A scoping meeting allowing neighbors of the former Marywood Catholic School to see architectural plans, engineering drawings, and question the developer about a 40-unit gated community slated to be built on the 16-acre site, was held April 14.
The New Homes Company of Aliso Viejo is purchasing the property from the Catholic Diocese to build estate-style homes on 6,510 to 13,400 sq.-ft. lots. New Homes representatives have already gone door-to-door, delivering information packets to nearby residents. The company has met with the Orange Design Review Committee to ensure the project meets the city’s aesthetic standards. It has been conducting geologic surveys and traffic studies for the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR), and hopes to complete it within a few months.
Only a handful of the neighbors notified of the scoping session took advantage of the preview. The presentation was open to the public, but, by law, only residents living within 300 feet of a planned development must be notified of the builder’s intent and/or invited to open meetings. Anyone beyond the boundary must ask the city to include them on the mailing list for public notices pertaining to that project. With the “Marywood” development still in its early stages, many neighbors, may not be aware of it.
There’s room on the road
Based on the neighborhood outreach conducted by New Homes consultants to date, area residents’ primary concern is increased traffic on Villareal. While the developer concedes that the 40-home development will put additional vehicles on the road, consultant Peter Carlson points to studies noting that if the site were to remain a school, traffic during certain times of day would be worse than the extra car trips created by the new houses. The development’s additional 400 car trips per day fall within city standards for road capacity.
New Homes has agreed to modify Villareal to encourage drivers to stick to the speed limit. Studies have shown that most of them don’t. A stop sign will be added at Ridgepark, lanes will be divided with raised markers, and yellow stripes along the outer edges of Villareal will more clearly define the roadway.
New Homes also plans to underground all utility lines serving the project. As a result, three existing utility poles along Villareal will be removed.
The slip is showing
While the site itself provided a comfortable footing for the school buildings, it will require substantial earth moving and soil compacting to stabilize it for development. When the Catholic school/chapel was built in the 1960s, a canyon was filled in to create a suitable flat space. Today, the fill area is slowly slipping towards two City of Orange water tanks nestled below it. “One end of the school cafeteria,” says Carlson, “is seven inches lower than the other. And the slippage will continue.”
To fix it, New Homes will have to move 210,000 cubic yards of earth. It will dig down 70 feet to the bottom of the old canyon and recompact the soil from there. That’s a lot of dirt: enough to cover a regulation-sized football field and stand 98 feet high. The builder, Carlson explains, is going to reuse all the existing fill dirt and supplement it with crushed material from the buildings on the site. “There won’t be trucks driving up and down Villareal hauling dirt,” he says. “It’s all staying right there. And we‘ll have an on-site crushing operation to recycle concrete, asphalt, masonry, and any usable materials from the buildings that have to be torn down.”
In addition, New Homes will install a retaining wall behind the city’s water tanks. The wall will be planted with vegetation designed to spread; once it has grown, the wall should be completely camouflaged.
Because so few neighbors attended the April 14 scoping session, New Homes and the City of Orange are planning a repeat on May 7. It’s a self-guided presentation (with individuals available to answer questions), so members of the public may drop in at the Catholic School site any time between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m.