Agoura Hills Wary of Plan for 34-Acre Business Park

Times Staff Writer

The electronics business was so good for Teradyne Inc. last year that it installed robots to speed up its Agoura Hills assembly line while it mapped plans to quadruple the size of its manufacturing plant there.

But there apparently will be no speeded up approval of the company's expansion plans next week when Agoura Hills officials debate whether to allow construction of what could become their young city's largest and most expensive industrial project.

Teradyne wants to buy half of a $75-million business park proposed for a 34-acre site next to the Ventura Freeway, which the developers say they will call the Agoura Hills Technology Park. The Boston-based firm announced this week that the expansion would create 1,250 jobs.

Plans Prompt Complaints

The huge project, however, has not inspired rejoicing over Agoura Hills' good fortune. Rather, the project has prompted some complaints within the eight-square-mile city, whose 16,000 residents incorporated two years ago largely to control growth.

Homeowners in a thousand-house subdivision directly across the freeway from the project site have complained that the development's seven buildings would spoil their view of the area's 2,036-foot landmark, Ladyface Mountain.

Leaders of the Lake Lindero Community Assn. have complained that the estimated 2,800 workers who would eventually work in the 725,000-square-foot industrial park would clog narrow streets and a bridge crossing the freeway. Already, the bridge is often crowded with cars.

The community association also is complaining that runoff from the development would contribute to silting in Lake Lindero. Homeowners last year paid $471,000 to have the 13.5-acre man-made, recreational lake dredged and 100,000 cubic yards of silt carted off.

"This project as presented will most completely demolish the natural environment for a considerable stretch of the freeway," association president Norman Macdonald said in a letter to city planning commissioners, who are meeting Thursday.

Fears Confirmed

An environmental impact report prepared by the city and private consultants for next week's hearing confirms many of the residents' fears. The report, however, also says that "mitigation measures" are planned to reduce the impact of the project.

Paul Williams, the city's planning director, said he will issue his staff's report on the project today to commissioners. He declined to say what his own recommendation for the project will be.

Williams predicted planners will take their time examining the proposal. "It is the biggest project in square footage to come before the city," Williams said. "It's also important as to its prominence to the freeway and to the westerly entry to the city."

He said homeowners have also complained that the project would destroy all but three of the 30 oak trees at the site. One of the three trees is barely alive, he said.

Williams said the traffic-flow issue could be the project's biggest stumbling block. Traffic concerns have recently led to the rejection of three major development projects by either the commission or the City Council. The vetoed projects included a 105-unit apartment complex and two hotels, one that was to have 165 rooms, the other 148.

Developer Promises Aid

Jerry Katell, a 43-year-old Torrance developer who has proposed building the industrial park with the Ahmanson Commercial Development Co., said he is willing to help finance street and bridge-widening work needed in the vicinity of the project. That would include a widened Reyes Adobe Road freeway crossing, which leads to the Lake Lindero community, he said.

"We're hopeful we will get city approvals. I would not say we're confident," Katell said Thursday. "I don't consider Agoura Hills a no-growth city. I think well-designed projects can be approved."

Katell said his designers have repeatedly met with city staff planners so they can comply with Agoura Hills' development guidelines, which are slowly evolving as officials deliberate over a first-ever city master plan.

"I won't say we won't have problems to work out," Katell said.

Teradyne officials said Thursday they are confident that the city will approve the project in time for work to begin on their three buildings in June.

"There's no reason to believe now there will be a problem," said Susan Hudson, Teradyne marketing communications manager. "We're certainly a good employer for that area."

Hudson said 350 Teradyne Semiconductor Test Division employees now assemble computer semiconductor testing equipment at a leased factory in Agoura Hills. A similar number do engineering and final testing of the equipment at a company-owned building in Woodland Hills.

The Woodland Hills building would be sold after operations are consolidated in Agoura Hills, unless company officials decide it is needed for additional expansion, she said. Teradyne has reported that its sales increased from $251 million in 1983 to $389 million last year. The testing equipment produced by the firm ranges in price from $200,000 to $1 million.

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