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West Valley Focus

CALABASAS : City Begins Review of Development Site

August 10, 1993|KURT PITZER

The city of Calabasas has begun reviewing plans to develop the southeast side of the Ventura Freeway and Las Virgenes Road, in an effort to determine whether the site would be more appropriate for housing than an approved commercial center.

The proposal by the Baldwin Co. to build 196 units on 43 acres of hillside had been on hold because the development firm had not completed the paperwork needed to send the plan through the city review process.

"There hasn't been much priority for processing the plans because the company has recently refinanced," said Robert Burns, president of Baldwin's Los Angeles/Ventura division. "But the financing is there for the project. If things went smoothly, we'd like to start (construction) next year."

The city last month turned the proposal over to a consultant to study environmental concerns, including the geological effects of grading the hillside for housing. After the completion of the study, scheduled for the fall, Baldwin may turn in more detailed plans, Calabasas Associate Planner Anna-Lisa Hernandez said.

The initial proposal to build a commercial outlet of 200,000 square feet was approved by Los Angeles County officials before the city incorporated in 1990. That proposal is part of a controversial plan that also includes a church and 550 units of housing on 612 acres. Under the plan, another 638 acres would be designated as parkland.

The company could begin construction, according to its original plan, at any time.

"We're still trying to figure out the best use for the site, the use that would be most acceptable to the community," Burns said. "We're looking to see if the residential usage would work better for people."

Although the review of the proposal is just getting under way, most people agree that building residences might cut into the natural slope less than the construction of a single large building.

"Probably the best use of the property would be for it to remain open space, for environmental reasons," Calabasas Planning Director Steve Harris said. "But you would probably be able to do something a little more sensitive (than the approved plan) with a residential project."

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