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Small-Town Atmosphere in City Setting : Tustin: Quiet neighborhoods, excellent schools and convenient location attract residents and keep them there.

March 21, 1993|JULIE BAWDEN DAVIS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES: Davis is a free-lance writer who lives in Orange.

When Rich Kaufman first saw his future home in Tustin, he immediately fell in love with it. "I was flooded with childhood memories of my grandma's house," he said of the house that was built in 1934. "The huge arched doorways, big windows, wood floors and squeaky doors all really appealed to me."

Rich Kaufman's only concern was that his wife, Lara, wouldn't like the home, but his fears were unfounded.

"The house's interior design is old Art Deco and it has a lot of personality," said Lara Kaufman, who readily agreed to its purchase. Last April they bought the 2,000 square foot, three-bedroom house for $330,000.

Since settling into their new home, the Kaufmans have also fallen in love with the city itself. For Lara Kaufman, Tustin's small-town atmosphere is a refreshing change from the beach area where they used to live.

"People are down-to-earth here and very friendly," she said. "I don't have to worry about putting on makeup to go to the store. And unlike some areas of the county, there are many young couples like us who are starting families."

Rich Kaufman, who is co-owner of two bakeries in Newport Beach and Corona del Mar, enjoys the relaxed, rural feel of their North Tustin home. "It's a very quiet, pastoral setting," he said. "Many of our neighbors have horses; the next-door neighbor has a mini-orchard."

According to Melody Streur, a realtor with Century 21 Academy in Tustin, the city's sedate, low-profile atmosphere attracts people to Tustin and keeps them there.

"Once people move into the area, they tend to stay," she said. "Residents generally have a strong sense of family and like the quiet lifestyle Tustin has to offer."

Longtime resident Mike Sackett says his Tustin neighborhood has been quiet since the day he and his wife, Blanche, bought their four-bedroom home 36 years ago.

"It's never been really noisy here. In the old days you'd only hear a siren when there was a fire. Today it's still quiet," he said.

According to Sackett, there's always been a strong sense of community in the neighborhood as well. "The neighbors have always gotten together to help one another," he said. "For many years the fire department was all volunteer." Sackett, a retired meat cutter, still assists neighbors with outdoor projects.

Blanche Sackett, a former nurse, recalls the day they found the house. "We were looking for a four-bedroom home because we had two children and my mother living with us. We looked in some locations in Santa Ana, but weren't impressed. Then we found this house--it was the model home and the last one on the tract. I remember standing in the front yard and saying, 'I like it. What will it cost me?' "

They bought the 1,300-square-foot house, which sits on a third of an acre, for $13,180 in 1956. Today it would sell for about $220,000.

Besides the quiet family atmosphere, many residents choose to stay put in Tustin because of the area's highly rated high schools. In recent years both schools in the Tustin Unified School District, Tustin High School and Foothill High School, have produced a number of National Merit Scholars. This is an academic honor awarded to selected students throughout the nation.

"At Tustin High, approximately 90% of students go on to college," said school Principal Duffy Clark. "In the last 10 years we've sent more students to West Point than any other high school west of the Mississippi."

According to Foothill High School Principal Janis Jones, 96.5% of the 1992 graduating class went on to college. "A large number of the students get into Ivy League universities such as Harvard and Stanford," she said.

Foothill High is well known to Orange County for its academic programs. Part of this has to do with parent support and involvement. According to Jones, the Foothill Education Fund, which is run by parents, has raised over $200,000 for various state-of-the-art science and computer equipment that many other schools don't have.

A quiet, friendly atmosphere and excellent schools are just two of the reasons people stay in Tustin. Another is its central location. Tustin is a short distance from shopping, beaches and even the airport--it is just eight miles from John Wayne Airport and 12 miles from the beach. Tustin is bounded by Jamboree Road on the east, Chapman Avenue on the north, the Costa Mesa (55) Freeway on the west and Barranca Parkway on the south.

As far as house cost and size, Tustin has a wide range, offering something for just about anyone. According to Streur, the average home in Tustin sells for $349,000 for a three- to four-bedroom home of 2,200 to 2,800 square feet with 2 to 2 1/2 bathrooms. The area also boasts estates of 4,000 to 10,000 square feet with many amenities such as tennis courts and horse property. These homes run $500,000 to $2 million or more. On the other end of the spectrum are three- to four-bedroom homes of 1,200 to 1,700 square feet that run $195,000 to $225,000. And there are two- to three-bedroom condos that average $153,000 for 1,000 to 1,500 square feet.

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