Although they have kept things friendly since going their separate ways four years ago, the neighboring cities of Westlake Village and Agoura Hills may be on their first collision course.
At issue is the proposed construction of a business park and high-density residential project at the eastern edge of Westlake Village, next to Agoura Hills' Lake Lindero neighborhood.
Billionaire landowner and developer Daniel K. Ludwig has applied for permission to subdivide the 131-acre site. The horseshoe-shaped parcel borders Pierce Brothers Valley Oaks Memorial Park cemetery north of the Ventura Freeway at Lindero Canyon Road.
The proposal has stirred little interest among Westlake Village homeowners, most of whom live some distance from the proposed project and are busy fighting their own battle with Ludwig over a plan to convert the Westlake Village Golf Course into a business park.
But it has whipped up the anger of Agoura Hills residents, who feel Ludwig's plans for 665 apartment or condominium units at the edge of the property will turn the area into what one resident described as "a ghetto."
Agoura Hills city officials are hurrying to register their objections to the proposal before it is reviewed by Westlake Village city officials at a public hearing expected late next month.
Such opposition is likely to be viewed by many in Westlake Village as ironic, particularly since Westlake residents formed their own city in 1981 to avoid becoming a part of the then-planned City of Agoura Hills.
At the time, Westlake Village leaders complained that their expensive community had as much in common with Agoura as Beverly Hills had with Culver City.
Michael Hus, Agoura Hills city manager, said Wednesday that he does not know how the objections will be received by Westlake Village officials.
"I don't know how much clout we'll have," Hus said. "But . . . I'm sure they will review anything we submit and take it into consideration."
Ludwig's proposal calls for construction of commercial buildings on 35 acres of the horseshoe "legs" next to the cemetery. A 62-acre business park and the 27-acre residential project would be built on the eastern end of the site, adjacent to the city boundary and next to the Lake Lindero tract. Built at a density of up to 25 units per acre, the dwellings would house an estimated 1,297 people.
Current zoning for the site allows such multiple uses and the city's newly approved master plan designates the area suitable for commercial and business uses as well as 300 dwelling units. The Ludwig proposal would require an amendment to the master plan.
Allen Camp, a Thousand Oaks attorney who represents Ludwig's Westlake Village interests, said Ludwig's local development arm, Westlake Village Associates, would prefer to use the entire tract for commercial and business-park buildings.
"But the City of Westlake has designated on their general plan that it be a relatively high-density housing development," Camp said Wednesday. "And to be wherever possible consistent with the city general plan, we've kept it that way."
Ironically, the Westlake Village master plan called for residential zoning at the site as a way of buffering the Lake Lindero neighborhood from commercial development by Ludwig, said James Emmons, Westlake Village city manager.
"The intent was, partially, to protect the Lake Lindero people," Emmons said Wednesday. "The owner of the property has proposed higher density than what we've originally allowed. Our council provided moderate density."
But, because of the economics of the development, Ludwig's planners are saying "they can't live with that, that they need higher density," Emmons said.
Agoura Hills' Hus said he has asked the City Council to review an environmental impact report on the Ludwig project by next week.
Prepared by a Westlake Village consulting firm, the report suggests that a landscaped buffer strip be created between homes in the Lake Lindero area and the proposed business park and high-density housing.
A similar planted strip could be used to separate the new Ludwig residences from the adjoining proposed commercial and business park areas, the study recommends.
An existing 155-foot-wide Southern California Edison Co. transmission line easement will further help separate the Lake Lindero area from the new development, according to the environmental study.
But that is not going to be enough to protect the quiet atmosphere that Lake Lindero residents have enjoyed for nearly two decades, homeowners say.
"It's crazy. The density is too high and it's going to adversely affect our lake with runoff and our traffic," said Vicky Leary, an Agoura Hills city councilwoman who lives at Lake Lindero.
Leary said she feels it is an insult for Westlake Village to concentrate high-density development at its edge, where others are affected.
Lake Lindero resident Robert Uebersax said he and his neighbors are convinced that the Ludwig project will be "highly destructive of our quality of life here."
"I'm afraid that it might create a ghetto out here. High density and low cost--that's the classic definition of a ghetto," said Uebersax, an aerospace engineer who has lived at Lake Lindero for 15 years.
James D. Price, general manager of the 40-acre Pierce Brothers cemetery, said his company has taken no stand on the Ludwig plan. The proposal seems compatible with the cemetery, which is less than 8% filled, he said.
Pierce Brothers rents a small portion of the Ludwig property for its crematorium but would relocate that facility when development begins, he said.