Steve Hilton occasionally travels through Agoura Hills. On one such excursion along the city's main thoroughfare, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation CEO and president conceived an idea—to transplant his growing nonprofit's headquarters from its Century City location. Today, plans have been laid to develop 66 acres below Ladyface Mountain into the largest non-residential development in Agoura Hills.
The exact total square footage of the four buildings planned is not yet known, but could exceed the Agoura Design Center's 120,230 square feet of retail space, which is the largest, non-residential project that has been developed in Agoura Hills since incorporation in 1982. The Hilton property's parcels, at just over 66 acres, cover 10 times the area of ADS's 6.7 acres at the northeast corner of Canwood Street and Derry Avenue.
Hilton acquired just over 33 acres of land located at 30500 Agoura Road in 2006 for $3.5 million after the parcel fell out of escrow, according to an April 30, 2006, news release issued by Los Angeles-based Madison Partners. Hilton then hired development consultant Frans Bigelow of Bigelow Development Associates in Malibu in January 2007 to shepherd the project. That same year, the foundation also snatched up the neighboring 33-acre parcel at 30440 Agoura Road for $1.8 million, according to City-Data.com.
The foundation first submitted its four-phase building plans to the city in February 2009, and then made modifications for an April 2010 resubmittal. The building for Phase 1 was scaled down from 36,000 square feet to 20,000 to preserve capital for the project in a challenging economy, according to consultant Bigelow.
There was no single impetus behind the decision to move the foundation from Century City to Agoura Hills, apart from long-term planning and increasing staffing needs, Bigelow said. As the foundation's assets grew, so did the personnel necessary to ensure proper use and distribution of those funds to other nonprofits, Bigelow said.
"It made sense to find a permanent space," he said. "It makes sense to plan long-term for responsible growth. It was the right thing to do."
Founded in 1944, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation was established as a philanthropic trust to alleviate domestic poverty and hunger. When Hilton died in 1979, he made the foundation the primary benefactor of his estate.
Today, the foundation functions as an umbrella nonprofit, raising money that is disseminated to other organizations. The recipients focus on such causes as increasing water access in the developing world, funding education initiatives and decreasing chronic homelesssess in L.A. County.
The foundation's proposed four-building headquarters in Agoura Hills would be clustered on the approximately 15 acres closest to Agoura Road in a "native and natural" campus-style complex, Bigelow said. Some of the property acquired extends up Ladyface, but will not be touched, he said.
The entire project is expected to meet U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Certification, which are guidelines to promote environmentally sound buildings. Requirements to meet Platinum, or LEED's highest level of operating standards, include reduced pollution and soil erosion during the construction process, efficiency in use and disposal of water during the landscaping process and maximum energy efficiency in daily operations once the building is completed. The LEED Certification is not a requirement of the city of Agoura Hills and will not be monitored by city staff.
Building in an eco-friendly way will allow the Hilton Foundation to preserve ecosystems surrounding Ladyface Mountain and the Agoura Road area, decrease operating costs, and ensure employee health in a hazard-free working environment, Bigelow said.
"I think having an eco-friendly building will help. They could be a good neighbor to the community," said Assistant City Manager Nathan Hamburger. "There is definitely a positive economic impact. The people [in a new office would] frequent local restaurants, gas stations and grocery stores."
For building permits to be issued, an environmental impact report (EIR) must be reviewed and made available to the public. The Planning Department expects the Draft EIR to be available by September, at which point public notices will be posted to allow for Agoura Hills residents to voice their concerns. Tentative public hearing dates for the City Council, according to Hamburger, are set for December.
Pastor Brian Campbell of the nearby Gateway Church, who had scrutinized plans to allow trails on Ladyface Mountain in May, believes the city will scrutinize the project well.
"The city of Agoura Hills has a good plan for protecting the open space on Ladyface," Campbell said. "I agree [with staff] that the Hilton Foundation project could benefit the community and the LEED Certification is a great idea."
Although no permits will be issued for the project until after the public hearings, Hilton's goal is to break ground on Phase 1 by February 2011, with a 16-month construction period.