November 7, 2022

6 Min Read
Thousand Oaks, CA, Officials Put Permanent Limits on Self-Storage Development

Update 11/7/22 – The Thousand Oaks, California, City Council voted unanimously on Oct. 25 to exclude self-storage development from prime commercial areas. Industry projects will now be limited to industrial zones as well as parcels that are at least 1,000 feet from a freeway and 500 feet from arterial streets. The city has 30 vacant parcels that meet these standards, according to the source. Developers can request a special-use permit to build outside these areas. The latest ordinance also includes a provision that’ll allow existing self-storage facilities to expand once without a public hearing. They can grow by 10% or 8,000 square feet within the existing footprint or exterior walls.

10/18/22 – The Thousand Oaks, California, Planning Commission voted 3-2 last week to approve city-staff recommendations to change the municipal zoning code and restrict self-storage development. To be adopted, the new language must now be approved by the city council. If the legislation is enacted, the existing 15 self-storage facilities in the city will be considered a legal nonconforming use, but expansions would be regulated by the updated standards, according to the source.

The new rule would limit self-storage to the M-1 industrial park and M-2 manufacturing zones. Any developments could be built only on parcels that are least 1,000 feet from the freeway and 500 from arterial streets. Thousand Oaks has about 30 parcels that fit this criteria. In addition, any new project with street frontage must offer climate-controlled units and contain a mixed-use aspect.

Under the current zoning, storage is permitted on all industrial parcels, in C-2 shopping center zones and the Thousand Oaks Boulevard Specific Plan area. They have to be behind office or retail areas and set back at least 100 feet from the property line.

The intent of the new distance requirement is to provide prime visibility and access locations to the economic generators and/or civic institutions in the community, according to Scott Kolwitz, senior city planner, told the commissioners prior to the vote. “The development of additional self-storage facilities [where they are allowed today], could reduce land and buildings available to other retail and industrial uses, including biotech and life science, and that could further decrease vacancy rates associated with those uses,” he said during the Oct. 10 public hearing.

Bryan Miranda, regional vice president for self-storage real estate investment trust Public Storage Inc., voiced opposition to the changes, as they would make expansion impossible for the company’s Townsgate Road facility, which is at 95% occupancy just six months after opening. “These new standards will preclude additional storage development. They are extremely limiting,” he said, noting they’ll cause an increase to rent storage in the area. “It’s simple supply and demand.”

Public Storage claimed it only received 17 days’ notice of the hearing. Miranda reminded the commission that the company had made a $50-million investment in the city after converting the former Jafra Cosmetics property to storage. “This is a material impact to our property rights,” he said.

Two applications for self-storage development have been withdrawn since the moratorium was originally enacted in January. Neither would fit the parameters of the new rules. Thousand Oaks has 15 storage facilities built between 1960 and this year. About 10 are within industrial parks and along U.S. Highway 101.

1/28/22 – Two self-storage development proposals led officials in Thousand Oaks, California, to enact a 45-day moratorium on new projects. The freeze will affect all self-storage permits, entitlements and licenses, according to the source.

One of the self-storage proposals now on hold is a conversion of the former corporate office for health-insurance company Anthem Blue Cross. The 230,000-square-foot building at 120 Via Merida has been vacant for more than two years. Younan Properties Inc. acquired this site as well as the one across the street at 4553 La Tienda Road, where Anthem now operates, in 2020 for $40 million. The company had already invested $200,000 in the storage project after being informed in November that self-storage would be an allowed use, according to Tom Cohen, who’s representing Younan in the application process.

Company CEO Zaya Younan claims the moratorium could cost the company millions of dollars, including $7,000 in application fees paid to the government. Younan had previously offered to build houses on the property, but that proposal was rejected last year. He said he feels the city is interfering with his rights as a property owner. Though city staff have presented him with other possible uses for the land, he claims the city isn’t considering his plans.

“We think the city is being unfair and unreasonable and, based on incorrect data, implementing this moratorium,” Younan said. “This is a major issue for us. If the city stays this course, we have to consider all alternatives. And make no mistakes, these alternatives will be harsh because we cannot afford to incur having 20 acres of land in there and the city basically unilaterally deciding on what we do even within the proper zoning.”

The second applicant proposed building a 67,000-square-foot self-storage facility at 530 Hampshire Road, which will soon be vacated by the Cancer Support Community.

The city is three years into overhauling its general plan, and officials claim they need time to determine how self-storage will fit. They believe a proliferation of self-storage could “disrupt” the vision for development over the next 25 years, said city manager Drew Powers. “Moratoriums are not something we take lightly. They are a blunt-force object,” he said.

In the past year, the city has received more applications to build self-storage in “prominent locations around town,” according to community-development director Kelvin Parker. Government officials believe the development interest in Thousand Oaks could be due to a similar moratorium that was placed on self-storage last fall in nearby Camarillo, California. “This is a good time from a planning perspective to take a step back and evaluate this moving forward,” Parker said.

Councilmember Al Adam said “drastic action” was warranted. “We already have 1.1 million square feet of storage capability in the city. I think we may be getting close to a saturation point,” he said. “They take up a lot of land. They don’t offer a lot of jobs. And the two that are pending, that’s another 300,000 square feet.”

Although councilmember Kevin McNamee’s suggested the council allow the two applications to move forward, others weren’t in favor, causing him to concede. The moratorium passed with a 5-0 vote. The council must now hold a public hearing to discuss the issue within 45 days. The moratorium can then be extended up to 10 months and 15 days, and a second time for a year. At that time, the council will need to either allow applications to proceed or change the municipal code.

The moratorium will also allow city staff to consider possible amendments to the code that would better guide self-storage development. Currently, it’s allowed in most commercial and industrial zones “by right,” as long as it isn’t within 400 feet of homes, the source reported.

Thousand Oaks has fielded at least 20 recent inquiries for self-storage development, nine of which were for vacant buildings, according to city planner Stephen Kearns. Two projects are already underway at 224 S. Skyline Drive, plus the conversion of an industrial building at 2451 Townsgate Road.

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