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Masry Says Quality of Life Is New Council's Priority

The Thousand Oaks mayor vows to continue pushing a slow-growth agenda and fighting the proposed Ahmanson Ranch development.

November 19, 2002|Gregory W. Griggs | Times Staff Writer

As he winds down his term as Thousand Oaks mayor, Ed Masry on Monday vowed that the new City Council will step up its fight against Ahmanson Ranch, limit municipal spending, curb excessive residential and commercial development and strive to maintain the city's enviable quality of life.

"We are entering a new era in Thousand Oaks," Masry said. "We have a City Council that is going to place the environment, neighborhoods and existing businesses first."

Referring to the Nov. 5 election, in which two anti-development candidates won seats, Masry said the new slow-growth council would join Los Angeles and Calabasas in fighting developer Washington Mutual's plans to "destroy thousands of acres of oak-studded rolling hills" to build a 3,050-home mini-city on the eastern edge of Ventura County.

Residents of Thousand Oaks would be affected, he said, by an estimated 45,000 daily car trips that Ahmanson Ranch would "add to the already overcrowded Ventura Freeway and connector roads," and their health would be jeopardized by "840 tons of new air pollution each year."

His comments came during a state of the city address before more than 220 people at a lunch sponsored by the Thousand Oaks-Westlake Village Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The council, which next month adds Masry-backed restaurateur Bob Wilson Sr. and television producer Claudia Bill-de la Pena, is ready to help the city deal with the fallout of a $21-billion state budget deficit, said Masry, an attorney.

"Our new council is not only a slow-growth council, it also has council members who understand, on a first-hand basis, what it means to meet a regular payroll," he said. "The coming year will be hard on local governments. We need to be more careful in the way that we spend our money."

Masry said that Thousand Oaks has become a regional center for high-technology and biomedical employment and that more jobs are being added, but he disagrees with those who believe the solution for accommodating those workers is to build more homes.

"The market of housing, affordable and unaffordable, is demand-driven, not supply-driven," he said. "You're never going to build enough houses to shelter all the people who want to live here."

Calling the city "an exceptional place to live and work," Masry reviewed the highlights of the past year: Baxter Bioscience, J.D. Power and other companies relocated to Thousand Oaks; the city collected a record $24 million in sales tax revenue; four neighborhood shopping centers made substantial property upgrades; and several community facilities opened, including Gardens of the World; the Hillcrest Center, which houses the arts council and a National Parks Service office; and Los Robles Banquet Center, where Masry delivered Monday's speech.

Mayor Pro Tem Andy Fox, the top vote-getter in the recent election, attended the lunch. He has long been an opponent of Ahmanson Ranch, he said afterward, and thinks a 10-year-old traffic study in the project's environmental impact report is insufficient. Fox said the council should adhere to Thousand Oaks' long-standing General Plan in regard to future housing.

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