On April 7, 2017, Advocates for the Environment filed a lawsuit on behalf of a local citizen's group against the City of Agoura Hills, challenging its approval of the Cornerstone Project near the intersection of Agoura Road and Cornell Road in the City of Agoura Hills. The petition is online.
An out-of-state developer wants to construct 35 dwelling units and almost 70,000 square feet of commercial space and over 100,000 square feet of parking lot on a parcel at the corner of Agoura Road and Cornell Road in the City of Agoura Hills. The land is currently vegetated with native sage scrub and coastal oak wildlands. The site, which Los Angeles County designated as part of a Significant Ecological Area before it was annexed into Agoura Hills, hosts 59 oak trees. Twenty-nine of these would be removed for the project, and the remainder would be encroached upon to the point where their long-term survival is questionable.
The City of Agoura Hills gave final approval to the project on March 8, 2017, and Advocates for the Environment filed a lawsuit against the project on April 7, 2017, representing a local citizen's group named Save the Agoura Cornell Knoll (STACK).
Violations of CEQA
The City of Agoura Hills prepared only a CEQA Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) for the project, although it will have several potentially significant environmental effects. Under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the presence of these significant effects means a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is required.
Potentially significant environmental effects include:
- Aesthetics - conversion of a locally treasured scenic knoll into yet another large housing project
- Biological - there are populations of 10 special or protected plants on the site, including Agoura Hills dudleya, a federally-threatened species.
- Wildlife corridor - the Project Site is at the confluence of several regionally important wildlife corridors.
- Trails - multiple trails, planned and existing, go through the project site
- Water Quality - adding hundreds of thousands of square feet of impervious surfaces will increase the flow of polluted runoff into local creeks and canyons.
- Traffic - congestion is already terrible during the summer season, with thousands of beachgoers using local roads to access Zuma beach every weekend.
- Tribal - the project site contains a native-American archaeological site, about which the developers failed to consult with local tribes, as required by law.
Mitigation measures are vague, deferred, unenforceable, or ineffective, another CEQA violation.
Planning and Zoning Law Violations
California state law requires projects to be consistent with local land-use plans, including the general plan and any relevant specific plans, but the Cornerstone Project is inconsistent with the local plans in several important ways, including the following:
- The project will induce more growth in the area, by providing high-quality road access to a number of undeveloped ridgelines in the area.
- The project requires widening of local roads that are designated as semi-rural in the Mobility Element of the 2010 General Plan update.
- Specific Plan policies require preservation of oak trees, but the project will remove 29 oaks and encroach on another 30.
- The Specific Plan EIR Mitigation, Monitoring and Reporting Program requires preservation of the majority of the knoll on which the project is to be constructed.
Please Donate to Help Fund the Lawsuit against the Cornerstone Project
The local citizen's group has limited funds to support this public-interest litigtion. We need your financial support. Your donation to Advocates for the Environment, a non-profit law firm and advocacy organization, is tax-deductible. Please donate in support of the Cornerstone Development Lawsuit by mailing a check made out to "Advocates for the Environment" with "Cornerstone Development Lawsuit" on the check's memo line to Advocates for the Environment, P.O. Box 4242, Sunland, CA 91041; or donate online through Paypal by clicking the "Donate button" below: