Saddle Crest Development in Trabuco Canyon Overturned!

Kenneth M. Ruggiano
Yeah, tract homes are so much sexier...
Hell YES! Just last Friday, Orange County Superior Court Judge Steven L. Perk ruled in favor of 2,000 petitioners and activists to reject the Saddle Crest housing development in Trabuco Canyon. The development would have bulldozed over 150 old oak trees and figuratively raped the beautiful and unadulterated landscape just northwest of Cook's Corner.

In place of the rolling hillside would have been a new, 65-unit McMansion neighborhood, because we really don't have enough of those already. Presumably, the project wouldn't have come this far had Orange County Supervisors followed the Foothill-Trabuco Specific plan that the county adopted in 1991. The plan was designed to protect the canyon lands from the mass grading of hillsides and from being stripped of their historic oaks, but Supervisor Bill Campbell (who oversees the area) and others took it more as advice than a rule. Last October the Supervisors made a unanimous decision to approve Saddle Crest, citing that the environmental impacts would be minimal, if not insignificant.

Supervisors also amended the Orange County General Plan during the same time. The plan placed restrictions on developments that would impact traffic flow, but they said that the new neighborhood would have little bearing on the movement of the two-lane highway.

Oddly enough, Rutter Santiago LP, the company hoping to build Saddle Crest, was a campaign contributor to all five of the Orange County Supervisors, and the rules against development were changed solely for this project. Many canyon residents immediately jumped to action after hearing about the plan and began petitioning and speaking out against it. This kind of aggressive effort to save the area around their homes got them labeled Nimbys by media folks like Rick Reiff and other supporters of the plan, but they purport that saving the canyon should be a priority for anyone living in Orange County. Even if you don't reside within the hills, you can access it for hiking, biking, and picnicking without running into too many people or dealing with a ton of traffic.

Thankfully, Judge Perk saw the potential hazard of the development and how amending the plans now could now make it easier to develop more in the future. This is all after Rutter was rejected by an appellate court for their first housing-tract of 162 units in 2003.

At this point, we can expect Rutter to continue fighting for their development. And even if it is rejected again, they'll most likely come back with a new plan. If you would like to support the effort to save the canyon follow Save Santiago Canyon on Facebook or visit canyonland.org.

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Trabuco Canyon

Live Oak Canyon Road & Trabuco Canyon wash, Coto De Caza, CA

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29 comments
sprockethead
sprockethead

Folks...the 2 specific plans of the rural canyon area were designed to protect the environment while allowing the right kind of development to continue to occur. Small scale RURAL development with protections for land, species, cultural significance. The specific plans do not prohibit houses...but ask for particular guidelines/restrictions to be adhered to. The OC Supervisors and Rutter Homes attempted to eliminate the most important restrictions in a swift swoop to allow city style cluster homes and scenic roadway widening, lights, etc., likened to killing 10 birds with one stone. The previous supervisors understood the importance of protecting the environment at the gateway to the forest for the 3 MILLION residents of the OC to enjoy. They voted to approve these plans decades ago. Kudos to them! Kudos to the groups who fought without pay to bring back the specific plans!. Took over $100,000 in donations and mega hours of volunteer time to accomplish this!

Mitchell_Young
Mitchell_Young topcommenter

So I ask, once again. Where do we put the 30 million people projected to come to the US over the next decade if 'comprehensive immigration reform' passes. Does the OC take its share? Do we expect them to live in Riverside or Sacramento? 

More people means more houses, more roads, more 'development'. In the US context, the overwhelming source of population growth is immigration (immigrants and their inevitable children).

CindyC
CindyC

Uhmm, as for NIMBYs...we all did read (and most importantly understand) the EIR right?  Been hiking those hills for 49 years and they are something to be treasured and protected.  Something maybe some don't think about, the rural atmosphere is also a draw for tourists visiting the OC and looking for area history and/or a nature experience.  Can't tell you how many I've met out there from all over the world.  That should say something I would think.  I'm from LA/Orange County area, not a resident but I will ALWAYS strongly oppose any development such as this.  Many thanks to all who fought to protect the canyon, but they will be back, please keep up the good work :) 

RonaldMexico
RonaldMexico

Best news I have heard in a while, as a born and raised native who loves the canyons.

OCDweller
OCDweller

Two of the worst kinds of people here......those that will destroy and develop anything for $$$$......and those who don't want any "outsiders" in "their" neighborhood and use the "Protect the Wilderness" card to enforce their elitist views.

Reminds me of the Ass Clowns in Newport Beach who can't stand the thought of any undesirables using "their" beach to roast hot dogs in a fire ring.

JenniferP4
JenniferP4

Great news! The last of OC's natural habitats should be protected, enjoyed, and treasured!

vegandawg23
vegandawg23 topcommenter

I'm a bit torn here. On one hand I utilize these areas for recreation and all and don't want to see them gone but at the same time these NIMBY canyon residents wanting to protect their view under the guise of a bunch of environmental bs are disgusting. Newsflash people. That condo in Tustin you live in, that home in Orange, that dorm at Cal State Fullerton all used to be covered in oak trees and be habitat for animals and stuff too. And not to mention the trees that had to be uprooted to build Silverado. Why don't we evict those idiots and let nature have it back if it's so important. These clowns are the worst type of people. Hypocritical envirotards.

CindyC
CindyC

And the need for more power, more water (already a problem) ... do you communicate your concerns to your state & federal reps?  I think everyone should.  So do we just suffer the consequences and develop until nothing is left?  Part of the problem of water in Southern CA is lack of ground water replenishment.  We have a tendency to develop out all our watersheds, nothing sinks back into the ground and goes into flood control channels instead draining to the ocean.  What a waste.  The original purpose of designating much of the land in the Santa Anas to the forest service was preservation of watersheds, water for us.  Yes, we've been in a drought the past few years but it won't last forever (unless the global warming/climate change people are right)—but let’s not even get started on that debate, point is best place to store water is underground. 

vegandawg23
vegandawg23 topcommenter

@CindyC I agree with you for the most part. Like I said, I hike, and bike those areas and would rather not see them developed. Put it to a vote and I'll probably vote no. However people do live in those areas. And they are for the most part NIMBY folks. You don't see the hypocrisy? Be like if I had a beach house with a nice view and then said "No more building houses on the beach, it's bad for the environment." just to preserve my view/privacy etc. Whether it's bad or good for the environment is not the point. The point is the people saying this stuff, doing these EIR's are people who already live in the area that is going to be developed. In other words, they're trying to prevent others from doing the very thing they just did!!! They developed the canyon in order to move there. The nerve of these people. Same for the Coyote Hills folks in Fullerton.  On top of that there's these people who put the environment over people who don't want to allow any access because of some stupid endangered plants or something or people who harass mountain bikers in the canyons for biking "illegally". There's also canyon residents harassing hikers in Black Star telling them to leave and such. They move there and think they own the place and can tell people what's going to happen to the land that belongs to all of us (in the case of public land, I realize this article is referring to privately owned land). Anyways, excuse me if I don't feel much sympathy for them even though I agree with their cause for the most part. While I love going there for recreation, one part of me would be happy if they turned that place into a bunch of outlet malls or something. 

CindyC
CindyC

You have condos and homes in Tustin, Orange... and open space and nature in the Santa Ana Mtns -- call it balance.  Best of both worlds within minutes apart. 

LPHastings
LPHastings

@vegandawg23 @OCDweller It's definitely a mixed bag. No doubt, there are some residents who would fall into the Nimby category and have probably given visitors a hard time when the come across them. But the folks who started the Canyon Land Conservation Fund, Chay Peterson and Joel the Naturalist amongst them, really aren't like that. They legitimately care about the environment and keeping it as a recreational space. Joel even organizes clean up crews to just hike through the area and pick up all the junk people leave behind.

Mitchell_Young
Mitchell_Young topcommenter

@CindyC "do you communicate your concerns to your state & federal reps?"

Indeed I do. Next up is bothering Boner, Cantor etc and the Republican leadership.

Of course our Democratic senators are totally in the illegal/mass immigration camp. No need to waste time with them.

CindyC
CindyC

Anyway, more open space and less concrete and grading away of hills is a good thing--the "rural atmosphere" has benefits maybe we don't always think of.  Sure, those hills are peaceful, full of nature, great for recreation, our health and attracting tourists which is good for the local economy.  But there is a bigger picture.  And what to do, yes this is a perplexing problem--I can understand why folks on both sides would be a little rattled.  But as I've said many times, we also depend on the environment to survive, it's not just for the plants or the animals.  Please think about this everyone.  It's been fun chatting, CindyC is signing off now.  Have a great day!

LPHastings
LPHastings

@vegandawg23 Part of you would be happy? That's just gross...If anyone is harassing you for being in any of the canyons, it's gotta be a rare occurrence. The community at large knows that the area is used for recreation and they're fine with it. In a lot of instances, hikers will wander on to someone's property unknowingly and that will cause some argument - but that's understandable. As for Black Star, there were, as in, in the past, two men who harassed visitors and they no longer live there. In any case, there are jerks wherever you go - how does that rectify ruining our natural environment? If everyone invited you in for tea when you went to the canyon would you feel differently?

CindyC
CindyC

The lack of understanding of the importance of the environment and the failure to recognize the fact that human existence also relies upon it will one day be the downfall of mankind.   I suggest before name calling (which the use of the word NIMBY is) or otherwise being so judgmental try to become educated about this topic.  Why do I care?  I do this for my grandchildren.  And yours, even for those who can't or won't or never will understand it.  Have an open mind and look at what is actually happening is my suggestion.  And environment isn't the only place we have issues that need resolved. 

Mitchell_Young
Mitchell_Young topcommenter

@CindyC We need more homes for all of Arellano's still-in-Mexico primos, who will be heading north the minute amnesty is passed.

CindyC
CindyC

And do you know what the push to develop out as much as possible destroying this balance I speak of is called?  Greed. 

maxpaynfield
maxpaynfield

@LPHastings @vegandawg23 @OCDweller Just because the developer got shot down, does not mean this becomes recreational space. It will remain off limits and in private hands, with a development, there would have been an exaction to maintain quite a bit of open space for the public. This was purely a bunch of irrational, old people with a sense of entitlement that fear change.

vegandawg23
vegandawg23 topcommenter

@LPHastings @vegandawg23 @OCDweller You look kinda cute. Is that a mosin nagant you're shooting? Yeah I know who Joel is. Wasn't referring to him. What are you doing later this week? Want to go hike up blackstar? 

LPHastings
LPHastings

 @vegandawg23 I read it - that last bit just struck me. You can't make that argument for the canyon. It's not like people started building there   50 years ago and now they're deciding to stop. Those communities are over 100 years old. They were built by some of Orange County's original settlers, and not much has been built since then, save for people renovating the property they already own. Regardless of if you think residents are good or bad about sharing the space, we need to save the few wilderness areas we have left.

vegandawg23
vegandawg23 topcommenter

@LPHastings @vegandawg23 You don't find it extremely hypocritical that these people are stopping development of a place where they live? Did you not read the rest of my post and only skip down to the last line?!?  Why are they allowed to have homes there? Why not make them move out and let Silverado and Modjeska revert to nature then? I was at Black Star a month ago and spoke to some hikers who said a guy in vehicle (private landowner not a ranger) told them to get out of there. Why not let the state take these people's land and homes under eminent domain and make a bike park? The residents there should have no more say over what happens there than a resident of Newport Beach. Same goes for the jerks trying to prevent beach fires and whining about parking and out of towners coming to "their" beach. Natural resources belong to all of us. Not just the residents of Silverado, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach etc. 

CindyC
CindyC

The land type and climate of Southern California won't support the population they are trying to cram in here.  Water alone is an issue.  We have plenty of blighted neighborhoods, buy up those areas and re-develop it into something nice perhaps...just a thought. 

CindyC
CindyC

This has nothing to do with recreation or views.  Make a safe development that adheres to the land use plans already laid out for the area and I will support it.  Land owners already know what that is when they purchased it. 

jvolzke1
jvolzke1

@CindyC Does it not matter who owns the land to you, Cindy? Is a property owner supposed to maintain the land and pay taxes at their expenses so you can enjoy the view and hike?

LPHastings
LPHastings

@maxpaynfield Good point. But just because you can't hike on the property doesn't mean that developing it is good. It'd start a domino effect on the whole area.

CindyC
CindyC

Correct, it's private land and just because the development didn't go through that does not mean it becomes recreational land.  Likewise a housing development would not facilitate recreation or preservation of open space and habitat either.  There is area appropriate development and then there is the not appropriate type.  Too much/too dense development in a fire prone area is not exactly smart and what is or is not area appropriate is not dictated by campaign contributions.  Uhmm, and I'm one of the old and irrational ones, I find this to be very funny :)   

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