The Vital Signs of Old Agoura : Bitter Feud Over Gateway Disrupts Peaceful Ambiance of Community

<i> Times Staff Writer</i>

The quiet of a bucolic Agoura Hills neighborhood has been disrupted by a fight among residents over the design of two entrance signs whose appearance, ironically, was intended to symbolize the area’s peaceful ambiance.

Both sides agree that signs should be erected at the two roads into Old Agoura, a 300-home residential area of Agoura Hills with a rural flavor that belies its proximity to the Ventura Freeway.

But some residents detest the design that the Old Agoura Homeowners Assn. plans--two telephone poles planted on each side of the street, spanned by wood beams 15 1/2 feet high and painted with the words “Old Agoura.”

Association president Ron Troncatty, a member of a homeowners’ committee that came up with the design, says it is in harmony with the rural, Western flavor of Old Agoura, where animals virtually outnumber the 600 residents.


However, John Perry, an Old Agoura sculptor who helped circulate petitions against the design, called it “an eyesore.”

Thom Bancroft, 50, a photographer who headed a now-disbanded committee that advised the Agoura Hills City Council on zoning and architectural design standards for Old Agoura, favors a wrought-iron arch spanning the road, topped with a wrought-iron winged horse.

Called Tacky, Droopy

“Many, many Old Agoura residents are complaining,” Bancroft said of the sign the association plans to put up. “A lot of people think it’s tacky. Plus, it’s going to droop--if not in actuality, then optically.


“All it is, is telephone poles.”

“High-grade telephone poles,” Troncatty retorted.

The association spent 300 hours over the last 3 1/2 years deciding what signs to put up before designating $2,450 for the purchase of beams and poles for one of them. An added $500 has been spent on a structural engineer’s inspection to determine the sign’s safety.

The beam-and-pole design was approved by a 29-2 vote two years ago at a homeowners association meeting. A fund-raising dinner in September drew 650 people and raised $5,200 for the signs.


Association members had planned to have the sign erected by Christmas at the intersection of Driver Avenue, Palo Comado Canyon Road and Colodny Drive. Another sign will be placed at Easterly Road and Driver Avenue when funds are available, Troncatty said.

Petition Leads to Survey

But Perry, Bancroft and several others collected 145 signatures on a petition late last year asking officials to revoke approval, which was required before the signs could be placed on city property. The petition requested that residents “participate in the final design.”

As a result, City Manager David Carmany said, the city will send out a survey asking residents to describe the type of sign they want. It will go out sometime next week, and city officials hope to make the decision the week after.


Bancroft and Perry have volunteered to do the work on the wrought-iron arch at cost. Bancroft said it would be no more expensive than the pole-and-beam sign that the association wants.

Use Local Resources

Bancroft’s wife, Carolyn Mallory, envisions twin monuments on both sides of the road made from rocks gathered from the property of every Old Agoura landowner.

Some of the alternative designs would incorporate the beams that the homeowners association has already purchased, although not the poles. But Troncatty said those designs would be too expensive.


Bancroft said he and several other Old Agoura residents asked Troncatty last summer to consider other designs. He said they attended a homeowners association board meeting in November to show models of alternate designs but were shouted down by the board.

Troncatty said that, by the time the objections were raised, plans had long since become final.

Troncatty says the choice of signs is important.

“It makes a hell of a difference when you’re considering half-a-million-dollar homes,” he said.