Small housing development squeaks through planning commission;  

neighbors say traffic access is a problem

The owner of the 2.08-acre parcel just off Canyon View wants to build eight homes there, but has no direct access to the property.  Two private streets, Wimbleton Court (#1) and Pheasant Lane (#2) provide the only entry points.  Despite neighborhood protests, the Orange Planning Commission approved the use of Pheasant Lane for construction traffic and ultimate ingress/egress by future residents.

By Tina Richards

The Orange Planning Commission conditionally approved an eight-unit housing development, despite the city Design Review Committee’s (DRC) recommendation to deny the project, and against the wishes of homeowners adjacent to the property, who object to their private street being used for access.

Located just southeast of Chapman Avenue off of Canyon View, the 2.08-acre parcel is landlocked, with access available only via two private streets, Wimbleton Court and Pheasant Lane. While the site address is “Wimbleton Court,” property owner Jordan Kahf has determined that the best access is via Pheasant Lane, a narrow street that currently dead-ends at his parcel, and is maintained by the 23 homeowners who live on it or near it.

Residents of the small tract that sits just above Kahf’s property do not want their small, kid-friendly neighborhood to be the access point for construction vehicles in the short term, and the expected 76 daily car trips over the long term, when the project is built out.  They would prefer that Kahf use Wimbleton Court.

The road to nowhere
Representatives from almost every household spoke at the planning commission meeting, Feb. 22, opposing the use of Pheasant Lane as the access point.

“We’re not against building houses there,” Michelle Morand said, “but we think it is dangerous and disruptive to use our street.”  There is apparently an easement that allows Kahf to use Pheasant Lane, but residents say they’ve never seen it.

“We’ve asked repeatedly to be shown the easement,” said HOA president Jim Pijloo, “but we have yet to see it. We have to maintain that road; we’ll have to reslurry over and over.  I’m totally opposed to using Pheasant Lane as an entrance.”

Unhappy homeowners described their community as “tightknit,” where kids play together on the quiet street and residents look out for each other.  The cars that belong there take up most of the on-street parking, crowding an already narrow passageway.  One neighbor noted that the development plans include minimal parking, and visitors will end up leaving their cars on Pheasant Lane.

Indeed, the city recognizes that its current parking code is inadequate and that it needs to be updated.  In the meantime, the city has approved at least one other development (Glassell Townhomes), knowing it would not provide enough parking for residents and visitors.

Eye of the beholder
Other residents pointed out the traffic dangers created by motorists speeding down the Canyon View grade and the difficulty of exiting the tract during peak hours.  “It’s a double blind curve,” one reported.  “I hear the screeches of brakes every day.”  Another recalled witnessing two accidents at the intersection, and suggested that adding more cars to the mix is “going to get somebody hurt.”

Orange Traffic Engineer Doug Keys dismissed residents’ concerns, noting that studies confirmed that the speed limit on Canyon View (40 mph) was appropriate, that no signals or stop signs at the intersection were warranted, and that the additional vehicles introduced by construction activity and future residents would have no impact.  He also noted that police logs have no record of any accidents at that location.  “That doesn’t mean they didn’t happen,” he said.  “But if they did, they weren’t reported.”

Jordan Kahf bought the property to house his family.  He intends to build three homes for family members and sell the remaining lots to others.  Plans include a clubhouse with an indoor pool, an outdoor barbecue, and a separate common area. “This is exactly the neighborhood where I want to live,” Kahf said, after hearing homeowners talk about their community.  “My business is in Orange, and I want to be a part of this community. I want my kids to play in the street with those other kids.”

Kahf expressed his desire to be a good neighbor, and told the commission he had reached out to the community, knocking on doors and leaving notes when no one answered.  “We saw him once in 2015,” Pijloo said.  

“He’s not demonstrated a willingness to cooperate with our community,” Michael McCauliffe added.  “He’s never left notes or knocked on doors,” Michelle Morand said.  “We’re just an access road to those new homes,” another neighbor advised.  “They won’t be part of our community.”

Orange residents who?
Neighbors are also concerned that with five of the eight lots being sold and built on separately, construction traffic on Pheasant Lane could go on for years.  

Kahf assured the commission that he would sell the lots as quickly as possible, and future homebuilders would have to adhere to the design standards in his proposal, and approved by the city.

It was design standards, however, that held up DRC approval. Kahf and his team met with the DRC three times, but although each succeeding plan he presented “showed improvement,” the city’s design committee still expressed concerns. It rejected his plan on the third pass, and recommended denial to the planning commission based on the consensus that “the project does not uphold community aesthetics; that the project is internally inconsistent and lacks in integrated design theme; lacks sensitivity both internally, and to the surrounding community.”

City staff, however, disagreed, finding that the project meets the general standards for single-family development in the r-1-6 zone.  

The planning commissioners acknowledged the concerns of residents, but found no reason to deny the project.  It is well within the zoning (Kahf could build up to 12 houses), and the owner was not asking for any variances or special treatment.   The commission ultimately voted 5-0 to approve the project, with the condition that Kahf return to the DRC for a final review.

"Construction is always a pain," Commissioner Adrienne Gladson concluded.  “The HOA’s will have to figure out how to work together.”