Thousand Oaks Acorn: Mixed Use Proposed at Former Lupe’s Site
A site that had come to represent Thousand Oaks’ past may serve as a window into its future. T.O.-based Daly Group Inc. filed an application with the city this month to build a mixed-use housing development consisting of 36 apartments and three retail spaces in the 1700 block of E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., former home of Lupe’s Mexican Restaurant, which closed in August after 69 years in business.
If approved, the Daly project would be the first of its kind in the city, and the first since the City Council passed the Thousand Oaks Boulevard Specific Plan in 2011 calling for such development. “As soon as I saw it, I thought, “That’s what we’re talking about”, Mayor Joel Price told the Acorn this week. “This is a place where even the developers themselves would want to do business, sit outside in the morning and have coffee or maybe a drink at night.”
The European-style design includes two three-story buildings, one housing apartments and the other incorporating apartments over retail. A meandering path leads from the boulevard to the center of the development. A fountain near the entrance would pay tribute to the Zuniga family, which owned the land and operated Lupe’s from 1947 through August of this year.
The city’s 25th anniversary oak, planted in 1989 when T.O. turned 25, would remain. The Daly Group’s intention is to attract a café and bistro to the property that would serve both tenants and the general public, according to plans. Because Daly is requesting 36 housing units—the number of units that remain of those allocated for that portion of the boulevard under the specific plan—the developer does not need to go before the City Council.
Daly will, however, have to get planning commission approval to address the housing and retail element as well as any trees protected under the city’s recently revised tree ordinance, which says any commercial property owner wishing to remove any oak or landmark tree greater than 24 inches in diameter must go to the commission for approval.
The city is awaiting the developer’s tree report, but Daly has already indicated it would have to remove three sycamore trees adjacent to Thousand Oaks Boulevard, Senior Planner Steve Kearns said in an interview. “One of those trees is just at 24 inches, so that alone would trigger having to go to the planning commission”, he said. Before its date with the commission, Daly Group must first address questions from city staff, Kearns said. “We still have a few concerns we’ve communicated to the developer,” he said, adding that Daly has been quick to respond to questions and any requested changes. “They’ve made changes and added features that show they really want to play by our rules,” Kearns said. One of those features is a sitting area around the 25th anniversary tree, a large oak that stands on the east side of the former Lupe’s parking lot.
Also in design plans: a ground level parking structure for tenants and a parking lot for business patrons, with traffic entering and exiting on Zuniga Ridge Place, which runs between AutoZone and Leslie’s Pools. Those two businesses will remain in place. There will also be an entrance to a drop-off area near the current Lupe’s parking lot entrance. Apartment tenants would have access to a gym, a clubhouse and what Daly is calling a “spool,” a water feature that will be larger than a spa but a smaller than a traditional pool, Kearns said.
In another tribute to Lupe’s, the developers purchased some of the fixtures from the restaurant to use in the space, Kearns said. While there will always be residents who would like to see the city remain how it is, if not revert to the pastoral setting of 50 years ago, Price said, it’s vital to attract millennials and other younger residents who might go for the all-in-one type housing. “It would kill us if we didn’t find ways to bring young people back,” he said. “We need them in the job market; we need their tax money, and our schools need their children.”
One more need, he said, is to get a shovel in the ground. “I’m excited we’re at that point now,” Price said. “I think when people see it, they’ll say, ‘Oh, that’s what you’re talking about—it’s beautiful.’” The project has thus far passed muster with the Thousand Oaks Boulevard Association, president Shawn Moradian said. “The beautiful thing about it is Lupe’s was really a pioneer at the time it started . . . and in the same location, now a mixed-use project will take its place and will be the beginning of change for the boulevard,” he said.