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From the late 1960s through the 1980s, the area north of the 101 Ventura Freeway and west of Lindero Canyon Road was developed with a variety of office, commercial, and industrial uses as envisioned by the original master plan for Westlake Village. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, a combination of increasing land values, an evolving economy, and regional economic pressures resulted in several industrial properties in the area being redeveloped with non-industrial uses. These include the Four Seasons Hotel, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation (formerly Dole), Oaks Christian School, and Calvary Community Church. In response to this redevelopment, the City in 2007 recognized the need for a framework to guide further redevelopment. A plan for the area would provide certainty for property owners about how they could use and develop their properties in the future and would ensure that development would be consistent with the community’s character and could be accommodated by the City’s infrastructure.
In October 2009, the City Council contracted with The Arroyo Group and appointed a City Council Ad-Hoc Committee to prepare a study of potential redevelopment of the area. The study looked at several topics including real estate valuation, economic viability, land use compatibility, and infrastructure adequacy. A series of meetings were held in 2010 and 2011 with a variety of stakeholders including property owners, real estate professionals, and homeowners association representatives. Based on the input received at those meetings, The Arroyo Group and the Ad-Hoc Committee developed several alternative development scenarios for City Council consideration. In May 2011, the City Council selected a preferred scenario and directed The Arroyo Group to prepare a draft specific plan and associated environmental impact analysis based on the preferred development scenario.
In 2014, a draft specific plan and Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) were completed. The traffic analysis in the Draft EIR concluded that the preferred development scenario would result in traffic impacts that were deemed unacceptable. Various alternative scenarios and potential mitigation strategies were studied over the next few years, culminating in a revised preferred development scenario in 2017. The revised scenario reduced the proposed development intensity from the 2014 draft specific plan by about 35% and changed the mix of land uses to reduce traffic volumes during peak hours. In 2018, the City Council contracted with Civic Solutions and Psomas to prepare a revised draft specific plan and Draft EIR based on the new preferred development scenario.
The revised draft specific plan and Draft EIR were completed and released for public review in early 2019. The City Council appointed a Community Advisory Committee (CAC) to provide input on the new draft specific plan. The CAC consisted of 10 Westlake Village residents representing multiple neighborhoods across the community. The CAC held a series of five community meetings in 2019 and 2020 to discuss and provide feedback on the revised draft specific plan.
A revised draft specific plan was prepared in 2020 in response to feedback from the City Council, CAC, and public. The 2020 draft reduced by more than 40% the residential unit capacity of the 2019 draft and included other minor revisions. In June 2020, the City Council adopted the North Business Park Specific Plan and certified the EIR.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, industrial properties in the area north of the 101 Freeway and west of Lindero Canyon Road started to redevelop with non-industrial uses. These changes were reflective of increasing land values and declining demand for industrial space in the region. The original development scenario for the Specific Plan selected by the City Council in 2011 included an assumption that some properties in the area would redevelop with residential uses given the high land value and increasing housing demand in the region.
By the time the original draft Specific Plan was completed in 2014, the City was out of compliance with state housing laws because it did not have a General Plan 5th Cycle Housing Element certified by the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). The City was unable to demonstrate through its General Plan and zoning that it had adequate capacity for additional housing units to provide its share of regional housing needs. To get its 5th Cycle Housing Element certified as required by state law, the City would need to increase its residential capacity by rezoning non-residential land to allow for residential development. Rather than looking for other locations in the community to rezone for housing, the City proceeded with the understanding that the required housing capacity would be provided by the Specific Plan since it had already been in development for several years and had already been identified as an appropriate area for additional housing.
It is important to note that the purpose of the Specific Plan was not simply to provide the housing capacity required by the state. While the residential capacity provided in the Specific Plan was utilized for the 5th Cycle Housing Element, the need for a framework to guide redevelopment in the area was recognized as early as 2007, and the preferred development scenario approved by the City Council in 2011 included residential development.
State law requires cities to demonstrate through their General Plan and zoning that they have adequate capacity for additional housing units to provide their share of regional housing needs. This capacity is documented in the General Plan Housing Element and is required for the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) to certify a Housing Element as meeting the requirements of state law.
The deadline for HCD certification of the 5th Cycle Housing Element was October 2013. HCD did not certify Westlake Village’s 5th Cycle Housing Element until 2020 following the City Council’s adoption of the Specific Plan. Westlake Village was among the last cities in California to obtain HCD certification of its 5th Cycle Housing Element and was out of compliance with state law for nearly seven years from 2013 to 2020. During this time, the City was vulnerable to lawsuits by developers and housing advocacy groups, and ineligible for certain state grants and funding. If the City Council had not adopted the Specific Plan, or if the allowance for residential development had been removed from the Specific Plan, the City would have had to rezone other locations to allow for additional residential development to obtain HCD certification of the 5th Cycle Housing Element.
The City began preparing the 6th Cycle Housing Element immediately following HCD certification of the 5th Cycle Housing Element because the 5th Cycle Housing Element was certified seven years into the eight-year planning cycle. The housing sites identified for the 5th Cycle were adequate to demonstrate capacity for the City’s share of regional housing needs for the 6th Cycle, so the City was not required to identify additional housing sites beyond those already included in the approved Specific Plan. As such, the City proceeded with preparing the 6th Cycle Housing Element to receive HCD certification by the October 2021 deadline.