Despite strong protests from Northrop Corp., a divided Thousand Oaks City Council has voted to relocate a planned apartment complex from a gated community to an industrial zoned area nearby.
After a 2 1/2-hour hearing, the council voted 3 to 2 to approve Shapell Industries’ proposal to move the 268-unit apartment complex initially planned for its Rancho Conejo Village subdivision. Mayor Elois Zeanah and Councilwoman Jaime Zukowski cast the dissenting votes.
The council’s action drew cheers from about two dozen homeowners who turned out to lobby for the relocation. They argued that it was unfair for them to pay monthly assessment fees of $99 and have to share their private security and recreational facilities with renters who would pay nothing.
“I object to being discriminated against by being forced to subsidize renters through homeowner assessment fees,” resident Judy Wong told the council. “Having renters in the gated community defeats the purpose of why we moved there.”
But Zeanah and Zukowski agreed with Northrop officials that the relocation represented poor planning and may hurt the aerospace company’s ability to sell its vacant 100-acre property on Rancho Conejo Boulevard. The property is adjacent to the future apartment complex.
Zeanah pointed out that the city would be losing 14 acres of industrial-zoned land, which would be rezoned high-density residential to accommodate the apartment complex.
“I hear the residents’ concerns,” she said. “But we’re impacting the future of new and existing businesses in the city’s primary industrial area.”
The mayor also questioned why it would be preferable to put the apartment complex in an industrial area, rather than a gated community.
“Once again we’re putting the lower-income residents in the least desirable locations,” she said. “That’s wrong.”
But Councilman Alex Fiore said he saw nothing wrong with the relocation, noting that other apartment complexes in the city were located next to freeways and major commercial complexes.
“I don’t think an apartment complex across from an industrial complex is a problem,” Fiore said. “It’s not a problem in the whole state of California.”
Northrop representatives, however, complained that the relocation would discourage potential buyers because of concerns about possible restrictions on noise, traffic and hours of operation.
They said the city also would suffer because it has been trying to attract new businesses to replace Northrop since it closed its facilities in 1991.
Bob Holland, a planning consultant hired by Northrop, told the council that the company is in negotiations with one manufacturer that could bring 2,800 jobs to the city. Holland, who did not disclose the name of the company, said it would probably operate 24 hours and have as many as 40 truck trips a day.
“We don’t think this is good planning,” said Holland, one of five representatives to speak on Northrop’s behalf. “Why don’t we slow down a bit and take a look at some other alternatives?”
He suggested moving the guard gates around Rancho Conejo Village, so the apartment complex would be outside the subdivision but still within the residential zone.
But Frank Fay, a Shapell official, said this would be unacceptable because it would create new traffic problems for the subdivision by putting the apartment complex directly outside the main entrance to the community.
Fay promised the council that Shapell would ensure that there was sufficient landscaping and other barriers, such as a parking structure or recreational facilities, to shield the apartment complex from the Northrop property.
At the urging of Councilwoman Judy Lazar, Fay said the developer would also be willing to further reduce the size of the apartment complex to provide an adequate buffer between the apartment complex and the Northrop plant. The developer already plans to reduce the apartment building from 400 units to 268.
“We are willing to work with the city,” Fay said. “We will not cause anyone to lose employment opportunities in Thousand Oaks.”