Historic Adobe’s Supporters Balk at New Freeway Plan

Times Staff Writer

It isn’t the legendary Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

State Department of Transportation highway engineers and Calabasas history buffs are facing off in a more genteel showdown over a corral connected to a 77-year-old barn behind the historic Leonis Adobe in Calabasas.

Caltrans officials would like to chop off a corner of the Leonis Corral to make room for an off-ramp for a $40-million Ventura Freeway interchange. But members of a historical association that operates the 1844 Leonis Adobe as a museum and as Los Angeles’ official “Historic Cultural Monument No. 1" are against the idea.

When Caltrans planners disclosed 2 months ago that they also needed to take a 20-foot-wide strip off the front of the adobe site to make way for the new Valley Circle interchange, leaders of the Leonis Adobe Assn. hit the building’s 145-year-old ceiling.


Association members helped rally others in Calabasas to oppose the Caltrans proposal, which centers on an unusual freeway “flyover bridge” that the state wants to build as part of the new interchange.

The flyover bridge would connect two-lane Calabasas Road on the south side of the freeway with the four-lane Ventura Boulevard on the north in Woodland Hills. Such a connection would require the widening of Calabasas Road and, thus, the loss of the 20-foot strip of adobe frontage.

Angry association officials charged that the connection would turn narrow Calabasas Road into an extension of busy Ventura Boulevard and ruin the quaint ambiance of Old Town Calabasas--a 2-block collection of clapboard storefronts that first sprang up around the adobe about 75 years ago.

The resulting furor forced Caltrans planners back to their drawing boards.

Last month, Caltrans officials said they were willing to redesign the flyover bridge so it would not threaten the front of the adobe. They also said they would modify the off-ramp that was threatening the corral at the rear of the adobe.

Instead of carrying four lanes of traffic into Calabasas, the bridge would carry only two lanes of traffic from Ventura Boulevard onto Calabasas Road, they said. The other two lanes would turn away from Calabasas Road. The off-ramp, meanwhile, would be moved a few feet farther from the corral.

Caltrans engineers and transportation experts from the city of Los Angeles met last week with the Leonis Adobe Assn. to explain the new plan--and ask that the group drop its opposition to the interchange.

Doubts Remain

But the history buffs have reacted with old-fashioned skepticism to the revisions.

“At this point, we don’t believe any of it,” said Ray Phillips, the president of the association’s seven-member board of directors. “We’re still worried about being sliced off one piece at a time.”

The new plan, Phillips said, would prevent the loss of the 20-foot strip in front of the adobe. At the rear of the 1,600-foot-wide adobe property, Caltrans now calculates it needs only about 14 feet for the off-ramp, not about 24 feet as calculated earlier.

Such a shift would save the corral, said Phillips, 68, a retired Studio City insurance broker who has headed the association for 26 years. He acknowledged that “it’s tempting” for the association to back the plan, particularly since it would not have to pay for $165,000 worth of curbs, gutters and concrete sidewalks that would be required if Calabasas Road was widened to four lanes in front of the adobe property.

But the adobe association will continue to oppose the flyover bridge as long as it is four lanes wide, Phillips said.

‘Foot in the Door’

“The flyover would still have four lanes of traffic. Caltrans says they’d divert two lanes of that away from Calabasas, but all they’d have to do in the future is divert it back--and then condemn our land. “We feel it’s a foot in the door.”

A better plan, Phillips said, would be for Caltrans to keep Ventura Boulevard on the north side of the Ventura Freeway and extend it west from Valley Circle Boulevard. Since the adobe and Old Town Calabasas is on the south side of the freeway, they would be spared from future traffic increases.

Engineers from Caltrans and the Los Angeles City Transportation Department who attended last week’s meeting could not be reached afterward because of their New Year’s holiday schedule.

But Ken Nelson, Caltrans’ chief planner for the Valley Circle project, previously has stressed that both the state and the city feel the new interchange would be valueless without the Ventura Boulevard-to-Calabasas Road freeway flyover bridge.

He said that officials would be inclined to scrap the project if it did not include the flyover bridge because it would be a waste of money to build the interchange without it.

“We think we have a design that will relieve traffic through the year 2010,” Nelson said last month of the revised plans.

Phillips said the adobe association is prepared to call the transportation engineers’ bluff. He said his group will sue if necessary to stop the four-lane flyover bridge.

“They’re talking about making plans for 20 years,” Phillips said. “We’re making plans for 200 years from now.”