Thousand Oaks | Town Square to SB 54 (4-1 to do nothing) — The Fix Was In

By Debra Tash

Before facing down, then punting, on the issue of SB 54 Sanctuary State, which the Thousand Oaks Council buried deep in their agenda (page 7 of item 9C), they heard the Downtown Core Master Plan RESOLUTION ENDORSING DOWNTOWN CORE MASTER PLAN RES. NO. 2018. It was cooked up by the Raimi team, a multi-disciplinary group of consultants  Like with many of these processes in other municipalities the city’s consultants held public workshops with “stakeholders.”  They concluded that there is a downtown core in Thousand Oaks.  The study area went from Conejo School Road to Erbes.  Buzzwords were used ranging from the “walkable city” to diversity of activities. The number of participants was relatively small for a city of over 126,000.  This sampling supposedly represented the entire city, yet the focus groups alone were Spartan.

Meeting Agenda:

Meeting Video not yet available at publication time

The vision was to create a pedestrian space for activities, which means further restricting of traffic along Thousands Oaks Blvd by widening sidewalks to 15 feet across while supposedly keeping the same number lanes.  The plan centers on the Civic Arts Plaza with a town square that would by the revamped front open area of the bland government center.  There were suggestions on uses, such as theater, movie nights in the square, wine bars etc.  The build out would be by private development.

Claudia Bill-de Pena

Thousand Oaks Blvd. is the main artery of the city.  Yes they are  keeping the lanes but narrowing them to keep people from speeding and eliminating the physical median to a painted one, though they didn’t express why painting one on the street would slow down traffic. Another suggestion is parking once, then walking to local activities.  Development would connect to the larger area including the The Oaks Mall which is miles away.

Mayor Andy Fox thanked the presenters on a year long effort.  Council Member Claudia Bill-de la Peña asked about the development agreement with Caruso, which owns The Lakes,. On the new master plan The Lakes would add a parking structure at the city’s expense.  T.O. footing the bill is in the present agreement between the city and Caruso.  She was also concerned about additional bike lanes which would be more flexible by removing the median that protects the automobile traffic, or losing a lane or sidewalk.  The city only has a 100 foot right of way.

Electric bike rider

One public speaker, a physician, asked for safer bike lanes.  The speaker commutes from Newbury Park to Westlake by electric bike.  Another begged the council to push plans forward for multi use building by developers. Still another, Ms. Edwards, pled for the life of the iconic oak trees which define the city.  She feared they will be cut down to make room for development.  Edwards cited the construction of some 5000 units that will be allowed and that were approved by the current council in circumvention of Measure E, a 1990’s ordinance which capped density. City staff countered her claim of 5000 additional units with what they said was approved, over 1000 more units and that the oaks are too big to be a street tree, the reason they weren’t included in the purposed landscape palette.

In conclusion, the plan was approved and it’s nothing new and nothing that hasn’t been tried, and not always successfully, elsewhere.


SB54 “Sanctuary State”

Item 9C was the City’s entire proposed legislative agenda. 98% of it had no opposition or even discussion.  The focus was on the California’s infamous SB54 Sanctuary State bill, which advocates kept reminding those in attendance, is officially labeled “The California Values Act.” Just whose values was a matter of hot debate at the council meeting.



Buried under Item 9C, legislative agenda. You will find Sb54 on P 7: City of Thousand Oaks 2018 Legislative Program:

SB 54 
California Senate Bill 54 was approved by the Governor on October 5, 2017. This bill has been an item of interest at recent City Council meetings and will be an item of discussion during the review of the legislative platform.

Mayor Fox pointed out that he had over 120 speaker cards on the issue of SB 54.  Tracy Noonan, the city attorney, started the discussion by outlining what the city can’t do in certain matters and that what they can do in a state issue. 

Retiring Sheriff Geoff Dean outlined what the law does.  First, it limits street level immigration enforcement, which he doesn’t have a problem with. In fact he said that hasn’t been done for 30 years. The second part of the law deals with when they are arrested.  At that time, they are asked where they were born (no verification is done) and they are fingerprinted.  The fingerprints are sent to ICE, which in turn sends them to the FBI.  At that time immigration enforcement can put a hold to them, with an administrative order. 

Dean blames that ignoring the hold rests with a 2014 Federal judicial ruling. But SB 54 prohibits contacting ICE at all in many circumstances.  He won’t violate state law, in other words, he had to comply.  He laid it on an attorney’s analysis that it was pointless for the Sheriffs to file an amicus brief because the Federal judge said he didn’t want to see them if they were repetitive of the Federal lawsuit and prior briefs.  But that may not be true, because different suits in different stages have opportunities for participation. Dean missed that and Noonan, too. But immigration activist Arthur Schaper pointed that out when it was his turn to speak. 

Mayor Pro Tem Rob McCoy

Mayor Pro Tem Rob McCoy read Dean’s own opinion piece on  SB 54 which said that it was harmful to public safety.  Yet at this council meeting, Dean defended the legislature, claiming that body was closing up the loopholes in the law. City Attorney Tracy Noonan stated her job was to lay out legal opinions and as she said that the conflict in this issue is between State and Federal governments. SB 54 prohibits much acting in immigration enforcement, but certain crimes will still be prosecuted aside from immigration status. She stated that the city doesn’t even have its own police force but contracts with the Sheriff, which apparently neither the Board of Supervisors nor the county can administer.  Like a poker game she claims state law trumps local law, SB 54 is in the sole purview of law enforcement and that the deadline for filing an amicus brief has passed.

City Attorney Noonan

It would seem that the Sheriff and the City Attorney gave the council cover to do nothing regarding SB 54 in what appeared to be well choreographed kabuki theater. But SB 54 advocates might say that there are too many impediments for the city to oppose it and it is out of their jurisdiction.

Mayor Pro Tem Rob McCoy disagreed with the city’s counsel.  He said that we are bound by federal mandate and that federal law trumps state law because it’s in the U.S. Constitution. Noonan kept arguing the city doesn’t have a right to tell the Sheriff how to enforce the law, nor could it take on the county or state. The only remedy, she said, is judicial action.


Public Speakers

Speaker, Amy Chen

William Hicks

Some public speakers read letters by immigrants asking not to, in effect, be deported by nullifying the law.  Further, they claimed that being anti SB 54 was racist and even took a dig at Simi Valley, where their council voted to file a brief in the Federal case against SB 54. Others pointed out that it’s within the local jurisdiction’s right to support the Federal government’s constitutional duty to protect our borders, despite what Ms. Noonan had said. Speaker William Hicks, a Vietnam veteran, said that SB 54 is a poorly written bill, and like any “rules of engagement” should be rejected, because they get our people killed.

As at other meetings, here and other cities, some attempted to conflate the terms  “immigrant,” illegal alien” and “criminal Illegal alien and to label opponents as “racist,” “bigoted” even though the opponents were focused on public safety. Many also said that it is the law and cities may not buck the state on it, even though they seem perfectly willing to allow the state to illegally and unconstitutionaly buck the federal government.

Opposes SB54

Opponents focused on public safety and violation of federal law and the U.S. Constitution. 

The crowd thinned out considerably later in the evening, with far less than 120 speakers heard, but they still kept going well after midnight. The very last speaker, who had to fight to take the podium due to a speaker card screw-up, was local realtor Rosemary Allison. She remarked upon the political agenda, agreed with Dean, including loopholes to be fixed, wanted a Council resolution to urge “fixing” Sb54, not nuking it.



The crowd thinned out later in the evening


Council Debate and Action

It looked like some Council Members had written most of their positions before they even walked in the door.

Al Adam started out with a long-winded position monologue, relying upon Dean and Noonan’s analysis as cover for inaction. He led off with public safety is their #1 priority, but evidently saw no irony in the SB54 situation. But, he would not defend SB 54 and agreed with Sheriff Dean. He added that large employers and other institutions, such as school districts, universities/colleges, churches, synagogues, were not in favor of any opposition to SB54. Adam said that California Lutheran University (CLU) doesn’t want to see the City oppose SB 54 and that their student population was 30% Latino, as if prosecuting criminals was somehow anti-Latino. He made a similar crack about the Rams, mentioning that their CEO wouldn’t want to wake up and see that the City had opposed SB54. He even hinted that their staying in T.O could be contingent upon that.

He said this has nothing to do with city government, that the city does not attempt to influence things which are state and federal purview, even as he supported a legislative agenda which does just that. Adam told us that the police chief (actually Sheriff’s Dept. for T.O) said that SB54 does not impact law enforcement, as even Sheriff Dean told us it did, in the jail and courts.

He added that Simi Valley had violated the Brown Act. They passed opposition to SB 54 via an amicus brief in closed session. They received public comments on it for weeks and announced the unanimous decision to file an amicus brief publicly. To avoid any possible violations and legal action, they will do it again in public on June 24.

Rob McCoy said it is really very simple. They (Council, law enforcement) all took an oath and that they are in violation of it if they do not oppose SB54, because it violates the Constitution. He wants a Council statement saying that SB54 is unconstitutional.

Next up was Joel Price, who used his LAPD experience to enhance his credibility. He actually attributed the SB54 problem to the failure of Congress to achieve  “a path for immigrants,” although he gave us no idea how detaining criminal illegal aliens was related to that. He attempted to do his own summary of what SB54 does, but added nothing to the City Attorney’s presentation.

He made the point that AB109, Prop 47 and 57 were actually more dangerous and needed attention, not SB54. These greatly downgraded crime classifications and were designed to reduce prison population. This correlates unfavorably to a rise in crime. He said that the upcoming “Safe Act” would partially address these. He said SB54 is resulting in some “unintended” releases, although another Council Member said that DeLeon did intend this outcome. Whew!

Claudia Bill de la Pena was losing her voice, keeping her comments relatively short.  She said that the conflict is due to Congressional failure, possibly taking her cue from Price. She said it is an ideological battle between Sacramento and DC, which can’t be fought here, that the system is in place, has to be followed, that such things have always been resolved via the judiciary or voters. She said she never saw an issue that so divided us, but thought that the City doing nothing was the solution. Proud of our public safety  Wants Sb54 “loopholes” addressed.

Rob McCoy

Opposes SB54 on Constitutional and public safety grounds. He was grateful for all the clergy input but noted major ideological differences among them (himself included- he is also a local pastor). He noted that there were fewer ad hominem attacks this evening, although there appeared to be dozens. He stated that opponents are not “bigots” and “haters,” but were sincere in their public safety and constitutional concerns.

In the end the Council voted 4-1 to adopt the legislative agenda, with McCoy opposing only the lack of SB54 opposition.


Debra Tash is Editor-in-Chief of, past president for Citizens Alliance for Property Rights, business executive and award-winning author, residing in Somis. Publisher George Miller also provided some material for this article.

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One Response to Thousand Oaks | Town Square to SB 54 (4-1 to do nothing) — The Fix Was In

  1. William Hicks June 6, 2018 at 9:48 pm

    I kind of figured we only had one Council Member we could depend on. Before we get to into replacing council members, let’s us consider what a Governor Cox could do to repeal SB-54. If he were governor, and we could trust he’s a man of his word, then he would be the fastest way to get rid of SB-54.

    After achieving that, we could consider who we would want to replace the fence rides in the T.O. City Council.


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