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'Gracious Living' and Rapid Growth : Yorba Linda: Although it is Orange County's fastest-growing city, people come here for the quiet neighborhoods and open space.

November 18, 1990|LINDA YUSKAITIS | Yuskaitis is a free-lance writer who lives in Cypress

When Richard Nixon stopped in his hometown of Yorba Linda during the 1968 presidential campaign, Mary Pat Anderson loaded her two small children into the family's station wagon and went to hear him speak.

"It was mostly women and children out that day, since the men were all at work," said Anderson, a 26-year Yorba Linda resident. Nixon, speaking at his family's home, said, "My father used to raise lemons here. Now, it looks like you raise children."

He was right: People in Yorba Linda were busy raising families then, and they still are. As a residential community with the motto "Land of Gracious Living," Yorba Linda is where people go to find quiet neighborhoods, open space and a country atmosphere.

Yet this is no sleepy little town. While the opening of the Nixon Library and birthplace put the spotlight on Yorba Linda last summer, the community has been getting attention lately for another reason:

It was the fastest-growing city in Orange County in 1989 and the sixth fastest-growing in California.

Yorba Linda's population swelled by 4,480 people last year, bringing the head count to 52,367. Much of the new population moved into the 1,000 new homes built in the eastern part of the city in 1989.

The extraordinary growth was made possible by a series of land annexations from the County of Orange that culminated in the early 1980s, expanding Yorba Linda's area from 3,000 to more than 10,000 acres.

Annexing the land didn't come easy, as neighboring Anaheim Hills engaged in a battle with Yorba Linda over which city should get what parcel.

"There was plenty of confrontation. But eventually LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission) determined that everything on the north side of the canyon should go to Yorba Linda," said Phil Paxton, Yorba Linda's Community Development Director.

Once won, the land sat largely undeveloped for years, due to the recession of the early 1980s. Moreover, the city could not provide utilities, such as water and sewer service, to the acreage at one time, Paxton said.

"Had we not had that five-year interim when building just about stopped, Yorba Linda would have been built out many years ago," said Martha Jansen, owner of Century 21 Achievers in Yorba Linda.

Today, new homes stretch as far east as Coal Canyon Road off the Riverside Freeway.

Everything in east Yorba Linda exudes newness, from young trees and still-black asphalt roads to the stark white ranch fences that line horse trails along main streets like Village Center Drive.

"It's the typical Southern California look--the palm trees, stucco homes and tile roofs. It's like living in a vacation resort," said Sherry Hiatt, who moved to Yorba Linda from Carmel, Ind., in April with her husband, Greg, and two young daughters.

Before Greg, director of western operations for Syncor, an Indiana-based pharmaceutical company, transferred to California, the Hiatts made several house-hunting trips, looking at hundreds of homes from Valencia to San Diego.

"We had a lot of requirements. No. 1 was the schools. Also, we were looking for a certain square footage and a big yard, because the kids are used to being outside. We also wanted to be close to the airports, because I travel," Greg said.

The Hiatts found what they were looking for in a new Brighton tract home on Stonehaven Drive--a five-bedroom, 3,640-square-foot home on almost an acre for $525,000. There was room for a pool and hot tub, brick patio and swing set for the girls.

"It's a tremendous place to raise children. I raised a family here, and it was great for my kids," said realtor Jansen.

Yorba Linda has 14 parks, 35 miles of equestrian trails, 20 miles of bicycle trails, a private golf course, nine tennis courts and the Forum Theater for performing arts.

Youth sports such as baseball and soccer are popular, and Yorba Linda's Boy Scout Troop 99 is the oldest Scout troop in Orange County, active since 1916.

While devoid of department stores and major business parks, Yorba Linda has several small shopping centers. The downtown area, with historic buildings from the 1920s, is still active. It is located off Imperial Highway, north of Yorba Linda Boulevard.

Yorba Linda is a city of predominantly single-family, owner-occupied homes and has numerous custom homes.

Median sale price of a single-family home from January through September of this year was $249,900, according to North Orange County Board of Realtors statistics. Median sale price of condominiums during the same period was $147,000.

"In a condo, you're not going to find much of anything with a garage for under $150,000," said Jansen, who is president of the North Orange County Board of Realtors.

Less-expensive condos, selling for about $135,000, are apartment conversions, Jansen said. The city has four mobile-home parks and relatively few apartment complexes.

Three- and four-bedroom single-famly tract homes built in the 1960s sell for about $230,000, Jansen said, and 12-year-old homes in Eastlake Village are in the $300,000 to $400,000 range.

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