N. Tustin Notes

A few months after I moved to unincorporated Orange County in 2011, I found a goldenrod newsletter on my driveway that introduced me to the Foothill Communities Association. I had been curious, after all, on how anyone, including myself, would address any significant issues that arose in my neighborhood or in North Tustin without a homeowners association in an unincorporated area.

I grew up in rural Connecticut, on a dirt road where neighbors chipped in to cover the costs of snow plowing and repairing the road, and, of course, not every neighbor was neighborly about it. I also lived in Irvine for a time, where planting flowers or changing color schemes was a parliamentary action. In the thousands-year-old argument of how humanity should organize itself, I was wondering how North Tustin had answered this question.

Like many decisions in life, there is no simple solution, there are only trade-offs, only opportunity costs. In my life, I’ve lived where neighbors put their cars on blocks in the front yard for months at a time, but also in neighborhoods where every blade of grass was artisan cut. The absence or pervasiveness of local regulatory bodies and their methods of enforcement can range from benevolent monarchies to tyrannical despots.

In many neighborhoods, private property owners have traded some degree of freedom in exchange for consistency, where all cars must have wheels regardless of where they are parked, for instance, but also others where every home and every yard is cookie-cutter perfect. The latter, to me at least, seems to dampen a true asset of humanity, where the variety of our personal tastes and preferences often culminate in a quilt of complementary styles, architecture and landscaping designs. The sum of those parts defines the neighborhood, a unique community with a visceral, visual, self-defining attribute – despite the occasional rogue. 

I have driven slowly, dozens of times, admiring my neighbors’ landscaping or architectural elements so I can figure out how to incorporate their great ideas on my property. On the other hand, I will spend hundreds of dollars and kill dozens of flowers by stubbornly refusing to admit that beautiful “full sun” plants won’t grow in shaded areas, a cost and butcher’s bill I could have avoided were I limited to the half-dozen permissible flowers that some neighborhoods allow for. 

I do appreciate, and understand, the desire for more homogeneous neighborhoods, where bubblegum-pink homes with pine-tree-green shutters and an ocean of front yard flamingos don’t suddenly appear. In the end, where we live is a personal decision, based on how we all weigh the options in this amoral process, and we each choose what is best for us and our individual wants and needs.

Like many of my neighbors, my interest in buying a home in North Tustin was the freedom, to a greater degree than many other urban areas, to do as one sees fit with their own property - to plant full sun flowers in the shade and watch them wither away to nothing. It is the unique and consistent inconsistency of North Tustin that draws so many here, and why so many I have met were born here, and have raised their own families here.

So while the answer to the question of how humanity should ultimately organize itself may never be answered to everyone’s satisfaction, the Foothill Communities Association provides a means for neighbors, and neighborhoods, to address concerns that are often greater than one person, or a single street of neighbors, could address on their own. 

The FCA, comprised of your neighbors from many of the neighborhoods within North Tustin, depends entirely on donations and volunteers to maintain its mission of protecting, preserving and enhancing the greater North Tustin area in unincorporated Orange County.

So, please keep an eye out for the same goldenrod newsletter that showed up on my property, and originally drew me to the FCA, as well as our upcoming postcard mailer. And please do visit us at FCAHome.org to learn more about the FCA, the upcoming annual meeting, how and where to attend the board meetings, which are open to the public, and to support our continuing mission by making a donation.

The FCA General Meeting will be held March 5 at 7 p.m. at Hewes Middle School.