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Road to Dos Vientos Paved With Protests

City hall: Plan to build over hills would save money and spare the land. But residents are concerned.


THOUSAND OAKS — After listening to protests from several residents that a steeper, narrower road to the Dos Vientos Ranch development would create safety and traffic problems, the City Council continued to argue late Tuesday over changes proposed for the long-delayed project.

Less than 24 hours after the Planning Commission turned down a blueprint to modify the extension of Borchard Road into Dos Vientos, council members listened to another plea from the developer, Operating Engineers Funds, to allow the road to conform to the contours of the hill it will pass over.

As originally planned, the access road would require massive grading of the hillside, leaving 315-foot-high slopes on both sides, said Senior Planner Greg Smith. Roughly 3.5 million cubic yards of earth would have to be removed, leaving scars that would be visible from the Ventura Freeway, said Eric Taylor of VTN West Inc., the land planning company hired by Operating Engineers for the Dos Vientos project.

The steeper grade would save more of the hillside, requiring only 260,000 cubic yards of grading, Taylor said. At its steepest points, the road extension would have a 12% grade. By contrast, portions of the Conejo Grade are a 15% grade, Smith said.

Operating Engineers also asked for permission to build a small portion of the Borchard Road extension as two lanes instead of four lanes, as was originally proposed. But Taylor told the Planning Commission that the developer was more concerned with cutting into the hillside than with the number of lanes it would have to build.

"It's not the two lanes versus the four lanes that matter to us," he said. "It's the slope."

In 1988, the City Council approved plans by Operating Engineers and another developer, Courtly Homes, to build 2,360 homes at Dos Vientos Ranch. The property was once owned by Malcolm Clark, the designer of the Snap-On Tool line and a former head tool and die maker for automobile magnate Henry Ford. But residential development has yet to take place, and city leaders are now considering minor changes to the original plans.

Some Newbury Park residents asked the council to reconsider the overall size of the project. But City Atty. Mark Sellers said that would not be possible at this late point in the process.

"Dos Vientos was never a good idea, except from a developer's point of view. It's just too big," said resident Joy Meade. "The only real way to mitigate Dos Vientos is to downsize Dos Vientos."

Tuesday night's council meeting came after a marathon six-hour Planning Commission hearing on the changes that lasted until Tuesday morning--itself a continuation of a five-hour hearing that began last week.

At last week's hearing, some residents told the commission that a steeper grade on Borchard Road would turn it into a speedway, endangering the lives of Cypress Elementary School students, 30% of whom cross Borchard, between Reino Road and Los Vientos Drive, to attend classes.

The City Council also discussed an updated environmental impact report for the project, a detailed plan for a 668-lot subdivision within the project and a proposal to build an equestrian center and a community park. The Planning Commission approved those items early Tuesday morning.

After listening to resident complaints about the project Monday night, Planning Commission Chairman Forrest Frields said he had serious concerns about the impact of the more expansive grading on the hill, but could not ignore concerns from area residents who said that a steeper, narrower road would be a safety hazard and would send increased traffic onto adjacent streets.

"That seems like an injurious thing to do to the hillside," Frields said before Monday's meeting. But on Tuesday he explained why he voted against the planned changes: "The safety issue and the concerns of area residents could not be ignored."

Commissioner Linda Parks, who spearheaded opposition to the proposal to alter the road plan, said the changes to the roadway were merely an effort by the developers to cut corners and save money.

"These changes would benefit the developer to the expense of the community," Parks said.

Taylor acknowledged the changes would result in between $1.5 million and $4 million in savings that would be shared by Operating Engineers and Courtly Homes.

Bustillo is a Times staff writer; Helft is a Times correspondent.

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