Thousand Oaks Won’t Allow Final 16 Homes for Dos Vientos
Courting a another lawsuit over the massive Dos Vientos housing project, the City Council has spurned a bid to build the development’s last 16 homes.
The decision came just before midnight Tuesday, when the council unanimously told developer Arlen Miller that he had traded away two years ago his rights to the final units of the 2,350-home project in southwestern Newbury Park.
At that time Miller pitched building more marketable detached homes, rather than attached condominiums, in one segment of the often-maligned project and volunteered to give up 16 units. Miller and his company, Courtly Homes Inc., recently asked to have those units transferred to a later phase.
The answer from the council--after almost four hours of public comment and discussion--was a unanimous no.
“A bargain is a bargain; a deal is a deal,” Councilwoman Judy Lazar said. “A request made [in 1996] based on the reduction of 16 units--that is the contract. In my mind, 16 units are not removed or reduced if they’re moved somewhere else. . . . [The 16 units] were gone then, and they’re gone now.”
After the protracted public hearing, Miller was coy about whether he would sue the city to reinstate the houses, which are worth millions. Previously, one of his representatives told The Times that Courtly Homes would “sue in a heartbeat.”
“I think we’ll have to assess our options,” Miller said Tuesday.
The council heard from two dozen neighbors, some opposed and others in favor of the project; consulted with the city attorney; and heard legal reasoning from Courtly Homes about why removing the homes could cost them in court.
The discussion ranged from talk about proposed affordable housing to allegations of a flawed traffic analysis for the project, which has drawn the ire of many city residents but also does not lack for supporters.
Irv Gold was one of about 40 residents at the hearing wearing “DVA” buttons, marking him as a “Dos Vientos Amigo.” Allowing the 16 homes would help ease a housing crunch in the Conejo Valley, he said.
“Sixteen homes would have a tremendous effect on 16 families,” he said. “There’s a shortage of homes here. We know this; everyone knows this.”
Resident Marshall Dixon said the developers should have thought of that before they proposed building detached homes.
“The developer bargained away those rights for a specific benefit,” said Dixon, who is running for City Council. “This is a classic case of ‘You can’t have your cake and eat it too.’ ”
A convoluted path led to the public hearing.
At issue was whether Miller forfeited his right to the final 16 homes when he asked the council in 1996 to allow him to build the detached homes in one tract. On a split vote, with the removal of 16 units as a part of the deal, the council agreed.
After environmentalists sued, a Superior Court judge voided the 1996 decision for technical reasons, forcing the council to vote again.
In February, the council took up the matter a second time, approving the detached homes and making no mention of removing the 16 homes. During a hearing, the Planning Commission allowed Miller to transfer the 16 homes to another tract in the project.
Though planners initially endorsed the transfer, the city’s planning director later appealed the decision to allow it.
Miller and his representatives believe City Council members pressured Planning Director Phil Gatch to appeal the decision, which could make the city vulnerable to legal challenge.
Gatch said Tuesday it was his decision, alone, to pursue the appeal because he was worried that the planning decision could set a dangerous precedent.
“This is a complex type of case with complex zoning in it,” Gatch said. “We believe that the elected officials . . . should make the decision on this as opposed to appointed leaders [of the Planning Commission] or staff.”
The city lost a similar suit in 1994 when the council appealed a Planning Commission decision to allow developer Nedjatollah Cohan to build a controversial shopping center. When the council shot down the center, Cohan sued, won and received a $300,000 settlement.