Guest Commentary:

A tale of two quarries and a city

April 2020

By David Hillman

There are two former sand and gravel quarries on Santiago Creek in the City of Orange. Most people are familiar with the Sully-Miller site owned by Milan Capital, because it has been in the news for over 12 years. Orange citizens recently gathered 13,000 signatures to stop the Santiago Creek development and a General Plan change for an area not zoned for houses.
The second abandoned quarry operation is located west of Cannon, next to Blue Ribbon Nursery, and was owned by the Hurwitz family until a couple of years ago. This hidden site along Santiago Creek has now been reclaimed by Mother Nature. It is one of the most beautiful places for miles around, but very few are even aware of it. 

The City of Orange is renowned for Old Towne, the largest nationally registered Historic District in the state. Orange is also home to three historic Eichler tracts, and one of the finest equestrian communities in California, Orange Park Acres. Orange residents want their neighborhoods protected, and have a history of pushing back when short-sighted city politicians disregard their carefully crafted city and community plans.

Orange is also bisected by Santiago Creek. Back in the 1970s, both the county and the Orange City Council helped create the Santiago Creek Greenbelt Plan. The Greenbelt Plan, part of the city’s General Plan, designated the two quarries on Santiago Creek to be open space once the mining had ceased. The Orange City Council has struggled for two decades to determine how to transition these former mining sites from the resource/sand and gravel zoning to the Greenbelt Plan that was adopted 40 years ago.

Having grown up here in the 70s, I remember when the Sully-Miller site was still in operation. The operators concealed the mining part of the site from passersby with thick rows of oleanders, and most of the property was a field full of wildflowers. The Hurwitz site had evolved on its own into a beautiful secret fishing spot. In 1972, I caught a three-pound largemouth bass in that pond.
 Fast-forward 50 years, and we discover the city has reneged on its promises to Orange residents. Milan Capital has been allowed to create a dumpsite for construction waste and demolition debris with stockpiles 40 feet high. Chandler LLC, the same company that is operating that dumpsite for Milan, has purchased the Hurwitz property and applied for a permit to start another dumpsite on it. If approved, Chandler will bring in 1,250,000 cubic yards of construction waste and demolition debris to fill and destroy a beautiful canyon and wetland, which is home to two endangered species of birds.

It is disappointing that in a day and age when citizens care more about their environment and waterways than ever before, the City of Orange is sidestepping its responsibility to preserve open space, and replacing it with dumpsites in the middle of residential neighborhoods and next to a school. The dumping goes unmonitored and in violation of nuisance and zoning ordinances. There are no active grading or inert waste dump permits for the Sully-Miller site. And now, the city may grant Chandler a permit for the Hurwitz site without an Environmental Impact Report. This travesty would bring in 70,000 truckloads of construction detritus over five years -- all within 300 feet of the water recharge basin.

Theodore Roosevelt warned about selfish men and greedy interests skinning our country of its beauty. It’s time for our city leaders and staff to stop skinning Orange and do the job we elected them to do: serve the citizens of Orange -- and not outside investors.

 David Hillman has lived in Orange since 1963.