Builders Get Allotments Left by Housing Slump : Thousand Oaks Relaxes Curb on Growth

Times Staff Writer

The Thousand Oaks City Council, in the first major revision of the city's growth-control ordinance, Tuesday night endorsed a plan allowing builders to receive unused housing allotments left by the slump in home sales after voters adopted the law in 1980.

With the 4-1 vote--the minimum margin necessary to modify the voter initiative--the council can now redistribute 424 expired allotments to developers in addition to the 500 permitted annually under the law. Each allotment authorizes a developer to build one dwelling unit.

Each year, developers compete for allotments by emphasizing their contributions to parkland, flood control, traffic abatement and aesthetics, the growth-control law's criteria for council awards. Projects that provide "affordable" housing are exempt from the allotment limit. About 1,300 such units have been approved since 1980.

Projects Dropped

The slow housing market of the early 1980s prompted several developers to drop projects that already had been approved.

Developers are allowed up to five years to take out building permits and proceed with construction.

Backers of the ordinance revision said it is consistent with the public's expectations that, over time, the city will allow construction of 500 housing units a year.

"Nobody anticipated the high interest rates and the inability to produce the minimum allowable housing," Councilman Frank Schillo said. "It's rectifying an inequity."

One Dissenting Vote

The lone council dissenter, Madge Schaefer, argued that the authors of Measure A, the fixed-growth law, intended that unused allotments be lost.

"This is not what we voted on," Schaefer said. "It's unwise to chip away at it."

But Councilman Lee Laxdal argued that redistributing the 424 unused allotments will give the city leverage with builders who are eager to construct homes in Thousand Oaks.

"It's going to give us a lot of power to get open space and parks," Laxdal said before the vote Tuesday.

Specifically, the allotments may figure into a development arrangement, now being negotiated, that would have Prudential Insurance Co., the area's largest private landholder, swap land it owns in the city's North Ranch area for privately held land on Wildwood Mesa, Laxdal said.

If the swap is accepted, Prudential might agree to donate Wildwood Mesa as public parkland--blocking a proposed housing tract there--in exchange for some of the newly recovered housing allotments, the councilman said.

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