It’s a tale of two cities in more than one way. There’s the story of a city within a city, and that of a hometown before and after development. Or maybe it’s the story of a world-class biking destination and ground zero for the pharmaceutical industry.
On a more basic level, it’s about an “old-school” working-class hamlet and a thriving multicultural marketplace. Either way, it all developed under the looming eye of a grand Chumash holy site.
They came for the space, the price and the slight isolation. Engineers, mechanics, firefighters and warehousemen gravitated toward the modest homes on the far northwestern boundaries of the Conejo Valley in the 1960s and ’70s. The lack of commercial activity created a semirural motif that suited rugged individualists.
It was the last residential outpost of suburban L.A., off the 101 freeway. If you overshot your exit, you’d be heading down a steep grade to a eucalyptus-lined freeway and miles of produce patches in Camarillo.
Some may see Newbury Park as an unsung city living in the shadow of Thousand Oaks. One could even say that the imposing Boney Mountain is a symbol of this shadowlike existence. But Newbury Park is part of Thousand Oaks. It is not a city at all.
Nevertheless, it most certainly has an identity. Traditionally it had the reputation as the home of skilled blue-collar church-goers. There was a quaint park, a fresh high school, and a backside bordered by wild nature. Don’t forget Newbury Park Panther Belinda Carlisle of Go-Go’s fame, or future actress Heather Locklear gracing the classrooms of the ’70s with their girl-next-door charms.
Today that identity includes substantial industry and public wilderness. There are also an Islamic center, a Hindu Temple, an Adventist academy and new upscale housing developments. Shopping includes several big- box stores and multiple hotels to accommodate traveling consultants.
Newbury Road and Hillcrest Drive run parallel to the 101 Freeway on either side. Most people think of Newbury Park as the community behind Newbury Road. But there are plenty of dwellings on the other side, including apartments and townhomes. Some also have no idea when they have entered Newbury Park.
The Hillcrest side is notorious for the Conejo Creek Condominiums or “Las Casitas.” The L.A. Times did a story about it in 1993, characterizing it as the low-income, depressed part of town. It mentioned the growing Latino presence amidst the working class white majority. It also predicted a shift in demographics.
That shift has long since taken place. The configuration of the townhomes almost reminds one of row houses on the East Coast. It has a real neighborhood feel to it and is known for densely populated units with immigrant families.
Some of the businesses in the industrial corridor on that Hillcrest side include Sage Publications (textbooks), Skyworks (electronics), Baxalta, (pharmaceuticals), Anthem/Blue Cross, Alcoa Fastening Systems & Rings (aerospace fasteners), Time Warner Cable and Condor Pacific Industries (gyroscopes).
But Amgen is almost synonymous with Newbury Park after starting in one building in 1980. According to Jennifer van der Borgt, director of corporate affairs, the biotechnology firm now employs upward of 5,000 people locally, close to 10,000 in the U.S., and almost 18,000 worldwide. It has since added over a million square feet of space to its Newbury Park multibuilding campus.
Numerous young people from Ventura County have benefited from the Amgen Scholars Program, which funds research opportunities through partnerships with colleges. The Amgen Biotech Experience provides lab equipment to middle schools and high schools and promotes teacher development. In 2014, 34 teachers in 16 Ventura County schools participated in the program.
The Dos Vientos neighborhood took years to come about. The city of Thousand Oaks approved the upscale master-planned community in the late ’80s, but construction did not begin for several years. Many would say that along with Amgen, the establishment of Dos Vientos was the most significant thing to happen to Newbury Park in recent history. It’s in the area far behind Newbury Road, while Amgen is on the commercial side of the freeway.
Do Vientos encompasses 2,300 acres, including a variety of housing tracts, a village shopping plaza and parks. According to locals, the demographics of the community changed due to either Amgen or this neighborhood. One longtime resident said people came from the East Coast to stay here temporarily for work. To him they were uncommitted to the community. Others disagreed, citing short-time neighbors who contributed earnestly.
The Western Plateau is a designated open space area of about 180 wild rural acres behind the industrial side of town. Hikers have access to miles of trails. It is part of the greater Conejo Canyons that encompasses 3,641 acres, preserved after decades of planning by locals and government agencies.
The land contains plant varieties like coastal sage, chaparral and oak woodlands. Wildlife includes mule deer, mountain lions,and bobcats. According to Conejo Parks and Recreation Superintendent Matt Kouba, there are 15 miles of hiking trails and another seven miles planned by the Conejo Open Space Trail Advisory Committee.
The Newbury Park Adventist Academy is a private 9-12 high school run by the North American division of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. The school has been there since the late 1940s. The school sends a very high percentage of graduates to college; it also maintains an adjacent elementary school.
The Stagecoach Inn Museum preserves the Western heritage of Newbury Park. It’s a remnant of the Grand Union Hotel from the 1870s. It was the first building to be constructed for commercial use in the area.
At different periods it was used as a post office, military school, tea room, gift shop and restaurant. Stagecoaches came through regularly. When it was on the verge of being demolished in the 1960s, the local historical society formed to save it. It was declared a California Landmark in 1965. Ultimately the society gave it to the Conejo Recreation and Parks District.
A key player in the establishment of Newbury Park was sheep rancher Egbert Newbury who relocated from the Midwest to California in the 1860s. Along with the Borchard family, he established a ranch where Newbury Park High School now stands. Borchard Road now bears the family name.
Newbury Park hosts several churches as well as the Islamic Center of Conejo Valley, a mosque, and the Sri Venkata Krishna Temple. Godspeak Calvary Chapel is where Thousand Oaks City Councilman Rob McCoy is the founding pastor. The church is nondenominational Christian.
According to Zak Shellabarger, youth pastor for Salt City Youth at Godspeak, the group’s recent H40 campaign best characterizes their mission. “We raised money in the community by acts of service to buy a water filtration system for a village in Honduras,” he told VCR.Most of the kids are locals.
“Boney Mountain is a sacred spiritual area, a shaman’s retreat, and a place for vision quests. It is a place for meditation. From up there you can see everything.” That’s the quote from ancestral Chumash Chief Charlie Cooke on the sign at the start of one of the primary trails.
At 2,880 feet the mountain dominates the horizon of Newbury Park from almost any angle. The Boney Mountain State Wilderness area includes access to Point Mugu State Park, Sycamore Canyon and the Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa Native American Cultural Center. It’s a cooperative effort of federal, state and local park agencies.
At different periods, the area was part of a Chumash trade route and village, a Spanish land grant of over 48,000 acres, and a private ranch. There are trails to the beach, paths crisscrossing the hills, and a trail leading to the summit of Boney.
Giant Bicycle got started in Taiwan in 1972. It’s known for introducing an early affordable carbon fiber bike and for special suspension for mountain bikes. Giant USA established its corporate headquarters in Newbury Park in 2001. There are about 70 employees locally.
“With just a few pedal strokes from our door, we can ride wonderfully paved roads and sweet single track. Newbury Park is perfect for testing our new bicycle technologies or simply cruising to a coffee shop,” said Patrick Van Horn, corporate communications manager for Giant Bicycle USA, in a recent interview.
Mike Cicchi, 60, Ben Cox, 34, and Matt Brehm, 18, represent three generations of Newbury Park business, biking and living. The Newbury Park Bike Shop will celebrate 50 years of service this year. Mike’s parents started the store as a repair shop in the back of an old barber shop in the 1960s. He recalls riding dirt bikes through wild open space from his house to the store.
Recently cyclists participated in the seventh annual 80-mile Mike Nosco Memorial Bicycle Ride. Nosco was an Eagle Scout in Newbury Park and later served in naval helicopter combat support. He worked at Amgen and died of a tragic accident in 2004.
His brother Jack has been a fireman in Thousand Oaks for over 30 years. Jack started the ride to celebrate his brother’s life and raise money to help sick children and parents. Each year they raise funds to help people in need. The ride starts and ends in Newbury Park.
Newbury Park may be missing a geographical center or an architectural landmark. But to long-term locals it has heart, continuity and a personal ethos. A real Panther lives in no one’s shadow. Mike Nosco was a real Panther. His ashes are spread on the majestic trails of Boney Mountain. F