Council OKs Scaled-Down Jungleland Plan

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Pressured by complaints about the size of the project, Thousand Oaks City Council members Tuesday approved scaled-down plans for a $65-million hotel and office complex on the Jungleland site.

The council voted 4 to 1 to approve the agreement with Los Angeles developer Lowe Development Corp. to build a multistory hotel and office complex on Thousand Oaks Boulevard.

In a heated debate, which mirrored previous discussions about the development, Councilman Lawrence E. Horner was alone in voicing his opposition.

The pact reached with Lowe officials trims two of three office buildings to three and four stories, said Councilman Frank Schillo, one of two councilmen who negotiated the agreement.

Council members were concerned that high-rises would dwarf other buildings on Thousand Oaks Boulevard and create an urban look that contrasts with most of the city's buildings, he said.

"It made you feel you were in New York," Schillo said. "We're not that kind of community, so we wanted them to come up with some other arrangement."

City officials are expected to begin drafting final designs for the project, as well as the final agreement to be signed by Lowe and the city redevelopment agency.

Construction of the project is expected to begin within a year after the agreement is signed.

While the pact reduces the size of the buildings, it has not reduced the total office space in the 166,000-square-foot complex, said Ed Johnduff, project manager for the city. The cost of the project remains the same, he said.

Lowe was allowed to move some of the office space trimmed from the two buildings to a new building to be located in the southeast corner of the site, Johnduff said.

In return for a reduction on the height of the office buildings, originally proposed to be five stories each, committee members also agreed to let Lowe develop a 10,000-square-foot restaurant in the civic center portion of the project, he said.

A council committee made up of Schillo and Councilman Robert Lewis will continue to negotiate with Lowe on the restaurant portion of the project.

The city plans to develop a 229-room hotel, offices, movie theaters and a restaurant at the 23-acre site near Thousand Oaks Boulevard and Conejo School Road, alongside a proposed 190,000-square-foot civic center that will eventually include City Hall offices, an auditorium and community rooms. The site is known as Jungleland because it was once the home of a wild-animal theme park.

Despite the changes, the agreement leaves intact the eight-story hotel, a detail that left one City Council member unhappy with the agreement.

"I think they are concessions, but I think they're token," Horner said Tuesday. Horner was the lone council member who voted against the project July 31 when design plans were initially presented to the City Council.

Horner said he has continuing concerns about Lowe's ability to operate the complex without financial help from the city.

According to the plan, the city will lend Lowe up to $2 million in redevelopment funds during the first five years of operation. No rent will be charged during the first five years until the hotel achieves an occupancy of 70%, according to the development agreement.

Lewis said the committee did not reconsider the proposed lease arrangements with Lowe because it believed that the agreement was fair.

"What some members of the public consider subsidization, I don't view that way," he said.

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