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Apartment Plan in Horse Country Causes Outcry

Simi Valley: Builder requests zoning to accommodate a three-story complex. Residents say it's wrong for the area.

April 22, 2002|CARRI KARUHN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Worried that a proposed three-story hotel would be built next to his Simi Valley home, Tracy Jeffrey moved 18 months ago to raise two Arabian horses and his goat in peace.

Now, after relocating to another semi-rural equestrian neighborhood in town, the 39-year-old plumbing contractor is upset that two Los Angeles County developers want to build a three-story apartment complex adjacent to his new house on Leeds Street, which lacks curbs or sidewalks.

"I thought I was away from any more three-story developments," he said. "I thought it would be a single-story home [built] next to me."

Simi Valley Investment Co. in Encino and MW Development of Santa Monica plan to build a 202-unit apartment complex along Los Angeles Avenue, between Stearns Street and Ralston Avenue. The project, which also would include three single-family houses and two parking structures, would extend to Leeds. The 81/2-acre site is next to Rancho Santa Susana Community Park and across the street from the city's train station.

The developers are scheduled to appear before the Planning Commission on Wednesday to ask for a rezoning of the property to high-density development and for permission to subdivide it into four lots. An amendment to the city's general plan would be needed.

Michael Weyrick, president of MW Development, said the project, to be called Spanish Villas at the Park, is ideal for the neighborhood because it would offer 51 affordable apartments and be within walking distance of stores and the Amtrak and Metrolink station.

"One of the obvious ways to try to mitigate traffic is to locate near transportation hubs," Weyrick said. "Someone can live in the apartment complex, literally walk across the street and go to work in Los Angeles" without using an automobile.

Also, the city has already approved Parker Ranch, a 324-unit apartment complex under construction just down Los Angeles Avenue.

But Jeffrey and his neighbors have no desire for apartments in their neighborhood of single-family homes on lots of at least half an acre.

They fear the project would lead to additional high-density developments, attract crime and obstruct their views of the mountains. Homeowners also worry that future tenants would complain about the dust and odor caused by horses and other livestock and try to force existing residents to move.

But the principal concern is increased traffic. Residents fear apartment dwellers would speed down their quiet streets en route to the Ronald Reagan Freeway, threatening the safety of children and people on horseback.

Ralston Avenue resident Brent Radley said traffic is already a problem. "When the train comes, everybody has to turn right down our street. People use it for a speedway," he said. "I have three children; they like to play in the frontyard. People fly down the street with no regard for anything."

Mayor Bill Davis is reserving judgment on the project until it reaches the City Council, but thinks it may infringe on the neighboring equestrian community.

"I have a problem with apartments abutting horse-keeping properties," Davis said. "We desperately need apartments, especially affordable apartments. The problem is, where's the best location? You can't put a three-story apartment complex in the middle of single-family detached homes."

Spanish Villas at the Park would be a 40-foot-high apartment complex on about 61/4acres and featuring one- to three-bedroom units. About a quarter of the units would be priced for qualifying low-income renters--from $600 to $1,100 per month. Three single-family houses would be constructed on the remaining 21/4acres along Leeds Street.

The developers would build 445 parking spaces, including 270 contained in two four-level parking structures. City code would normally require 505 spaces for a project this size.

But Tony Stewart, a city project manager, said the Planning Commission may decide the 60 spaces aren't needed if enough future tenants would likely use mass transit.

Jeffrey just wants the project to go away.

"It's not compatible with this area," he said. "There are too many other places in Simi Valley where this thing could go."

The Planning Commission meets at 7:30 p.m. at Simi Valley City Hall, 2929 Tapo Canyon Road. The City Council will likely vote on the proposal in late May or early June.

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