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December 30, 1988|Clipboard researched by Susan Davis Greene and Dallas Jamison / Los Angeles Times. Graphics by Thomas Penix / Los Angeles Times


Population: (1988 est.) 8,501

1980-88 change: +52.3 %

Median Age: 36.0

Racial/ethnic mix:

White: (non-Latino) 85 %

Latino: 9 %

Black: Less than 0%

Other: 6 %

By sex and age:


Median age: 35.5 years


Median age: 36.5 years


Per capita: $24,591

Median Household: $67,307

Average Household: $76,513

Household Distribution:

Less than $25,000: 10 %

$25,000-49,999: 17 %

$50,000-74,999: 33 %

More than $75,000: 40 %



Just north of the central plain area of Orange County, bordered by the eastern foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains and south of the Peralta Hills and Santiago Creek, lies Orange Park Acres.

This neighborhood had its beginnings about 1929, when deep wells were drilled near Santiago Creek. The Orange Park Acres Mutual Water Co. was established to service the developing agriculture (orange, avocado and eucalyptus trees), and a residential community soon followed. Fifteen years later, a couple dozen chicken ranchers established operations, causing concern among residents about their property values. Around the same time, an ordinance was passed limiting lots for single-family residences to 1 acre. This helped retain a balance between farming, ranching and residential activities in the area.

Toward the late '60s, lot splits occurred regularly, from 5 acres to 1 acre, due mostly to pressure from prospective buyers to purchase this prime property. Agriculture fell into decline, and horse breeding increased sharply. Today, OPA is heavily endowed with equestrian trails and corrals.

One of the most controversial events in Orange Park Acres' history was the annexation by the city of Orange 20 years ago of an area surrounding the northern portion of the neighborhood. This was only the beginning. Since then, Orange has annexed half of OPA. Today, there are about 800 acres within the city limits of Orange and a little more than 900 acres within the county, the latter of which is unincorporated. This makes for odd situations. For instance, one house may be on the city side and have public sewage, while across the street a neighbor may be under county administration and be required to have a septic tank.

In December, 1969, longtime resident Anita Bennyhoff formed a community newspaper called Common Talk, which now has a circulation of 14,000. The threat of expanded development propelled Bennyhoff to create Common Talk, and her experience on various Southern California newspapers gave her the knowledge she needed to get it off the ground. The paper provides gossip, ads, local events, a police blotter, society news, classified ads and even editorials.

In the mid-'70s, concern among residents about losing OPA's rural ambiance prompted the birth of the Orange Park Acres Assn., a team planning effort among the city, county and area residents. The organization represents the entire community and is highly respected by all local governing bodies. Whenever builders and developers show interest in the area, they are directed to the OPAA. The group not only exerts political influence but does things "on the ground." For example, the association has taken on the responsibility of maintenance and the building of new horse trails.

But more than just horses have a place here. At the end of Windes Drive, three-quarters of a mile north of Santiago Canyon Road, is the 125-acre Santiago Oaks Regional Park. The park's nature center, which opened in 1981, provides exhibits on the natural and human history of the area with emphasis on wildlife. The park is open to the public from 7 a.m. to sunset year-round for a nominal fee.

Due to the lack of other areas similar to Orange Park Acres, which lies near urban facilities but retains a rural character, experts say the demand for more development will increase. For now, though, it is said that there are probably more four-legged beasts than people.

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