Link to original article: http://www.theacorn.com/news/2014-10-09/Front_Page/Plan_gets_second_look.html

By Stephanie Bertholdo

The economy has improved and the City of Agoura Hills is taking another look at the longawaited Agoura Village plan.

The plan to transform the area along Agoura Road at Cornell and Kanan roads into a development that mixes stores, offices, restaurants, entertainment, services and residential living was discussed during a Sept. 23 meeting between the Agoura Hills City Council and Planning Commission.

Progress halted when the U.S. economy tanked in 2008.

The works hop was designed as a way for council members and commissioners to revisit what they hope will one day be a signature town center and pedestrian hub.

Mike Kamino, Agoura Hills director of planning and development, said Agoura Village will transform the Agoura Road business corridor into a pedestrian-friendly area for residents to live, work, shop and be entertained.

Larry Kosmont, president and CEO of Kosmont Companies, an economic development services firm in Los Angeles, presented an overview at the meeting of how the economy has changed since the Agoura Village planning began.

The retail economy, while improved, is not as strong as it used to be. Rents are lower and vacancies are higher, due in part to the growth of online shopping. Office vacancy is high, also.

Conversely, hotel rates and occupancy are trending higher. Kosmont said. Housing rents are also rising while availability remains low.

Parking was also discussed at the meeting. Diagonal street parking might be an option. Subterranean parking was also discussed.

The majority of the City Council wants retail shops in the village area. But according to the report presented at the meeting, developers aren’t as enthusiastic.

Meanwhile, the city’s leaders are scrutinizing all aspects of the retail component, including the orientation of proposed shops, i.e., whether storefronts should face inward toward a central plaza or outward toward the street.

Design features of the Agoura Village stores should not be “cookie cutter,” said Erik Justesen of RRM Design Group in San Luis Obispo.

Council member Har ry Schwarz said he envisions Agoura Village as a “real town center—a place where it’s not just retail. We need to take advantage that we are a unique city. It’s a noble cause.”

Councilmember Illece Buckley Weber wants the project to work in concert with the adjacent Santa Mountains, including Ladyface Mountain.

Former Agoura Hills Mayor Ed Corridori reminded the council and commissioners about the original intent of the Agoura Village plan.

“Our object was not to push the economy forward, but to complete our community in the way citizens wanted it completed. (The city is) getting projects that don’t meet the criteria. Maybe our community is a little eccentric. There’s a great opportunity here—it’s a tremendously unique piece of land,” Corridori said.

“We’ve been waiting for a very long time. I recommend staying the course a little longer. We need to focus on finishing Agoura Road,” Planning Commissioner Linda Northrop said “I don’t recommend any changes to the (Village plan) until the infrastructure is done.”

City is ‘micromanaging’

City Councilmember Denis Weber warned his colleagues not to “dither” about the details of the Agoura Village plan and instead allow the development applications to proceed through normal channels where changes can be made.

“There’s an impatience for something to happen in Agoura Hills,” Weber said. “(Residents) want to shop here.”

Because the process has dragged out, developers are growing impatient, Weber said.

“I worry about delays and timing. I would like to see something there in the next five years.

“We seem to be micromanaging this as usual, so let’s see what sort of vision the applicants can bring to us before saying no,” Weber said.

Planning Commissioner John O’Meara agreed.

“I am disappointed we’re not further along,” he said. “We have the right City Council to make big decisions now. I hope there is a no paralysis by over analysis.”