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County Rejects Bid to Expand Calabasas Project

Times Staff Writer

A dispute over the size of a controversial “affordable” apartment complex in Calabasas turned into a test of political protocol Wednesday as Los Angeles County supervisors refused to expand the project.

The supervisors voted 4 to 1 to limit the Las Virgenes Road development to 698 units, rejecting developer Jack Bravo’s contention that state law entitles him to at least 765 rental units. Bravo had argued that he should get a “density bonus” because he plans to reserve part of the rental complex for low- and moderate-income families.

The 698-unit size had been approved by a 3-0 board vote May 9, capping more than a year of negotiations between the county and Bravo, who will build the $60-million project with several partners.

Officials said Bravo at first sought to build 843 units, but scaled down his plans to 800 units after consulting with county planning staff members. Later, the planning commission recommended a 765-unit density. The 698-unit size was proposed by 5th District Supervisor Michael Antonovich after homeowners urged that the project be limited to 400 units.

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Support From Schabarum

Bravo was supported by 1st District Supervisor Peter Schabarum as the project was returned to the board Wednesday for what had been expected to be a routine final review of conditions for the apartments’ permits.

Schabarum argued that a 765-unit project would be in the “best interest of the county at large” and that such an expansion would “preserve the credibility and integrity” of the county’s affordable housing bond-financing program. Such bonds will guarantee low-interest private financing for apartments rented at low rates to the poor.

Antonovich, who in the past has been a staunch board ally of Schabarum, was incensed by the breach of protocol. Supervisors normally avoid interfering in issues that solely affect other board members’ districts.

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“A density of 765 units is too great for this area,” Antonovich said. “You’re setting a very dangerous precedent by changing density after everybody has gone home. It will have a very negative impact, in my opinion, on residents who live out there.

“Maybe I’ll want to come in your district and increase density after you’ve attempted a compromise. . . . I won’t like your compromise attempt next time.”

Retorted Schabarum: “Hey, pal, be my guest. Take your best shot, pal.”

Although several other supervisors had voiced sympathy for Bravo’s position, Antonovich’s message apparently hit home when the vote was taken moments later.

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