Las Virgenes Sheriff's Station Near Reality

Times Staff Writers

Five years after it was approved by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, plans are being completed for an $8-million sheriff's station to police the Las Virgenes area.

The Las Virgenes area, which is now served by the sheriff's station in Malibu, includes Agoura, Agoura Hills, Westlake Village and unincorporated county areas, such as Calabasas.

The new station will save deputies' time that is now spent driving 10 to 30 miles between patrol areas and the Malibu station, over winding roads through Santa Monica Mountains canyons, sheriff's officials said.

Limited Facilities

The Sheriff's Department operates a small trailer near the Lost Hills Road interchange on the Ventura Freeway in Grape Arbor Park, but it is open only from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. and has limited facilities.

The new station will be open around the clock and will have patrol, traffic, investigatory, juvenile, community relations and narcotics responsibilities, Lt. Jerry Conklin, operations officer of the Malibu station, said Thursday. Its jail will have space for more than 40 prisoners.

Officials hope to break ground early next year and complete construction in about 16 months, Conklin said.

The plans call for a 33,000-square-foot main building and 4,000-square foot service building on a 6.1-acre site in unincorporated county territory just east of Agoura Hills. The station, basically a duplicate of the new sheriff's station in Walnut, will be situated on Agoura Road, south of the Ventura Freeway interchange at Lost Hills Road.

Also being considered for the site is a small courthouse, which would house a municipal court and two hearing rooms, said Sharon Bunn of the county chief administrative officer's office. No decision has been made on whether to build the courthouse, which would take over the functions now performed by the Municipal Court in Calabasas, she said.

The Malibu sheriff's station now polices an area of almost 200 square miles, about half of it north of the Santa Monica mountains.

During the storm season, the roads are often closed by mud slides, Conklin said, requiring deputies to travel roundabout routes to reach the area. They are sometimes forced to go south through Santa Monica and back north through the San Fernando Valley to respond to emergency calls.

Under the best of conditions, he said, "if you arrest someone in Westlake Village, you have to drive to Malibu to book them and then drive back to your patrol area in Westlake. It's not efficient to have the deputies going back and forth so much when they should be responding to calls."

When the new station is opened, "Instead of having to drive upwards of 20 miles from the station to a patrol area, we will be able to drive three or four miles," Conklin said, improving response time.

Area of Responsibility

The new station will be responsible for a 100-square-mile corridor along the Ventura Freeway. The area lies north of Mulholland Highway, from the Los Angeles city limit to the Ventura County line.

It includes the cities of Westlake Village, Agoura Hills and Hidden Hills, which contract with the Sheriff's Department for services, and unincorporated county territory at Calabasas and near Chatsworth, Westlake Village and Agoura.

The Las Virgenes area was once mostly rural, with fewer public safety problems than the Malibu coast, Conklin said. But, in recent years, development has attracted a flood of people.

"The population base has shifted," Conklin said, "and now the great bulk of our client base is in Las Virgenes.

"With all the development, it's just become too difficult to police the area from Malibu," said Jim Iamurri, deputy to county Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who represents the area.

More Deputies

The size of the Malibu station force--now 103 deputies--will be reduced, Conklin said. But, because both stations will need base staffs, the total number of deputies will increase.

The numbers have not yet been determined, he said, because some factors are unclear, including whether Calabasas, now county territory, will incorporate as a city. As a city, it could contract with the Sheriff's Department to continue providing protection, or it could form its own police department.

Although the need for the station was agreed on five years ago, it has taken until now to to determine a site and appropriate money for architectural work, Bunn said.

The same development pressures that created the need for the station helped solve the problem. The site was donated to the county by the Currey Riach Co. in return for an agreement permitting the company to build a 520-acre development with 1,312 apartments and single family homes in the Lost Hills area.

Currey Riach formally deeded the land to the county in January, said Hans Giraud, the company's project manager.

The county will finance the station through the sale of bonds, but the financial details have not been settled yet, Bunn said. The bonds may cover only the station, or include the proposed courthouse, or finance a combination of several county projects, she said.

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