After reading the latest issue, I thought I’d reply to JJ Chao’s printed letter.
Chao, frustrated with airplanes flying over his home, questioned why the airplanes didn’t fly a flight path over less-populated areas like freeways or undeveloped foothills.
To educate Chao and others, the major airports that airliners fly into have approach systems that are aligned with the runways. For John Wayne Airport, the beginning of that runway approach system starts right over our OPA neighborhood. Because the weather isn’t always perfect, following freeways or paths over less-populated areas by sight isn’t always possible.
Pilots must often rely on instrument systems that steer them clear of terrain and obstacles and guide them down to the runway. While airplane noise can certainly be a nuisance, it’s a price we all must pay to enjoy the ability of flying virtually anywhere in our country. Imagine if airports could easily be shut down, simply by a resident living under the flight path, not liking the noise, asking it to be done. Every airport in the nation would shut down.
The path not taken
A proposed land development project recently passed Orange Planning Commission, with a 5-0 vote, for a small tract of eight single-family homes. The land is located off Chapman and Canyon View, and is adjacent to two separate neighborhoods: one to the east (Pheasant Lane) and one to the west (Wimbleton Court). About 13 of the 34 households attended the hearing in opposition to the project.
Once upon a time in the 1980s, owners of the two adjacent and then-empty lots wanted to build homes. The property between them would become permanently landlocked, should they build. They also required access to this parcel for construction and permission to build retaining walls. The owner of the soon-to-be-landlocked parcel agreed, and the neighboring developers built what are now homes for 34-plus residences.
These homes would not have existed had the previous owners of this landlocked parcel not cooperated with their neighbors. A legal easement was signed at that time, to protect the rights of this landlocked parcel, allowing it two access roads, via streets from each of these two neighborhoods.
This parcel is already zoned for residential homes, and its developer has not requested any variances or re-zoning.
Almost one year was spent exploring access #1, via Wimbleton, as the primary road for the new development. A good portion of engineering plans and much time with city staff exhausted this as a plausible option.
The property is sloped, with a 50-foot difference between its highest and lowest points. The harsh slope of a new street built to enter the property via access #1, as well as the drastic change to the natural hillside that would result once grading was complete, were among the top reasons for not choosing this option.
Access #2 via Pheasant Lane would preserve the integrity of the hillside and Orange Hill’s topography. It is the least invasive, reduces construction time, and is a logical extension of the abrupt current ending to Pheasant.
One of the biggest concerns of neighbors is safety, noise and traffic during construction. There are several ideas on the table to minimize construction traffic during the site improvement phase. While the developer has been open to exploring these options, Pheasant Lane’s HOA Board has not been receptive to discussions beyond that of scrapping all access via its street.
Some ideas proposed include limiting days of the week, and hours of the day, for construction; keeping construction vehicles onsite to minimize in/out trips; and routing some of the vehicles during construction via Wimbleton.
What became evident at the public hearing is that Pheasant Lane’s HOA Board had not passed along the developer’s communications to many of its residents. The HOA board did not provide city staff with any feedback or comments until 30 days past the city’s deadline.
The pre-existing easement for the property was readily available on the HOA’s title report, yet residents had not seen it. In fact, the HOA has refused to coordinate a meeting between the developer and residents, as recently as March 21.
However, in speaking with residents directly, most were cordial and welcomed discussions with the developer. They simply wanted to be heard, and to reduce the impacts on their neighborhood.
Unlike most, this developer plans to be a resident of this future community -- to live, play and work in Orange – and, therefore, is keen on strong community relationships. As Planning Commissioner Adrienne Gladson said, “the HOA’s will have to figure out how to work together.”
future Orange resident
The following was sent to Robert Garcia, Orange city planner.
Thank you for having a scoping meeting on March 16 regarding the Trails at Santiago Creek development project. You requested we send you our environmental concerns. Below are just a few preliminary concerns I have with the proposed project:
1. Traffic: As you are aware, the current traffic on Santiago Canyon/Cannon is reaching epic proportions. A few miles can take up to 30 minutes to complete. Adding additional homes would only exacerbate the issue. Another traffic light is not a solution. We need a solution that takes motorists out of this path and onto an alternative route.
Perhaps the city can approach the owners of the transportation corridor and propose adding an additional exit (or two) off the toll road. Currently Santiago is the last exit prior to the 91 Freeway.
Please note, if one of the solutions is to extend Orange Park, Yellowstone, Lassen or Mt. McKinley through Mabury Ranch, I will be an activist to gate Mabury Ranch and create a private road.
2. Existing poor city planning: Serrano Heights was developed over several years in the early 90s and added 1,180 homes. The development of Serrano Heights is a major cause of traffic on Santiago, Cannon and Serrano. Traffic issues and concerns were addressed with the city back in 2005, yet seem to have fallen on deaf ears.
The Mabury Ranch HOA sued the city over these issues. All of the predictions have come true. The traffic is a nightmare, and numerous accidents occur on Serrano and Cannon on a monthly basis.
3. Flooding: The land in question is in a FEMA-designated flood plain. At the meeting, you seemed surprised by this information, and told us to “write it down.” I was able to find this information within minutes by going onto the OCFlood.com website. On Feb. 26, 1969, this area flooded, and two homes were swept away. I cannot imagine that city planners would be comfortable if homes and, potentially, lives were lost due to their poor due diligence on this development.
4. Flora/fauna: Numerous plants, animals and wildlife live in this area. By disturbing the ecological balance of coyotes, rabbits, birds and fish, we potentially have our livestock threatened, our family pets and small children threatened, and our home landscaping threatened by these animals. When we develop, we drive them out of their natural habitat. This needs to be reviewed.
5. The existing methane field: This acreage is the Villa Park refuse and disposal station number 22, located on the northeast corner of Santiago Canyon and Cannon. The City of Fullerton settled a legal battle for $2.5 million when residences were built near the McColl landfill. The settlements by builders were also in the millions. We need to learn from our neighbors. As a community, we cannot afford litigation on a development we did not want in the first place.
That leads me to my final concern. Why does the city continue to get into relationships with developers? Stop! We do not want this land developed. We have serious concerns with the current situation, let alone the additional impact of houses, cars and people on our neighborhoods. Let’s preserve this natural open space for all residents to enjoy -- and not develop it.