Reclamation project promises more traffic on

East Orange’s Santiago Canyon Road

September 2019

Chandler's Sand and Gravel is seeking a grading permit to fill in a riparian pit, with no public hearing or City of Orange oversight. 

By Tina Richards
With the shadow of 275,400 truck trips, courtesy of the proposed Sully-Miller development, looming over Santiago Canyon Road and environs, the City of Orange is poised to grant a grading permit allowing 14,400 additional truck trips every year for the next four years at a location one-half mile down the road.

Chandler’s Sand and Gravel owns the 14.8 acres on the northwest corner of Santiago Canyon Road and Cannon Street, adjacent to Santiago Creek, and is requesting a permit to fill in a large pit left from a past mining operation. Filling in the pit will take an estimated 1,240,000 cubic yards of fill dirt, hauled in by 30 trucks each day for 4.5 years.  

The grading permit may be granted by the city without a public hearing and little public notice. The project has already been approved by the county and U.S. Fish and Wildlife. A revised map that indicates where the Santiago Creek floodplain will be realigned has been submitted to FEMA for approval. Once that agency OKs the revised map, the city can issue the grading permit.

Keep on truckin'
Meanwhile, up the road and upstream, the former Sully-Miller property is awaiting city approvals for a 128-unit development. That property, now home to multi-story mounds of construction waste, will be leveled and prepared for development via a staggering 275,400 trips of dirt-hauling trucks. 

Villa Park Road connects both sites to the 55 Freeway, and the City of Villa Park does not want those caravans traversing its streets. It made a loose agreement with Milan Capital, owner of the Sully-Miller property, limiting truck traffic within city limits. It has a more detailed agreement with Chandler that routes dirt haulers around the city. Under that agreement, Chandler will use “commercially reasonable efforts” to prohibit all fill material trucks to use city streets.  A 35-cents-per-cubic-yard fee will be assessed for material hauled through Villa Park. Those funds will be used by the city for street repairs. A $250,000 bond will be held for Villa Park to draw on, in the event Chandler defaults on the agreement.

East Orange is virtually guaranteed to bear the brunt of 289,800 predicted truck trips precipitated by two extensive grading and leveling operations within a half-mile stretch of Santiago Canyon Road.

Who knew?
Residents neighboring the Chandler site found out about the fill project “by accident.”  The city is required to notice residents within 300 feet of the property, but apparently no one got the news through official channels. A man in a suit was observed walking on the site, and a neighbor asked him a few questions.

Neighbors have now asked the city to hold a public hearing on the project before rubber-stamping it. “This is not an isolated property,” says Jamestown resident Bonnie Robinson. “It should not be a ministerial issue only. Any work done should be subject to a full hearing and city council approval.”

Portions of the site are riparian habitat, hosting willows and coastal sage. It currently supports several endangered species, including least Bell’s vireo and the California gnatcatcher. Fish and Wildlife has approved mitigation plans to create least Bell’s vireo habitat elsewhere, but has been silent on the fate of the gnatcatcher, native plants and other wildlife.

More to come
There have been no traffic impact studies, noise or dust analyses. The only known concessions are to restrict hauling activities during drop-off and pick-up times at neighboring Oakridge School.

Chandler is the operator of the dirt stockpiling and rock crushing activity currently taking place on the Sully-Miller property.  

“There are concerns regarding the reclamation grading of this site,” Robinson says. “An example is what is currently occurring further upstream on the Sully-Miller site. That’s another operation that has been allowed without a public hearing or much monitoring. Chandler has totally degraded and denuded that property. The actions of this company have negatively impacted entire communities: Mabury Ranch, The Reserve, Orange Park Acres, all of the Colony neighborhoods, as well as the streets of Villa Park.”