A new residential development proposed for a small parcel at the entrance of Old Agoura has stirred the concerns of residents who believe the rural character of their community is once again being threatened. But city officials believe the multi-unit housing project would be a good fit for the area if the developer agrees to make at least some changes to his plan.
On Aug. 2, the Agoura Hills Planning Commission consid- ered a proposal to build 18 townhomes on a vacant parcel at the southeast corner of Driver Avenue and Chesebro Road at Palo Comado Canyon Road. There would be eight buildings. The City Council will review the proposal next.
Zoning for the near 1-acre lot must be changed from commercial retail to high density residential.
According to a city report, the proposed change of use from commercial to multifamily residential would benefit the community because homes would create less noise and traffic than a commercial project. The Chesebro townhomes would also help the city meet state housing requirements.
In 2007, officials denied an automotive lube and detailing center at the same location, which is near Partners in Learning Preschool, the Agoura Hills Senior Retreat, the Old Agoura Equestrian Center and several single-family residences.
Aitan Hillel of Pasadena is the owner and developer of the property. He said the townhomes would create a perfect transition between the commercial zone along the 101 Freeway and the Old Agoura community.
“Every step of the way, we were thinking on how to address the concerns of the HOA (Old Agoura Homeowners Association)” Hillel said. The three-story townhomes will cater to the higher end of the rental market, he said.
“I fully support the General Plan amendment and zoning change,” planning commission chair hair John O’Meara said.
Each building would be no higher than 35 feet and would be surrounded by native, drought-resistant plants and trees. They would be arranged around a semicircular driveway that will provide access to and from Chesebro Road.
The development would be level with other buildings on Chesebro and would be set away from the street. Trees would be planted along the perimeter of the property to minimize visual impacts. Berms and drains would be installed on the slope along Palo Comado to prevent flooding.
A majority of the dozen or so residents who spoke at the Aug. 2 meeting said the townhome buildings are too tall and bulky for the Old Agoura gateway location and would block the view of the some of the hills for which the city is named.
“The final 18-unit layout looks like a reasonable complex. But after we asked for the story poles to show the height and appearance, we realize how massive this project is compared to neighboring homes and businesses,” said Old Agoura resident Jess Thomas. “Perhaps a less dense project with more common amenities for residents would be more suitable.”
Story poles consist of wood beams with plastic tape on top to show planners and members of the public the height and dimension of proposed structures. The poles are routinely used in Malibu to determine how a new building would affect the views of adjacent properties.
Commissioners recommended that the developer reduce the height of the buildings wherever feasible.
The applicant requested a permit to remove four oak trees and encroach on several others, and asked for city approval to have a retaining wall and common open areas that would include a spa, barbecue grills and picnic tables.
Issues concerning lack of parking, increased traffic and inadequate landscaping inside and outside of the development were also discussed at the meeting.