Thousand Oaks Road Extension Plans Rejected

Times Staff Writer

The National Park Service has rejected compromise proposals by Los Angeles County to extend Thousand Oaks Boulevard through the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, an official said Monday.

The county proposed two alternatives this month to putting the boulevard through the oak-studded floor of Cheeseboro Canyon, but Park Superintendent Daniel R. Kuehn said both still would bisect the park.

"We do not want Thousand Oaks Boulevard in any way, shape or form to cross the Cheeseboro property," Kuehn said. "I'm not picking one alternative route over another. None of them is satisfactory."

The county owns a right-of-way that would allow the four-lane boulevard to be extended through the park. To ease Ventura Freeway congestion, the county hopes eventually to extend the road from where it ends in Agoura Hills east to the San Fernando Valley.

Kuehn asked the county to relinquish its right-of-way earlier this year, saying the road extension would devastate one of the most attractive parts of the park.

The county Department of Public Works refused and on Sept. 16 suggested the two alternative routes slightly south of the initial road alignment, which would cut a path straight through the canyon floor.

"We recognize that it's not the most desirable thing to go through the middle of the park," said county Public Works Deputy Director Roger Burger.

The alternatives would result in the loss of fewer oak trees, Kuehn said. But he said he opposes any road through Cheeseboro Canyon, which the Park Service bought in 1985 with $8 million in public funds.

The alternative routes would ruin a future park entrance the Park Service hopes to obtain as part of a land swap with developer Potomac Investment Associates, Kuehn said. He implored the county to examine other east-west routes, such one that would extend Agoura Road.

But an Agoura Road route would have to cross the Ventura Freeway at Las Virgenes Road, while a Thousand Oaks Boulevard route would be parallel to the freeway, Burger noted. The county also would like to extend Driver Avenue from Lost Hills Road west to Agoura Hills, as a second east-west artery.

There appears to be little the federal government can do to stop the boulevard extension. The Park Service bought the land with an easement, giving the county the right to build the road.

The opposition of Agoura Hills officials and residents has been the primary obstacle to the planned extension, which has yet to be proposed formally. The boulevard is incomplete for less than a mile in a semi-rural part of the city.

"We're encouraging the city to go ahead with Thousand Oaks," said County Supervisor Mike Antonovich. The city does not plan to complete its part of the boulevard.

At a Sept. 16 debate with opponent Baxter Ward, Antonovich said: "Thousand Oaks Boulevard is the only road that runs parallel to the freeway. You want to have accessibility, you're gonna have to have the roads."

Two developers who plan separate residential projects to the east and south of the park might be asked by the county to help make the extension a reality by paying for parts of it.

One of them, Potomac, has proposed swapping land with the Park Service. In the exchange, the developer would trade parkland for a road through the park linking a future extension of Liberty Canyon Road from the Ventura Freeway to Potomac's proposed Jordan Ranch development in Ventura County.

"Connecting Liberty adds more motorists to the freeway," the county's Burger said. "Before Liberty is connected, we ought to have Thousand Oaks Boulevard. . . . We need to do something to relieve the freeway."

In addition, he said, if the Park Service "can trade any piece of their park for a road, the concept is there. We want to build a road; maybe we could work out a trade."

Kuehn said the proposed land trade could be in jeopardy if it is linked with the Thousand Oaks Boulevard extension.

"If that's what the county is going to rely on" for the boulevard extension, he said, "then we've got to rethink the whole thing."

Kuehn is leaving his post this week for the top job at Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

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