Officials of the unincorporated community of Oak Park, which has been trying for at least two years to become a city, have begun talking about merging with the Los Angeles County city of Agoura Hills if they cannot get what they want from Ventura County.
Members of the Oak Park Municipal Advisory Council have pushed for cityhood as a way of gaining control over both development in surrounding areas and local services, but so far without success.
In response, Ventura County is conducting a detailed study of whether Oak Park would be able to support itself as a city. A separate study is being conducted on the benefits of annexing to Thousand Oaks, a city of about 104,000 people.
This week, three of the five Oak Park advisory council members suggested looking at a new approach to local control: merging with neighboring Agoura Hills in a complicated move that would ultimately make Agoura Hills part of Ventura County.
Such a plan would require approval by the boards of supervisors in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, a prospect considered unlikely by officials outside Oak Park. Nonetheless, Oak Park officials said they want to pursue the idea.
"I've heard about it from enough people," said Duane Skavdahl, chairman of the Oak Park council, an elected body that advises the Ventura County Board of Supervisors on a wide range of issues. "If you talk to some people in Oak Park, they think they live in Agoura Hills."
Skavdahl said he plans to meet with Agoura Hills representatives to discuss the idea.
Under the proposal, Oak Park, a community of 13,000 people near the southeastern edge of Ventura County, would be annexed to Agoura Hills, a city of 20,300. The county line that separates them would be moved south so both communities would be within Ventura County.
In return, Ahmanson Ranch and a massive housing development proposed there would be moved into Los Angeles County, said Ron Stark, a member of the Oak Park council.
Oak Park officials said they have not yet researched the legal methods to move the county line, but see many advantages to the proposal.
For example, residents on both sides of the county line would benefit from living in a city with a bigger voice in local affairs and with more money to run city government, Stark said.
"We're tired of the county stepping all over us," he said. "Looking at dollars and cents, it would probably be a good idea."
An Agoura Hills official said he is interested in discussing the idea with Oak Park.
"People have known Agoura as a community for a long time and still think of it that way," said Agoura Hills City Manager David Carmany, referring to the general area on both sides of the county line that includes Agoura Hills and Oak Park.
But some Oak Park and Ventura County officials were skeptical.
Doug Johnson, a spokesman for Ventura County Supervisor Maria VanderKolk, whose district encompasses Oak Park and the Jordan and Ahmanson ranches, dismissed the proposal.
"I think it's ludicrous," Johnson said. "It's more than just weird."
George Anterasian, a new member of the Oak Park council, said he does not see tremendous support among fellow residents for such a merger.
"It's my impression that Oak Park enjoys its distinctiveness from Agoura Hills," he said. "I personally feel it is better for Oak Park to become a city in its own right, rather than to merge with Agoura Hills."
Moreover, state law prevents any city from annexing territory outside of the county in which it is situated, said Robert Braitman, outgoing executive director of the Ventura County Local Agency Formation Commission.
He added, however, that it is possible to move the county line with the consent of the boards of supervisors in both areas. Agoura Hills residents would also have to approve of moving into Ventura County before a change could occur.
Previously, when such changes were suggested, residents on both sides of the line objected, Braitman said. Oak Park would also probably encounter major stumbling blocks in its attempt to merge with its cross-border neighbors, he said.
"I don't think the L.A. fire district would like to lose territory. What do we do about school district boundaries . . . about water and sanitation issues?"
Merger Proposal The unincorporated Ventura County community of Oak Park has proposed merging with the Los Angeles County city of Agoura Hills, Oak Park, a community of about 13,000 people, would become part of Agoura Hills, now a city of 20,300. The county line would be moved south so that both would be located in Ventura County.