Leaders of a Calabasas incorporation drive decided Wednesday to cut their proposed city in half in a last-ditch effort to salvage their troubled 2-year-old cityhood campaign.
Incorporation committee leaders told the Los Angeles County Local Agency Formation Commission that they will redraw their proposed city boundaries to exclude two rural neighborhoods in hopes of saving money and overcoming a projected $3-million municipal deficit.
Decision In July
Commissioners said they will decide July 22 if projected tax revenues for the smaller city would be adequate to pay for the services the area needs. If the numbers work out, the commission can authorize a referendum on the issue among Calabasas voters next year.
The boundary reduction was disheartening to some cityhood backers who had looked to incorporation as a way of controlling growth in the mountainous Mulholland Highway area southwest of the San Fernando Valley.
But committee members called Wednesday's development a victory because the commission staff had urged an outright rejection of the incorporation request.
The group's initial application spanned 26 square miles bounded on the east and west by the cities of Los Angeles and Agoura Hills, and on the north and south by the Ventura County line and the Santa Monica Mountains' Saddle Peak.
The area beneath Saddle Peak contains the tiny neighborhoods of Monte Nido and Cold Creek, which are surrounded by vast tracts of undeveloped, brush-covered mountain land.
The cost of brush-fire protection in those areas was cited by commission Executive Officer Ruth Benell as a major stumbling block in obtaining a balanced first-year budget had Calabasas incorporated. Benell said fire protection would cost the new city $1.6 million per year.
"There appears to be insufficient revenue to support the needed services being provided to the area," Benell said in urging rejection of cityhood.
Incorporation advocates have disputed Benell's budget calculations, which predict that the new city would spend $5.7 million its first year while only taking in $2.8 million. But they did not contest her figures at Wednesday's commission hearing.
Instead, they excluded Monte Nido and Cold Creek in their revised proposal.
"We're very strongly convinced that the city, in some configuration, will have the ability to sustain itself," committee Vice President Dennis Washburn told commissioners.
"We know this is a boom town. We have a burgeoning population with common interests . . . a cohesive community that wants incorporation very badly."
Washburn bristled, however, when Commissioner Henri F. Pellissier suggested that Calabasas residents satisfy their incorporation urge by linking up with neighboring Los Angeles or Agoura Hills.
"We have our own identity," Washburn said. "We don't want to be annexed to any other city."
The compromise cutback was suggested by Commissioner Hal Bernson, the Los Angeles City Councilman who represents the northwest Valley.
Bernson said Benell will be asked to do two new budget calculations--one for the half-sized city and one for an even smaller area covering basically only the Calabasas Park and Mulwood areas at the eastern edge of Calabasas.
"I'm very pleased," cityhood committee Chairman Bob Hill of Calabasas Park said after the hearing. "We've got half a loaf. We're going to try now to make it viable."
Committee member Hal Helsley, whose Cold Creek home is outside the new boundary, said he will try to get his neighborhood included in the proposed city when the matter comes back before the commission July 22.
"I feel disappointed. It splits a feeling of community in half. I'll never give up. We'll be part of Calabasas some day," Helsley said.