-4959.

 Lasting Borderline12 Memorial

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It began with three candles and a few cellophane-wrapped flower bouquets on a wall, but little by little a makeshift tribute to the 12 people killed at Borderline Bar and Grill on Nov. 7 has grown to take over an entire street corner in Thousand Oaks.


Now T.O. city leaders are examining where and how to establish a permanent memorial for Sgt. Ron Helus, Sean Adler, Cody Gifford-Coffman, Blake Dingman, Jake Dunham, Alaina Housley, Dan Manrique, Justin Meek, Mark Meza, Telemachus Orfanos, Kristina Morisette and Noel Sparks.

Even while fires surrounded the city, threatening lives and property, people came to the memorial near Moorpark Road and Rolling Oaks Drive, just down from Borderline. They left flowers and art, as well as prayers and thoughts scrawled on notes, on cards and on the sidewalk.

“Rest in peace, beautiful souls,” says one message.

“Thank you for sharing your light with the world,” says another.

Personal mementos were also left for the victims. A light blue ceramic angel had been placed on the cross bearing Sparks’ name. A Pepperdine University baseball cap was left for Alaina Housley, and three “Happy birthday” balloons were tied to Mark Meza’s cross. He would have turned 21 Nov. 19.

“It’s beautiful. And chilling. And it makes you cry, but it’s more than just that,” said Thousand Oaks resident Susan Boyd, who paid a visit to the memorial last week. “It reminds you people do care about one another, and we need that right now.”

Boyd said she hopes the tributes are a source of healing for the families of the victims as well as the survivors and the community at large.

“We might have a bigger population, but we’re still a small town and we need a way to share the love,” the 43-year-old mother of three said.

She’s not the only one who knows how much the memorial means. Last Monday, when they heard about the predicted rains, a group of Thousand Oaks residents who wished to remain anonymous brought canopy-style tents to protect the site.

The memorial has grown so large that there’s no longer room for visitors on the sidewalk: They’re forced to stand in traffic on one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares. For now, temporary traffic-control measures are in place to keep cars from using the outermost lane where visitors stand, and the memorial will remain in place for the foreseeable future, City Manager Andrew Powers said Tuesday.

In the meantime, however, community leaders are discussing permanent ways to honor those lost. At the Nov. 15 Conejo Recreation and Park District meeting, director Joe Gibson suggested a permanent memorial at Conejo Creek Park North.

“I visited the Healing Garden at Las Vegas for the Harvest 91 victims and would like to establish something like that,” he told the Acorn after the meeting.

The Las Vegas garden features a remembrance wall, a grove of 58 trees, one for each of the lives lost at the Oct. 1 concert last year, as well as shrubs, flowers and a path encircling an oak tree.

Before that would happen, the district would first explore that and other options with the city, county and others involved, CRPD General Manager Jim Friedl said.

“I think right now it’s sort of a thing everyone is aware there is a need for . . . but in terms of what that is, where that is, who is taking the lead, that’s something that hasn’t been solidified,” Friedl said. “To do it well and do it right, there is a lot of thoughtful work and discussion that has to happen, and we stand ready to participate in that with the county, Borderline and, of course, of course, the families.”

The city will also explore options for a permanent memorial. Mayor Andy Fox said he’s received several emails with various suggestions, but they all have logistics that need to be sorted out, and input from the families of the victims is needed.

One memorial the council agreed on at its Nov. 27 meeting was to initiate a request for a highway memorial honoring Helus and renaming a street near Borderline for the officer. The idea was brought forward by Joel Price, a retired Los Angeles Police Department officer.

“After the events of the Borderline shooting, it occurred to me that in the city of Los Angeles, any police officer who dies in the line of duty is recognized, and I think it’s important that we do the same thing here in the city of Thousand Oaks,” Price said, his voice breaking throughout his proposal.

The outgoing council member said the highway memorial requires action by the city, and he hopes the council will continue to pursue it.

“In addition to that, I think it would be very fitting if we were to honor the memory of Sgt. Helus close to where the shooting actually occurred, whether it be renaming the street or positioning some other memorial in his memory,” he said. “I would hope the council would proceed down that road as well.”

Goodbye to the Godfather

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After two and a half decades of heading negotiations, brokering compromise and orchestrating deals, Andy Fox gave up the gavel last week.

Representatives from the legislative, business and arts communities, among others, turned out in droves to say goodbye to the outgoing mayor at the Thousand Oaks City Council’s reorganization meeting Dec. 11.

Both those from the “always Andy” camp and those who started on opposing sides touched on themes of leadership, good governance and the impact Fox has made during his 24 years in office, the second-longest run in city history.

“There isn’t a single resident of Thousand Oaks who hasn’t been touched by your leadership and accomplishments while serving on this council (and) at times, you’re referred to as ‘The Godfather of Thousand Oaks,’” said Shawn Moradian, president of the Thousand Oaks Boulevard Association, which represents boulevard property owners. “You have the ability to bring people together, find common ground, work toward exciting solutions and deliver positive results.”

Fox, who already had leadership experience from working for the L.A. firefighters’ union, was well-suited for a role in government from his first days on the planning commission, where he served before first winning a seat on the City Council in 1994, said former mayor Larry Horner, who served on the governing body from 1974 to 1990.

“Andy seemed to have fallen into a niche that was just meant for him, and he has become what I consider to be one of the finest mayors and council members in the history of this city,” Horner said. “Second to none.”

Part of that could be Fox’s ability to so effectively strategize, said City Manager Andrew Powers, who said the city’s executive leadership team had discussed both Fox and outgoing Councilmember Joel Price earlier in the day.

“Every single person around the table had an example or some story about the strategy you brought to bear on a really difficult issue that we were wrestling with,” Powers told Fox. “You were never shy to roll up your sleeves, always focused on achieving consensus outcome . . . whether it was Miller Ranch mediation, the mobile home park ordinance, the Western Plateau, the T.O. Arts merger, the list goes on and on, establishing a vision for downtown.”

For all his victories and accomplishments, it wasn’t always smooth sailing for Fox, who said his first 10 years on the council included nights, like last Tuesday, where nearly every audience seat was filled; but unlike Tuesday, when the audience was filled with accolades, the earlier audiences were filled with angst.

“My first two or three terms on this council were not easy: They were times of political infighting; they were times of a lot of unrest,” Fox said. “There’s been nights where it’s been just this crowded and with just this many people and it was the Hatfields and McCoys.”

Those days were recalled by Councilmember Claudia Bill-de la Peña, who joined Fox on the dais in 2002 and, on many occasions, found herself on the other side of the aisle. She now considers Fox a friend.

“Once upon a time there was a story of no greater woe than that of the Tuesday Night Fights TV show,” she said. “I have learned a lot from you . . . and I could not be more thankful for knowing you and getting to know you, the human that you are.”

Bill-de la Peña, along with a number of other speakers, said Fox’s leadership skills were never more apparent than during his final weeks on the council, as he guided the city through dual tragedies in November: first the massacre Nov. 7 at Borderline, followed by the Hill and Woolsey fires Nov. 8.

“You carried yourself with tremendous strength, courage, resilience,” Bill-de la Peña told her longtime colleague. “You knew exactly what to do and when to do it. It was really just fate you were mayor this year, and we could not have had a stronger mayor than you.”


7 Eleven Update

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Despite pushback from nearby homeowners, a Beverly Hills-based developer is moving forward with plans to build a 24-hour 7-Eleven gas station across the street from Thousand Oaks High School.


Residents who live within 300 feet of the empty lot at Avenida de Las Flores and Moorpark Road were invited to a Dec. 21 community meeting with the developer.

Taylor Megdal, president of Megdal and Associates, fielded questions during the meeting at the Thousand Oaks Community Center near the site of the proposed project. A representative from Back Bays Trust, the company that owns the lot in question, was also present.

Megdal’s real estate development company is seeking to buy the property if it can come up with a plan the city approves.

A handful of neighbors attended the 7 p.m. meeting to express their concerns about the project, many of which centered on the 24-hour nature of the business. Others took issue with the “rolling hot dogs” and other unhealthy food options the establishment would sell.

John Mcloughlin is a real estate broker who lives near the vacant lot. In an email to Conejo Valley Unified school board president Betsy Connolly that was provided to the Acorn, Mcloughlin said a development of this kind provides a legitimate excuse “for the wrong type of people to hang out and have lunch and observe the customers, who effectively will be your students.”

“This is a terrible mistake for the school safety, encouraging students to hang out there and will also encourage criminal activity,” he said.

The proposal calls for a gas station with a “fresh fare” convenience store where 30 percent of the space would feature a selection of healthy options such as sandwiches and fruit. The building would include a surveillance system with 32 cameras that would feed to the T.O. Police Department, Megdal said.

The lot in the 2100 block of N. Moorpark Road housed a gas station for 40 years until it experienced a leak. The owner has cleaned up the soil, and the lot is once again ready for commercial use.

More than 750 people have signed an online petition to stop the project from moving forward.

Because the project sits kitty corner across the street from Thousand Oaks’ flagship high school, Megdal has talked to school administrators to get their opinion on the proposal. Previous plans for the site, including a restaurant and a Starbucks, were rejected after failing to gain support from TOHS administrators.

In an August letter from TOHS Principal Eric Bergmann to the city planner who formerly worked on the project, the administrator endorsed the business staying open 24 hours. Reached for comment, Bergmann told the Acorn that school officials have not taken a stance on the project and his letter was only sent to voice support for the police department’s stated preference for a 24-hour business.

He said the decision to build a 7-Eleven at the site had been made by the time he joined TOHS in February 2018.

Pamela Scott provides representation to both 7-Eleven and Megdal and Associates. She told those at the meeting that gas stations were one of the areas of the retail industry that could still afford to expand.

“We can all wish for something, but we can’t create demand from the sky,” she said.

Megdal’s architect, T.O. resident Neal Scribner, said the next step will include another community meeting before the project goes before the planning commission.

The project was originally slated to go before the commission in October, but Megdal canceled the hearing to have more time to discuss the project with residents. The date of the hearing has not been announced.


Fire Causes Shutdown

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Ventura County firefighters have knocked down a blaze that started Friday afternoon in a two-story office building on Thousand Oaks Boulevard.

The department received a call around 12:10 p.m. along with reports of explosions and a person trapped inside the structure at 1429 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. A spokesperson for the department was not immediately able to confirm either report.

A public information officer for the department reported the fire was out around 1:25 p.m.

More than 70 firefighters and at least 11 engines plus three ladder trucks responded to the blaze. The boulevard remained closed to traffic between Rancho and Erbes roads as of 1:45 p.m.

Built in 1963, the 14,844-square-foot building is home to a dentistry practice, barber shop and massage therapy business.


Homelessness Grant


A brand-new social services agency serving the very poor in Thousand Oaks is the recipient of a $10,000 grant from the city as part of its ongoing efforts to address homelessness in the community.

The City Council voted at its April 23 meeting to give the cash infusion to the nonprofit Harbor House, headed by Denise Cortes, former Ventura County area director of Lutheran Social Services. The vote came after a report from the council’s ad hoc homeless committee made up of Mayor Rob McCoy and Councilmember Claudia Bill-de la Peña.

“Harbor House is a local organization that will keep your donations locally and will go immediately to rapid housing services and other services they offer,” Bill-de la Peña said. “It’s one step at a time that we can help these individuals get back on their feet.”

The money will come out of the city’s general fund. The city in the past has also provided grants to other organizations that serve the poor, like LSS, Conejo Free Clinic, Manna food bank and Many Mansions.

The April 23 report was the second of its kind since the committee’s formation in February 2018. Since the last report in October, the county has conducted its annual homeless count, in which 103 homeless people were identified in the city, though the Thousand Oaks Police Department’s count puts the number closer to 280 people, Assistant City Manager Ingrid Hardy said.

Hardy has been tasked with coordinating the city’s multifaceted strategy to address homelessness.

To keep local residents apprised of the progress, the city has created a web page dedicated exclusively to this issue:

On the page, there are hyperlinks to topics such as “understanding homelessness,” “exploring the city’s role,” “finding local resources” and “homelessness and the law.” There is also a link for reporting concerns.

“Our charge is to serve as a convener, to provide community leadership and develop and implement strategies that link people with resources,” the site says. “We work to enforce local regulations; and to help businesses and residents understand homelessness, their role, ways to contribute, and how law enforcement can help. While the City does not provide direct services, we work closely with local and regional service providers.”

This, too, is a goal of Harbor House, which recently opened its doors at 430 E. Avenida de Los Arboles, Ste. 203A, and sees visitors by appointment only. While it does not provide housing directly to people, it helps connect homeless people to housing and other social services.

Councilmember Al Adam also praised the work being done by the community’s religious institutions in providing year-round meals and overnight shelters during the winter months and asked if there has been movement toward opening church shelters throughout the year.

“Many communities have tried to build homeless shelters and faced tremendous oppositions, to be candid . . .” he said. “To have churches already here and accepted by the community, if they would be willing to open their doors year-round, that seems to be a possible practical solution.”

The question was fielded by McCoy, who also serves as pastor at Godspeak Calvary Chapel.

“There are many churches that want to participate yearround, but we want to make sure we’re all on the same page,” he said. “We’re dealing with misconceptions, trying to see who’s doing what in the city, and we’re getting everyone together in meetings to understand what we’re doing so we can do it in a concerted effort. The answer to your question will come at a later date, but suffice it to say we all want to do the right thing.”

For its next steps, the city will continue to explore longterm options, further develop outreach strategies, distribute anti-panhandling materials and continue to engage and gather input from community partners and businesses.

To help do this, it will convert an existing employee position to that of a homeless liaison to coordinate with social service organizations and others working on the issue.

The city had not yet determined which position would be converted.

Article by: 

Park Closed to "All" After Hrs

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The City of Thousand Oaks’ recent legal change regarding sleeping on public property will not impact parks owned by the Conejo Recreation and Park District, the district said this week.

Jim Friedl, CRPD general manager and a former attorney, told the Acorn on Tuesday that district administrators believe the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling in Martin v. the City of Boise, a case involving homeless people sleeping on public property, does not take precedence over the district’s existing ban on being in parks between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

“That applies to all of us,” Friedl said. “Uniformly applied, that rule limits people from being in the park at all (during those hours).”

People are allowed to sleep in CRPD parks during the day, however.

"Sleeping in a CRPD park during normal operating hours is not—and has not been—a crime. . . . We prohibit camping and camp paraphernalia, but not sleeping,” Friedl said via email, noting people from all walks of life currently use the parks for that reason.


Big Changes for TO Transit

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The City Council is scheduled to vote Oct. 22 on a host of changes to the system, including raising fares from $1.50 to $2 for bus riders and from $3 to $4 for those who use Dial-A-Ride service within the city.

Thousand Oaks Transit may also do away with a program that allows Dial-A-Ride cardholders (who must be 65 or older or have an Americans with Disabilities card) to ride for free. Instead, those cardholders would pay the senior/ disabled fare, which TOT plans to reduce from 75 cents to 50 cents.

Other modifications include the elimination of $4 day passes and a reduction in service hours, going from 15 hours (5 a.m. to 8 p.m.) to 13 hours (6 a.m. to 7 p.m.) on weekdays and from 12 hours (8 a.m. to 8 p.m.) to 11 hours (8 a.m. to 7 p.m.) on weekends.

The last fare increase was in 2011. Meanwhile, operation costs have increased by 50%, according to the city’s website

On the positive side, TOT will introduce a student pass with no time restrictions. It is also weighing a new summer youth pass that would allow school-age children unlimited rides for nine or 10 weeks during the summer, city transit manager Mike Houser said.

“We’re looking at what many agencies offer when school is out for the summer and kids are bored and parents aren’t home,” Houser said. “It essentially mimics what kids are getting while school is in session.”

The changes are coming about for a number of reasons, primarily financial ones.

“Our costs over the last couple of years have increased substantially,” Houser said. “That mostly comes from labor costs, as the minimum wage increases, but along with that are some things that by themselves don’t make a large impact but add up.”

Anyone interested in learning more about the proposed changes can attend one of two meetings planned for Fri. and Sat., Aug. 16 and 17.

Friday’s meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the third-floor boardroom at City Hall, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. Saturday’s starts at 2 p.m. inside the Goebel Adult Community Center’s Sky Lupine Room, 1385 E. Janss Road.

7-Eleven Appeal

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The Los Angeles-based developer proposing to build a 7-Eleven gas station/convenience store across the street from Thousand Oaks High School wants a second opinion.

Megdal & Associates has put up the $1,550 necessary to appeal to the City Council the planning commission’s July 8 unanimous denial of its proposal. The council will have the final say on the debate that started in summer 2018 when plans were first submitted to the city. Hearing is scheduled for Sepember 10, 2019. 

To read more from this article, visit:


General Plan Update


Thousand Oaks 2045

The City of Thousand Oaks is embarking on a community-driven project to create a new guiding vision for the City. The initiative, Thousand Oaks 2045: Rooted in Community, will result in a new long-range citywide General Plan that preserves the wonderful and unique characteristics of the City - its suburban character, verdant hillsides, amazing schools, and a strong sense of community - while creating a more prosperous, unique, and sustainable Thousand Oaks. 

The Thousand Oaks 2045 process officially kicks off in Fall 2019. Comprehensively updating a General Plan is a complex task. It involves research and analysis, the evaluation of current and future trends, creating new policies and regulations, developing a regulatory document, and preparing an environmental impact report. Throughout the process, there will be numerous opportunities for the community to get involved.

Whether you just moved to Thousand Oaks or have called it home for many years, Thousand Oaks 2045 is an opportunity for you to help shape its future. This process is a rare opportunity for the community to come together and build consensus on a variety of topics that affect daily life, and to ensure that the plan reflects its concerns and aspirations. Community voices will direct this plan, so make yours heard!

There are many ways to get involved and we need your participation throughout this process!

  • Community-Wide Workshops
  • Educational Forums
  • Focus Groups
  • Surveys
  • Neighborhood Meetings
  • Pop-up Workshops
  • General Plan Advisory Committee Meetings
  • City Council and Planning Commission Meetings


GPAC Meeting 
Wednesday, February 2nd, 2021 | 6:00 pm
Via Zoom


1710 E. T.O Blvd.

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Construction in underway at the  former Lupe's Mexican Restaurant on 1710 E. Thousand Oaks Boulevard. The Thousand Oaks Planning Commission approved construction of a mixed-use complex, including apartments, commercial space and outdoor dining areas, at the downtown site of the former Lupe's Mexican Restaurant on February 14, 2017. Lupe's a Thousand Oaks mainstay for nearly 70 years, closed on August 2016. 

The Planning Commission green-lighted the project by applicant Dalygroup Inc. on a 3-1 vote to allow construction of two, three-story buildings with 36 apartments on the 5.13-acre site at 1710 E. Thousand Oaks Boulevard and nearby parcels. The permit approval also allows for the construction of 4,890 square feet of commercial spaces, parking areas, public exterior spaces, outdoor dining areas, recreation amenities, and associated site improvements. 

Approved Cell Tower

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Barring an appeal, Verizon Wireless has won the right to install a cell tower in the middle of North Ranch.


Once it’s up and running, the equipment on Sunnyhill Street will boost coverage for hundreds of Verizon customers who live east of Westlake Boulevard and south of Kanan Road, the company said at an Aug. 26 hearing of the Thousand Oaks Planning Commission.

Commissioners voted 5-0 in favor of the application, which dates back to 2014. It involves the installation of antennas on wrought-iron fencing that surrounds a water tank owned by California Water Service. The 2.5-acre property is surrounded by million-dollar homes.

To meet Federal Communications Commission standards, Verizon must install a 7-foot-high fence around the antennas.

Bad reception

Of the 20 public speakers who turned up to discuss the wireless facility, 17 were opposed.

“What we have to do when we design a house around an oak tree is crazy, yet here we have a situation affecting the health and welfare of your residents. . . .” architect Ken Unger, a father of five, told the commission. “It boggles my mind.”

The majority of opponents voiced concerns over the health threat from radio frequency emissions; however, health and safety are topics planning commissioners are not allowed to consider when weighing the application, said Jonathan Kramer, the city’s wireless consultant.

“You’re in the aesthetics business,” Kramer told the commission. “Under federal law, under state law, your job is to look at the aesthetics of a project and make a determination regarding it.”

Former Thousand Oaks city attorney Mark Sellers, speaking on behalf of nearby homeowners, acknowledged the law but suggested Verizon could have found a more suitable site that was farther from residences.

“I feel this is a market-value issue. It’s not a health issue. I’m not going to argue health,” Sellers said. “There are studies out there that say if you’re across the street from one of these sites, your home is going to lose 20% in value. That’s a legitimate land-use decision for you to make and consider.”

Those speaking in favor of the project argued that there is no reliable cell coverage in the neighborhood, which creates a safety hazard. It was for this reason the application was endorsed by the Westlake North Property Owners Association.

“I understand a lot of people here have concerns about health. Safety is the other side of that coin,” said North Ranch resident Joslyn Stuart. “I know some people are concerned they didn’t get notice of tonight’s meeting or of the building of the proposed cell tower. I am one of the people who didn’t get advance notice of the fires or the evacuation (because I didn’t have cell coverage).”

Before their vote, commissioners told the audience their authority was limited.

“Despite the fact I can empathize with all of the comments all of you have, I do recognize . . . that I am limited here and I am not allowed to interject my own personal feelings and my own personal opinions into what I have to look at here,” Commissioner Nelson Buss said.

In making the motion to approve the project, Commissioner Don Lanson said he’s become increasingly frustrated with the loss of local control in regard to many subject matters, cell towers included.

“It’s happening all over the place, and there’s lots of things we get frustrated about and would like to have comment on and involvement with,” Lanson said.

But that’s not his job as planning commissioner, he said.

“We don’t decide health emissions. We don’t decide lots of things we got into tonight. I’m frustrated . . . and the problem is we don’t have the authority,” he said. “The issue at the end of the day is, for purposes of this application, we’re looking specifically at whether it fits the rules and regulations, and I believe it does.”

Opponents had until Sept. 4 to file an appeal.

Public Health Emergency

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The County of Ventura has declared a local health emergency, a move that gives the agency broad powers to try and limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. It also aids local public schools as they prepare for potentially days, if not weeks, without classes.

Three individuals in the county have registered positive for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus; 95 had been tested countywide as of March 12. All three individuals who tested positive at the county’s lab traveled abroad recently, the county said, meaning there has yet to be a documented case of the disease going from neighbor to neighbor, or so-called “community spread.”

The declaration of emergency came after weeks of discussions between county leadership and the county’s 10 cities that accelerated mightily over the last 48 hours. Representatives from the county, Ventura County Public Health, county superintendents and city officials discussed the matter at length Thursday afternoon in a conference call in an attempt to get on the same page.

Public health’s decision is of particular importance to the county’s 20 public school districts as it will protect them from missing out on state monies tied to average daily attendance.

Following the county’s decision, Conejo Valley Unified announced Thursday night it would close all its campuses starting Mon., March 16 through Fri., March 20. Classes will be in session tomorrow, Fri., March 13. A planned in-service day for teachers set for Monday has been canceled.

CVUSD Superintendent Mark McLaughlin told the Acorn it didn’t feel right asking educators and staff to report after public health had declared an emergency. CVUSD will reassess the situation March 20 before deciding whether to cancel more classes.

Despite talk of some districts attempting “distance learning” and online classes, McLaughlin said any learning CVUSD students did while away from the classroom would be optional.

“It’s much harder for public schools to move to an online format as mandated instruction as we have Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) laws to contend with, as all of our structures and supports for individual students are based on face-to-face teaching,” McLaughlin said.

City response

After county health’s emergency declaration, the City of Thousand Oaks made preparations for its own.

Until further notice, all non-essential city facilities with a capacity of 250 people or more are closed to the public, that includes the Goebel Adult Community Center, Grant Brimhall and Newbury Park libraries and Thousand Oaks Teen Center. City Hall will remain open to the public and the City Council still plans to meet inside the Scherr Forum. While the Goebel will be closed starting tomorrow, Friday, the Teen Center will close Saturday.

In addition, all non-essential city-sponsored events have been canceled or postponed to a future date. Many upcoming shows at the Bank of America Performing Arts Center have been rescheduled until later in the year.

Over at Conejo Rec and Park District, General Manager Jim Friedl confirmed the Goebel and teen centers would be closed, as would nearly all community centers for the foreseeable future beginning Sat., March 14. CRPD was also canceling its sports leagues and classes and shuttering the Community Pool at Cal Lutheran University as well as the Hillcrest Center for the Arts.

CRPD parks are unaffected.

Thousand Oaks Mayor Al Adam released a prepared statement Thursday evening.

Our top priority at the City of Thousand Oaks is everyone’s health and safety. To best protect our residents, the city will also be declaring a state of emergency. This allows the city to address the closure of city facilities and enact social distancing plans for public meetings and gatherings, Adam said.

“The news can sound scary, and rightfully so. However, I encourage everyone to proceed with calm focus and keep compassion for each other at heart,” the statement continues. “Check-in with your friends, family and neighbors to ensure they have what they need. . . In these unprecedented times it takes collective action from all of us. 

Working together, we can slow the spread of the virus.

Adam said the city would keep the community updated as much as possible. He encouraged residents to visit for the latest information on the spread of COVID-19 in Ventura County.

Colleges close

Ventura County Community Colleges and Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks are the latest institutions to announce a halt of in-person classes, following UCLA, USC and Pepperdine.

 CLU said on Thursday it is putting into effect its social distancing plan, which includes virtual instruction for classes.

“Faculty have been preparing for this and exploring creative options for classes such as labs and the arts, but there may be a few special exceptions made for some classes to continue to have in-person components,” CLU President Chris Kimball said in a March 12 note to the school community.

Residence halls will remain open. Students may choose to return to their permanent place of residence or decide to remain in on-campus housing, where appropriate social distancing and enhanced hygiene measures will be in place, Kimball’s note said.

Moorpark, Oxnard and Ventura colleges, including Ventura College’s east campus, start transitioning to virtual and alternate forms of classes beginning Mon., March 16 through Fri., March 20. Following the week-long transition, lecture classes will no longer meet and will continue in virtual and alternative modes beginning Mon., March 23.


CVUSD shuttering campuses for at least one week


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Conceptual Renderings of the Campus Master Plan

Civic Arts Plaza Campus Background

The Civic Arts Plaza (CAP) was completed in October 1994 to be a regional performing arts and civic center. The campus includes the 1,800-seat Kavli theatre, and the 394-seat Scherr Forum theatre, which also doubles as the Andrew P. Fox City Council Chambers and Planning Commission venue. The campus includes a 750-space 5-level parking structure, and 87,000 s.f. of office area dedicated to City Hall functions and 10,000 s.f. for tenants. Total building area on the CAP campus is 209,000 s.f. The theatres collectively host about 200,000 visitors each year for a variety of live performances/events from musical theatre and bands, to speakers and local school and dance performances. The CAP is within the Civic Arts Plaza Specific Plan, which was adopted in 1989, and has been amended several times over the years.

The Specific Plan covers 27 acres. The CAP campus totals approximately 14 acres. The 10-acre "The Lakes" shopping center is located east of CAP, and the 3-acre Westside property is located west of the Dallas Drive entrance to the CAP. Any proposed improvements to the CAP campus would complement and build upon prior analyses, including periodic maintenance evaluations coordinated by City staff, and a Needs Assessment Report for the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza that was completed in July 2005 by a team of architects and a landscape architect (Kaplan, Denton, Spitz). A variety of small projects were completed from that effort, but due to the downturn in the economy in 2008, major design changes were not completed. 

In addition to being the first implementation step of the Downtown Core Master Plan, the Campus Master Plan provides an opportunity to comprehensively re-envision the CAP campus for the future as it approaches its 25th anniversary. 

Click Here for the complete report to City Council November 5, 2019.

What Makes a Successful Civic Arts Plaza?


The CAP will be Thousand Oaks true civic center whose City Hall and other civic supporting uses are functional, inviting, accessible, and interconnected.


The CAP will be a regional hub and a local asset for cultural, entertainment, and art events and amenities to draw Thousand Oaks residents and visitors from afar.


The CAP will be viable, uniquely Thousand Oaks, and a recognizable “place” with a variety of active uses that support the cultural and civic centers, activate the public realm, and frame a central Town Square for Thousand Oaks

An Improved Civic Arts Plaza is a DCMP Priority

The Downtown Core Master Plan (DCMP) states a vision for a new Downtown for the City, with the Civic Arts Plaza (CAP) at its core. During the DCMP process, the City engaged hundreds of community members in a variety of venues and formats:

•Stakeholder Interviews
•Pop-up Events
•Focus Group Meetings
•Open House
•Online Survey

The improvement of the CAP is identified as one of four Critical Actions in the DCMP:

•Redesign the Civic Arts Plaza to be more active and connected
•Expand arts, cultural, and entertainment programming
•Create an entertainment and commercial destination
•Improve walkability and the pedestrian environment

DCMP Outline
Source: Downtown Core Master Plan, Downtown Framework Map

Click here for more information on the Downtown Core Master Plan




The County of Ventura is the first and largest Southern California County to receive approval from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to move forward on an accelerated Stage 2 path to reopening. 

This means that Dine-In restaurants and In-store retail can open, after registering at Let’s get the word out!

Shopping Malls, Destination Shopping Centers, Strip and Outlet Malls all with exterior facing entrances can open too. Internal stores that are only accessible by entering the common areas of an indoor shopping mall are not allowed at this time.

If businesses have questions, the vcreopens website has a link to our COVID-19 Hotline: 844-VC-OPENS

Go to for Guidance, Checklists, and Prevention Plan templates and to register:

325 Hampshire Rd.


What is Project Prescreening?

The prescreening process is an early evaluation of a proposed concept, to determine if it warrants allocation of residential units under the City’s growth control Measure E. It affords an opportunity for public participation at the onset of a project, and an initial look at a proposed concept by City Council and staff.

Prescreen concepts are evaluated according to criteria previously defined by City Council (Resolution 2018-015). Categories of criteria include: a) suitability of the site; b) quality of design; c) provision of Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) units; and d) community benefits. In addition, projects within the downtown area are evaluated in the context of the Thousand Oaks Boulevard Specific Plan (SP 20). 

Approval of a prescreen does not mean that the project is approved. If a prescreen is approved, it simply means that the project is allowed to proceed through the normal review and evaluation process, including refinement of the concept, formal application, environmental evaluation, public hearing and recommendation by the Planning Commission, and final public hearing and action by City Council.

Because prescreens constitute an early review of a concept, applicants are only required to only provide enough information to determine if the project should be vetted further through the formal review process.

This project is scheduled for a prescreen by City Council on Tuesday, May 12th. If you'd like to participate in public comment virtually during this meeting, please click here.

This page will be updated as more information is provided by the applicant.

To view the packet, please click here.

Open Air Dining

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Dine in or take out? It had been 63 days since Thousand Oaks diners had heard that question when the county got word last week it could move on to a phase of reopening the economy that included seated dining.

While it may have felt like forever between March 20 when the county first issued its stay-home order and May 20 when it eased it, it took no time at all for some restaurants to fling their doors open to welcome customers back inside.

Word of the reopening hit May 21 and by the following night, city residents were sharing which eateries they’d visited. Moody Rooster, Pedals & Pints, Cronies, Barone’s and Dog Haus all got thumbs up for opening and doing it per new regulations that are designed to keep customers distanced and safe.

To open for dining, restaurants had to have policies in place for physical distancing, cleaning and disinfecting, and employee health screenings.And all polices had to be documented in a worksite-specific plan.

While it sounds like a lot of time-consuming work, it wasn’t too bad, said Sandrine Casanova Paccallet of Chocolatine French Café on Thousand Oaks Boulevard.

“These were all things we were doing anyway because we never closed,” Casanova-Paccallet said. “We were doing takeout and then we added delivery and we already had signs and marks on the floor for distancing.”

The major difference will be in the little things, like asking customers to wear masks when they are walking in the restaurant but allowing them to remove them at their table.

Speaking of tables, the small sandwich, salad and sweets shop, like most open restaurants, has had to remove some in order to keep patrons distanced.

A decision Tuesday by the Thousand Oaks City Council will help business owners make up for some of the lost seating, however.

With a 4-0 vote, the council allowed restaurants to expand their footprints, which could include allowing tables on adjacent walkways, shopping center parking lots and city rights-of-way, like sidewalks.

“What this situation has done is reduced the internal capacity of these restaurants. … To make up for that 50% decreased capacity, typically, we need seating outside … perhaps on the sidewalk,” Mayor

Al Adam said. “And it’s actually kind of fun in a way because everybody likes alfresco dining, I believe.”

As part of its vote, the council also agreed to extend its commercial and residential eviction moratorium through June 30 and donate $20,000 from the city’s general fund to a relief fund established by the Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Businesses do not need to be members of the Chamber in order to apply for aid from the Conejo Valley Small Business Relief Fund.

A few establishments—like the city’s two breweries, Pedals & Pints and Tarantula Hill Brewing Company—had already ordered tents and tables for their parking lots, knowing the issue was coming before the council.

“We’d talked with someone at the city and they said it was likely it would pass, so we didn’t want to wait,” said Brad Cristea of Pedals & Pints on why he’d gone ahead and set the plan in motion.

Local chain Eggs ’N’ Things, which did not offer to-go meals and has been closed since the county’s stay-home order was issued, rolled out its reopening on Wednesday to thankful patrons, said Thousand Oaks store general manager Jennifer Vrataric.

“We have a lot of loyal customers who said they’ve been driving by for days to see if we’re open,” Vrataric said. “People were really easygoing. They were generous with their waitresses and I think they’re just happy to be out of the house.”

Vrataric did say, given the choice, diners preferred to sit on the establishment’s patio in the open air. Inside, about half of the restaurant’s tables have been blocked off to allow for adequate distancing. Outside, the staff has been able to spread tables out enough that most are still in use.

So far, the hardest thing for Vrataric was getting used to wearing a mask all day.

“But it’s OK, I’ll get used to it,” she said, adding the importance of keeping people safe.

“People were happy. No complaints.”


Increase In Hospital Cases 

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Ventura County’s typically soft-spoken public health officer turned to tough talk Tuesday when addressing the Board of Supervisors about the county’s sustained rise in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Asked to discuss business reopenings and the state’s newly minted mask mandate, Dr. Robert Levin veered off into a stern warning to the public.

“Let me pause here for an unpleasant reality,” Levin said. “If my reading is correct, we’re showing the first signs of starting to lose the battle against COVID-19 in our county.”

The positivity rate, that is, the percentage of tests found to be positive, is up sharply over the past two weeks. Out of 1,500 new test results shared Tuesday, 131 were positive, for a rate of nearly 9%. Ventura County’s positivity rate had been hovering between 3% and 5% since the outbreak began in March.

More concerning to Levin and Public Health Director Rigoberto Vargas is the number of people in local hospitals with COVID, which for most of April and May fluctuated between 20 and 25. As of Tuesday afternoon, 51 COVID patients were in the county’s eight hospitals (53 is the all-time high), with 14 in intensive care, leaving 134 available beds and 50 available ICU beds countywide.

Ventilators, which are necessary to sustain the breathing of COVID patients in the ICU, are readily available, with over 180 not being used, the county said.

Small transgressions, big impact

Levin did not attribute the rise in hospitalizations to one source but rather a collective unwillingness to continue abiding by the practices that kept Ventura County’s numbers low throughout much of spring.

He said he saw hundreds of people shoulder to shoulder watching a skateboarding competition in Ventura on Sunday.

"I hear those that deny that COVID-19 is a threat. I’m less concerned about the impact that they have on our COVID numbers than I am about the many of us who conveniently dismiss the threat of this virus,” he said.

Asked by the Acorn whether there is any evidence to suggest the large protests over the death of George Floyd have played a role in the uptick, the public health officer said no.

“We don’t have any evidence that the increase in cases is due to those gatherings. And we do look for these things,” Levin said in an email. “I’m not that concerned at least about the Ventura County rallies. I drove by one at government center and participated in another in Oxnard. In both cases people were doing a remarkable job of social distancing on their own. At the Oxnard rally there were probably 200 people there and I only saw one couple without face masks.”

Speaking to the supervisors June 23, Levin said residents have started to convince themselves that it’s OK to have a few friends over for dinner or spend more time out of the house than is necessary.

It’s not, he said.

“I know I sound like a zealot. I admit to some of these limited breaches myself. . . . But we must stop,” he said.

Reopening threatened

He said the most high-risk activities are parties, barbecues and socializing in close quarters or during breaks on the job. A single neighborhood barbecue at an Oxnard mobile home park has been blamed for 19 new cases, the county said.

“It’s like we’re cheating on our diet and angry or baffled that we can’t lose weight,” Levin said.

"So what is the price we pay? Where are we headed? More cases of COVID-19, more people hospitalized, more people in our ICUs, more people dead.”

Though the county has said it is prepared for a surge, Levin said he could envision a future with “long lines outside hospitals for the seriously ill waiting to be seen, waiting just to get in.”

“At this point, the state will step in. They will roll back all the businesses and activity reopenings we’ve seen. This hasn’t happened yet, but I’m concerned that it will,” he said. “Businesses, savings and lives will be ruined. Some have been ruined already. More will be.”

The easy prevention, Levin said, is continued isolation for a little longer, only leaving the house for essentials, exercise or the occasional meal in less crowded settings.

“We deserve our freedom, but the reality is we just can’t have it yet,” he said. “This is a classic case of deferring our reward . . . until this damn situation lets up and allows us to have our freedom again.”

The increase in hospitalizations and cases in Ventura County is a trend seen up and down the state. While the number of confirmed cases was expected to increase along with expanded testing, hospitalizations are another matter. Gov. Gavin Newsom acknowledged this week he was troubled by the trajectory of the figures.

“There is a sense that a lot of young people are, well, you’re young, and so you feel a little bit more invincible. But respectfully, often that can be a selfish mindset,” he said.

Nevertheless, the state has continued to issue guidance for sectors to reopen, this week adding movie theaters, which may reopen in Ventura County on June 26 at 25% capacity unless something changes.

Local outlook

The status of the county’s figures came up at Tuesday’s Thousand Oaks City Council meeting, with City Manager Drew Powers reporting that he was on a call with public health officials and other city managers from across the county earlier in the day where there was talk of “growing concern.” In T.O., there have been around 231 confirmed cases of COVID to date, 10% of the county’s total, and far fewer than in neighboring Simi Valley (454 cases), which has a smaller population.

“Numbers are not heading in the right direction,” Powers said.  “At this time, where things are starting to resemble some sense of normalcy, we have to redouble our efforts of staying safe. . . This is not over and we can’t have the hard work we did this spring slip away from us.”

Councilmember Ed Jones said he was confident Thousand Oaks residents would respond in kind.

“I have the feeling that we have a certain morale here in Thousand Oaks, a certain esprit de corps, a certain camaraderie that may not be present everywhere, and I believe that spirit is going to pull us through and we will be much better when this finally ends,” he said.




CVUSD Budget Passes

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Conejo Valley Unified trustees have approved a $205-million budget for the 2020-21 school year, putting an end to months of uncertainty over how California’s COVID-19 recession would affect public education in Thousand Oaks in the fall.

The spending plan adopted June 30 includes no layoffs of teachers or nutrition, transportation and custodial staff—a mandate of state budget makers—but it does reflect a 10% reduction in CVUSD’s supply budget as well as leaving a number of positions vacant, positions made expendable by temporary public health orders that limit the number of students who can be on campus at any given time.

It also involves the use of $6 million from the district’s nearly $27 million in reserves.

In an interview this week, trustee Jenny Fitzgerald told the Acorn that dipping into the district’s fund balance will allow CVUSD the staffing flexibility it needs to provide a safe and robust learning environment when students return to a very different classroom in August. She said the district projects to use portions of that fund balance every year.

This year’s budget has the distinction of being the first in recent memory not to be adopted unanimously. Trustee Sandee Everett voted no, saying she had concerns over whether the state would make good on $11 billion in deferred payments promised to CVUSD and other districts across the state.

“We’re moving forward with the budget as if we’re going to get fully funded,” Everett said.

As part of a budget deal struck between Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state Legislature, public schools in California are expected to take out loans until more federal stimulus dollars arrive; the CVUSD budget adopted last week already includes $10 million from the CARES Act coronavirus relief bill passed in March and relies on the state budget, which is dependent on a second stimulus bill being approved by the president.

“The deferrals are in lieu of federal stimulus,” Deputy Superintendent Victor Hayek. “So if the federal stimulus dollars come in, then there will be no deferrals.”

Hayek said the state budget was signed by the governor the night before CVUSD approved its budget, so the document approved June 30 is somewhat of a placeholder until after the July 15 extended tax deadline, when the state will have a more complete picture of its revenue situation.


The state, and subsequently CVUSD’s, budget relies on funding deferrals between February and June 2021. The district expects to be paid back between July and November of that year, Hayek said.

In the meantime, CVUSD will have to take out around $25 million in tax revenue anticipation notes, or TRANs loans, for cash flow until state funding arrives. The 2020-21 budget includes an additional $350,000 in interest expense from the loans, which the district already uses for cash flow purposes while awaiting property tax revenue.

The deferrals mean the district will be able to maintain necessary staff as it prepares to reopen campuses in August, a fact seen as critical to school board trustee Betsy Connolly, who said at the June 9 board meeting that the district will need “all hands on deck.”

Everett asked if CVUSD had a back-up plan in case the state doesn’t make good on its promise to pay the deferred revenue.

“What it would do is force us to cut $25 million,” Hayek said.

Superintendent Mark McLaughlin said the state relied on deferrals for several years starting in 2009. He said those were eventually paid back, though not in accordance with the original timeline.

“History does show that the state would pay us back for whatever the deferrals are that they promised,” he said.


Ahead of casting the lone no vote, Everett questioned why the budget didn’t include more dollars toward paying down the district’s unmet state pension obligation, which as of the 2019 audit stood at $207 million.

“If it were me, before we’re giving pay raises across the board and those kinds of things, people need to be aware of what our pension situation is,” Everett said, referring to a retroactive districtwide 2% raise approved by the board in April in a 5-0 vote.

Connolly reminded Everett that CVUSD does not run a private pension system and any money carved out of the budget should be spent for local benefit.

“This idea that we would set aside money in order to pay down the state system makes no sense at all and especially in a time when we are facing a budget crisis,” she said. “This is a discussion that makes no sense, and I urge everyone that we move on to things of substance.”

Fitzgerald told the Acorn she feels Everett’s opposition to the budget has less to do with concern for taxpayers and more to do with concern over her reelection campaign. Everett, the lone conservative member of the board, is seeking a second term.

“We can’t ignore the fact that there is an election coming up, and to me it’s very obvious, not just with the pension but with a lot of comments from board member Everett, that she is trying to sound fiscally responsible,” Fitzgerald said. “They’re really good sound bites for the public because they come across as sounding like she’s a watchdog for the district, but for people who watch the meetings, it’s clear those comments make no sense in context.”

In an email, Everett said her opposition is based in facts.

“The financial plan approved by our board majority to weather the current financial crisis is irresponsible,” she wrote. “The board decided to borrow ($25 million) and pay hundreds of thousands in interest rather than just using our own reserves for free. Borrowing from the state comes with strings attached. For example, we won’t be allowed to lay off administrators this coming year in order to balance our budget.”


During the meeting, Fitzgerald expressed concern that with new prohibitions on shared classroom supplies, certain items would become extremely limited with a $443,000 reduction in the supply budget.

Hayek called that a variable “that is hanging above us.”

McLaughlin said they’ll be able to address adjustments to supply budgets in the first and second interim budgets.

“Until we start living in this new reality and we get through a couple months of school, we won’t know what that impact is,” McLaughlin said. “There are so many things we’re going to have to figure out, and we’re going to be learning as we go a little bit.”

The budget leaves intact funding for Outdoor School, though the sixth grade program may not happen this school year due to COVID-19 restrictions.



Church Restraining Order

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Calling it a “very important, deeply fundamental constitutional issue,” a Ventura County judge granted a temporary restraining order today against Godspeak Calvary Chapel in Newbury Park, forbidding the church from holding large worship services indoors until a full hearing can be held Mon., Aug. 31.

Citing a recent Supreme Court decision that dealt with a Chula Vista, Calif., church that challenged the governor’s coronavirus restrictions in April, Judge Matthew Guasco said the balance between personal freedoms and public health weighed heavily in favor of the County of Ventura, which requested the injunction.

“South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom, this year’s case, dealt with pretty close to the same series of restrictions that the respondent is challenging here with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions on the ability of places of worship to have indoor services,” he said. “And Chief Justice (John) Roberts, he summed it up perfectly in terms of the balance between individual liberty and the government’s police power to protect the exercise of individual liberty if it threatens the public welfare and health.

“The Constitution is not a suicide pact. The exercise of individual liberties has to be consistent with public health, otherwise the one would cancel out the other.”

In requesting an injunction, or a temporary restraining order, the county’s legal team, led by Assistant County Counsel Jaclyn Smith, had to show cause that the situation was an emergency that presented an immediate public health risk.

Guasco said the county easily met that burden of proof.

“On a scale of 1 to 10 of the most immediate irreparable harm possible, this is a 10. It doesn’t get much more immediate or irreparable than the threat that a lot of people are going to spread a contagious and deadly disease,” he said.

To date, no members of the Godspeak congregation have come down with the virus, Pastor Rob McCoy has said.

The church, led by the former Thousand Oaks City Council member and onetime Republican candidate for the Assembly, has been holding indoor worship services for weeks in defiance of a ban in effect in counties on the state’s COVID-19 monitoring list.

Today’s hearing came three days after the Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 in closed session to give county attorneys discretion to seek legal action against people or entities that don’t comply with state or local health orders. County counsel filed for a restraining order the next day.

Before announcing his ruling, Guasco cited Jacobson v. Massachusetts, a 115-year-old case in which the Supreme Court upheld a local health board’s right to require people to be vaccinated to prevent the spread of smallpox.

“We’re not writing on a clean slate; this is not a new question,” Guasco said. “Pandemics and their restrictions on individual liberties under the Constitution have been with us for over 100 years.”

Prior to the start of the 9 a.m. hearing, the judge said he does not take the protections guaranteed in the Constitution lightly, especially as it pertains to religion.

“There are probably very few, if any, questions that I, as a judge now of nearly nine years, view as more serious than whether the First Amendment, freedom of the exercise of religion, should be restrained by the government,” Guasco said.

The judge noted a temporary restraining order is just that, temporary, and said the order would be dissolved if Godspeak’s legal team is successful during the more thorough hearing in 2.5 weeks.

Prior to the ruling, attorney Robert Tyler representing Godspeak argued for a continuance until Tuesday, which was opposed by the county on the grounds that McCoy intends to hold indoor worship services on Sunday.

Between three services, over 1,000 people have been attending Godspeak on Sundays. A photo taken inside one of the services shows rows and rows of people seated next to one another, none wearing masks.

“The defendant insists upon holding indoor services without requiring any masks or social distancing and . . . they’ve made clear they intend to hold services this Sunday, and so to prevent an unlawful and potentially deadly event from occurring, plaintiffs are compelled to seek relief from this court to protect the residents of the county,” Smith said.

In his statements to the judge, Tyler argued the county (and state) were selectively enforcing public health orders by forcing the church to shut its doors but embracing protests where social distancing and mask wearing were not enforced.

Further, Tyler argued, the immediate and irreparable harm to which the county alluded is a fallacy.

“There is a serious question of fact as to whether or not this state of emergency that we are operating under rises to the level that our Constitutional liberties should be quote-unquote limited or suspended, even,” Tyler said. “When we have elected surgeries . . . for example, one in 200 knee replacement patients die within 90 days of surgery. That is a .5% death rate. That’s well over double the death rate from COVID-19 but we don’t ban knee replacement surgery.”

Nor should society ban “spiritual surgery,” people coming to church when the risk is “so much smaller,” Tyler said.

The Aug. 31 hearing has been scheduled for 10 a.m. in Courtroom 20. Because the courtroom is not Zoom-compatible, the hearing will be held in person with masks and social distancing, the judge said. Only nine people will be allowed in the audience.

This story will be updated.



Proposed Wildlife Bridge

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A California agency that funds wildlife conservation initiatives across the state will give $5 million toward construction of the Liberty Canyon wildlife bridge in Agoura Hills.

Currently in planning stages, the $89-million land bridge will consist of a 200-foot-long overpass across the 101 Freeway at Liberty Canyon.

At its quarterly meeting in August, the California Wildlife Conservation Board approved more than $25 million in grants to help restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat throughout California. The funds included a $5-million gift to the National Wildlife Federation for the wildlife crossing at Liberty Canyon.

The wildlife federation is working with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the California State Coastal Conservancy, Caltrans, the City of Agoura Hills and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to build the bridge for animal migration.

Hemmed in by Southern California’s freeways and urban development, big predators like mountain lions face a possibility of extinction within 50 years, biologists say. The wildlife crossing will be a major tool in helping large and small animals travel safely across the local freeway.

“This project, when completed, will enhance an important and extremely vital wildlife corridor for wildlife species in Southern California,” WCB executive director John Donnelly said in an email.

The board said in its approval minutes last month, “The Liberty Canyon area . . . has been identified as the ideal location for a wildlife crossing over U.S. 101. Prime habitat, contiguous with large swaths of protected habitat north and south of this connection, has already been protected on both sides of the freeway.

“Connecting these areas would give mountain lions and numerous other species living in these highly fragmented habitats the room they need to roam, mate and thrive,” the agency said.

WCB called Liberty Canyon a “biodiversity hotspot,” and said, “This location is the best remaining connection between undeveloped open space in the Santa Monica Mountains to the south and the Simi Hills and Los Padres National Forest to the north.”

The WCB funding comes from Proposition 68, the statewide parks and water bond act of 2018.

The National Wildlife Federation is leading the wildlilfe crossing fundraiser with its #SaveLA Cougars campaign. To date, $15.4 million has been donated, said Beth Pratt, the wildlife federation’s California regional director.

“With the money raised to date, we have secured enough to keep Caltrans funded through next spring, so there are no delays in the project at this time and, indeed, the team is making great progress on final design and engineering,” Pratt said.

“We understand these are challenging times, and human health and safety must be a priority. Yet the extinction timeline for mountain lions is not on pause, and we must build this crossing on time or mountain lions may not have a future in the Santa Monica Mountains,” she said.



Amazon Opening at Promenade

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Global e-commerce giant Amazon is opening a grocery store in Thousand Oaks. 

Amazon Fresh will fill a vacancy at the Westlake Promenade later this year or early in 2021, taking over the 31,000-square-foot spot formerly occupied by Vintage Grocers and, before that, Bristol Farms.

Among the store’s features are special carts that tally up the items placed inside so there is no need to see a cashier, although they will be available, as will more conventional shopping carts.

A spokesperson for Caruso, which owns the Promenade, told the Acorn on Monday that the company was not yet authorized to speak about their new high-profile tenant.

High-tech grocer

Though Thousand Oaks had been mentioned in news reports as far back as April as a landing spot for Amazon Fresh, T.O. City Hall and Caruso have been tightlipped about the online shopping leader’s foray into the local grocery market. It wasn’t until the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control posted a notice of a liquor license transfer last Thursday mentioning Amazon by name that the location of the business was confirmed.

“We’ve been working with them since the beginning,” Haider Alawami, the city’s economic development chief, told the Acorn on Monday. “Of course, we’ve been told not to mention that name, but eventually it was going to come out.”

The first Amazon Fresh store in the nation opened in August in Woodland Hills, 15 miles away. Initially, it was open only to Amazon Prime members. Now it is open to the general public.

Some economic experts were surprised when Amazon, a company valued at nearly $2 trillion, announced in fall 2019 its intention to open a chain of grocery stores given that it had acquired Whole Foods only a few months earlier.

Other stores are planned in Northridge, Irvine and North Hollywood, an Amazon rep told in August.

Amazon Fresh is more than a traditional grocery store. It will offer same-day grocery delivery and pickup, with shoppers who place their orders online being met in a designated parking spot outside the store. Amazon Alexa users will be able to tell the digital assistant what they want and then have the items ready when they arrive.

But what is supposed to really distinguish the store from others is Amazon’s so-called Dash Cart.

According to Supermarket News, the cart “uses computer vision algorithms and sensor fusion to identify items placed in the cart’s basket. Customers sign into their Amazon account by scanning the Amazon app QR code using the reader on the cart’s handle, place bags in the basket and then begin shopping.”

The cart beeps when a product’s barcode has been recorded; if the item is removed from the cart, it is removed from a running tally of purchases displayed on a screen on the cart.

When they have everything they need, customers can leave through the Dash Cart lane, which automatically completes their purchase with any payment method added to the Amazon website or app.

Alawami said the store is an exciting addition for the Promenade, which has fared better than other local shopping centers during the COVID-19 outbreak because of its large public spaces.

“ The way (Rick) Caruso and his development team built those shopping centers, with ample open areas out in front of the stores . . . that’s really played well into the outdoor activities that we are allowing temporarily,” Alawami said.

Bristol Farms was an anchor tenant at the Promenade when it opened in 1996. When the store closed in 2016 and moved to Woodland Hills, it was replaced within seven weeks by Vintage Grocers, which at the time had just one other store, in Malibu.

After being greeted by fanfare, the high-end grocer founded by Walmart heiress Paige Laurie eventually fizzled.

Its owners closed the store one morning in March 2019 with no warning—even for employees.

“Hopefully they’ll be able to reach out to the Vintage Grocers employees and offer them a job,” Alawami said of Amazon.


New Proposal For Lot by TOHS

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The developer behind a failed effort to open a 7-Eleven convenience store/gas station across the street from Thousand Oaks High School is back with a new idea.

According to paperwork submitted to the city last month, the property owner is now considering a drive-thru Starbucks at 2198 N. Moorpark Road, a vacant lot that was for years a family-owned gas station.

The drive-thru would have room for 17 cars, and there would be 10 parking spots.

The proposal is in the pre-application phase, meaning the applicant is receiving feedback from city staff before presenting a formal application.

In the case of 7-Eleven, the developer tried to work with neighbors over the course of two years.

Ultimately the proposal was denied by both the planning commission and the Thousand Oaks City Council on appeal.

A drive-thru Starbucks is now under construction at Janss Marketplace, also on Moorpark Road, about two miles away.


Vote No on Prop 15 

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Tax grab will devastate small biz

The Thousand Oaks Boulevard Association (TOBA) represents the interest of hundreds of local mom-and-pop property owners along T.O. Boulevard, including many small businesses.

Our members are comprised of small-business owners who, like many others, are fighting to survive this pandemic. Just when we think things cannot get worse, Prop 15 comes along to raise the cost of doing business.

Generally, TOBA does not advocate state ballot measures or policy; however, Prop 15 negatively affects us...


To see this article in its entirety please visit The TO Acorn Website:

Changes for Residential Review

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With a new land-use map due out next year that’s expected to open several areas to housing, city leaders are hurrying to get multiple residential proposals through the prescreening process before the extra layer of review is no longer at their disposal.

To make that possible, the City Council will be asked tonight to pare down the process so as to allow more applicants to come forward in a shorter period of time.

Rather than being required to present detailed plans, developers requesting a zone change to build homes would only need to provide a conceptual site map (including number of residential units requested), explain the community benefit of their project and offer basic information such as parking or site-specific topography issues if they wanted to schedule a prescreening before the council, according to a staff report.

Created in 2016, prescreen hearings give housing developers seeking a general plan amendment the opportunity to get initial feedback from the council—and the public—before entering the formal application stage. Once a new land-use map is approved, the process is expected to become a thing of the past. Several drafts of the map are due out in January, and a final map is expected to be approved before the end of next year.

The hearings were touted as a way to ensure the community would get the most benefit out of the finite amount of housing left to be built under 1996’s voter-approved Measure E.

At the time, four years ago, it was believed there were fewer than 400 units left to be allocated citywide. Today that figure is well over 3,000, with 1,000 already available as a result of a density transfer approved by the council in 2018 that “down-zoned” several existing residential neighborhoods that were built far below maximum density.

In his report to the council, soon-to-be-retired Community Development Director Mark Towne outlined the suggested changes and why he thinks they will improve the system.

“The current prescreen process requires approximately four and a half months from prescreen submittal to City Council review. This is followed by almost six months between the preapplication and formal application submittal for the same projects,” Towne writes. “The proposed process should reduce the time required . . . while still providing City Council with the information necessary to address the key issues of proposed land use, requested units and community benefit.”

To date, eight housing proposals have gone through a prescreen hearing: five were approved, two withdrawn and one denied. Only one is a finished product: 1710 on the Boulevard, a collection of apartments and retail stores built at the former site of Lupe’s Mexican Restaurant. A mixed-use development at 299 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. is under construction.

Towne contends that the sometimes-contentious hearings have gone too far afield from their original intent, with council members and the public debating design elements and other finer points of a proposal that are going to be addressed during the formal review stage, which involves city staffers poring over plans and making recommendations.

Under the changes proposed tonight, the hearings would “refocus” on concepts, such as appropriateness of land use and the level of community benefit (read: affordable housing).

“A conceptual level review is appropriate at this early stage because some prescreens never go forward, and spending so much time on them is therefore an inefficient use of staff resources,” the staff report says.

Towne said he also hopes the changes will paint a clearer picture for the public, which has often perceived so-called “prescreen approval” as final approval.

“Many people believe that consideration of a prescreen is actual consideration of the project itself, which is not true,” Towne writes.

“City Council’s final approval is still required at the end of the planning process, after the project has been fully analyzed per the city’s development standards, CEQA and vetted by the Planning Commission,” the staff report says.

In his report to the council, the community development director mentions five proposals due to come before the council for a prescreening in the first half of 2021 .

Three are contained in the most recent development activity report: A request to construct a 22-unit multifamily apartment complex with four affordable units near Erbes Road and Thousand Oaks Boulevard, another to do a mixed-use project with 30 apartments and 4,000 square feet of retail space at 515 E. T.O. Blvd, and a four-unit apartment building on Moody Court.

The Acorn is aware of at least two more. One is plans for the Nazarbekian family property at T.O. Boulevard and Hodencamp Road, which have gone through over 10 iterations. The 6-acre parcel is home to two large native valley oak trees and serves as the home of a pumpkin and Christmas tree lot each year.

The other is global real estate investment giant Kennedy Wilson’s long-held plans for 1 Baxter Way, which at last check included 240 apartments.

Tonight’s City Council meeting begins at 6. Watch live at

See the full agenda here and the staff report for this item here.

Vote is tonight 

The Lakes Lease Deal

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The City of Thousand Oaks and Rick Caruso could be headed back to the bargaining table to discuss The Lakes.

Sixteen years after signing a 55-year deal that has resulted in him not paying a dollar in rent to operate the shopping center on publicly owned land next to the Civic Arts Plaza, the billionaire retail mogul has indicated he’s willing to revisit the agreement—provided the city allows him to add a residential component to the long-struggling site, which is less than 40% occupied.

On Wednesday, Caruso’s development firm filed paperwork requesting permission to use 165 units from the city’s Measure E housing bank to build apartments in the parking lot behind the center at 2200 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd.

If the proposal is allowed to move forward at a City Council prescreening this spring, it would open the door to renegotiating the terms of an agreement Caruso signed in 2004 that allows him to lease the 7.5-acre property for free in years it does not earn at least $2.1 million, or 12% of the $17.6 million he invested to build it.

Since opening in 2005, The Lakes has never reached that threshold

“In our discussions with Caruso’s team, they’re aware of the agreement and that it’s going to have to be modified,” said Haider Alawami, the city’s economic development officer, in an interview this week with the Acorn. “They’re definitely aware and are willing to sit down with staff and to start negotiating.”

Alawami, who was project planner on The Lakes but not a part of the bargaining team that worked on the original deal, acknowledged that the center—once held up as the model for public-private partnerships—has fallen short of expectations.

“At the time (the agreement) was negotiated, everybody thought Caruso would reach the return on investment on the property; it just hasn’t happened,” Alawami said. “It was negotiated in good faith. . . . Could it have been done differently? Maybe.”

The veteran city executive, long a liaison between Caruso and the council, said any debate surrounding The Lakes’ deal must take into consideration Caruso’s commitment to maintaining the park and pond in front of the shopping center. While the company may not be paying rent, Alawami said, they are paying annually to provide a public benefit.

“He built them (the park and pond) at his cost, and . . . they’re a lot of money to maintain. A lot of people don’t see that,” Alawami said. “The skating rink, even if people pay to ice skate, he’s providing it. That’s a huge investment and a lot of money spent.”

Even if The Lakes does reach the 12% threshold at some point, the deal is set up so that the annual deficit is cumulative, meaning Caruso would still have to be paid back in full before the city could demand rent. As of 2015, The Lakes was $5.1 million short of its earnings goal, according to its financial statements.

Former Thousand Oaks Councilmember Andy Fox and others who were involved in the original deal have long argued that the blame for The Lakes’ failings lies with the council majority at the time that made Caruso reduce the size and scope of the development, which originally was to include more retail space, a movie theater and its own parking garage.

Alawami said it became clear soon after the center opened that there wasn’t enough population in the downtown area to support the shopping center, which has seen restaurants and retailers come and go with regularity. PF Chang’s and California Pizza Kitchen are the only original tenants that remain; Lassens, Kalologie and Sunlife Organics also occupy space at The Lakes.

“There was hope that we would see more population, more residential development, along the boulevard that would potentially patronize the center and help move it along,” he said.

Apartment proposal

Caruso’s vision for apartments at The Lakes is still being formalized. Residential is part of two of his other centers, The Americana at Brand in Glendale and Palisades Village in Pacific Palisades.

Under a change to city law approved by the council in December, prescreening applicants no longer have to provide detailed renderings and specifications.

The company’s Jan. 6 application includes a very basic site plan that shows the apartments situated in the southwest corner of the parking lot but not how many stories or how tall the proposed complex would be.

Other design decisions, like those pertaining to traffic and parking, won’t be made until the Caruso team has had a chance to get feedback from city staff and the public, said Chris Robertson, Caruso vice president in charge of planning, government and community relations.

“Our commitment to the community remains at the core of who we are,” she said. “Our prescreening application is an early step in the process that allows us to formally begin our community outreach process and seek input to assist in our proposal.

“We look forward to engaging extensively with the Thousand Oaks community and our local leaders, to listen carefully to their thoughts and ideas.”

Robertson said housing at The Lakes has the potential to boost the entire area around the Civic Arts Plaza, not just the center.

“We believe that the addition of high-quality housing at The Lakes will attract people to the heart of the city and bring us closer to the vibrant downtown that was originally imagined by the Thousand Oaks civic leaders and the community,” she said.

Caruso, who also owns the Promenade in Westlake and the Commons in Calabasas, got his start in Thousand Oaks. His first development was The Village at Moorpark at T.O. Boulevard and Moorpark Road.

“Caruso’s team obviously has a strong track record of building quality projects in our city,” City Manager Drew Powers told the Acorn.

Asked what he hoped to see out of a potential new Lakes agreement, Powers said any talk of negotiations was premature as prescreening approval must come first.

“In this case, (approval) would allow us to revisit the original Lakes development agreement that was initially approved by the City Council in 2000,” he said. 

Demolishing Borderline 

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They carried the white crosses away, one by one, until there were none.

Families of the 12 victims of the Nov. 7, 2018 massacre met at Borderline Bar and Grill on Rolling Oaks Drive in Thousand Oaks on Monday to gather the 12 crosses that have anchored a makeshift memorial for two years.

They collected keepsakes and other items of sentimental value following a decision by the property owner to tear down the building that was the scene of the worst mass shooting in Ventura County history. Borderline owner Brian Hynes’ lease on the 1.85-acre property expired in December and the owner has decided to redevelop the 46-year-old site, which borders the 101 Freeway.

Jason Coffman, who lost his 22-year-old son, Cody, in the massacre, kissed his son’s cross as he said he visits the memorial often and it was “super rough . . . for a dad who wasn’t really able to say goodbye, to now have to really say goodbye.”

“Because what do you do? Where do you go? Where does the community go?” the Camarillo resident said.

The makeshift memorial that sprang up at the shuttered country dance hall in the days after the shooting has become a popular place of reflection and gathering over the past two years. Line dancing events have been held in the parking and posthumous birthday parties for the victims have been held under boarded windows.

A steady stream of fresh flowers, empty beer cans and seasonal holiday decorations have made the memorial a living, dynamic landscape anchored by an artifact common to towns marred by mass shootings: 12 white crosses donated by the late Illinois carpenter Greg Zanis.

Michael Morisette, whose daughter, 20-year-old Kristina, was killed in the shooting, said the elderly landlord wishes to continue to support the families, but “he needs to move forward to protect his investment in that property.”

Morisette said there is no date for demolition (a city permit has not been pulled) and no bids have been accepted to raze the 10,867-square-foot building, but he said the structure would be leveled soon.

“For two years, (the owner) has more than respected our privacy and has been beyond tolerant all the while we, as a community, have been treating his property like it was our own public sanctuary. In many ways, it has been,” Morisette said. “It’s difficult for everyone involved, not anyone’s first choice, but turns out to be inevitable.”

Family reaction to the news is mixed. Loved ones of the slain are frequent visitors. Survivors and law enforcement officers also go there often.

The building holds particular meaning for the family of Sgt. Ron Helus. Before Borderline, the building used to house Charley Brown’s, the restaurant where Ron proposed to his wife, Karen, and where the couple held their wedding reception. A small photo of Ron marks the spot on the front porch where he was shot.

Kathy Dunham and her husband, Ken, are at the memorial on a weekly basis in remembrance of their 21-year-old son, Jake. Kathy sometimes pours out beer for Jake near the spot where he was killed.

The oncology nurse said she was devastated to lose the building.

“It’s killing me. I don’t want them to take it down,” she said.

Wendy Sparks, who lost her 21-year-old daughter, Noel, said the community will mourn the loss of the building because so many went there for healing in the wake of the tragedy But she pointed out that most of the families were able to dismantle the memorial together.

“The important thing is we all came together and we all got closure here,” she said.

Asked about losing the building, Laura Lynn Meek, whose 23-year-old son Justin died in the shooting, said she and her daughter, Victoria Rose, who survived the attack, look at Borderline the way some people look at a church.

“It is not the building that made Borderline the family that it was,” she said. “It was the people who were in there. And we are still a family.”

General Plan Update

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Thousand Oaks residents will get a first look at possible changes to the city’s land-use map early next month.

An online workshop scheduled for 6 p.m. Tues., Feb. 2 will unveil three alternatives and serve as an opportunity for the public to learn about land use, Deputy Community Development Director Michael Forbes said.

“This is going to be about educating participants,” he said. “The purpose is to introduce land-use alternatives, what they are and why they are important.”

Approving a new map is a critical step in the two-year general plan update process as it will dictate development in the city for the next 25 years. The draft maps will lay out how the city expects to make room for another 2,600 apartments and/or houses—a figure set by the state—by rezoning parcels, allowing for additional building height and increasing maximum-allowable density.

While the maps will show different ways of coming up with that room, they all provide for the same number of housing units, Forbes said.

“It’s not high use vs. low use,” he said.

Forbes said it may be difficult for the general public to understand what they’re looking at in regard to the maps, so staff members and the city’s general plan update consulting firm will spend the workshop—which will also serve as a meeting of the General Plan Advisory Committee— going over that.

Staff members will not be seeking feedback Feb. 2.

“There’s not going to be any activity or anything like that for the public this time,” Forbes said. “We’ll have an online survey for people to provide comments, and we are going to encourage people to submit their opinions that way.”

Paper copies of the survey will also be available, he said.

As well, there will be a series of what Forbes called “virtual open houses” throughout February in which residents can chat online with staff members about the maps, which are a result of earlier surveys as well as feedback from the advisory committee and people who’ve attended earlier meetings and workshops. The housing provided for in the new maps must include a mix of four income categories: very low, low, moderate and above moderate.

Forbes said he expects information about how to attend the Feb. 2 Zoom meeting to be on the city’s general plan update site,, by the end of the week.

Information about the survey will be posted there as well.​

Land Use

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Virtual Community Workshop

Community Workshop Details

The City of Thousand Oaks will host a live, online presentation and Q&A on Tuesday, February 2, from

6:00 pm to 8:30 pm. The materials for the workshop will be available for download here.

Why is the City holding a workshop about land use alternatives?
Land use is the centerpiece of the City’s General Plan! Land use describes the intended future use and density of

every parcel in the City, such as residential, commercial, or mixed-use. The General Plan update project will revise

the current land use map to establish a direction for the City over the next 25 years.

What will be discussed at the workshop?
The workshop will include a summary of the General Plan update process, review of the guiding principles,

areas of change and stability that was developed from the past 18 months of community input, and present

three different land use approaches for managing the future growth of the City.

How do I register to attend?



Instructions for providing feedback.
All comments must be submitted via the online survey, which will be available after the workshop, until
March 1, 2021. If you have questions for City staff or the consultant team following the workshop, please email us
at or join one, or all, of our Zoom “office hours” on February 11, 17, 20, and 23. Instructions on
how to attend our “office hours” will be posted following the workshop.

Teen,Senior Center Plans

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After a two-decade wait, preparations for “the best backyard in the city” are nearly a go again.

At its Feb. 9 meeting, the Thousand Oaks City Council authorized spending $2.7 million for renovations at the Goebel Adult Community Center and Alex Fiore Teen Center, a grant that’s expected to be confirmed by the board of the Conejo Rec and Park District tonight, Feb. 18.

The changes come at the recommendation of the community and the people who use the facilities and reflect users’ preferred activities, said Tom Hare, parks administrator for CRPD, which owns the land on Janss Road where the buildings are located but leases the buildings from the City of T.O.

The majority of the construction will take place near the teen center, which regularly received over 16,000 visits a month before the pandemic.

“The goal was—and it continues to be—that we’re always looking for positive alternatives for teens for their leisure activities,” Hare told the council. “We figure if we give them something good to do, they’ll stay out of trouble.”

Inside, the teen center restrooms, a kitchen and storage areas will be renovated, but the real change comes outdoors.

“Simply put, this is going to be the best backyard in the whole city,” Hare said. “That’s what we strove for, and I think that’s what we’re going to accomplish.”

The additions will include a shaded stage area for outdoor concerts and other activities, and a multi-use sports court that can accommodate basketball, volleyball, pickleball and the indoor-soccer like futsal. There will also be a flexible gaming area into which staff members can move ping pong tables, cornhole boards and other games; a skate plaza; and an outdoor kitchen area for cooking classes and special events.

When the teen center is not using the new facilities, they’ll be available to Goebel Center patrons, who will get their own restroom renovations and a new shaded fitness area, which will replace a putting green. The Goebel’s horseshoe pit will be renovated for better accessibility and viewing.

While CRPD operates the teen and Goebel centers and owns the land on which they sit, the city built, owns and maintains the buildings themselves. Both have had minor updates since they were constructed roughly 30 years ago, but this marks some of their first major renovations.

Big changes, including a full-size gymnasium at the teen center, were first planned in the early 2000s, but the $5-million plans were put on hold in 2008 in the midst of the Great Recession.

Since then, the plans have been altered to reflect the addition of the Boys & Girls Clubs gyms and changes in recreation preferences, Hare said.

In June 2019, the City Council approved spending $300,000 for preconstruction activities (design and planning). To date, $243,000 has been spent.

The remaining $57,000 will be added to the newly approved $2.7 million to cover engineering and construction costs.

“We’re spending quite a bit of money, but this is one of the locations that gets more use than just about any public project we have in town. . . . If we can do anything to burnish our crown jewels here, I’m all for it,” Councilmember Bob Engler said before the body’s 5-0 vote.

The $2.7-million grant from the city still needs to be formally accepted by CRPD’s board of directors, a mere formality. The item is on the board’s agenda for tonight.

The meeting begins at 6 p.m. To view it online, go to

With the board’s approval, bidding for the project could go out this month. Construction is expected to take place between June 2021 and February 2022.


Maps Maximize Housing Capacity

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Small houses. Medium houses. Houses next to retail. Houses next to offices. Houses on top of houses.

The three land-use map alternatives that debuted Feb. 2 all have one thing in common: zoning for tens of thousands of additional apartments, condos and houses that don’t exist today, nearly all of it contained along the 101 corridor and much of it focused on multifamily dwellings.

Although the state’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment only requires that Thousand Oaks provide for an additional 2,600 units by 2029, the city is looking further out, Community Development Director Kelvin Parker said when asked to explain the amount of residential zoning contained in the maps.

“That’s only a small picture,” he said of the RHNA figure. “The general plan that we’re building now is going to have a life cycle of somewhere between 10 and 20 years, so as part of that, we’re looking at development types in the city overall.”

Under Measure E, Thousand Oaks’ growth-control initiative, the city may legally add up to 33,000 units to the four “areas of change” because they are being subtracted from existing neighborhoods that were underdeveloped, Parker said, resulting in no change to overall residential capacity.

According to a 2017 staff-led study of the 1996 general plan on which Measure E was based, the city has a capacity for up to 81,000 units—around 48,000 exist today. The vast majority of those 33,000 unused units are currently within existing neighborhoods that have already been constructed.

“What we’re doing now is just redistributing the 81,000 . . . in areas where the city can actually change and grow, potentially, over the next 10 to 20 years,” Parker said.

The neighborhoods where the units are “captured” will be protected from any future development (although state law still permits accessory dwelling units, or granny flats).

City Attorney Tracy Noonan said it’s important for residents to understand what “capacity” means in the context of the land-use map and Measure E.

“Capacity is not the same thing as what density or population growth is. It’s very different,” she said. “Capacity basically refers to the maximum amount of development that would occur in an area if every single parcel developed at its maximum capacity, which would never happen. It’s a theoretical number. It will never be reached.”

Noonan said the focus at this point in the discussion should not be on the total amount of units in the maps but rather what types of development residents prefer.

“Especially right now it should not be. Right now we really want feedback on what is the community’s thoughts on these different development types. That’s really what’s important right now,” she said.

At least one member of the 24-person General Plan Advisory Committee is concerned that all three maps take a far-too-drastic approach to housing.

Mic Farris, former planning commissioner and a longtime slow-growth proponent, said the council debated build-out in the 1990s and came to the conclusion that there was enough infrastructure to support around 50,000 units—not 81,000.

“The realistic number, the one that our city with the general plan and how we’ve zoned it and how we’ve applied it and what are our development conditions are, the realistic number is closer to 50,000,” he said. “It’s been that for a very long time.”

Farris, a resident since 1993, bases that number on years of council discussions regarding the city’s target population, which he says is 135,000. Former city attorney Mark Sellers, author of Measure E, has said the original general plan envisioned a city of 180,000 people.

“No serious public discussion has ever occurred that the target population for Thousand Oaks would be 215,000 people, which is 81,000 times 2.73,” the average number of people in a single unit, according to the city’s housing element of the general plan, Farris said.

Instead of tapping into a fraction of the additional units available to meet the state mandate and provide a better mix of housing, the proposed maps take every unit available and place them into 8% of the city, the Newbury Park resident said.

Farris said the process is legally sound but flawed in its approach because it does not properly take into account the city’s infrastructure.

“No one ever thought the plan (in 1970) at that point, or the infrastructure we would invest in, would be able to support 200,000-plus people,” he said.

Farris said he hopes residents get involved now because once the changes are made, existing state law will make it difficult for the city to go back and downzone in the future.

“If we’re not careful of how we got here, we could screw up how we got here,” he said.

“That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t address RHNA numbers, that we shouldn’t look at the proposals and say ‘there are some interesting things here,’ . . . but we do not need to be forced to think our only decisions are big-change alternative one, big-change alternative two, big-change alternative three.”

Noonan said California housing laws do not allow the city to store its unused density.

“We’re not allowed to keep this bank of density in the cloud and apply it to a specific parcel, it actually has to be applied on parcels now. It cannot just be held off to the side,” the city attorney said.

Speaking to the Acorn from his home in Washington state this week, former Councilmember Dennis Gillette came out strongly in favor of the plan update.

“The need for the kind of housing, the need for the kind of age group and socioeconomic group that’s moving into the city and needing certain types of housing, (Thousand Oaks) can’t remain the same and survive,” he said.

The city’s current land-use map leans heavily toward single-family homes.

Gillette said when he was on the council from 1998 to 2012 city leaders had to fight for every inch of new residential development, leading to the housing shortage the city is dealing with today.

“I’m talking meetings until 3 or 4 a.m. over a small housing development,” said Gillette, who called Thousand Oaks home from 1963 until 2013. “And that was common.”

The octogenarian said the characteristics of Thousand Oaks that people love so much—open space, the green hills, miles and miles of trails—are preserved under the current land-use map proposals.

“Don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed my Thousand Oaks, my rural retreat,” he said. “But we can’t be so afraid of change we lose what we have.”




Making Change 

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Since the time of its founding, Thousand Oaks has been resistant to change.

A few years before the city incorporated in 1964, residents rose up to fight the original plans for Conejo Creek Freeway (now Highway 23), causing Caltrans to shift the road away from what is today Conejo Creek Park.

George “Judd” Gillette, the brother of former City Councilmember Dennis Gillette, was the head of the Meadows Homeowners Association and at the center of the fight.

“A lot of people don’t realize it, but that was a big deal,” said Dennis Gillette, a resident for 50 years before he moved to Washington state in 2013 to be closer to his daughter, a nurse. “Originally . . . the freeway was going to be against the ‘east hill,’ right where the library is. That was all kind of fait accompli till the neighbors said, ‘Hey, wait a minute. We don’t want it there.’ And they were successful in getting it moved.”

This spirit of resistance has carried over through the decades.

Unlike its neighboring municipalities, Thousand Oaks had never embarked on a comprehensive update of its general plan, a governing document used by city planners to guide all development. It’s tinkered here and there as required by the state, but nothing approaching what staff and their consultant are trying to accomplish now, said Gillette, who served on the council from 1998 to 2012.

Gillette called the update “well overdue.”

“I think it is probably one of the best things that will guarantee the quality of life for the community of Thousand Oaks,” he said.

Land-use alternatives

At the center of the overhaul: Thousand Oaks’ 50-year-old land-use map, which uses zoning designations to dictate what types of building can go where in the city, as well as how tall and intense that building can be. Ultimately, a single vote of the council will rezone thousands of parcels around the city for different uses.

But first comes choosing a new map, which the council has been tasked to do by the end of April.

Before that happens, the Acorn will highlight the four so-called “areas of change” and the different visions for each of them, starting this week with the area around Thousand Oaks Boulevard and Moorpark Road.

Maps of the areas of change and options for each were revealed during a Feb. 2 online workshop, with assurances by outside consultant Matt Raimi of Berkeley-based Raimi and Associates that the final map presented to the council for approval won’t be any of the maps presented that night.

“Just thinking forward, the preferred alternative is probably likely a combination of the alternatives that we’re presenting,” Raimi said. “These are just different ways the city could potentially evolve in the future, and it is a way for us to start a dialogue and discourse about the future of the city.”

We encourage readers to follow along using the maps and guidebook provided at

Alternative 1

Surveyed multiple times over the past year, residents have consistently picked out The Oaks mall and Janss Marketplace as places where they would like to see change.

As it turns out, the owners of the malls are open to it, said Haider Alawami, economic development manager for the city.

“They were already looking at what else they can have in the malls that creates an experience customers are looking for,” he said.

Hotels and housing were topics that came up in discussions the city had with the property owners even before the pandemic, he said.

“They love the idea they have options,” Alawami said. “In two or three years from now, if retail is still struggling . . . they can say, ‘OK, we have this footprint and can look at adding housing.’”

Alternative 1 for the area east of Lynn Road, mostly west of Hodencamp Road and south of Janss Road would see the creation of three so-called mixed-use neighborhoods.

The Oaks would be categorized as “mixed-use high,” a new designation that would allow residential, commercial or a combination of the two, with housing up to 60 units per acre and buildings up to six stories tall. Today the area is largely commercial with buildings no taller than three stories.

Mixed-use would involve either residential on top of retail (e.g., the Lupe’s project) or residential next to retail.

In Alternative 1, nearby Janss Marketplace would be rezoned for mixed-use low, allowing up to 30 housing units per acre and buildings up to five stories tall.

A final mixed-use area would be at Thousand Oaks Boulevard and Boardwalk Road, near Tarantula Hill Brewing Company and 299 T.O. Blvd, where a residential/commercial development is under construction.

This area would be designated mixed-use medium, allowing density of up to 45 units per acre and a height limit of 58 feet.

Except for the Janss mall, Alternative 1 maintains commercial uses along most of Moorpark Road and between The Oaks and Moorpark Road south of Hillcrest Drive. It also maintains office, retail and commercial uses along the 101 Freeway south of the boulevard and north of Hillcrest.

Alternative 2

The second option allows for the most mixed-use designations of the three alternatives, though there are more low-density mixed-use designations and fewer medium- and high-capacity designations compared to the others.

This alternative calls for mixed-use low zones at The Oaks and along Moorpark Road, Hillcrest Drive and Thousand Oaks Boulevard. Janss Marketplace would be medium-density mixed-use.

Commercially designated land would be focused in three areas: east of Moorpark Road and south of Hillcrest, north of Hillcrest and east of Wilbur Road, and along Moorpark Road north of Wilbur.

Alternative 3

This map option, which is focused on job creation, maintains much of The Oaks property for commercial use but allows for various residential uses on the west end closest to Lynn Road. These could be single-family houses, townhomes/condos or apartment buildings.

Under this alternative, Janss Marketplace is designated for high-density mixed-use, as is the area around Tarantula Hill Brewing Company.

The map also transforms Moorpark Road from commercial to mixed-use between T.O. Boulevard and the 23 Freeway.

The area bounded by Hillcrest Drive and Wilbur and Hodencamp roads would be medium residential. Currently, that area is designated as medium and high density. This new designation allows multifamily homes, single-family homes, duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes and courtyard housing with a density of up to 20 units per acre and heights of up to 35 feet or three stories.

Several parcels along Hillcrest and Wilbur would be designated as low-density industrial, which allows manufacturing, research and development, breweries and distilleries, supportive retail and services.


Westlake Apt Proposal-Approved

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A proposal to build an apartment complex next to the former Baxter Healthcare building in the Westlake area of Thousand Oaks cleared its first hurdle last week—just barely.

The Thousand Oaks City Council voted 3-2 Feb. 23 to allow Kennedy Wilson’s long-held plans for 1 Baxter Way to proceed to the application stage, with Councilmembers Al Adam, Bob Engler and Kevin McNamee voting yes, and Councilmembers Claudia Billde la Peña and Ed Jones voting no.

Adam and Engler said the proposed 264-unit complex could provide much-needed workforce housing for employees of the surrounding businesses, including the Westlake Promenade next door.

“This is an opportunity to really make a village-campus-type center there that has the ability to help with all the surrounding employer bases,” Engler said.

Meanwhile, Bill-de la Peña questioned whether the apartments— aside from the 29 units the developer proposes to offer below market rate to income-qualifying applicants—will actually be affordable to middle-income earners.

“We talk about workforce housing, but truly what the city has greenlighted in the last few weeks are apartments that workforce people will not necessarily be able to afford,” she said. “We can say we want workforce housing, but if we’re not really pushing for more (subsidized) units in there, then we’re only making a tiny, tiny dent in the need for affordable housing.”

Echoing the concern of some public speakers, Bill-de la Peña also said the proposed complex, which would be across Thousand Oaks Boulevard from Westlake High School, could create a “traffic nightmare.”

A 2019 traffic study of the city’s 39 busiest intersections estimated it would take $1.8 million to improve circulation at Westlake and T.O. boulevards. The cost of the renovation could be shouldered by the developer.

Though he didn’t address traffic specifics, Dave Eadie, a senior vice president in Kennedy Wilson’s entitlement and development department, said that of all the recently approved housing projects in the city, this was the only one in the Westlake area, “thus achieving a certain balance in the placement of some residential units in this part of the community.”

As submitted, the proposal involves two residential buildings in the northeast corner of the property closest to Lakeview Canyon Road and Thousand Oaks Boulevard, where a parking lot is today. To make up for the lost parking spaces, Kennedy Wilson is proposing a multistory parking structure for use by employees of the 400,000-square-foot industrial building that for many years housed Baxter Healthcare.

Details such as heights of buildings, number of parking spaces, how trees or traffic in the area would be affected will be presented with the project’s final design when it goes to the Thousand Oaks Planning Commission and then the City Council for a final vote, probably sometime next year.

The Baxter site project is the third housing prescreening approved by the council in as many meetings. Council members approved conceptual plans for 300 apartments at T.O. Boulevard and Hodencamp Road on Jan. 26 and 165 apartments at The Lakes on Feb. 8. Two more proposals are expected soon.

City Manager Drew Powers said the proposals are not city-driven but come from property owners and developers; the city is trying to get them to the council before the upcoming general plan update.


Zoning for Denser Buildings

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After months of deliberation and debate, the city is expected to bring forward a new land-use map this week to guide all development in Thousand Oaks.

Based on the results of an online survey and input from the general plan advisory committee on the three map alternatives released in February, the final draft map is likely to identify The Oaks mall, the Rancho Conejo area north and south of the freeway in Newbury Park and Thousand Oaks Boulevard between Moorpark Road and Duesenberg Drive as areas where new housing should go.

The online land-use alternatives survey showed a heavy preference for option 1, which concentrated housing in a few high-density “nodes” that would permit buildings as tall as six stories provided there is some element of commercial mixed in.

The survey also showed majority support for increasing the city’s long-standing cap on residential density from 30 units an acre to 45 and a willingness to accept “somewhat” taller buildings provided they’re sufficiently set back from the street.

“We have some forward-thinking folks who want to keep the quality of life high in Thousand Oaks but also realize we can’t stay the same,” former mayor and GPAC member Andy Fox said at the committee’s March 25 meeting.

At the center of the debate over the new maps is a plan to reallocate 30,000 units of residential capacity from existing single-family neighborhoods to four areas of change. In doing so, the city will enable tens of thousands of additional units to be planned for without violating the controls of Measure E, Thousand Oaks’ 25-year-old voter-approved slow-growth law.

Eighty-five percent of survey respondents said they either strongly agreed or agreed with the tactic.

City staff and consultant Raimi & Associates have not said exactly how much housing capacity will be reallocated, saying it’s somewhere between 2,600 units (the minimum required by the state’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment) and 32,000 (the maximum allowed under Measure E).

“If there could be some narrowing of the range; between 2,600 and 32,000 is so wide as to be not meaningful,” Commissioner David Newman said at the March 29 planning commission hearing.

Survey results

In the recently conducted survey, the majority of the 2,100 participants supported the first of the options. A total of 829 people, or 40%, voted for Alternative 1, which, in addition to concentrating density, maintains a strong job focus by allowing more intense industrial uses in the Rancho Conejo Industrial Area and protecting job centers in the auto mall, along Townsgate Road and on the eastern end of Thousand Oaks Boulevard.

Alternative 2, which included no zoning for buildings over five stories tall, was the preference of just 6% of respondents. In that option, mixed-use zoning was spread throughout the four areas of change rather than concentrated in select areas.

Respondents were generally against converting neighborhood shopping centers and areas like Moorpark Road near Janss Marketplace and the area near Westlake and T.O. Boulevard to mixed use.

“None of the above” was the choice of 401 people when asked which map they preferred.

While coming from 19% of respondents, the majority of comments offered objected to the alternatives.

Participants said allowable building heights were too high, traffic would increase, infrastructure would be burdened and the character of the city would be destroyed under the proposed plans.

They objected to planning for more housing than that required by the state and took issue with the argument development proponents have made that providing more housing in the city would lower the amount of traffic because people working in Thousand Oaks would move to the city.

“Complete fallacy,” wrote a respondent identified only as Tim. “So L.A. has less traffic than T.O. because they have more jobs and more places to live? Let’s think that through.”

After the release of the map, the general plan advisory committee will meet to discuss it Wed., April 21 and the planning commission will consider it Mon., April 26.

The online meetings will begin at 6 p.m. and are open to the public.

Those meetings will be followed by a special May 18 City Council meeting. A final vote is set for May 25.

After the map is approved, city staff will meet with property owners to see if the zone changes included in the map are likely to result in change.

An environmental review will follow before the map is voted on once more in 2022 as part of a final vote to approve the entire comprehensive general plan update, the first of its kind in city history.


Opening Fully On June 15th

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It’s code red for the state’s color-coded map of COVID restrictions.

On the same day Ventura County moved into the orange tier for the first time since the system was created, Gov. 400 Gavin Newsom announced he would retire his Blueprint for a Safer Economy 200 by June 15 provided hospitalization 94 80 rates remain stable and the supply of 30 vaccines from the federal government 0 isn’t interrupted.

As of April 4, California (pop. 40 million) had 3,373 COVID-positive patients, the lowest number reported stabilize. We have the lowest case rates in by the state in the past year; it reached a the United States of America,” Newsom single-day high of 22,853 on Jan. 6. said Tuesday.

“We’re seeing death rates, mortality “We can confidently say by June 15 rates, go down. We’re seeing case rates that we can start to open up at business as usual.”

Going “beyond the blueprint,” the governor said, means an end to capacity restrictions on schools, businesses, live events, sports and gatherings. It does not, however, mean an end to the state’s mask mandate.

“We will need to remain vigilant and continue the practices that got us here,” Newsom said.

As of this week, 29 states, including California, still have a rule in place requiring masks to be worn in public places. States that have lifted the requirement have not seen a resurgence of cases, according to reports.

On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new COVID-19 prevention guidance calling for a greater emphasis on air circulation and less on disinfecting surfaces, given that studies indicate a 1-in-10,000 chance of a person contracting COVID-19 from a contaminated surface, the CDC said.

The CDC continues to advise the use of masks by people 2 and older in public settings.

All-time lows

Ventura County recorded 10 new positive COVID-19 cases Monday, with hospitals reporting 23 individuals with COVID in their care (down from nearly 450 in January).

No deaths were reported in the previous three days.

At a news conference Tuesday, Public Health Officer Dr. Robert Levin said less than 1% of people testing for COVID in Ventura County are testing positive.

And while he is thrilled businesses are moving toward a return to normal and family gatherings may soon resume, he said commonsense precautions are still necessary.

“I’m fearful we’ll mistake liberalization to a total return to normal, and we’re not there yet,” Levin said. “If we go beyond the limitations we still have, we’ll endanger these same businesses and these same freedoms we are now able to enjoy.”

Levin reminded the public that herd immunity—the point at which a sufficient number of people have antibodies to stave off further spread—isn’t reached until between 75% and 80% of the population is vaccinated.

As of Tuesday, 43.8% of those eligible to receive the vaccination had received at least one shot; around 27% of persons 16 and over were fully vaccinated. Starting April 15, every Californian over the age of 16 will be allowed to sign up and receive a dose.

“When a COVID virus passes from one person to another, it has the opportunity to mutate, to change to a more worrisome form,” Levin said. “We must not allow that to happen.”

Thousand Oaks Acorn editor Kyle Jorrey contributed to this article.



Slow Growth is in Our DNA

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For a month, Thousand Oaks city staffers have been calling the latest land-use-map recommendation for the city’s new general plan the “preferred map.” On Tuesday night, they learned that might have been a misnomer.

Of the roughly 90 speakers at a special May 18 City Council meeting—the first live meeting after more than a year of remote meetings—about half were opposed to the map, which had been tweaked slightly between being shown to the planning commission and the council.

Another 300 written comments were submitted with a large number objecting to some or all aspects of the map. The written comments contained some duplicates and some crossover with speakers.

The final map, which designates what uses (such as commercial, residential, open space, etc.) can be put on each parcel of land in the city, must be approved by the City Council for inclusion in the new Thousand Oaks general plan, which the city is in the process of updating. General plans, which the state says cities must have, are long-term guides to development.


Tuesday night’s speakers—who were mostly but not all Thousand Oaks residents—voiced opposition to building heights, new land-use designations never before used in the city, the number of residential units provided for in the map, wording of public surveys regarding proposed land-use maps, the validity of the surveys (which leaned heavily pro-development), what they called a lack of outreach by the city and the speed with which the city is going through the general plan update process, especially during a pandemic.

“In Thousand Oaks, slow growth is in our DNA. This rush to massively overdevelop all of our city by rezoning is not who we are,” Newbury Park resident Scott Horn said. “We fought the land wars in the ’90s, we expressed our affinity for open spaces with the SOAR initiative, and Measure E confirmed the slow-growth mandate for Thousand Oaks, so now, how in the freak did we get here?”

City Council members also raised concerns.

“(The survey) was not randomized. There is no confidence level here that it’s representing the opinions of the people,” said Councilmember Kevin McNamee after a presentation by general plan consultant Matt Raimi of Berkeley based Raimi and Associates.

McNamee went on to note that the response rate of the survey was well under 50% of the population or even voting-eligible people, there was no control for blocking out-of-city respondents and the handpicked 24-member general plan advisory group was too small to represent the entire population.

McNamee incorrectly said the GPAC has 50 members.

“So the survey, to me, is bogus. The GPAC is bogus. The focus groups are bogus,” he said. “You can’t make conclusions on less than 50%, non-randomized people who are only 1% of the population. It does not work.”

About 10 speakers said they support the plan as is. Many speakers said they liked some aspects but not others.

Of all the parcels in any area of the map, one was singled out more than any other—an undeveloped 37-acre property near the 101 Freeway and Borchard Road. Around 40 speakers mentioned that land specifically.

At previous meetings leading up to Tuesday, there had been much discussion about whether the privately owned land should keep its current designation for single-family homes or whether it should be given a new mixed-use (residential and commercial) designation. The discussion continued. Of those addressing the plot specifically, about 25 spoke in favor of mixed-use and about 15 spoke against it.

Of written comments to the council, those asking to retain the current zoning outnumbered those supporting the change.

Several young adult residents spoke in favor of allowing for the possibility of building lower-cost housing and experience-based development.

“The youth of this community needs housing as well as entertainment places to gather locally,” said Justin Jalil, who identified himself as a student. “Activation of the Borchard property would create jobs, housing, parks and open spaces, much-need revenue for our communities and help young families stay local.”

Kim Taylor of Newbury Park spoke against the change.

“It’s easy for those who don’t live here or live directly in the Borchard area to say, ‘Sure, a beer garden sounds great’ . . . but what we’ve not heard is about the impact of traffic or what about the impact of water or resources,” Taylor said. “If this were a property that had easy access then I would be a different vote.”

The goal of the meeting was to introduce council members to the staff-recommended map and receive feedback so further adjustments could be made.

Council members are expected to vote at their May 25 meeting to adopt a new map.

Opinions from the dais were mixed, but there was praise for the process and work by the staff and consultant over the past 18 months.

Councilmember Ed Jones said he was concerned with both the building heights allowed for in the map and with the density new designations would allow.

“We could be looking at easily over 200,000 people in this valley, and I don’t think that’s a good idea,” he said.

Jones said he supported the idea of village centers—allowing some existing shopping centers to add housing. Councilmember Al Adam and Mayor Claudia Bill-de la Peña also expressed approval for that concept.

Adam applauded a mixed-use designation for The Oaks and Janss Marketplace as well as at the Borchard/101 Freeway lot.

“It gives them the opportunity to really reinvent themselves, repurpose themselves, bring in some housing, maybe a hotel—whatever it happens to be,” said Adam, who also described the Borchard site as a “big opportunity.”

While Councilmember Bob Engler didn’t address the Borchard site specifically, he said he supported the idea of adding mixed use to the areas of change to allow for flexibility in the future.

He said he, too, had reservations about the amount of residential density in the areas of change and the new height allowances, but warned if the city doesn’t leave room for enough housing capacity, there’s a threat the state could step in.

“The general plan gives us a defense against future actions by the state,” Engler said. “In other words, we’ll have a position locked in by the general plan.”

Bill-de la Peña said she’d like to remove a “commercial regional” designation, which allows for buildings up to 75 feet tall, from the map altogether and, like Jones, would like to keep the land-use categories contained in the current general plan from 1970, for the most part.

Next week’s council meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall. Speakers and viewers will have the option of joining the meeting online as well as in person, though capacity is limited due to the pandemic.

Speakers take aim at draft land-use map


General Plan Update

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The Thousand Oaks City Council has approved a land-use map for inclusion in the city’s new general plan.

Though council members discussed more than 40 specific sites and designation changes, a single property—a 37-acre undeveloped lot at Borchard Road near the 101 Freeway—caused consternation for the council at the end of its six-hour meeting Tuesday.

For those following the months-long land-use map proceedings, it comes as no surprise that the property’s designation would be highly contested. It has been the subject most addressed by speakers at public meetings.

Making change

Thousand Oaks is in the process of comprehensively updating its general plan, approved in 1970, for the first time in city history.

At the May 25 meeting, council members were presented with a map developed by staff members and outside consulting firm Raimi and Associates based on input gathered from multiple sources over the last year.

The evolving map had changed slightly even since a special meeting last week when staff first introduced it to the council.

Council members began their map evaluation in Westlake and worked westward.

Changes began immediately, including downgrading some commercial designations on the north side of Thousand Oaks Boulevard between Duesenberg Drive and Westlake Boulevard as well as for some office buildings east of Westlake Boulevard. These changed from a commercial town designation (with a maximum height of 50 feet) to commercial neighborhood (35 feet).

“My challenge is going from 35 to 55 when you have homes that are behind there,” Councilmember Kevin McNamee said. “You’d be blocking their views that we cherish so much here.”

A parcel referred to as the “Edison property” across the street from the former Kmart will keep its commercial designation instead of being changed to mixed use.

The east side is one of the few places in T.O. with the tallest designations.

Except for a pocket of mixed use, the land sandwiched between T.O. Boulevard and the 101 Freeway from the back of the Promenade at Westlake to the city boundary in the east will be industrial flex, with a height limit of 75 feet. It’s one of the few places tall buildings won’t obstruct people’s views from their homes, the council concluded.

“There’s no real residential right around in that area,” Councilmember Ed Jones said. “The residential that’s closest to that is way up on a hill, so I think for an industrial use, that would not harm the viewshed.”

The parcel containing the five-story Hyatt Regency hotel will hold the commercial regional designation, which also allows for buildings up to 75 feet.

The other main area for structures of that height is across town in the Rancho Conejo area north of the 101 Freeway. A large portion of the area, including and surrounding the Amgen campus, is designated industrial flex as well.

The Target/Home Depot and Lowe’s shopping centers will be commercial regional, as will shopping centers on both sides of Ventu Park Road just north of the 101. The council’s long-term vision is for a Four Seasons-type hotel to move into one of the properties.

The only changes to the proposed map for the middle parts of town, including the “downtown” area and Moorpark Road/T.O. Boulevard, were to lower density of all parcels labeled mixed-use medium. They will now be mixed-use low, with a density of up to 30 dwelling units per acre and maximum height of 50 feet (as opposed to mixed-use medium’s maximum of 45 units per acre and 58 feet).

Of the mixed-use medium designation, one of several in the new map that does not exist in the current general plan, Mayor Claudia Bill-de la Peña said: “It gives me heartburn.” At her suggestion, the council ultimately agreed to remove mixed-use medium entirely from the map outside of one location, The Lakes, where billionaire Rick Caruso is planning to build luxury apartments.

In a discussion of so-called village centers, which Councilmember Al Adam described as mini-downtowns where neighborhood shopping centers would be designated as mixed-use so they could add housing components, the council approved two areas.

One is at the shopping centers on the north and south sides of Janss Road at Moorpark Road and the other at Erbes Road and Avenida de Los Arboles.

Council members were interested in designating more, but they went with the staff’s  recommendation due to concerns that the city has no legal way to prohibit landowners from developing only residential on a mixed-use site, which would take a shopping center away from a neighborhood.

Borchard parcel

The last area considered was the Rancho Conejo area south of the freeway. The council waited till the end to address the most controversial plot of all.

McNamee began the discussion saying he wanted to clear up some untruths that have been circulated regarding the property, which the proposed map designated as mixed-use low.

“I’ve walked this property twice. It is a piece of dirt,” said McNamee, who teaches water science classes for the local community college district. “It does not have the criteria for a wetlands.”

He went on to lambaste County Supervisor Linda Parks, who, he said, has helped spread the false identification and injected herself into a city matter.

That was not what was at issue, Bill-de la Peña said. Instead, she spoke of her concern that the county’s watershed protection district has an easement on the property and it would be difficult—if not impossible—to develop.

“We are told we need to identify parcels that realistically can be developed . . . and I’m not sure this one can at a high density,” she said.

Other council members said they should allow for flexibility there.

“This site might never be built on because of the issues with the property,” Councilmember Bob Engler said. “That said, I think it holds incredible potential.”

Bill-de la Peña agreed but said she preferred to wait to make any changes once the property owner came forward with a proposal for the site.

The discussion became heated when McNamee would not withdraw a motion that included keeping the proposed mixed-use low designation.

Bill-de la Peña had asked him to remove that parcel from the motion to approve the rest of that section of the map; McNamee declined.

Bill-de la Peña went on to call out McNamee, who is in his first year on the council, for being “uncooperative.”

“Mr. McNamee, we’ve had a tradition for council courtesy to allow different votes and separation,” she said. “It’s up to you to want to do that, to not be cooperative, that’s your prerogative, but in the past we’ve allowed other council members because of professional courtesy to do that.”

Ultimately, the vote was split 3-2, with Bill-de la Peña and Jones dissenting.

Shawn Moradian, whose family owns the property, stayed until the bitter end—finding it not so bitter.

“I am grateful and humbled by the opportunity and that the council saw value in activating that parcel. What we got last night was the opportunity to start the process,” he said.

City staff will now begin analyzing the map with an environmental review that will look at traffic and the effects on schools and parks. The entire general plan will come back before the council for approval around the end of the year.




County Changes Post 6/15

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COVID-19 infection rates across California have dropped to record lows, and Barry Zimmerman, director of the Ventura County Health Care Agency, said residents will see their lives “go back to some normality” by next week.

Zimmerman addressed the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday about what will happen June 15 when California is set to end its tiered system and the sweeping restrictions residents have followed for over a year to combat the virus.

At most businesses and other venues, social distancing won’t be required and neither will masks, according to the state health department. Capacity limitations will also be lifted, and restaurants and bars will not have any restrictions, including those with buffets.

Vaccine verification or a negative test will be required for indoor events with more than 5,000 people and outdoor events with over 10,000 people.

The loosening of restrictions brings the state into accordance with the health guidelines announced last month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

State health officials still recommend masks for high-risk populations and for those who have not been vaccinated.

For weeks, Gov. Gavin Newsom has touted June 15 as the end of the state’s color-coded and tiered restriction system and a return to “business as usual.”

However, Newsom said June 4 that while lifting restrictions means a more normal way of life for residents, he isn’t ending the state of emergency he declared more than a year ago, allowing him to retain the executive powers required for declarations and state orders.

“We’re still in a state of emergency,” Newsom said earlier this week. “This disease has not been extinguished. It’s not vanished. It’s not taking the summer months off.”

That announcement from the governor, who faces a recall later this year, doesn’t sit well with Republican leaders in Sacramento.

“If Newsom believes the state is safe enough to reopen, then it’s safe for people to be able to make decisions for themselves without his arbitrary and capricious rules,” said Senate Republican Leader Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita). “I believe it is time for him to hang up his crown and restore our democracy.

In California, we don’t grow bananas, so there’s no need for a banana republic.”

How the state of the emergency order will affect Californians after restrictions are relaxed next week is still unknown.

Health officials will continue to monitor vaccination and infection rates until Oct. 1, although the County of Ventura said it will post COVID figures less frequently going forward.

Rules for the workplace

In a controversial move, the Occupational Safety and Health Standards board, whose members are governor-appointed, voted June 4 in support of a policy that would still require vaccinated people to wear masks in nearly all workplace settings unless everyone in their immediate area was also vaccinated.

The move, which came more than a month after the CDC released guidelines saying vaccinated people no longer needed to wear masks indoors, prompted State Health Officer Dr. Tomás Aragón to send a letter to the panel reiterating that the state plans to cease nearly all masking and social distancing requirements for vaccinated people starting June 15.

An emergency OSHA meeting was called Wednesday in response to the outcry but the results of that meeting were not available at Acorn press time.

In the county

Ventura County entered the yellow tier, the least restrictive, last week, making it one of 19 counties in the state to do so.

According to leaders during a presentation at the June 8 Board of Supervisors meeting, the county has administered over 858,000 vaccines as of this week, with 70% of residents over 18 now having received a first dose; 60% are fully vaccinated.

That’s better than the state, with about 66% of Californians who’ve receive the first dose and 54% who’ve gotten both shots.

“(Vaccinations) are the most prudent way to protect the community,” Zimmerman said.

There has been an increased demand in vaccination in the county for teens 12 to 16, as roughly 66% have gotten one dose and 56% are fully vaccinated.

Given that demand for the vaccine has waned considerably since its peak in April, when 256,000 vaccines were administered, it’s unlikely health officials will reach the vaccination rate of 88% that Public Health Officer Dr. Robert Levin hopes for in the county. There have been 19,000 vaccinations so far this month.

In an effort to reach communities, the county has turned from large-scale vaccination locations to smaller, more mobile pop-up sites countywide at schools, community centers, businesses and churches.

Officials said they’ve had 360 pop-up testing and vaccination sites opened at farms and other businesses.

As of this week, the county said, it has also administered more than 1,300 vaccines for homebound residents.

The vaccine is widely available in pharmacies, and all vaccination sites accept walk-up appointments. Testing is also available, though those seeking tests have dropped dramatically this spring.

In an attempt to get more people vaccinated, the county has focused on Latino populations in cities like Santa Paula and Oxnard by partnering with local groups that are considered “trusted messengers” to share facts about the vaccine with those who might be hesitant to receive it.

The mobile sites, said community liaison Rosa Gonzalez, who also serves as the county’s clerk of the board, has led to immunizations for nearly 26,500 farmworkers.

Levin said there will be those who won’t get vaccinated.

“Some of the hesitance is going to be impossible to overcome across the board because there’s people who’ve never had a vaccination and don’t want a vaccination,” he said.

Supervisor Carmen Ramirez, whose District 5 covers Oxnard, said she was glad to hear of the outreach efforts but she is concerned that the lifting of restrictions next week could lead to a rise in cases.

“I want to make sure we don’t blow it . . . like other countries are doing,” Ramirez said. “I don’t want people to stop taking precautions. It’s still out there, and we have the variants.”




New Face To Lead TOPD

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Thousand Oaks has a new chief of police—and he’s got an exceptional stake in keeping the city safe.

Cmdr. Jeremy Paris not only lives in T.O. with his wife and six children, he spent his teenage years in the city as well.

Even so, most of his 23 years with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office have been spent on the other side of the Conejo Grade.

“I’ve never worked at the Thousand Oaks station . . . so I’m really excited to be here,” Paris said in an interview with the Acorn at his new office on Olsen Road. “It was actually my first preference to be here 21 years ago.”

Instead, he was assigned to the city of Camarillo, where he returned after spending time in other assignments and where he most recently served as the No. 2 in command. He’s held the rank of commander for just two months.

While at the Camarillo station, Paris was closely involved in the city’s efforts to better manage its homeless population.

He called it a challenge to balance the rights of the unhoused and housed.

“We want to have a relationship with the homeless that when they’re ready, there’s a trust built and they know they can come to us for acceptance of services,” Paris said. “At the same time, we want to make sure that people are held accountable for the things that they shouldn’t be doing.

“Just because you’re homeless doesn’t mean you get to beat people up. It doesn’t mean you get to walk around drunk and disturb people, so we have to enforce on that end too, like we would with any other person.”

Paris said he’s excited that the city this week is beginning a search for an organization that will partner with it to provide emergency shelter and permanent housing for the homeless population—a measure approved by the council at its June 22 meeting (Paris was in attendance and spoke during the presentation). He said having a shelter in place would provide more options to the police as they work with homeless people to get them off the streets.

As he begins his stint in T.O., one of the things Paris said he is most excited about is welcoming back participants of the Volunteers in Policing program, which has been on hiatus during the pandemic.

“To get them back in here doing what they do is really going to be a benefit for everybody,” he said. “The contacts they make out in the community are phenomenal, the help with the workload on the deputies’ side is phenomenal. It gives the deputies time to work on other issues.”

Fryhoff assigned to jails

Paris replaces Cmdr. Jim Fryhoff at the East Valley Sheriff’s Station just a year and a half after Fryhoff was named chief.

While Fryhoff’s time as the lead law enforcement officer in T.O. was short—Tim Hagel, the prior chief, held the post for nearly six years—it wasn’t far out of the ordinary, Assistant Sheriff Eric Dowd told the Acorn when asked about the brevity of Fryhoff’s time as TOPD chief.

Most station commanders serve between two and five years, Dowd said.

Fryhoff, who has a long history at the Thousand Oaks station, has been moved to a position overseeing the county’s jail system.

The department declined to state whether injuries the commander suffered in a recreational mountain-biking accident during his time as T.O. chief had any bearing on the reassignment. Fryhoff was homebound for several months last summer after severely breaking his collarbone in a bad spill, he told the Acorn at time.

Asked about the motivation behind the change, Dowd replied: “The sheriff (Bill Ayub) makes decisions on management based upon what he thinks is most efficient for the agency and the community. There could be any number of reasons for somebody leaving.”

And while the sheriff makes the ultimate decision, he did reach out to the city, one of its five contract cities, for input, City Manager Drew Powers said.

“Jeremy is a strong leader with deep experience in the sheriff’s department,” Powers said. “He was one of three commanders selected by the sheriff for us to interview and has all the requisite skills for the job.”

The city manager said he is particularly impressed by Paris’ communication, outreach and follow-up/responsiveness skills.

Family ties

The new chief said he found out about the reassignment only days before it was to go into effect.

Paris, 48, moved to Thousand Oaks in 1986 and attended Los Cerritos Middle School and Thousand Oaks High School before moving out of state to attend Brigham Young University. His wife, Dana, and he have six children. The city’s main library bears the name of Paris’ father-in-law, Grant Brimhall, who served as city manager from 1978 to 1998.

After Paris’ appointment was made public, questions about some of his other family relationships were raised by members of the community.

Tim Cooley, Paris’ brother-in-law, has recently made a name for himself by speaking out at Conejo Valley Unified School District board meetings in opposition to a new sex education curriculum. He recently called the teenage daughter of trustee Jenny Fitzgerald a “train wreck.”

This week, Cooley offered up a prayer during public comment expressing gratitude for the COVID-19 pandemic “that has been sprayed over us and our children for the past year for it has helped them to not be exposed to radical indoctrination, voyeuristic locker rooms and bathrooms, age-inappropriate and medically inaccurate teachings on sex, gender and race, and indecent pornographic dress codes.”

Cooley said that CVUSD is a “good body” that has been “infested by a few cancerous tumors,” referring to the trustees.

With the board meetings having become rowdy, some Conejo residents have questioned whether Paris will enforce the law fairly if an issue were to arise involving his brother-in-law’s California Parent Alliance.

When asked, Paris addressed the family issue first.

“I see Tim, but I have no idea what Tim is doing with the school board,” he said. “When I read he was in charge of some coalition of parents, I didn’t even know. It’s not something I discuss with him.”

His commitment, Paris said, is ensuring people have the right to speak, even when he doesn’t necessarily agree with what’s being said.

“And that’s what I’ll be doing is making sure everybody has their rights protected,” Paris said. “That’s my job. That’s my role and I stay out of the rest.”



 Landowner to "Suffer More"

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Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks has made a 25-year political career out of battling developers and land prospectors in the name of preservation.

Now one high-profile Thousand Oaks landowner is arguing that the staunch environmentalist and her colleagues at the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, where she’s served on the 12-member board on behalf of the county for over 20 years, have gone too far in trying to oppose private development outside their jurisdiction.

Shawn Moradian, whose family owns the hotly debated “Borchard parcel” next to the 101 Freeway, told the Acorn this week he may sue the supervisor and the conservancy itself for what he describes as a blatant attempt by Parks and longtime conservancy Deputy Director Paul Edelman to use their positions of power to try to devalue his property so they can obtain it at a lower price.

Edelman told the Acorn in May that the 37-acre property is on the conservancy’s so-called work program, a legislatively required “wish list” of acquisitions. He said no official offer had ever been made because Moradian had made it clear in negotiations he would not sell to the conservancy out of “pure stubbornness to not concede.”

In a private May 4 email exchange between Parks and Edelman obtained by Moradian via a California Public Records Act request, Edelman suggests Moradian “needs to suffer more” to get to a point where he would offer the land at the end of Alice Drive for “fair market value.”

Edelman’s response was to a lengthy question from Parks asking “What makes a wetland a wetland?” that mentions Moradian and the possibility of the conservancy acquiring the land so it can be “a wetland, perhaps with a boardwalk so the herons/egrets and other waterfowl that are often seen there aren’t disturbed, and we could restore the habitat instead of having it disked away annually.”

“Moradian seems to be knocking down the barriers in his way,” Edelman writes to the supervisor. “That momentum may change abruptly with the Fed agencies with Trump gone.”

Edelman tells Parks he will inquire with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Army Corps of Engineers on whether the land qualifies as a wetland, then states: “Since Moradian has shifted the tide, he is still an unlikely willing seller at fair market value. He needs to suffer more to get to that point.”

The Acorn attempted to contact Edelman seeking an explanation for his “suffer more” comment but did not receive a response. Edelman told the paper in May he had always hoped there would be a compromise regarding the parcel where the “non-flowage part provided housing and the rest was dedicated to public agency or at least put in a conservation easement.”

In concluding his May 4 email to the supervisor, Edelman asserts his hope that Moradian’s efforts to develop the vacant land within city limits is blocked by the County of Ventura, which holds a flood easement over the entire property.

The Board of Supervisors serves as the de facto board of the Ventura County Watershed Protection District, which has the power to determine the parcel’s fate.

“I just hope at all levels the county holds firm,” Edelman writes, before referring to the Southern California Association of Governments and the state’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment, which requires that cities show they have the capacity to build a certain number of homes.

The desire to allow more homes was one of the council’s stated reasons for supporting the zone change at Borchard.

“Fine if T.O. can benefit from having ghost SCAG units there as long as they are never built,” Edelman writes. “What body and what action were you thinking for an SMMC comment letter?”

Parks’ response: “Would it be appropriate to comment on the property as proposed for development in the city’s General Plan update that’s coming to the council for decision May 18 and 25?”

Asked about Edelman’s choice of words in the email, Parks told the Acorn his comments were “completely inappropriate” and she referred them to Conservancy Executive Director Joseph Edmiston for review.

Beyond that, Parks said she could not comment because “it is a personnel matter.”

The letter

Thirteen days later, May 17, Edelman emails Parks: “LP does letter go to City Council? Planning? Venco flood—please help me steer.” To which she replies:

“City Council, they’re voting on the GPU Tuesday (May 18) and next Tuesday (May 25) that recommends increasing its density.”

Edelman wrote a letter to the City Council on SMMC letterhead stating the agency opposed any “up zoning” of the parcel, which he described as “protected open space.”

The Borchard parcel has been zoned single-family residential since the Moradians bought it in 1978, although the property cannot be developed without county permission due to the easement.

“Solving housing needs on already protected open space that happens to function as a wetland would be a horrible mistake by the city,” the letter says.

Ahead of the meeting, city staff recommended that Moradian’s land be rezoned from single-family residential (allowing a maximum of 170 units) to mixed-use low, which allows up to 1,000 units and structures up to 50 feet tall.

The council, which did not bring up Edelman’s letter, voted 3-2 in favor of the mixed-use low designation, with Councilmember Ed Jones and longtime Parks ally Councilmember Claudia Bill-de la Peña voting no.

Moradian, whose family has been at odds with Parks over the land for two decades, says no mention of the letter was included in a conservancy meeting agenda leading up to May 18, suggesting Parks and Edelman acted independently of the board and without its consent.

At the June 21 conservancy meeting, Moradian addressed the board during public comment, demanding to know who authorized the letter sent to the City Council attacking his property.

Edmiston responded forcefully.

“That is me. I authorized it pursuant to the public resources code as the department head,” Edmiston said to Moradian over Zoom. “And if you want to sue me, here I am.”

Edmiston then recalled a meeting involving Moradian, Parks and himself “within the last 10 years” to discuss the possibility of SMMC acquiring the land, which is still defined by USFWS as a wetland.

“I want to be very blunt with you,” Edmiston said. “The offer that you or your family put on the table was so egregiously beyond fair market value that I had to tell you that, as a fiduciary to the state of California, I could not entertain the amount of money that you were demanding. And now I am shocked that you would come back and attack a staff member of the conservancy for doing what we’re supposed to do, which is interface with the governmental affairs folks of Thousand Oaks and everybody else, about something that has a vital effect . . . upon a wetland in the Santa Monica Mountains.”


Regarding Moradian’s suggestion that she acted improperly regarding the letter, Parks said in an email that “comment letters happen all the time, it’s common procedure. I didn’t write or give input to the letter.”

“I am on the Conservancy, and they regularly write to agencies in favor of protecting properties on the SMMC acquisition list when those properties are threatened with development,” she added via text. “That’s why I asked IF the SMMC staff thought it was appropriate.”

Emails obtained by Moradian show that Edelman forwarded his letter to Parks before sending it to the city. Parks was adamant that the content of the letter was completely Edelman’s doing.

“I did not ‘direct him’ to send it to the city,” Parks told the Acorn. “And I did not direct the letter. And I did not comment on the letter because I do not micromanage my staff, that is not my role.”

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Moradian called on the council to pass a resolution condemning Parks and the conservancy for what he described as their attempt to undermine the general plan process and hurt a local family. The Moradians are among the city’s most prolific private landowners, especially along T.O. Boulevard.

“You have the deputy director of a state agency saying to a county supervisor that a private citizen needs to suffer more in order to buy their property at below fair-market value,” Moradian said during public comment July 6.

“You have a county supervisor making a backroom deal with a state agency to inflict suffering on one of your citizens to steal their family land,” he added.

When Moradian went beyond his allotted three minutes, Bill-de la Peña, the city’s current mayor, started to interlude.

“Mr. Moradian your time is up,” Bill-de la Peña said.

“I need to finish this, with all due respect,” Moradian pleaded, prompting the mayor to ask her colleagues if anyone “would like to ask a question so this can drag on further.”

Both council members Kevin McNamee and Al Adam spoke up and said they would. Moradian was a prominent backer of Adam’s recent reelection campaign.

“I’d like to hear the end of it,” Adam said.

In an interview with the Acorn, Moradian was asked if the timing of his threats of a lawsuit and public campaign against Parks has anything to do with the current attempt underway to gather enough signatures to force a recall. He said absolutely not.

He also said he had not made any financial donations to the recall effort nor was he planning to.

“Would I be happy to see (Parks) recalled? Of course. But that’s not what this is about. This is about corruption. It’s about an abuse of power. The same rules that apply for the average citizen, the person with one parcel of land, apply to me and my family,” he said.

Asked for comment on Moradian’s request, Adam said he would like to know who authorized the letter.

“The letter said we shouldn’t up zone by one single unit, which seemed a little peculiar because they’re a state agency and I don’t have to tell you how the state feels about housing,” Adam said. “The State of California is pressuring us to do the exact opposite. It left me kind of perplexed.”

Reporter Becca Whitnall contributed to this article.

This story was updated at 4 p.m. July 15, 2021, to correct an error in chronology. The original story said Edelman’s May 4 “suffer more” email was in response to an email from Parks asking about sending a letter to the City Council; it was actually in response to a different email sent earlier. The initial story also said Parks never responded to the Edelman email when in fact she did.



City To Aquire Private School

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The City of Thousand Oaks is in negotiations with Hillcrest Christian School to buy its former campus at Erbes Road and E. Hillcrest Drive, the Acorn has learned.

Though neither side is acknowledging the talks publicly, a source at the school who spoke on the condition of anonymity said she’d been told the 40-year-old campus at 384 Erbes Road was being sold to the city so it could be used for affordable housing. No purchase has been finalized as of yet.

Any such purchase would need to be put on the City Council agenda, advertised as a public notice and voted on by council members.

The 4-acre sloping parcel across the street from Ascension Lutheran Church went on the market last year after Hillcrest bought a larger campus across town—the former Pinecrest School site on Wilbur Road—by selling over $25 million in tax-exempt bonds. Since then, both the city and the Conejo Recreation and Park District, which owns a park next door to the site (Estella), have held closed-door meetings to discuss the property, according to closed-session agendas.

The site is zoned for a school or religious purpose, but as part of the land-use map update conducted earlier this year, the Thousand Oaks council recommended that the property be rezoned medium-high residential, allowing for up to 30 units per acre—or 120 units on the property.

The city identified $16 million in its 2021-22 budget for affordable housing and homelessness projects.

Assistant City Manager Ingrid Hardy said the city has no intention of using the Hillcrest site as a homeless shelter or as permanent supportive housing.

“We do not have a site (for homeless housing) at the moment, and we are not contemplating the Hillcrest Christian site as a location,” she said.

—Kyle Jorrey, Becca Whitnall



Caruso's Lake Proposal

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Rick Caruso is aiming high at The Lakes. Extremely high.

The billionaire developer who gave rise to the Westlake Promenade and Calabasas Commons submitted plans to the City of Thousand Oaks on Wednesday to build a seven-story apartment complex behind his struggling shopping center that sits atop publicly owned land.

At 75 feet, the proposed structure would be the tallest residential development in Thousand Oaks and the only one over four stories tall.

Chris Robertson, Caruso’s vice president in charge of planning, government and community relations, told the Acorn the 165 apartments would be situated in the back of the property next to the 101 Freeway to make the building less visible from Thousand Oaks Boulevard and surrounding surface streets.

“The Lakes is 7.5 acres, which allows us to set the building back from Thousand Oaks Boulevard by approximately 400 feet, protecting this critical viewshed,” Robertson said in an email. “The 101 soundwall—which was not in existence when the commercial building was constructed—will largely screen the new residential building” from drivers on the freeway.

Renderings included in the firm’s July 21 application show a single U-shaped building rising above the freeway soundwall and facing the backside of The Lakes. There is one floor at the bottom for parking and six stories above for apartments. There are ample windows and trees, a paved pathway running to the entrance and a pool in the back for residents.

Robertson said the apartments would not be as tall as the neighboring Civic Arts Plaza and would be within the 75-foot height limit of the Civic Arts Plaza Specific Plan, which the council adopted in 1989.

That plan, which was intended to guide development of the former Jungeland property acquired by the city’s redevelopment agency (now home to City Hall, the Civic Arts Plaza and The Lakes), did not permit residential use.

At present, the city’s municipal code caps stand-alone residential buildings at three stories, though a tentative land-use map approved by the council in May includes allowances for mixed-use residential buildings up to 58 feet at The Lakes.

“The community felt that the 75-foot height limit was compatible given these unique features and location of the building,” Robertson said of feedback gathered by the company in recent months.

There is no plan to add any customer parking spaces to replace the spaces that would be lost to the new construction as the parking inside the building would be for residents only. Nevertheless, Robertson said, The Lakes would still meet the minimum parking requirements laid out in the Thousand Oaks Boulevard Specific Plan.

Robertson said this week’s plan submittal follows months of community outreach that began soon after the City Council’s 5-0 vote in February in support of the initial concept.

The council’s decision that night was based on a single-page application that showed the number of proposed units and a 2D building footprint, nothing more.

Since then, Robertson said, the company has been in outreach mode, sending letters to nearly 2,000 residents and businesses within 1,500 feet of The Lakes.

Caruso also invited roughly 30 homeowners associations throughout Thousand Oaks and various nonprofits to participate in a series of virtual meetings outlining the new vision for the center.

“Our community outreach process continues and, in reality, never stops; even after we begin operating a new property, input from the community is always important to us so we can better serve our guests, residents and the community,” Robertson said.

The most common refrain from the public, she said, was a desire to see The Lakes be successful. As of this month, the center remained less than 50% occupied.

“The residents were very clear that they want to see The Lakes be vibrant and full of life, remain an integral part of the community, and there was consensus that the much-needed housing was a natural fit for the neighborhood,” Robertson said.

Development agreement

In June, the city held a closed-door meeting to discuss the property at 2200 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., presumably to begin negotiations over the controversial development agreement that governs the publicly owned land.

Signed in 2004, the deal allows Caruso to lease the property from the city for free in years it does not earn at least $2.1 million, or 12% of the $17.6 million he invested to build it.

Since opening in 2005, The Lakes has never reached that threshold.

In February, city leaders made it clear that renegotiating the deal to achieve better terms for local taxpayers would be at the center of the application process, the message being no new deal, no apartments.

Next steps

Now that Caruso has submitted detailed plans to City Hall, planners will spend the next several months reviewing the documents and providing feedback.

At the same time, the city will hire an outside consultant to conduct an environmental review of the plans as required under the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA. That study will look at a host of impacts, including viewshed and traffic.

Robertson said Caruso would like to start construction as soon as possible but respects the review process.

“The next step is to conduct all the necessary environmental analyses and continue to work with the city and the community to fine-tune the project details,” she told the Acorn.

It’s possible the Thousand Oaks Planning Commission will consider the application before the end of the year, but a hearing is more likely to take place in early 2022.

The commission will make a recommendation to the council, which will be responsible for the final vote.

Caruso’s webpage for the project can be found here.



Green Scene

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Last month, for the first time in over a year, I attended a large public event.

Being in a crowd felt unfamiliar and a little frightening, as thousands of people filled Camarillo’s Constitution Park with their lawn chairs and picnic dinners for an outdoor concert featuring Twisted Gypsy, a talented and energetic Fleetwood Mac tribute band.

The continuous stream of wellknown hits, the lead singer’s vocal and dance imitations of Stevie Nicks, and the rocking keyboards of a Christine McVie character were not the only familiar recycling at the event.

Although most people packed out their own waste rather than trying to wade through the crowd to the park’s containers, the event still collected two 3-cubic-yard 

bins of recyclables and two full bins of the same size for garbage.

Recycling bins, and smaller recycling containers conveniently placed at public events, are not just a basic public service. They are a legal requirement in some cases.

Local ordinances require recycling at public events in most cities, and organizers of events charging more than 2,000 people for admission are required by state law to provide recycling service.

Assembly Bill 2176, passed in 2004, requires organizers of all events expected to draw over 2,000 paid attendees to submit plans to their city or county recycling coordinator for approval before the event and to report waste and recycling results afterward.

The three main refuse and recycling companies serving Ventura County provide large bins for collection at special events as well as the smaller containers for attendees to use to dispose of trash and recyclables. The companies charge around $7 per container, cardboard boxes with lids and labels. The containers are reusable if kept clean with plastic liners.

The City of Oxnard, which provides the city’s trash collection service, offers free recycling containers for large events in the city.

Better than cardboard boxes, Oxnard uses ClearStream containers, which are metal frames with a labeled lid on top and a clear bag suspended underneath so bag contents and fill-levels can be easily monitored.

The City of Ventura’s environmental services division and the City of Thousand Oaks’ public works department also loan Clear- Stream containers to organizers of special events in their areas.

Labeling and lids are the key to public event recycling success. Containers should be labeled on sides and lids. More importantly, lids for boxes collecting bottles and cans should have small circular holes about the size of a bottle or can. Some people do not read English and many people do not bother to read signs in any language, so it is important for recycling containers to look different from garbage cans. A round hole at the top is not only a visual cue; it impedes the disposal of some types of garbage.

Within the next few years, a new state requirement will apply to large events. In addition to recycling cans, bottles and cardboard, event organizers will be required to divert food waste from landfills. Leftover food good enough to be fed to people must be recovered for that purpose, and anything else must be sent to a compost facility.

The most unusual recycling from a local event came from a Civil War reenactment.

Over a three-day period, several hundred people poured gunpowder from finger-sized paper pouches into replica rifles so they could point at an opposing army, make a loud noise and watch smoke curl upward.

The pouches littered battlefields, even after the Union and Confederate dead had risen and gone back to their campsites. After the event, organizers collected the paper and added it to bins filled with cans and bottles, bound for a recycling center.

David Goldstein, environmental resource analyst with the Ventura County Public Works Agency, can be reached at david. or (805) 658-4312.




Bid to Complete Sidewalk

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The city will spend $1.8 million to add sidewalks to a halfmile stretch of Los Feliz Drive near Conejo School Road.

Approved by a 5-0 vote of the City Council on Aug. 31, the construction represents the final step in a decadelong effort to improve pedestrian safety on the narrow street used by students to get to and from Conejo Elementary School.

Work is expected to begin this month and last through June 2022.

Phase one of the project, which covered Skyline Drive to Conejo School Road, was completed in 2016.

The need for sidewalks on Los Feliz was first identified in January 2011 when representatives from the Public Works traffic engineering division, the Thousand Oaks Police Department, Conejo Valley Unified School District and the traffic commission met at Conejo Elementary to observe traffic and pedestrian conditions.

“This missing sidewalk has been requested by the community, and the city is responding,” Deputy Public Works Director Nader Heydari said in his presentation to the council.

While Los Feliz’s eastern end (near Skyline) is comprised mostly of auto body repair shops, its west side is home to several high-density apartment buildings built in the last 15 years. Many of the families who live there send their children to Conejo Elementary, a majority-Hispanic school of around 400 students.

Principal Erica Ultreras told the Acorn the school is already reaping the benefits of nearby street improvements, especially the addition of a turning lane in front of the campus so parents can pull into the parking lot without blocking traffic on Conejo School Road.


The sidewalk across the street from the school has also been renovated with the addition of railings and beautification work, benefiting families who walk to campus. The upcoming work will be completed on Los Feliz along Beyer Park, which borders the southern end of the school.

“We’re very appreciative and look forward to seeing the outcome,” Ultreras said. “We really appreciate working with the city. This process has cemented how important it is to have good communication between the district and the city.”

In addition to adding sidewalks, Oxnard-based Toro Enterprises, which won the contract with a bid of $1.5 million, will be responsible for replacing 2,000 feet of aging, 6-inch water line with a 10-inch water main, “which will provide improved fire protection and domestic water supply for the entire neighborhood,” Heydari said.

“In total, this is a great project for the community, and public works is excited to move it into the construction phase,” he said.

While some on-street parking will be lost to make room for sidewalks, spaces will be added in other locations, Heydari said, resulting in a net gain of nine curbside spaces.

No protected trees will be removed during construction, although 22 will be encroached upon, the engineer said. An arborist will monitor the trees during the process.

Half the cost of the project will be covered by a grant from Caltrans’ Active Transportation Program, created in 2014 by Senate Bill 99 to encourage increased use of active modes of transportation, such as walking and biking.

Information and construction updates are available at




Timber School to be Developed

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The three-man investor group behind plans to redevelop the historic Timber School property in Newbury Park is looking to change its original deal with the City Council.

Two years after the city gave initial approval to an apartment/hotel concept for the corner of Newbury and Kelley roads, representatives for the owners, Daylight Thousand Oaks LLC, were back in front of the council Tuesday asking to divide construction into two phases: the 218 apartments first followed by the 120-room hotel at some point in the future.

Their reasoning: The housing market is hot, the hospitality market, not.

“As you know, the market to build apartments is very strong,” said consultant Tim Gallagher, speaking on behalf of the investor group. “But the market to build hotels is depressed right now due to a drastic decline in business travel. Vacancies are at historic levels.”

Gallagher reminded the council of the proposal’s community benefits: 26 below-market-rate apartments, a hotel to serve the city’s burgeoning biotech sector and the restoration of two historic buildings that have fallen into disrepair—not to mention millions in public improvements, including new sidewalks, landscaping, street lights and drainage.

“These buildings have been in a state of decay for decades, and you finally have a property owner who will restore these buildings to their previous state of beauty and then offer them to the public for free, or for very low rental rates.”

A scheduled hearing in front of the planning commission to review the project was called off earlier this year when the two sides could not come to an agreement over the question of “phasing.”

Community Development Director Kelvin Parker told the council Sept. 14 the problem with allowing housing in phase one and the hotel in phase two is that phase two may never happen.


“(Staff wants to) prevent a scenario in which the residential portion of the site moves forward in phase one and the commercial or hospitality piece sits fallow for an indefinite period of time,” Parker said.

Daylight acquired the 10-acre property in 2015 from the Conejo Valley Unified School District for $8.9 million. For over 100 years before that, the site had been used for public education, starting with the original Timber School in 1889 and ending with Conejo Valley High School.

Former city attorney Mark Sellers, representing the investors, said he intended to see the apartments and three-story hotel built together but the pandemic had other plans.

“I had no crystal ball,” Sellers said. “I didn’t know we were going to face a pandemic. I didn’t know we were going to face a lockdown. I didn’t know there was going to be a ban on travel. I didn’t know vacancy rates in hotels would go down to terrible levels to the point that nobody wants to build them.”

Parker pointed out that by building the project in two phases instead of one, residents on nearby Galway Lane would have to endure additional months of construction noise and traffic.

“What staff is looking to avoid is serial construction whereby that neighborhood and nearby businesses are under duress from three to four years of continuous construction,” Parker said.

Councilmember Bob Engler said he would not support a phased approach unless language could be included in the development agreement that would ensure the corner of land intended for the three-story boutique hotel would be developed in a timely manner. Other council members agreed.

“I don’t want to see a property in the front off of Newbury Road there that stays vacant year after year after,” Engler said, to which Gallagher responded: “That is infinitely better than what you have there today,” a reference to the dilapidated state of the site.

Assistant City Attorney Patrick Hehir assured council members that language could be included in the agreement that would provide incentives to see the hotel completed as soon as possible after the apartments.

Because final approval will likely be predicated by Daylight completing major public infrastructure work in phase one, there’s an opportunity for the city to leverage around $3 million it has available to help pay for the work, possibly including wording that the money not be released until permits for the hotel are issued.

The money, which is in the hands of the state, is left over from the city’s former redevelopment agency and must be used in the Newbury/Kelley road area for public improvements. Any request to spend it would need to be approved by an oversight board made up of local taxing agencies.

“The goal is to make sure that these things happen, if they’re going to be in separate phases to be flexible for the applicant, to ensure they happen as quickly as possible together,” Hehir said.

Ultimately, the council voted 5-0 to direct staff to resume negotiations with Daylight to come up with a development agreement that involves one entitlement and that includes incentives to ensure the apartments and hotels are constructed around the same time.

The project will come to the planning commission at a later date and then back to the City Council for a final vote. To keep apprised of updates or to send questions to the city, go to



Borchard Land Debate Brewing

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While the city’s initial debates over its new land-use map are long over, there’s one Thousand Oaks property still causing consternation for neighbors and the owner alike. Public officials, too, have entered the fray.

Part of the city’s job in overhauling its general plan is assigning potential uses for every parcel within its boundaries. During the recent land-use map process, most properties—whether they were residential, industrial or commercial—kept their designations, but many were changed, including some that moved from simple commercial or residential designations to a new commercial-residential mixed-use category.

The single most contested property: a 37-acre undeveloped plot near Borchard Road and the 101 Freeway.

A number of Newbury Park and Casa Conejo neighbors worry that the land they hoped would sit empty in perpetuity, perhaps one day becoming designated open space, will be developed with tall multifamily residential buildings and traffic-drawing businesses.

Both are on very preliminary concept drawings shared by the owners, the Moradian family of Thousand Oaks.

But before they can bring a development application to the city, the owners have another issue to contend with. There is a flood easement held by the Ventura County Watershed Protection District over the property that says no development there can reduce the amount of stormwater capacity the land provides.

The easement has been attached to the property since before the current owners bought the land in 1978 from the Seventh-day Adventist Church and ensures the land can be used as a retention basin in heavy storms, said Jeff Pratt, director of the county’s public works agency.

“Back in the ’70s there really wasn’t any mechanism for flood control . . . and as a consequence, we managed it with easements, and we managed it to keep people out of harm’s way,” Pratt said.

The only way the Moradians—or anyone—could fully develop the property is to find another way to retain the water or not displace it. All parties seem to be in agreement on that fact.

What is at the center of the debate is how much water the property owner should be required to retain. In a July 19 letter to the Casa Conejo Municipal Advisory Council, Pratt says anyone looking to develop the parcel must provide capacity for at least 250 acre-feet of stormwater, or 81 million gallons.

To put it visually, if there was a wall around the entire property, the water would reach 7 feet high.

“Our current estimate is that the easement provides 250 acre-feet of flood and/or stormwater storage capacity,” Pratt writes. “Any development proposal would need at a minimum to address the loss of any of this storage capacity.”

But Shawn Moradian, whose father bought the property when indications were that the flood danger would be addressed and the easement lifted, said the figure is not based in reality.

“That number should be between 60 to 99 acre-feet,” Moradian said.

The 60 acre-feet figure came from an engineer hired by the county to do work on an off-ramp affecting the property. A second engineer hired by the property owners completed a topographic analysis going beyond the property borders to the edge of the 100-year flood plain map at the 101 Freeway and came up with the 99 acre-feet figure, Moradian said.

“We submitted that to the county, and they came back with a 120 acre-foot figure, but when we asked for justification they couldn’t provide it,” he said. “In 2013, we went to the county and asked for a definitive number because we wanted to be able to go to the market and say, ‘This amount needs to be set aside for mitigation.’”

That’s when the county came back with the 250 acre-feet number, which Pratt told the Acorn was based on the topography as well as other factors like water flow.

The Moradians felt the number was so off base they sued the county in 2014, claiming it was a taking of the land. The judge dismissed the case, Shawn Moradian said.

“The court said you have to wait until you submit and get denied, then you can sue,” he said.

In a 1978 letter to the City of Thousand Oaks provided to the Acorn by Moradian, G.J. Nowak, the flood control and drainage department deputy director at the time, says the county is “actively pursuing a flood control project.”

But two years later, in 1980 amid a nationwide recession, the county wrote to Moradian’s father, Nasser, to say that money from a $25-million bond sale by the flood control district had not gone as far as expected and his parcel would not receive any funds.

“Because of inflation, we will not be able to complete all of the projects originally identified in the bond program,” the letter says. “Additionally, we do not anticipate a wide market for our bonds because of the maximum 6% interest rate.”

At the time, Nowak offered Nasser Moradian the opportunity to buy a portion of the remaining $4.6 million in bonds in return for getting priority when the money was allocated.

“In the decision-making process for expenditure of bond funds, we will give consideration to purchasers when recommending which projects should be financed,” Nowak writes. “Our current thinking is that a purchase of bonds amounting to twice the estimated construction cost would be necessary to merit such consideration.

Nasser Moradian decided to decline the offer.

“Per an environmental impact report that was written before the easement was even issued, the county said, ‘We’re going to fix this problem and you’re going to be phase two,’” Shawn Moradian said. “So when they came to my dad and asked if he wanted to give them money, he said, ‘No, we don’t. It is the county’s problem, and we’ll wait until you gather the money and fix it.’”

A 1991 letter from county public works says the flood control district is not requiring the property owner to address regional flood control problems, only demonstrate that any development there will not make the situation worse.

Shawn Moradian asserts that what Pratt did in 2013 amounts to moving the goalposts.

“People say we knew what we were getting into when we bought the property—and we did,” he said. “But the county is requiring something different now.”

He believes county Supervisor Linda Parks, a longtime opponent of development at the site, played a role in the decision.

“She wants the land for the (Santa Monica Mountains) Conservancy, and she’s reached out to both her arms, the conservancy . . . and the public works arm, to try to take the land,” Moradian said. “She got caught asking Pratt how the county can limit traffic in the neighborhood.”

The May 27 email to which Moradian refers discusses a future presentation to the Casa Conejo municipal advisory board looking at flooding and traffic.

“I would like (the) transportation (department) to review what the county can do both design wise and legally to limit traffic from the project going into their single-family (housing) neighborhood,” Parks writes to Pratt and David Fleisch, assistant public works director.

The property is set to come up for debate again as the city weighs its next eight-year housing element (see story here), which is expected to include the Borchard parcel as a location for housing.



Trash Company to Aquire Land 

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Talk about timing the market.

Conejo Valley Unified’s surplus property on Conejo Center Drive, which nearly sold for less than $3 million five years ago, is going to fetch the public school district more than three times that.

Athens Services, Thousand Oaks’ new waste hauler, has agreed to pay $9.5 million for the long-unused 10.7-acre parcel under an agreement approved Tuesday by the school board.

The two parties are in escrow.

Athens reportedly wants to secure a local site to park its trucks before Jan. 1, when it will start providing trash and recycling services to the city.

At the Oct. 4 meeting, the board agreed to accommodate Athens’ request for an accelerated closing, pushing up the sale date from Dec. 15 to Oct. 15.

In exchange for a shorter closing period, the district agreed to lower the sale price 2%, from $9.7 million to $9.5 million.

As part of the agreement, Athens offered to reimburse the district for attorney’s fees related to the expedited closing.

The board’s agreement with Athens in June came three months after the City Council opted to go with Athens over existing haulers Waste Management and Harrison Industries (Newbury Disposal).

At the time they were selected, Athens representatives told the city they would park their trucks in Sun Valley—a 40-minute drive from Thousand Oaks—but were hoping to secure something closer.

The City of Industry-based hauler apparently found what it was looking for in 2498 Conejo Center Drive, a flat hilltop lot just south of the city’s maintenance yard off Rancho Conejo Boulevard.

Deeded to CVUSD by the City of Thousand Oaks in 2000 as part of a multi-party land swap tied to the development of Dos Vientos, the parcel was originally intended to serve as the new home of the school district’s maintenance and operations division when it moved off Kelley Road.

When those plans never materialized, the district tried for years to sell the property in hopes of using the proceeds to build a learning center next to CVUSD headquarters on Janss Road. In 2011, it had a deal in place to sell the land to a party interested in doing RV storage, but the two sides could not come to an agreement on price.

The district has entered escrow several times but “prior buyers elected to terminate escrow due to the presence of volcanic rock on the property, which had the potential to adversely affect their development plans,” according to a staff report.

Deputy Superintendent Victor Hayek said the expedited closing will give Athens more time to do its due diligence with the City of Thousand Oaks.

Rising value

The property has risen in value over the past five years. In 2016, the district received an offer of $2.7 million for the lot.

Recent years have brought massive development and redevelopment to the Rancho Conejo industrial area, boosting property values. Amazon, Sage Publications and Atara Biotherapeutics are among the well-known firms leasing space there.

Asked about the deal in an email, Rondi Guthrie, Athens’ vice president of government affairs, said the company “always invests in their communities.”

“While we have a solid operational plan for servicing the community, we are logically exploring local alternatives that may allow for more efficient operations,” Guthrie said. “The Conejo Center Drive property is one of several local properties that may be suitable.”



Donda School Open Applications

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Although it’s unclear exactly when Donda Academy is set to open, Kanye West’s tuition-free K-12 private school in the unincorporated area between Moorpark and Simi Valley is making national news with transfer announcements by top basketball prospects who say they want to play for the new institution.

Applications are being accepted on Donda’s website for the 2021-22 school year, and a Ventura County Building and Safety official said the private school’s classrooms are ready to be used.

Safety check

Donda Academy Inc. requested a change of occupancy permit for 1625 Tierra Rejada Road in August, according to county records.

A certificate of occupancy proves that a business location meets all building code requirements and identifies what types of uses are allowed. The site cannot be legally occupied until the county issues the certificate.

“This process is important for public safety,” said Ruben Barrera, director of the Building and Safety division. “It is intended to ensure consistency and safety for the occupants.”

Because the site had previously been used for a school and is zoned for educational purposes, Barrera said, the proposed new use is consistent with its original use, increasing the likelihood of approval.

Stoneridge Preparatory School, which started in 1965 as the Marie Cutler School in Calabasas, closed after running afoul of the California Interscholastic Federation due to repeated problems with rule violations related to its basketball program.

After receiving the application for a change of occupancy permit, the county sent a building official to inspect the campus, Barrera said. Inspectors checked for safety hazards and to make sure that no improvements had been made that would require additional permits.

Barrera said the classrooms at Donda Academy received a temporary certificate of occupancy, which means they are ready to be used.

Temporary certificates usually last three months before the applicant must receive an extension or the final certificate of occupancy.

“The classrooms are deemed safe—it was already a school—but there were a few little maintenance issues that needed to be addressed and permitted,” Barrera said.

He said Donda officials may want to make more significant improvements to the site’s administrative building, which includes a kitchen.

The work may require permits, but as of earlier this week, the county has not received any additional permit applications for the site.

The school is named Donda in honor of West’s late mother, Donda West, who died in 2007. She was a professor in the English department at Chicago State University. “Donda” is also the name of the musician and fashion mogul’s latest album.

Hoops recruits

Jalen Hooks, one of the top basketball prospects in Indiana, retweeted news articles announcing he will transfer to Donda Academy. Earlier this week, the Indianapolis Star reported the Crispus Attucks High School junior, who had offers from several Division I programs, plans to attend the new private school.

On Instagram, Zion Cruz, a four-star player from the Patrick School in New Jersey, reposted announcements that he, too, will be joining the future school’s basketball team.

Jahki Howard, a 2024 forward from Norcross High School in Georgia, also announced via an Oct. 5 Instagram post that he plans to play at Donda.

Robert Dillingham, a five-star guard from Combine Academy in North Carolina, rounds out the list of players reportedly interested in playing for the as-yet-to-be formed Donda Academy basketball team.



Tightening Grip On Housing 

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As the City of Thousand Oaks ratifies and puts into practice its new general plan, its long-term blueprint for development, it will be doing so in a changing landscape of ever more state control.

“The state is mandating development standards, seeking production targets and creating onerous penalties such as fines, disqualifications from grants and even judicial intervention,” Mina Layba, the city’s legislative affairs manager, told the council at its Oct. 12 meeting.

During the state’s most recent legislative session, 244 of the 2,700 bills California legislators introduced were related to land use, zoning or housing.

Layba outlined five bills that will go into effect Jan. 1 and a handful of others that will be eligible for reconsideration in 2022.

The report comes shortly after the city approved the land-use element of the general plan and is working on finalizing the housing element.

As mandated by the state’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment system, the housing element must show where a minimum of 1,663 new housing units divided into various affordability levels could be built in Thousand Oaks.

The city’s total RHNA number is 2,621 units, but it expects to receive 958 credits for anticipated accessory dwelling units, or granny flats, and residential projects already in the pipeline.

Planners have included an extra 200 units in the proposed housing element as a buffer, should the state rule out some of the included sites.

Much of the future housing stock, according to the housing element, is intended to be built on Thousand Oaks Boulevard between The Oaks mall and Westlake Boulevard. Of the nearly 100 parcels city staff has listed as possible housing sites, 44 are along the city’s namesake thoroughfare, accounting for 625 units, nearly all of them apartments or condos.

Shopping centers surrounding the Department of Motor Vehicles office on Avenida de Los Arboles account for 302 units; addresses along North Moorpark Road account for 266, and another 148 are listed on W. Hillcrest Drive.

The Oaks and Janss Marketplace account for 425 units combined.

One hundred units are designated as “neighborhood,” or single-family home sites. Of those, 24 are on Los Feliz Drive. The remaining 76 are suggested for a vacant lot behind Kohl’s in Newbury Park.

City Attorney Tracy Noonan said the city is putting itself in a good position with the state by completing the general plan update.

“What we’re doing with that general plan update and what you all did in May with the endorsed land-use map is you basically are showing to the state and showing to the community that there is room for more housing in the community and that housing can be built in a way that meets our standards, our design standards and local preferences,” Noonan said. “I’m hopeful that’s going to send a good message.”

Still, the city would be subject to the bills that Layba outlined.

Among them: Senate Bill 10, an opt-in measure that allows cities to pass an ordinance to zone any parcel in a transit-rich or job-rich area or an urban in-fill site for up to 10 units per parcel. The bill removes California Environmental Quality Act requirements, removes public input and engagement, and does not have a condition requiring affordable housing, Layba said.

Another bill, SB 9, known as the duplex bill, requires cities to approve without condition, discretion or public input the addition of an accessory dwelling unit on an individual parcel in most single family neighborhoods.

It also would require approval of urban lot “splits,” the splitting of a single-family lot into two. The resulting housing development may contain up to four units.

Assembly Bill 1398 shortens the time allowed to make zoning changes needed to comply with a housing element if one is not adopted by Feb. 11, 2022. Cities that meet the deadline have three years to rezone.

Finally, SB 215 brings a big change in RHNA goals. Currently, while the city is required to show where new housing can go, it is not on the hook for ensuring anything is actually built.

The thinking has been that a municipality can encourage development through zoning and community development policy, but it’s not in the business of building projects and thus can’t ensure development.

The new law requires mid-cycle consultation with the Department of Housing and Community Development and, if a city’s housing production is below the regional average, the city would be subject to “pro-housing” actions, penalties of up to $100,000 a month and involvement by the state attorney general, Layba said.

Bills the city will be watching and opposing as they are reconsidered next year include AB 1401, which would prohibit cities from requiring or enforcing a minimum parking standard on residential, commercial or other types of development, and AB 989, which proposes a state-appointed appeals committee for developers to seek adjudication, even when projects have been lawfully denied by a local jurisdiction.

Council members were less than impressed with the loss of local control.

“All this concern with making housing more dense and relaxing standards—it looks to me like they’re trying to undo a lot of the things we’ve done to make this a lovely community,” Councilmember Ed Jones said.

Despite not being a fan of what he called heavy-handed legislation from the state, Councilmember Al Adam said he understands the motivation behind it.

“I know where this is coming from,” he said. “If you look over the past couple of decades in a lot of cities . . . there’s always been a very strong anti-growth segment that I think has pushed council members into some decisions that I think were basically not pro-housing.”

T.O. has turned a corner, Adam said, listing some recently approved housing projects.

“The rub,” he said, “is going to be how much Sacramento is pushing back.”




Trash Game About To Change

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Starting next year, all Thousand Oaks households and businesses will be required to keep their food waste out of their trash bin.

Under a change approved last week by the City Council that brings T.O. in compliance with new state laws, food waste will go with yard clippings and other green waste in a new bin designated “organic waste.”

The change means leftover food will be composted rather than ending up in the landfill, where it creates methane gas, Councilmember Al Adam said before the 5-0 vote Oct. 26.

“This situation is going to take some getting used to for our residents because a lot of us are very intent on recycling and doing the right thing when it comes to the environment, and now the state wants us to also include our organic waste,” Adam said. “It’s going to mean, in a household, you’re probably going to need an extra container to keep your organic waste in, your banana peels, your potato peels and, I’m assuming . . . meat and poultry and bones.”

Thousand Oaks residents and businesses can expect delivery of an organic waste bin around the first of the year, when the city will transition from Waste Management and E. J. Harrison (Newbury Disposal) to Athens Services as its waste hauler.

The organic waste cans will replace green-waste bins for those who have them and will add a third bin for those who now have two.

In some apartment and condo complexes, communal dumpsters will be used for organic waste just as they’re used for trash, depending on the preference of the building owner or homeowners associations.

Making the change more complex for Thousand Oaks residents is the fact that the city is moving to a new waste hauler at the same time the law is going into effect, meaning there’s also the matter of replacing old bins with new ones.

Helen Cox, the city’s sustainability division manager, said the city and Athens Services have been working with Harrison to come up with a plan for the changeover.

“Existing Waste Management and Newbury Disposal containers will be switched out after the new year,” Cox said.

While Harrison and Athens have reached an agreement on a plan to handle the bins, WM and Athens have not, Cox said.

A draft of an agreement is ready to go, Doug Corcoran, WM’s director of public sector services and communications, told the Acorn last week. Next, he said, he needs to speak with Athens directly.

“Our focus, really, first and foremost is always what’s the experience customers are going to go through,” Corcoran said.

Because of the large number of containers involved—about 130,000—it will take seven or eight weeks for the exchange to be complete, Cox said.

As plans stand, beginning Jan. 1, a contractor will follow Athens’ trucks and collect empty Waste Management and Harrison containers after they are serviced by Athens and replace them with new Athens containers.

The exchange will occur in waves, so some customers on each route will receive replacement containers each week until the transition is complete.

The waste customers will be notified in advance regarding when their containers will be replaced so they’ll know when to leave the old containers out on the street after trash pickup that week, Cox said.

“This plan will accomplish a smooth transition, with residents having only a single set of containers to house on their premises at any one time,” she said.

Metal garbage dumpsters collected by Waste Management will get cleaned up, repainted and redistributed, Corcoran said.

“The metal ones keep going and going,” he said. “Carts, we’ll see. Those that can be cleaned up and look good, new, we can possibly redeploy them.”

Even while transition details are being hashed out, Waste Management continues its ongoing lawsuits and information campaign against Athens and the city for selecting the company as its new waste hauler last year in the city’s first bidding process for waste services provider.

Among WM’s latest attack was a quad-fold glossy mailer sent to residents raising questions about Athens’ ability to submit a bid WM says is lower than long-standing rates from the area despite costly new state regulations and the collapse of the world market for recyclables.

The advertisement comes on the heels of advertisements by Athens, which calls itself a “company you can trust” and by the city.

“If you’re talking trash, make sure you have the facts,” the city’s ad says. “Misinformation stinks.”




Reduce Threat To Wildfire

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The Ventura County Resource Conservation District is offering new opportunities for residents to protect homes and neighborhoods by adapting to increased fire risk resulting from climate change.

The Ventura County Wildfire Collaborative, administered by the district, is expected to launch in January.

With recent funding of $2.7 million by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and $300,000 from other sources, the collaborative will “build local resilience to reduce the threat of wildfires posed by climate change,” said Andrew Spyrka, a resource conservation specialist with the district.

“The collaborative will be a public/private partnership group working to mitigate the 

threat of wildland fires to structures and communities in Ventura County,” Spyrka said.

Working with the resources of the Ventura County Resource Conservation District, Ventura Regional Fire Safe Council, Ojai Valley Fire Safe Council, Bell Canyon Fire Safe Council and Jensen Hughes Inc., the collaborative will focus on improving infrastructure, defensible space and other resources in Ventura County neighborhoods and communities near open space.

Jenson Hughes is an engineering firm that describes itself on its website as “a global leader in safety, security, and risk-based engineering and consulting.”

In a widely circulated perspective first published recently in the Wall Street Journal, Bjorn Lomborg, president of the Copenhagen Consensus think tank based in Denmark, questioned climate change “hysteria” about increasing wildfires, pointing out, “The amount of land burned (annually, worldwide) has declined steadily since 1900, even with rising temperatures.”

However, as noted by Lomborg, the decline is mainly in sparsely populated areas. As Lomborg acknowledges, climate change does cause increased risks in fire-prone areas, such as the wildland-urban interface, which is the area of focus for the district.

To guide the work of the collaborative, over the next two years the district will host town hall meetings in each of the vulnerable cities along Ventura County’s wildland-urban interface, paving the way for wildfire professionals, insurance agents and other experts to engage with residents.

The group will also create evacuation plans in partnership with the Ventura County Fire Protection District as well as the fire departments of three local cities.

Through a program overseen by the collaborative, fire defense and response experts will provide free services to residents, evaluating homes and defensible space, making suggestions for improvements and coordinating the first Southern California Wildfire Summit to help our region better prepare for, react to and recover from wildfires.

Additionally, the district is requesting applications from landowners who would like to have prescribed burns on their land.

The Ventura County Prescribed Burn Association is another district-organized group founded and managed by Spyrka, and it includes land trusts, active and retired firefighters, county fire personnel, County Air Pollution District staff, ranchers and others.

The group recently obtained funding to conduct its first burn in January.

The district is also hosting a Wildfire Prevention Workshop and Speaker Series. This series of 24 free presentations will be held online, enabling community members to engage with wildfire professionals. Registrants for the workshops and speaker presentations will receive electronic brochures and guides to help prepare for wildfires.

Resource conservation districts, originally known as soil conservation districts, are locally led special districts of the state. The district secures funding for local projects with other conservation partners such as the Natural Resource Conservation Service, which was launched at the federal level as part of the Department of Agriculture.

Register for the speaker series or sign up to participate in other wildfire resilience opportunities offerings on the district’s webpage. Links are on the landing page at

Readers may also contact Spyrka with questions or concerns by emailing

You can respond to increased risk of wildfires by joining the Ventura County Resource Conservation District in making your neighborhood safer and more resilient.

David Goldstein is an environmental resource analyst with the Ventura County Public Works Agency. Reach him at (805) 658- 4312 or email



Diving Into The Lakes Deal

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Ahead of Caruso’s Nov. 30 date with the Thousand Oaks City Council, city officials continued to defend the deal they struck with the Los Angeles-based developer to sell the publicly owned land beneath The Lakes shopping center for $2 million plus $13 million in future payments.

While planning commissioners were told the matter was not within their purview during a Nov. 15 hearing pertaining to Caruso’s related request to build apartments at the site, at least one commissioner wanted more information about how the two sides arrived at the sale price for the 7.5-acre parcel, which includes the parking lot in the back but not the pond and park in front.

The deal is contingent on Caruso, which currently leases the property, receiving approval from the council to build apartments at the site.

The City of Thousand Oaks obtained the land in question for around $6.7 million as part of a larger purchase in the early 1990s. Three months ago, the city agreed to pay Hillcrest Christian School $10 million for its 4-acre property less than two miles away.

Jaime Boscarino, the city’s finance chief, said city negotiators were bound by the terms of the original 2004 lease agreement, which included an option for Caruso to buy the property for $2 million or fair market value.

But the fair market value was significantly reduced, Boscarino said, because the city is required to value the parcel as unimproved land and subject to the limitations of the current ground lease, which caps any commercial development at 51,000 square feet.

Although the city has had the property appraised, staff declined to make the figures available before they’re released as part of a staff report that will be issued ahead of the Nov. 30 meeting.

Caruso, which plans on offering the apartments at market rate without any held aside for affordable housing, is also offering the city a “community benefit” fee of $79,365 per unit, or up to $13.1 million, to be paid over the course of 37 years.

The money would go into the city’s general fund, which the city can use at will, rather than a dedicated fund where the money could only be used for specific items.

“This will provide a guaranteed revenue source to the city in the long term,” Boscarino said.

Community benefits can vary. In addition to money, they could be parks, affordable housing or, in the case of a development at the former Timber School site, preservation of historic buildings.

Boscarino did not say how the per-unit figure was arrived at but said the city’s priority was renegotiating the existing lease, which has allowed Caruso to rent the property for free for the past 17 years.

Community benefit payments would be paid annually beginning at the start of the fourth year after the apartment building receives a certificate of occupancy. Payments would start at 1% of the total community benefit payment with the rate increasing every five years up to 5.31% in years 34 to 37.

Tuesday’s meeting begins at 6 p.m.



Apartments Win Approval

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The Thousand Oaks City Council has approved a first-of-its-kind development in the city.

By a 3-2 vote on Tuesday, council members gave developer Rick Caruso permission to construct a six-story, 65-foot-tall apartment complex in the parking lot behind The Lakes shopping center on Thousand Oaks Boulevard. Until now, residential buildings have been limited to three stories.

In return for permission to build the apartments, Caruso agreed to buy the 7.5-acre property next to the Civic Arts Plaza, letting the city out of a 55-year lease deal the two sides signed in 2004 that has allowed the billionaire to avoid paying rent for the last 17 years on the retail center he developed there.

The sale price for the publicly owned property: $2 million—plus $11 million to $13 million total in recurring payments that the city can spend anyway it wants.

Dissenting votes came from Councilmember Ed Jones and Mayor Claudia Bill-de la Peña, who shared reservations tied to the building’s height and lack of affordability, as all apartments will be rented at market rate.

Caruso didn’t know what the rental rate would be when the apartments are ready for occupancy; currently, published rates for a new development on Thousand Oaks Boulevard range between $2,425 for a 687-square-foot one-bedroom unit and $3,700 for a 1,535-square-foot three-bedroom unit.

“We can’t kid ourselves to say this is going to be workforce housing. Unless it is a dual income, I don’t think that first-grade teachers at Conejo Elementary are going to be able to afford it,” Bill-de la Peña said, noting that first-year educators for Conejo Valley Unified School District make $54,000 a year.

Jones voiced concerns about the building’s look and feel, which he said will affect the city of 130,000 people.

“I just worry that pretty soon Thousand Oaks is going to resemble downtown Glendale or L.A., even,” he said. “I believe the day this project goes forward is the day we begin to abandon our rustic, lovely, semirural community and start down a road to urbanization.”

The applicant told the council that with the building tucked away at back of The Lakes parking lot next to the 101 Freeway and the 100-foot-tall Civic Arts Plaza, the project will not easily be seen by people traveling along Thousand Oaks Boulevard or the freeway.

Councilmember Al Adam said adding a residential component to the property will help to revitalize the half-empty shopping center, meant to be a focus of the “destination” downtown the council is attempting to establish in the area.

“This is really a test about how serious we are about creating a downtown,” he said. “Our vibrant downtown core will be enhanced with a critical mass of people within walking distance.”

Adam said it was also important to end the widely criticized lease agreement that allowed Caruso to rent the property for free in years the shopping center did not earn at least $2.1 million (or 12% of Caruso’s original investment), a threshold the center has never met.

“We have an opportunity to get out from underneath an unfavorable deal,” Adam said. “How many times have I heard from my constituents, ‘You’ve got to get out of this deal.’”

The new agreement calls for Caruso to pay the city $2 million for the property plus a so-called “community benefit” fee of around $80,000 for every apartment unit in the final building, which is capped at 165 units.

Jaime Boscarino, the city’s finance chief, said city negotiators were bound by the terms of the 2004 lease agreement, which included an option for Caruso to buy the property for $2 million or fair market value, whichever was more.

Under the lease, fair market value had to be based on unimproved land with the parcel’s commercial-only zoning and cap of 51,000 square feet of development, plus the requirement to maintain the pond and small park out front. Using those parameters, the city’s appraiser valued the parcel at $2.95 million while Caruso’s assessment came in between $1.31 million and $1.77 million.

Even so, council members found the number to be low.

“I would agree with the mayor; it seems ridiculously low to me,” Councilmember Bob Engler said. “I also recognize the property was heavily encumbered and could not bring in any more.”

Bill-de la Peña also took issue with how the community benefit fee would be paid.

The roughly $11 million to $13 million will be doled out over a 37-year period with payments beginning the second year after the city issues an occupancy permit. When the deal was announced last month, the first payment wouldn’t have come until the fourth year; Adam asked for and received the concession Tuesday.

The mayor said she was concerned the $13 million would be worth less over four decades, preferring a one-time, upfront sum. That option was not addressed in negotiations, Boscarino said, because the city was looking for an ongoing source of revenue.

She said the city needs an ongoing stream of income to help support the permanent supportive housing off Moorpark Road it approved in concept earlier this year.

Boscarino also said that if an upfront sum had been discussed, it wouldn’t have been as large as $13 million.

As for why the proposal does not include any below-market-rate units, Chris Robertson, Caruso vice president of planning and government and community relations, said that during negotiations, city staff preferred the recurring cash payments over dedicated affordable units. She also said that by setting aside units for income-eligible individuals, Caruso would be entitled to add more units—over 200—thereby increasing the size of the final product even more.

Bill-de la Peña pointed out to Robertson that there have been examples of prior developers agreeing to provide subsidized units without exercising their right to a density bonus under the law.

“To be fair, I don’t think those projects are proposing $80,000 in community benefits per unit,” Robertson replied. “As we engaged in conversations with the city it became clear that they wanted an ongoing revenue stream and the ability to use their discretion to funnel those monies into whatever priority the city had at the time.”

These were points many of the nearly 50 speakers from the public brought up, but the majority of those appearing before the council either in person or via Zoom spoke in favor of the project, many saying they’d prefer affordable housing but any type is better than no new housing at all.

At the end of the meeting, the council majority agreed.

Robertson said Caruso hopes to begin construction by next year.



Engler Ascends To Mayor

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CENTER OF ATTENTION—Bob Engler, at right and above middle, was sworn in Tuesday as the 34th mayor of Thousand Oaks. It is the retired fire captain’s first term as leader of the City Council. At top, Engler and wife, Sue, speak with Newbury Park resident Rick Lemmo, vice president for Caruso and former president of the Thousand Oaks Boulevard Association, during the Dec. 7 reorganization meeting. Fellow Councilmember Al Adam said the Englers are the “personification of community service.” Both Bob and Sue have given decades to various service organizations. The new mayor said of his upcoming one-year term: “Sue . . . and I have been in service throughout our entire lives, and I’m going to be calling on everyone in the city to embrace that ideal of service . . . because through service is how we make the world a better place.”


WM Not Giving Up Legal Fight

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In the midst of final preparations to take over waste hauling duties in Thousand Oaks on Jan. 1, Athens Services learned last week that a legal challenge from Waste Management will continue well into the new year.

On Dec. 14, a Ventura County judge denied an attempt by Athens’ legal team to have an unfair labor practices suit tossed, although she did narrow the scope of the complaint and indicated that the outcome was unlikely to affect the current contract.

The complaint was filed in July, four months after the Thousand Oaks City Council voted to end its relationship with Waste Management and E.J. Harrison and go with Athens after the first competitive bidding process for the contract in city history. The lawsuit—one of three WM has filed—alleges that Athens intentionally deceived the city with artificially low rates.

City of Industry-based Athens won T.O.’s solid-waste franchise agreement with a 5-0 vote of the City Council in March. Its monthly base residential charge was $9 below what Waste Management and Harrison put forth.

Earlier this month, Judge Ronda McKaig granted two demurrers filed on behalf of Athens by the law firm of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips—one with prejudice and one without, meaning Waste Management has the ability to refile. Both pertained to accusations of interfering with contract negotiations. A demurrer seeks to dismiss a case on the basis that it has no legal grounds.

But McKaig overruled an objection to the portion of the complaint related to the state’s Unfair Practices Act, an 80-year-old law that prohibits unfair competition and “any unlawful, unfair or fraudulent business act or practice and unfair, deceptive, untrue or misleading advertising.”

Houston-based Waste Management, which operates locally as G.I. Industries, contends that Athens offered the city rates that are below its cost of doing business.

“Athens’ proposed residential rate is over 25% lower than the Thousand Oaks basic residential rate in 2013—which was in the middle of area rates nearly a decade ago—despite having to comply with multiple costly regulations that did not exist in 2013, despite having to provide significantly more services to the city than under the 2013 contract, and despite a near collapse in the world market for recyclables after China stopped importing many previously recyclable materials in 2018,” the complaint says.

Athens officials say the lawsuits are nothing more than a bad-faith attempt by the billion-dollar company to overturn the city’s unanimous vote.

“Following a lengthy and competitive public bidding process, the Thousand Oaks City Council unanimously voted to select Athens Services to provide waste collection and recycling services throughout the city beginning in 2022,” the company said in a statement. “Waste Management has filed multiple lawsuits in an attempt to overturn this unanimous decision—and to date all of these challenges have either been thrown out or faced numerous setbacks in court.

“Athens remains on course to begin serving Thousand Oaks on January 1.”

Waste Management’s Brown Act lawsuit against the City of Thousand Oaks was recently thrown out, and last week an attempt to overturn that decision was rejected by the Court of Appeal.

Earlier this month, Judge Ronda McKaig granted two demurrers filed on behalf of Athens by the law firm of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips—one with prejudice and one without, meaning Waste Management has the ability to refile. Both pertained to accusations of interfering with contract negotiations. A demurrer seeks to dismiss a case on the basis that it has no legal grounds.

But McKaig overruled an objection to the portion of the complaint related to the state’s Unfair Practices Act, an 80-year-old law that prohibits unfair competition and “any unlawful, unfair or fraudulent business act or practice and unfair, deceptive, untrue or misleading advertising.”

Houston-based Waste Management, which operates locally as G.I. Industries, contends that Athens offered the city rates that are below its cost of doing business.

“Athens’ proposed residential rate is over 25% lower than the Thousand Oaks basic residential rate in 2013—which was in the middle of area rates nearly a decade ago—despite having to comply with multiple costly regulations that did not exist in 2013, despite having to provide significantly more services to the city than under the 2013 contract, and despite a near collapse in the world market for recyclables after China stopped importing many previously recyclable materials in 2018,” the complaint says.

Athens officials say the lawsuits are nothing more than a bad-faith attempt by the billion-dollar company to overturn the city’s unanimous vote.

“Following a lengthy and competitive public bidding process, the Thousand Oaks City Council unanimously voted to select Athens Services to provide waste collection and recycling services throughout the city beginning in 2022,” the company said in a statement. “Waste Management has filed multiple lawsuits in an attempt to overturn this unanimous decision—and to date all of these challenges have either been thrown out or faced numerous setbacks in court.

“Athens remains on course to begin serving Thousand Oaks on January 1.”

Waste Management’s Brown Act lawsuit against the City of Thousand Oaks was recently thrown out, and last week an attempt to overturn that decision was rejected by the Court of Appeal.

In a second lawsuit against the city, alleging a violation of the California Environmental Quality Act, a judge rejected WM’s motion for preliminary injunction, finding that, based on the record before it, “WM has not shown a likelihood of prevailing” in the case.

Two subsequent motions in the case by Waste Management—one asking the court to reconsider its decision and the other to augment the record—were also denied.

“Athens believes the Waste Management lawsuits are frivolous,” the company said. “We earn business through exceptional performance at superior rates, not through suing municipalities and competitors.”



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