2017-08-11 / Front Page

Neighbors speak out against Bellwood plan

Four-story apartment building proposed
By Melissa Simon

Tempers flared at a neighborhood meeting at the Bellwood Center last week, where developers discussed a proposal to transform the struggling Alamo Street commercial plaza into a mixed-used development with a four-story apartment building.

The Aug. 3 meeting, held in front of the former Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, was the second such public forum held by Encino-based development company AMG & Associates in order to get input from residents living near the 7-acre plaza at the corner of Tapo and Alamo streets.

About 70 people attended last week’s meeting, while only about half as many were at the first meeting July 13.

Gene Broussard, AMG spokesman, told attendees the purpose of the second forum was to go over details of the proposal and address any other questions residents may have.

“We aren’t required to be here (for a second time), but we also understand that you have concerns,” Broussard said. “Our plan isn’t to buy the property, construct the building and flip it, sell to someone else. We keep our buildings for a long time and we’ll do that with this one.”


PUBLIC INPUT—Above, a group of Simi Valley residents, including City Councilmember Keith Mashburn, second from right, look at plans for AMG & Associates’ proposed four-story, 278-unit apartment complex during an on-site neighborhood meeting Aug. 3. At right, AMG spokesman Gene Broussard answers residents’ questions. The Encino-based company is looking to redevelop the Bellwood Center plaza at the corner of Tapo and Alamo streets. 
Photos by MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers PUBLIC INPUT—Above, a group of Simi Valley residents, including City Councilmember Keith Mashburn, second from right, look at plans for AMG & Associates’ proposed four-story, 278-unit apartment complex during an on-site neighborhood meeting Aug. 3. At right, AMG spokesman Gene Broussard answers residents’ questions. The Encino-based company is looking to redevelop the Bellwood Center plaza at the corner of Tapo and Alamo streets. Photos by MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers AMG’s project calls for tearing down most of the existing shopping plaza, which is now largely vacant, and replacing it with a four-story, 278-unit apartment complex. Of those units, 83 would be designated as affordable.

As proposed, the ground floor of the complex would be a 611-space parking structure, while the living units would be located in the three floors above that. There would be 59 outside parking spots, and the remaining 8,100 square feet of commercial space, where Pizza Hut is currently located, would be remodeled.

Simi Valley’s Neighborhood Council No. 3, which serves in an advisory capacity to the Simi Valley City Council and planning commission, recommended denial of the proposal in May. And on June 21, the planning commission delayed hearing the proposal, instructing AMG to conduct more public outreach first.

Neighbor concerns

Most residents at the Aug. 3 forum expressed concerns about traffic, parking, and the size and design of the building.

“How are you addressing the density and height of this project in relation to the existing (city) guidelines of this area?” Donna Chisholm asked Broussard.

In response, the spokesman said that Simi Valley’s municipal code allows the developer to go up to 56 feet in height, though AMG plans to keep the highest part of the building at 53 feet. And the number of units has been reduced from 326 to 278.

Another man, who declined to give his name, asked where future residents were going to park their cars.

“There’s no parking on Alamo or Tapo,” he said. “To me, it’s just illogical.”

Broussard said parking is “always a big concern,” but that AMG has not had any issues at other developments so far.

“Every city has different requirements (and) our parking ratio is 611 parking stalls, which is above what’s being required of us,” the spokesman said. He added that local building code calls for two spaces each per two- and three-bedroom apartment and 2.5 spots for a four-bedroom unit.

Other residents, like Patti Clark, expressed frustration that the developer has seemingly been unwilling to compromise with neighbors.

“When are we going to have a meeting where you’ve actually listened to us, taken it back to the drawing board and start telling us some changes you’re going to make?” Clark asked Broussard. “Really, these are the same answers you’ve given us and nothing has changed.”

Broussard said adding more senior or affordable apartments, or reducing the height of the buildings, the total amount of units and parking—requests that neighbors have made in recent months—are not feasible options.

“We’ve run the data and if we don’t do this (as proposed), the current property owner will put it on the market and it will go to another developer who’d likely propose more units because that’s what’s allowed on the site,” he said.

Alison Enos directed her comments to her neighbors. She said the proposal is “absolutely not a done deal yet.”

“We have opportunities to speak to our council members, and the next thing is planning commission, where we all need to go say these valid points that every single one of you has made tonight,” Enos said.

“This doesn’t work . . . for our city and that’s something we all need to keep in mind when we talk to them.”

Despite being rejected by the neighborhood council in May, AMG is still working with city officials on the development process.

The project must go before the planning commission and council for final approval, giving residents at least two more chances to weigh in, Broussard said.

AMG hopes to bring the proposal back to the planning commission sometime this fall.

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