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    Thousand Oaks City Council approves initiation of general plan amendment for 37-unit residential project

    By Michael Hernandez

    THOUSAND OAKS—The City Council approved Tuesday by a vote of 5-0 (during a “pre-screening” the first of six phases that eventually will come back to the city council) the initiation of General Plan Amendment for a 37-unit residential project behind the Newbury Park Albertsons on 1.67 acres at the northwest corner of Maurice Drive and Regina Road (3801 Maurice Drive) by the Cohan Family Partnership which met with three neighborhood Home Owners Associations on Sept. 16 at the Courtyard Marriott and held three smaller outreach meetings with the Brighton Lane HOA and the Renaissance Neighborhood group on Oct. 1, 4, and 14.

    The 27-unit apartment complex (11 one-bedroom units and 16 two-bedroom units which also includes three very low income units and two moderate-income units) and the 10 proposed three-bedroom townhomes will consist of two and three story buildings and will change the zoning from commercial to medium density residential.  The project had originally been brought before the City Council on Feb. 26 and again on May 21 as a 47 unit residential unit project.  The proposed development will have 49 parking spaces.

    Thousand Oaks Community Development Director Mark Towne insisted that residential zoning would reduce traffic by 25 percent as compared to a commercial project and that the project would allow a school teacher or fire fighter to be able to afford apartment living in the city.   City Attorney Tracy Noonan said that Thousand Oaks could not do anything about a density bonus that the state gives the developer as an incentive for including low income apartments.

    The city council action was overwhelmingly contested by community residents giving public comments by a margin of 6:1 opposed to the residential development (one speaker said 101 signatures were collected on a petition against the development and another claimed that 539 resident opposed the development) who complained against additional traffic, the three-story construction and the increased density the project will bring to the neighborhood with a few of the residents asking to keep the commercial zoning instead of changing it to residential.  One or two speakers suggesting the city council was losing its slow-growth open space focus. 

    “We are a slow growth city,” said Mayor Pro Tem Al Adam who said Thousand Oaks had realized only 400 new units in the last five years or 80 units per year (less than one percent of total housing in the community.   “Please don’t mischaracterize the direction of the City Council  We are a slow growth city and will maintain that.”

    Councilmember Claudia Bill-de la Pena who made the motion for the city council action said “all cities are facing challenges regarding housing” while Councilmember Bob Engler said “we have vacant commercial (property) in our community now.  What is needed in town is housing of all types: apartment and townhomes.”  Councilmember Ed Jones said, “We want to bring housing costs down.  We are in a tough place.”

    “I do not like the usurping of our economy as a city by the state over the housing shortage in California,” said Mayor Rob McCoy.  “This is the failure of our state government.  A one-party system is ruining the state.”

    Thousand Oaks approves transit program modifications

    The City Council approved by a vote of 5-0 modification to fares (33 percent increase), service hours, bus routes and transit policies at Tuesday’s meeting and accepted a $100,000 Federal Transit Administration grant (for low and very low-income seniors and students) with 20 percent local match requirement to fund free bus pass programs for the Thousand Oaks Transit which was established in 1981 and provides contract transit services to the Cities of Moorpark, Westlake Village, Agora Hills, and Oak Park as well as some unincorporated areas.

    The regular fare for local bus service is $1.50 and 75 cents for seniors and qualified disabled passengers.  Free fares go to children under the age of six and holders of Thousand Oaks Dial-A-Ride and Americans with Disabilities Act cards as well as college students under a reimbursement program with the Ventura County Transportation Commission.  The fare for local Dial-A-Ride and Americans with Disabilities service is three dollars and five dollars for intercity rides.

    The approved new fares adjust costs by 33 percent with regular bus service now costing two dollars while paid Senior and Americans With Disabilities fares are reduced by 33 percent—making them the lowest in Ventura County—and now cost 50 cents.   The free fares for cardholders are discontinued but fares for children five and under stay free.    

    The Transportation Development Act supports transit operations statewide through one-fourth of one cent of sales tax, which is distributed to cities and the County based on population.  These funds provide the majority of the funding for local transit operations.  To receive these funds, cities must do a local match of either 20 or 10 percent of funding (with the lower match for Dial-A-Ride and Americans with Disabilities Act riders).

    Since Ventura County has no sales tax measure to support local public transit service the shortfall for 2018-19 was $257,000 which was covered by Developer Air Quality Impact Fees.  The anticipated shortfall for 2019-20 is $346,000 but the new fare modifications will result in an anticipated shortfall of $193,000 for 2020-21.

    Bus transportation and Dial-A-Ride runs from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays.  There is no bus service on Sundays but there is local Dial-A-Ride from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.  The new transit rules will require a day-before advanced reservation for the Dial-A-Ride service on weekends.  

    Thousand Oaks has five fixed bus route services that cover 60 percent of the community.  They are:

    • Gold Route 1 (departs and arrives at The Oaks and runs for 13 trips with 22-23 stops every 58/50 minutes);
    • Green Route 2 (departs from The Oaks, the Teen and Senior Centers, the Transportation Center before arriving back at The Oaks with 13 trips, 17 stops every 50 minutes);
    • Purple Route 2B (departs and arrives at The Oaks with 13 trips, 20 stops, 49 minute intervals);
    • Red Route 3 (departs and arrives at The Oaks with 13 trips, 23 stops, 49 minute intervals);
    • Blue Route 4 (departs and arrives at the Transportation Center with 19/30 stops, 39/59 minute intervals);

    The City received 73 comments regarding the proposed modifications from Aug. 1 to Oct. 14.

    Other City Council action:

    • Approved capital improvements grant agreement between the City and the Conejo Recreation and Park District for the Alex Fiore Teen Center and the Goebel Adult Community Center for an amount of $2.7 million. The park district owns the land and operates the facilities that the City constructed, owns, and maintains;
    • Awarded a one-year safety compliance and culture agreement with two one-year extension options to Citadel Environmental Services not to exceed $285,000;
    • Formally approved the city election campaign contribution limit at $560 in the Thousand Oaks Municipal Code.
    • Adjourned the meeting at 8:29 p.m. in memoriam of James Bruce Snyder, a city employee of 20 years, who died on July 13.


    Michael Hernandez, Co-Founder of the Citizens Journal—Ventura County’s online news service; editor of the History Makers Report and founder of History Makers International—a community nonprofit serving youth and families in Ventura County, is a former Southern California daily newspaper journalist and religion and news editor.  He has worked 25 years as a middle school teacher.  Mr. Hernandez can be contacted by email at [email protected].

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