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Ventura County Perspective

Taking the Borchard Road Quandary to a New Level

Let us consider a practical settlement that has its roots in ancient history--that is, even older than the Thousand Oaks controversy itself.

March 12, 2000|AL GRESSLER | Al Gressler lives in Newbury Park

Just for fun, let's take a little word association test. No cheating, now.

What's the first word that pops into your mind when I say "Borchard Road"?

Lawsuit, right? Back when the most popular show on TV was the O.J. Simpson trial, the most popular show in Thousand Oaks was the legal squabble over grading the Borchard Road extension. Today, O.J.'s out playing golf but the Borchard Road controversy continues.

Allow me to propose a practical settlement that has its roots in ancient history.

As I understand the dispute, the road builders / developers asked the city fathers, or mothers, as the case may have been, for permission to build part of the extension at a 12% grade rather than the maximum allowable 5% mandated by city codes--citing either added cost or environmental impact. For whatever reason, the city granted the request and stuff hit the proverbial fan.

Folks downstream of the road feared it would be just a matter of time before unexpected guests would arrive in their living rooms still seated in their SUVs. The existence of small pets and children was threatened. People complained to the city. At that point the city folks, worried about safety and their liability, changed their minds back to the original 5% maximum.

There followed a blizzard of legal paperwork. Depositions. Decisions. Appeals. Threats. Recall petitions. Special elections. Lawsuits. Countersuits. We became the city of Thousand Suits.

The whole mess got so bad that no one would give so much as an opinion, fearing that they might be dragged into a lawsuit--Cal Poly San Luis Obispo engineering students included.

Today we're at about $700 million in lawsuits and Thousand Oaks plans to spend a potful of money to make the road safer and, hopefully, immunize it from more legal liabilities.

Only someone skilled in the art of diplomacy could bring this to Solomon-like resolution.

Now, I'm the last person anyone would accuse of being a biblical scholar. But if we're looking for a Solomon-like decision, why not read up on how he might handle it?

You remember King Solomon: When two women were fighting for child custody, each claiming to be the mother, old Sol suggested that the baby be cut in half so each could share it equally. (Jeez, the violence they allow in public libraries.)

But old Sol just might have been onto something. Why not cut the Borchard Road extension in half, with the developers and Thousand Oaks sharing the cost equally? Nope, not crosswise; lengthwise. That would make it two different levels, like the freeway approaching Pasadena from Glendale. We could keep the lanes going uphill at 12%. And we could grade the downhill lanes to a maximum of 5%. That way everyone should be satisfied--or, as with many successful negotiations, equally dissatisfied. The developers would get to keep their uphill, 12% side without risking runaway, out-of-control cars careening downhill. And the city would have a downhill grade not exceeding its 5% limit.

Just as important, both sides could stop spending money on endless litigation and get back to their fundamental preoccupations: builders, covering every square inch of Ventura County with concrete; and the Thousand Oaks City Council, solving the Great Copper Curtain Caper.

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