An exhausted Simi Valley Planning Commission endorsed a major new recreation and shopping complex early Thursday after discounting the threat of a catastrophic flood and embracing the idea that local teen-agers need more to do.
Commissioners heard from 50 speakers and spent until 2:45 a.m. before voicing their support for the 180,000-square-foot complex planned for Royal Avenue and Madera Road.
Exhaustion kept the commissioners from rewriting the proposal to their satisfaction, so their final vote on the project was delayed until early next month.
But the commissioners dealt with all the major issues that stood in the way of approval, including neighborhood concerns on noise, traffic, and a city ordinance that prevents construction in an area that would be deluged if Bard Dam broke.
During seven hours of public debate, residents who live near the project site said the complex would bring too much noise and traffic and argued that the complex should be scaled back or tossed out entirely.
But dozens of Simi Valley’s teen-agers and other young residents told the commissioners that they had to leave the city to have fun. They enthusiastically endorsed the project, which calls for an ice rink, billiards parlor, video arcade and food court.
Among the major sticking points for the $20-million project was concern it would violate a city policy prohibiting construction in the flood path of the 29-year-old Bard Dam.
City planners told the commission that a breach in the earthen dam could send 3 billion gallons of water rushing toward Madera Road, leaving nothing but a swath of dirt in its path.
“Development at the site would cease to exist,” planner Laura Kuhn said.
Commissioners agreed that approval of the Iceoplex project would mean a shift in city policy, and they proposed rewriting guidelines to allow construction of commercial property in the flood path.
Officials at the Calleguas Municipal Water District said there is virtually no risk that the dam would fail catastrophically.
“I’d be more concerned about the ozone layer,” General Manager Donald Kendall said. “We’ve got safety measures in place that ensure that kind of failure would never happen.”
Commissioner Michael Piper said he would be uncomfortable allowing residences to be built in the flood path, but commercial developments such as the proposed sports complex would be acceptable.
For the residents living in an area already plagued by traffic noise from Madera Road, fears of flooding were secondary to concerns over the clamor from a 24-hour shopping and skating center that’s been proposed.
“Already we get a lot of noise from Madera, and now we’re talking about a six-lane road and a complex open all night,” said Theresa Berenger, chairwoman of the region’s neighborhood council.
But the three commissioners hearing the proposal, Piper, Sherida Simmons and Dean Kunicki, said noise would increase in the area with or without the project. Commissioner Robert Swoish was absent and Commissioner Dave McCormick abstained from the hearing because he lives in the neighborhood.
But, Simmons said, if the project goes through the developer would pay for improvements such as the road widening and traffic signals.
Developers told the commission they could not control noise from passing cars, but they would employ security guards to limit noise from outside their buildings.
The sports center would not only be a good neighbor, they said, it would help keep teen-agers off the streets.
“We’re not just talking about a skating rink,” said Brad Berman, president of Iceoplex, a company that runs a similar center in North Hills.
The complex would include an array of services and activities for children and adults, including restaurants, shops, medical offices, a gym, pool hall and a video arcade.
And with the growing popularity of ice-skating and hockey in Southern California, supporters said the rink should draw hundreds of local children.
In its first year, the Iceoplex in North Hills drew 150 youths for its hockey league, said Larry Bruyere, head of the hockey program in North Hills. By the third year they had 600 youths and a waiting list nearly as long, he said.
“This is not just a fad for kids around here,” Bruyere said. “It’s a major addition to recreation, and we need to give them a place to play.”
If the project is approved by the City Council next month, the head of Camarillo-based Ventura Pacific Capital Co. said the company hopes to open the center by November, 1995.
* ICE RINK
Easy Street Arena opens late next week in Simi Valley. C8