Orange seeks to detach former housing tract land

The City of Orange plans to de-annex 409 acres of a former “planned community” in the foohills adjacent to the 241.

The City of Orange is looking to give 409 acres it annexed in 2005 back to the county, and has started the lengthy process required to detach the property that sits east of route 241.

Orange annexed the property after it approved The Irvine Company’s (TIC) 4,000-unit housing development that would have stretched from Chapman and Jamboree to Irvine Lake.  It also amended its General Plan to reflect the anticipated residential development and the predicted infrastructure and services that would be needed.

The original project, approved by the Orange City Council 12 years ago, was divided into three portions:  Santiago Hills II, planning area one and planning area two.  The projected urban sprawl, traffic (40,000 daily car trips), and negative impacts on water quality, air and noise pollution were challenged in the courts by East Orange and canyon residents. The Orange Hills Task Force, supported by the Sierra Club, lost in the courts, but ultimately prevailed when Irvine Company CEO Donald Bren donated 2,500 acres to the county to be held as permanent open space.

That 2014 land donation included planning areas one and two. Because that land will never be developed, it no longer needs to be reflected in the city’s General Plan.  Further, as permanent open space falling under the auspices of OC Parks, there is no need for the city to retain responsibility for it.

Following Bren’s land donation, The Irvine Company came back to the city with a revised 1,180-unit plan for Santiago Hills II. The city had already approved the 4,000-unit project and TIC had entitlements, so it readily agreed to the smaller footprint.

As part of the new Santiago Hills II development agreement, the Irvine Company agreed to provide $150,000 for Orange to revise its General Plan and process a detachment through the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO).

The General Plan must be amended to align its maps, policies and infrastructure needs with realistic growth projections that exclude planning areas one and two.  It must also get county agreement to take back the acreage and LAFCO, responsible for municipal, government agency and special district boundaries, must ultimately approve it.  

Planning area two was not annexed at the time, has remained within unincorporated Orange County, and is not part of the detachment process.