To Build or Not to Build?

Controversy over the Esperanza Hills and Cielo Vista Communities


Gavin Gondalwala

One of the many signs on Stonehaven Dr. protesting the construction of the Esperanza Hills and Cielo Vista homes.

Recently, Yorba Linda has been rocked by an event no short of being called a scandal. In the hills adjacent to Stonehaven, a plan has been proposed to build new homes, going by the community names Esperanza Hills, Cielo Vista, and the lesser known, far off, Yorba Linda Estates.


Although many infer that this project has simply been sprung on Yorba Linda and have voted to recall councilman Craig Young and Mayor Tom Lindsey for their endorsement of “high-density” housing in Yorba Linda, Current mayor of Yorba Linda, Gene Hernandez states that “there is much debate occurring in the council meetings and we have to decide what is best for the city of Yorba Linda.” He also comments that much of this is out of his hands without major legislature, as the plans were passed much before his time (in 2006), but delayed due to the 2008 Freeway Complex Fire that burned down the site.


The people of the neighborhood, however, are taking a stand in more places than just the polls. When driving on Stonehaven, at almost every intersection one can see large signs with the consequences of the Esperanza Hills project, which are intended to force the rest of the community to take a stand. Homeowner Mike Geraghty states that he volunteered a sign to be put on his front lawn because he “wanted something done to help to stop the housing project.” He continues that “it’s going to cause too much traffic and if we have another big fire, a lot of people will end up in danger.”


Although members of the city are demanding action, the homes will likely be built anyways. The projects are to be constructed outside of the jurisdiction of Yorba Linda and solely rely on Yorba Linda as points of ingress and egress via Aspen Way, San Antonio Way, and Stonehaven Drive. In actuality, for any action to take place, all decisions must pass through the county legislature of Orange County.


The decision to construct these contested homes was for the express purpose that it would provide homes for those in the “median” housing category; however, in a report by Kevin K. Johnson, it has been found that there is a surplus of at least two thousand of such homes in Yorba Linda and the adjacent cities.


Another issue brought to light by the people of Yorba Linda is the fact that when the Freeway Complex Fire swept through the city in 2008, it was “nearly impossible” to evacuate Stonehaven and the San Antonio area, as it was roughly 40,000 people being forced to leave their homes. With the addition of upwards of 450 homes, in the instance of another fire, it will be extremely difficult to vacate all of the cars onto Yorba Linda Boulevard which will also be largely clouded with traffic in the event of people evacuating from the Travis Ranch community. Remember, this is not to mention the traffic and stress that will simply be added to the streets on an average day under “normal” conditions.


Oh, and do not forget that legislation has already been passed that mandates that students residing in these homes will attend school in the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District, according to the Initial Study and Notice of Preparation. The fact that they would be attending school in the PYLUSD and not the Orange Unified School District (OUSD) as previously proposed is considered ludacris by many, as the homes are (a) not in Yorba Linda or Placentia and (b) being regulated by the county of Orange, not Yorba Linda specifically. Abby Hensler (11) states “YLHS seems pretty crowded as it is, with the addition of all these new people, where are we supposed to put them? I mean you can’t find a table at lunch!”


Not only does the threat of fires interfere with the building of the homes, but so do the occurrences of several operating oil wells, two Southern California Edison “main” power lines, and a Yorba Linda Water District water pipeline.
With risks due to traffic, interference with resources, and overcrowding of schools, it is pertinent that the decision on these communities be overturned and the construction halted for the good of the our community.