Thousand Oaks City Council tackle Thorny Question of Acquiring “Gifted” Open Space at $500,000 Price Tag
By Kevin Harris
The acquiring of 82 acres of gifted open space was the main event at Tuesday night’s March 14th Thousand Oaks City Council Meeting. Other key topics included public land use, two prestigious awards recently won by the our local Chamber of Commerce, and a special recognition for the city’s former Assistant Police Chief.
Item 9B: Acquisition of Open Space. Presented by Community Development Director, Mark Towne. City Council and staff have been directly working on this since 2012, when the Rasnow family offered the city 82 acres of land. COSCA (Conejo Open Space Conservation Committee) subsequently formed the Rasnow Acquisition Ad Hoc Committee, and last month, COSCA approved of acquiring the property, subject to the City Council’s approval of funding.
The land in question is a largely undeveloped tract of remote hillside, at the southern end of Ventu Park Road, used by hikers and mountain bikers, with a few private residents within it, or nearby. According to Towne, acquiring the space would benefit Thousand Oaks in a number of ways:
- It would close a gap in the planned ring of open open space.
- It would ensure continued access to the Los Robles Trail
- It would protect an important wildlife corridor
But acquiring the land would require about $500,000 in up-front costs.
“This land is being completely donated, and the cost that is being incurred is for research,” Mayor De La Pena commented during the presentation. “Because that donation consists of 51 parcels owned by 51 different people. Of course there are legal costs and other fees involved, and that is the reason there is a half million dollar price tag to this,” the Mayor added.
The funding for the land would not come from the general fund, but rather from an open space account set up many years ago. But at $500,000, it comes out to about $6,000 per acre, a bargain, considering open space land normally costs $40,000 per acre.
But a few public speakers voiced their concerns over the purchase, in particular, how it would affect their lives along their private road that would now be used by the public to access the hiking and biking trails opened up to them by this deal. But ultimately, the motion to approve the purchase passed the Council unanimously (minus Joel Price, who was not present tonight), with several council members commenting the they would be vigilant in trying to keep the affected homeowners satisfied.
Item 9A: 2016 General Plan/Housing Element Annual Progress Report. This was also presented by Mark Towne, and was a discussion outlining citywide land use and affordable housing issues. Thousand Oaks met or exceeded all of its mandates and goals for 2016.
Public Comments: Adam Haverstock, Director for Government Affairs and Tourism for the Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce, announced that our local chamber won two recent awards:
- The Presidents Circle (from the California Chamber). This is an annual award for community engagement and government affairs, and it was the 9th year in a row the Chamber has won it.
- The Tourism Improvement District. Won for best advertising statewide, based on a video it made.
Item 5: The council began the night with a special recognition of former Thousand Oaks Assistant Police Chief Jim Fryhoff, who recently was promoted to Chief of Police for Ojai. Fryhoff, who has served in the Ventura County Sheriffs Department since 1990, graduated from the FBI’s National Academy, and has worked in the Male Jail, the Camarillo Police Department and the Thousand Oaks Police Department.
The next City Council Meeting will be Tuesday, March 28, 2017, where the main item will be a workshop on marijuana policy. To watch the City Council meeting online, go to: http://www.toaks.org/departments/city-manager-s-office/public-information-office/totv/watch-videos. Then scroll down to “available archives” and click on “city council.” The meeting agenda is available at http://188.8.131.52/WebLinkPublic/DocView.aspx?dbid=0&id=1212943&page=1&cr=1.
Kevin Harris is a reporter, editor and journalist, previous President of Cal State Northridge’s Society of Professional Journalists having worked for the LA Times and Newhall Signal. He is now also a Realtor and videographer, and lives with his two children in Thousand Oaks