SB54 Debate Dominates T.O. City Council Meeting Again; Granny Flats Update Also Discussed

By Kevin Harris

The Thousand Oaks City Council was once again deluged with with speakers urging action on SB54, during the Public Comments period of Tuesday’s City Council Meeting. Thirty eight public speaker cards were pre-filled out, nearly all by local residents, most opposing the Sanctuary City legislation, though this time there were also many supporters of SB54. 

Also during the meeting, the City Council received a status report update on accessory dwelling units (ADUs). It was exactly one year ago that Thousand Oaks amended local ADU rules to comply with new state mandates. 

SB54: The “Sanctuary Cities” Debate Continues

SB54 opposition is now asking the City Council to do what Simi Valley’s City Council recently did; file an Amicus Brief in support of Jeff Sessions’ “US vs California” lawsuit challenging the state’s sanctuary state policy. While several past Council meetings were swamped by SB54 activists, Tuesday night’s meeting only differed in that more SB54 supporters showed up, once again making it difficult for council members to conduct any other business that might need attention.

One would hope the Thousand Oaks City Council would make comments on the issue, or better yet, some kind of decision. According to City Manager Andrew Powers, the Council will finally discuss SB54 “in the context of its annual legislative platform at the next meeting, on June 5, 2018.” 

Due to the fact that there were so many speakers on the topic Tuesday night, after a while some of the themes and ideas started to become repetitive, though there were many intelligent, passionate speakers representing both sides. A large crowd filled the room, and loud applause followed nearly every single speaker, regardless of their sway on the issue. Following is a sampling of those who spoke:

Trent Tribe:  A resident of Oak Park and the Conejo Valley for 10 years, Mr. Tribe, who opposes SB54, had never attended a City Council meeting before. “It’s an intangible, but if we send a message that we oppose SB54, you can bet that the criminals are going to get the message, and they’re going to hear that. And they’re going to know that we support our law enforcement.”   

Dr. Kevin McNamee:  Dr. McNamee, a local chiropractor, said that while he opposes SB54, he treats many illegal aliens who he described as family oriented, and said they are good community members. According to McNamee, the main problem with SB54 is that it puts the criminal element from that community back onto the streets. He urged the Council to oppose the legislation, and closed by saying he will be running for a seat on the City Council in January. 

Dr. Kevin McNamee

Willie Luka:  Mr. Luka has been a Thousand Oaks resident since 2001, and he supports SB54, in part, because he says it makes us safer. “We know that immigrants make our community stronger. Please don’t take an action that would put a label on Thousand Oaks as an enclave of political extremism.” 

Susanne Gunther:  Ms. Gunther, who has lived in Thousand Oaks since 1979, opposes any effort to undermine SB54. “I am a proud descendant of Jewish immigrants who came to America last century to escape oppression in Germany… I believe those calling for city councils to overturn SB54 are extremists and outsiders who are aiming to disrupt our peaceful city for their own agenda.”

Ms. Gunther also said that the City Council is supposed to be a non-partisan office, and that she believes the efforts to overturn SB54 are highly partisan. 

Dr. Scott O’Neill:  A law enforcement Chaplain, Dr. O’Neill said he takes issue with calling this a partisan topic. “I have been out on calls for the last four years, and I’ve seen crime exponentially go up, since the passage of SB54. It’s not an anger issue. It’s not a partisan issue. It’s what we face as responders when we go out on calls.” He also said that the Sheriff recently asked him to start wearing a bullet-proof vest for the first time while out on police calls. 

Elizabeth Hozkinson:  Ms. Hozkinson has lived in Thousand Oaks since 1963, and she supports SB54. “As the City of Thousand Oaks transforms our downtown area, I want to be sure everyone feels welcome here.” 

Amy Chen:  Ms. Chen took a strong stance at the podium, and directed her comments directly to the Council. “You know this is not an illegal immigration issue. And this is not about racism. This is about our safety.” 

She explained that federal immigration laws take precedent over conflicting state laws, so the Council can not use the fact that SB54 is “state law” as an excuse not to act. “Have courage to do the right thing, despite political conflicts.” 

Amy Chen

John Griffin:  Mr. Griffin is a 20-year resident of Thousand Oaks, and teaches business law and ethics at Cal State University, Channel Islands. He supports SB54, and quoted a study showing illegal immigrants to be generally non-violent and non-criminals. He stressed we should apply the “golden rule” to them (do unto others…). 

Deborah Baber:  Ms. Baber spoke eloquently and passionately in opposition to SB54. “SB54 attempts to supplant federal law with California law. Councils and counties throughout California are defying Sacramento politicians and globalist special interest groups, in favor of our Constitution, which all of you swore to uphold.” 

Allison Ellerman:  A practicing attorney in Ventura County, Ms. Ellerman said she has many clients who are not here legally. “The illegal immigrant community feels the same way as many of the speakers here do today. They do not want the criminals back on the street.” She then told the Council that her uncle was killed by an illegal immigrant several years ago. “He was arrested and let back out on the street three different times,” she said. 

After the last speaker left the podium, there was not a single response or comment from Council Members or staff, other than Mr. Powers announcing that the topic will be on the agenda for the June 5 meeting. 

Accessory Dwelling Units Update

On May 30, 2017, the City Council amended its ADU ordinance to comply with new state mandates. At that time, they asked staff to provide them with a status report after one year. That 1-year update report was presented to the Council tonight by Community Development Director, Mark Towne.  

Community Development Director Mark Towne

As a refresher, some of the key provisions of the 2017 amended ordinance include the following:

  • ADUs may be added to single family, detached properties only
  • One ADU per lot maximum
  • Owner occupancy required for one of the homes
  • No extra parking required in certain circumstances

The state mandates were implemented in large part, to make adding ADUs easier for homeowners, in an effort to combat California’s housing crisis. According to Mr. Towne, however, even if all of the current applications for ADUs are approved and constructed in Thousand Oaks, it will only provide homes for 17 individuals or families. 

Additional state bills have been proposed to further support the addition of ADUs. SB 831 would scrap parking requirements for garage conversions; would eliminate impact/connection fees and would make owner occupancy no longer a requirement. 

AB 2980 would allow ADUs in multi-family areas, and scrap the fees as well. 

During the Council’s Q&A period to staff, Council Member Claudia Bill-de la Pena asked how likely the two pending bills are to pass. Though the answer was somewhat convoluted and perhaps overly detailed, it did show that the state is fully behind the issue of affordable housing, and suggested that both bills would likely pass. 

In response, Ms. Bill de la Pena said in frustration, “I’m really just so tired of the state continuing to take away local control.” Mayor Pro Tem Rob McCoy asked about fees for ADUs, and wanted to know specifically how much a homeowner would have to pay to the city for a 500 square foot ADU. 

Mr. Towne said the average fees per ADU are $10,704. 

Per staff’s recommendation, the City Council received the report and took no further action at this time. 

The next Thousand Oaks City Council Meeting will be on Tuesday, June 5, 2018, at 6:00 pm. To access the meeting agenda, or to watch the video of the meeting, please go to the following URL, then scroll down and click on “City Council:”


Upcoming Events: City Council Meeting- Jun  5, 2018 – 06:00 PM

Kevin Harris

Kevin Harris is a reporter, editor and journalist, previous President of Cal State Northridge’s Society of Professional Journalists having worked for the LA Times and Newhall Signal. He is now also a Realtor and videographer, and lives with his two children in Thousand Oaks. 

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