Panel Studies Impact of Adventist Project : Development: Thousand Oaks Planning Commission is holding four sessions on the proposed campus and shopping center.


A lengthy Thousand Oaks Planning Commission hearing, centered on the environmental hazards of a massive new shopping center and school campus proposed for Newbury Park, ended without resolution early Tuesday. So much information needed to be digested that commissioners agreed to spread the public hearing on the Seventh-day Adventist project over four sessions.

During the first session, which ran for five hours and ended shortly after midnight, planning commissioners grilled city experts on how the $100-million project might threaten endangered plants, cause traffic snarls and create smog.

Commissioners combed through a lengthy environmental report outlining potential impacts of the 179-acre project planned just north of the Ventura Freeway near Wendy Drive.


About 45 supporters of the Seventh-day Adventist development signed up to speak but most, daunted by the technical discussion, left Monday night’s public hearing before being called upon.

“I wish they would speak in a language we could understand,” said one supporter as she walked out of the hearing. “This is just too confusing.”

By the end of the five-hour hearing, commissioners had questioned city planners about half of the 19 areas in which environmental impacts were expected. They ranged from seismic hazards, which were considered minimal, to the plowing under of several endangered plant species.

Shortly after midnight, the commission agreed to adjourn and take up the remaining issues at a special meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Of those who did speak Monday night, only Sierra Club spokeswoman Cassandra Auerbach raised serious concerns about the project’s potential threat to the environment.

Auerbach criticized the project for its massive scale, saying it conflicted with the city’s General Plan and could cause “extreme and widespread environmental harm.”


“In simple terms,” she said, “the project is an environmental disaster.”

Spread over the rugged terrain visible from the Ventura Freeway, the $100-million shopping complex and school campus project would necessitate cutting into steep hillsides and bulldozing 68 acres of sage scrub and grassland.

The plan would displace 74 acres of wildlife habitat with restaurants, retail shops, a Target store and a 12-screen movie theater. To accommodate the thousands of residents coming to the complex every day, developers would need to widen roads, erect new traffic signals and rebuild a freeway interchange.

However, of the Seventh-day Adventist church’s 458 acres, 279 would remain untouched.

Supporters of the project said the finished development would blend nicely into the hillside and generate huge amounts of new revenue for the city.

“If you look at how this project was designed you would see that we intentionally left a vast portion of the land open,” said architect Francisco Behr. “Some people just want to pick this apart.”

As for the financial impacts of the project, an issue that will be discussed in detail Thursday, commissioners had varying viewpoints about the project’s threat to local businesses.

“I am certainly concerned about how a third major shopping center could impact The Oaks mall and Thousand Oaks Boulevard,” said Planning Commission Chairman Irving Wasserman.


But Commissioner Mervyn Kopp pointed to a report that shows the new center would bring added sales to the city and attract more shoppers from nearby cities such as Camarillo and Agoura.

“I think the competition will end up being beneficial to everyone because there will be more shoppers coming into Thousand Oaks,” Kopp said. “And I think the smaller retailers will be forced to improve service, because service is something the big box places don’t do.”

If the environmental impact report meets the commission’s approval Thursday, the panel will take up the project for review next week.