2 Sides Marshal Forces for Fight on Planned Thousand Oaks Arts Center

Times Staff Writer

Supporters and opponents of a proposed Thousand Oaks arts complex are preparing campaigns to gain public backing, debating whether the community should spend millions of dollars on culture.

Two opposition drives are under way, and another group has scheduled a rally Sunday to kick off a drive on behalf of the arts center.

A plan endorsed unanimously by the City Council will be on the ballot in the primary election June 3.

The plan, Measure C, envisions spending $22.3 million in redevelopment tax dollars for the arts, and calls for an 1,800-seat central theater, a 299-seat theater for smaller stagings, a 15,000-square-foot art gallery and an outdoor amphitheater. The measure was endorsed after consideration of a voluminous report by private consultants that included mention of a possibility that the complex would suffer operating losses at first.


Student Theaters Envisioned

Student theaters at Thousand Oaks, Newbury Park and Conejo Valley high schools would also be built, with the Conejo Valley Unified School District chipping in an additional $1.5 million.

The complex would be situated either on what is now the driving range at the city’s Los Robles Golf Course or on land donated by The Oaks shopping mall.

Two longtime foes of the complex, who head one of the opposition campaigns, have unveiled a proposed ballot initiative that would force arts backers to raise $5 million before tax money could be used to build the center.


At a Newbury Park news conference Wednesday, the two opponents--Richard D. Booker and Heinrich F. (Corky) Charles--announced a drive to place their initiative on the ballot in the November general election. They need to gather 5,260 signatures, representing 10% of Thousand Oaks voters, by Aug. 8 to succeed.

Booker and Charles also challenged arts supporters to a series of debates. Supporters of the proposed center have agreed to participate, and details are being worked out.

Details of Initiative

The initiative would bind city officials to delaying the project until $5 million is raised and then to using that amount to defray possible operating deficits. Under state law, a simple majority vote is needed to approve initiatives.


Meanwhile, other opponents of public financing of the arts formed a group called the Committee Against Tax-Supported Culture and said they would announce their plans today.

“The money should go to schools, street repairs and parks--things we think of as more the normal and customary use of tax dollars,” said the group’s vice president, Thousand Oaks resident Emily Rudd.

Rudd said the group will raise money for newspaper advertisements assailing the plan for the cultural center.

Supporters of the center are gearing up, meanwhile, to promote it.


The For Measure C Committee, formed by civic leaders and arts supporters, will begin its campaign Sunday with a fund-raising party at the Westlake Plaza Hotel.

The committee has hired a full-time coordinator and will receive $12,000 for the campaign from the Alliance for the Arts, a Thousand Oaks group committed to raising $3.25 million to $5 million for an arts center.

Plugging Populist Theory

In part to rebut charges that the art complex is being promoted by a small group of wealthy arts patrons, the group plans to run radio spots and newspaper ads featuring the slogan, “The arts are for everyone.”


Advocates of the center argue that it would fill a need in the Conejo Valley for professional music, dance and theater performances while it nurtured local artists.

They contend that a private consultant’s projections on early operating losses--$700,000 annually in the center’s first years--are overstated. The projections, included in the report to the City Council, ignore economic benefits to local restaurants, hotels and shops, the center’s advocates say.

In reference to the tax-dollars issue, Virginia Davis, treasurer of the For Measure C Committee, said, “It’s tax dollars, of course, but not anything people will have to pay for out of their pockets.”