Agoura discusses Ladyface changes

The Agoura Hills City Council remained split at its Feb. 24 meeting as to whether changes should be approved to the laws that govern the Ladyface Mountain area south of the freeway.

Source of this article: The Acorn, March 11, 2010.

View of Ladyface Mountain, looking north-west, as rendered by Google Earth.

The council was asked to review an amendment to the Ladyface Specific Plan that would incorporate better hiking trail access, among other changes.

If passed, the amendment will alter the city’s development guidelines, including land use restrictions and standards for landscaping and oak tree preservation.

Doug Hooper, assistant director of community development, said all approved parcels in the Ladyface area have projects pending. The amendments are designed to give planning commissioners and City Council members “a greater level of objectivity,” Hooper said in his report.

Council members debated various elements of the plan, including whether some developers should be required to contribute to a trail fund.

The plan also would require some developers to dedicate easements so people can access the Ladyface trails from Kanan and Agoura Roads. Property owners whose buildings in the Ladyface Mountain Specific Plan area do not require an easement might be forced to pay a fee equal to the amount of easements on neighboring properties “out of fairness,” Hooper said.

The construction of new trails is not included in the ordinance, Hooper said.

Some issues rankled council members, including a requirement that developers build their projects to LEED (environmentally) certified green building standards and provide bicycle storage, dressing rooms and showers as an incentive for workers to use the trails.

Council members also questioned some of the parking requirements. The proposal includes a provision to allow owners of hybrid cars front parking spaces.

Mayor Bill Koehler said it wouldn’t be fair to force property owners to hire “parking police” and, even if they did, determining which cars are hybrids and potential energy-savers would be impossible.

The plan also called for property owners to maintain the public parking that hikers would use.

Brian Campbell, pastor of Gateway Foursquare Church on Agoura Road, said property owners who contribute an easement for the trails should not be required to pay any additional costs for parking maintenance or other amenities. He said the trails should be built above the water tower south of Agoura Road, not below.

Councilmember John Edelston said he supported the requirement of minimum LEED-certified buildings, but that the cost should be capped on how much developers should pay. Edelston said the requirement for showers was impractical and could pose some health issues.

Mayor Pro Tem Harry Schwarz said the intent of the Ladyface Mountain Specific Plan was to keep the mountain area “pristine.” While he agreed that hiking trails should be incorporated into the plan, he said that the council should make sure that the trails are connected with the other trails set forth by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy’s master plan.

As for imposing environmental conditions on developers, Schwarz said the plan is an “outline” for what the council wants in the future. Modifications can be made when needed, he said, adding that the cities of Malibu and Santa Monica have imposed the same conditions.

“It is part of the public duty to help create a (healthier) public by creating trails,” Schwarz said.

The changes to the ordinance, said Councilmember Dan Kuperberg, are designed to make the projects better and probably more economical in the long run.

“We’re raising the bar for ourselves,” Kuperberg said. “We want to have the highest possible types of projects but not nitpick it to death.”

Councilmember Denis Weber said he was against any requirements that would increase developer costs.

“If the property owner wants to do it, fine, but I don’t think we should mandate it,” Weber said.

“Taking private property and placing public trails on it and then having the property owners pay for it is outrageous,” Weber said.

The council will vote on the amendment at its first meeting in April.

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