The year 2011 brought new leadership and a fresh direction for Calabasas—voters chose Fred Gaines and Lucy Martin in an election that gave the City Council its first big makeover in years.
Seven candidates competed to fill the vacancies created by former Mayor Barry Groveman and 20-year Councilmember Dennis Washburn, who chose not to seek reelection.
The new council went right to work to modify a controversial septic tank ordinance that caused turmoil among residents in older parts of town. The ordinance required people to obtain operating permits and have problems repaired to ensure their systems worked property.
In May, Mayor James Bozajian and the rest of the council agreed to bring the ordinance under review and offer temporary amnesty to people who refused to comply with the controversial law. Officials also halted a $100,000 environmental study that was seen as the first step toward installation of sewers in Old Topanga.
While many cities nationwide struggle to remain viable during the economic downturn, Calabasas finds itself in good financial shape. Gary Lysik, Calabasas chief financial officer, unveiled a $42-million general fund budget for fiscal years 2011-13. Each year the city also manages about $30 million in revenues and expenses in 46 accounts dedicated to special districts, capital improvements and more.
In June the council placed a moratorium on the construction of wireless facilities until a new ordinance is in place requiring telecommunications companies to provide evidence of gaps in coverage before they’re allowed to build new facilities.
Commissioners, council members and residents are still working to craft regulations that will reduce the proliferation of wireless anten- nas close to homes, schools and parks.
On July 1 Calabasas joined the growing ranks of cities encouraging residents to use reusable shopping bags. Customers at Albertsons, Gelson’s, Ralphs, Maddy’s Market and Rite Aid can either bring their own totes or buy recyclable paper bags for 10 cents each.
The ban is set to expand Jan. 1 when smaller drugstores, convenience stores and smaller retailers and grocers will also stop providing disposable plastic bags.
After two years of proceedings, the city successfully annexed Mont Calabasas in July. The development includes 110 luxury homes at the northwest intersection of Las Virgenes Road and Thousand Oaks Boulevard.
In October, Calabasas officials voted to halt the spending of municipal funds on coyote trapping.
The coyote debate began in July, when several residents and wildlife activists opposed the city’s trapping and killing policy. Calabasas had contracted with the Los Angeles County Agricultural Department to catch and kill coyotes that were deemed aggressive by residents.
Under the new policy, the city will contact the California Department of Fish and Game only if a coyote attacks a human. But homeowner associations and other private property owners may catch aggressive animals on their land at their own expense.
This summer the city began to expand programs and activities to offer more recreational opportunities for citizens age 50 and over.
Calabasas leadership prepared for a new transition in December when Councilmember Jonathon Wolfson resigned due to a move out of town. His term was set to expire in spring 2013. The council will appoint a new council member next month to fill the vacancy.
Throughout the year, council meetings at city hall frequently averaged four to five hours each as groups of residents interested in various issues scrutinized every decision officials considered.
The city turned 20 in 2011.