Despite fierce opposition, The Orange City Council unanimously approved The Trails at Santiago Creek project on Tuesday, Oct. 22. Orange residents subsequently collected over 13,200 signatures (needed 7,001) to get a referendum on the ballot in November. The Orange City Council now needs to decide whether to rescind approval for the project or let the referendum be put to a vote on the November ballot.
The Trails at Santiago Creek is a proposed Milan Capital Management residential development for the 110-acres on the former sand and gravel mine in East Orange. Milan Capital Management requested a commercial zone change to residential for this project. The opposition had forced the developer to reduce the number of proposed homes from 150 to 128. The Orange Park Acres Association has said this is too large and dislikes the plan. The locals have counter-offered this plan with a suggested 47 homes. In 2003, this same group had approved a 189-home development, but argued this region has seen a surge of transformation with increased traffic since this initial offer.
City Council Vote on Trails of Santiago Creek
- Mark Murphy: Yes
- Mike Alvarez: Yes
- Kim Nichols: Yes
- Chip Monaco: Yes *
* Councilmember Chip Monaco, who lives 1,000 feet from the project, obtained an exemption in order to vote yes on this project.
The City of Orange held a public hearing on Tuesday, September 24th, 2019. There were over 70 public comments submitted, mostly in opposition to the project. Due to time constraints the council declared an 11 pm cutoff. The meeting will be picked up again at the next Orange City Council meeting on October 22nd.
There will only be three councilmembers voting on The Trails project as Chip Monaco recused himself for a potential conflict of interest and there is currently one vacant spot on the council. Mayor Mark Murphy, Mayor pro tem Mike Alvarez and councilmember Kim Nichols are the remaining councilmembers who will vote.
Jeong Park, a reporter for the OC Register, covered the entire meeting via live Tweeting.
The hearing is officially pushed to Oct. 22.— Jeong Park (@JeongPark52) September 25, 2019
The City of Orange planning commission on Monday, August 5, 2019 voted 4-1 to recommend approval of the project. Commissioner Doug Willits was the lone dissenter. The Orange City Council has the final say and it’s at their discretion to approve or deny the project for any reason.
Residents can contact Orange City Councilmembers to express their support or objection for the project prior to the vote.
The Trails at Santiago Creek Resource Links
- City of Orange page – Includes status and project documents
- Keep Orange Safe – A community action site against The Trails at Santiago Creek project
- The Trails at Santiago Creek Facebook page – A pro Trails page that is not transparent about who created and manages the site.
According to a community action site, there are “12 acres zoned (R-1-8) for houses.” In this semi-rural area, equestrian lifestyles are maintained. The proposal to convert this quarry into an area that would provide new homes might disrupt this ideal design. The remaining 98 acres would continue as open spaces. This natural use of land was designated in 1973. The developer has asked to convert the “mixed-use planned community into single-family residential and rural neighborhoods. They want a 265-unit Senior Assisted & Skilled Nursing 24-hour Facility, 130 homes and a private sports club with fields and courts.”
The city is using the California Environment Quality Act (CEQA) to evaluate the plans. CEQA requires a Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for a housing project. It includes a “project description, identification of on-site and off-site impacts to mitigation” according to the Villa Park mayor. The former quarry site should have a reclamation plan according to city officials. This means the mine should have an action proposal to restore and renew the land for new use. In order to avoid a potential lawsuit, the plan should be in place.
The quarry site has been exposed to methane gas along with green and metal waste that was buried on site which affect the environment quality. Adjacent to the project, the firehouse had explosive levels of methane when this site was evaluated twenty-five years ago. Additionally, it is located along two fault lines. The eighty-year old Villa Park dam is also on one of the fault lines. In order to avoid a natural disaster with an earthquake that displaces this large body of water, the site should consider the current infrastructure in the CEQA report. Air quality is also a concern with disturbing the current landscape.
Part of the challenge with the physical layout of this housing community is that there is only one way to exit. This is the Santiago Canyon Road which was problematic during fire evacuation. With added residents, this will only increase the time to successfully move this population to safety. The long-term traffic impacts were not included in the draft, which may add several hundred vehicles traveling on this road daily.
Regardless of this site’s ability to construct as many homes as proposed by the developer, Milan has been approved to construct six houses on the Mara Brandman Horse Arena. Each house will be situated on a one to 1.19 acre property, adjacent to the horse training facility. This is a desirable location for these amenities. The arena is directly across from the Sully Miller site.
The Trails at Santiago Creek Project Impact on Villa Park
The City of Villa Park’s primary concerns were short term wear and tear on Villa Park roads from construction trucks, long term wear and tear, and increased traffic. Villa Park operates on a limited budget and does not have the funds to repair roads from being used as a throughfare by vehicles that wish to bypass traffic on highways and established throughfares.
To settle the short term concerns the City of Villa Park was offered $25,000 plus mitigation measures to reduce the number of truck hauls on Villa Park Rd. In return, the City of Villa Park issued a letter in support of the Trails at Santiago Creek project. However, the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) did not analyze the traffic, air quality, fire, flood or hazardous materials impacts on Villa Park.
The development is planned right at Santiago Canyon Road and Cannon Street where some of the worst traffic in the area occurs during rush hour. Santiago Canyon Rd can be backed up for miles going back to the Holy Sepulcher Cemetery where traffic is attempting to go right on Cannon St and onto Anaheim Hills, Yorba Linda and Riverside. This has already led to increased traffic in the city where cars attempt to bypass traffic jams by driving through Villa Park during morning and afternoon rush hours. Additional homes in the area would only increase this traffic through Villa Park and further deteriorate the roads on an already slim city operating budget.
The developer has proposed the widening of Santiago Canyon Road and restriping of Cannon Road which would create an additional west bound lane on Santiago Canyon Road and a north bound lane on Cannon. This is in addition to Measure M funds which will be used to widen the intersection at Cannon and Serrano. However, this may only lead to increased traffic through Villa Park as navigation apps (e.g. Waze) lead more cars to take this route versus freeways.
A quick look back in history shows that Cannon originally dead ended at Villa Park (Loma St) and there was no road that led to Anaheim Hills and the 91 freeway. Similarly, Serrano dead ended at Mabury Ranch and also did not lead to Anaheim Hills and beyond. There was no traffic cutting through Villa Park as you see today. More lanes to ease traffic congestion often seems like a great idea but navigation apps quickly lead cars to these “improved roads”.