The Thousand Oaks City Council approved the construction of a new retail and housing development on Thousand Oaks Boulevard, aiming to bring younger people to the community and provide affordable housing.
This complex, known as the “299 Project,” includes 142 apartments, largely one-bedroom studio style, and 11 units that will house low-income individuals earning under $50,000 annually.
According to The Acorn, this project is the largest ever proposed housing complex in Thousand Oaks. Councilman Al Adam said this “entry-level housing” will hopefully draw younger residents to Thousand Oaks, especially those attracted to the jobs created by companies moving into the area.
Adam said Thousand Oaks faces low vacancy rates and high housing prices, but new businesses entering the area have brought need for new residences to accommodate their employees. Recently, Amazon announced its new warehouse at the Conejo Spectrum Business Park, which Adam hopes will bring plenty of high-paying jobs. Since its construction, this business space has leased several of its buildings, with 15 additional buildings in the works to accommodate more companies.
“These folks need somewhere to live, and we want them to live near Thousand Oaks,” Adam said. “We don’t want them to have to commute into town. I think it’s very high, 30 or 40 percent of people coming into Thousand Oaks work here and then leave because they can’t afford to live here.”
However, one difficulty in providing housing in Thousand Oaks is finding space to develop. Adam said since Thousand Oaks is a built-out community, it’s difficult to find areas for new residential buildings. He said the city is looking toward other “opportunity sites” to transform old or abandoned plots into new spaces, such as the auto centers that will soon host the 299 Project.
The 299 Project also aims to provide goods and services to create a “vibrant downtown” in Thousand Oaks. Adam said this “downtown master plan” will include restaurants, retailers and microbreweries for the community, especially new younger residents. He compared this plan to pedestrian-friendly destinations like Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade or State Street in Santa Barbara. Adam mentioned giving California Lutheran University a presence at the plaza, perhaps as an adjunct building for one of the school’s departments.
Cal Lutheran is addressing its own reality of a growing community size. The class of 2022 is about 700 students, the largest first-year class in school history. To acommodate the incoming students, Residence Life extended first-year housing to the upperclassmen residence halls. Increasing class sizes also resulted in Pederson and Thompson’s conversion into five-person suites with bunk beds last year.
Director of Housing Operations Nate Fall said despite the limited space in Thousand Oaks and growing class sizes, the school will continue to provide on-campus housing for all students who desire to live at Cal Lutheran. As for long-term solutions to providing housing for students, a new residence hall would be ideal, but until the Board of Regents approves such a project, the school will continue to look toward filling university-owned houses to accommodate students.
Fall said he thinks the 299 Project is a great addition to the community.
“I do not know how it will necessarily benefit our students, but I hope it will assist in keeping our young professionals in the area and even attract qualified individuals to work at Cal Lutheran who can now afford to live in the immediate area as well,” Fall said in an email interview.
Senior Jordan Bedgood suggested a solution to Cal Lutheran’s own housing dilemma: providing off-campus housing or apartments for seniors, such as the 299 Project. This semester, Bedgood and his roommates decided to move to a university house on Faculty Street. He said he enjoys the experience of living in an on-campus house because it exposes students to a similar experience to living in a house post-graduation, calling it a “nice test drive” of life after college. Bedgood said increasing class size and lack of space for students could be solved by providing upperclassmen with housing options other than Cal Lutheran’s dorms. Fall said, the campus already hosts five off-campus apartments for about 20 students.
“If they would give more opportunities to upperclassmen to housing like we have…like a trial run of living on your own after college, I feel like that’d be kind of a nice transition to help students grow out of the college experience,” Bedgood said.