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City Convenience in a Resort-Like Setting : Anaheim Hills: Country charm, greenery and wildlife are among draws of this freeway-close Orange County community.

June 27, 1993|JULIE BAWDEN DAVIS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Davis is a free - lance writer who lives in Orange. and

Before Susan and William Brooker moved into Anaheim Hills, they didn't know much about the area. Since buying a home in April, 1991, they've been pleasantly surprised.

"I'm in awe of Anaheim Hills," Susan Brooker said. "It's . . . really lush and green, and there's a lot of birds and other wildlife. At the same time we're conveniently located near shopping, restaurants and theaters."

On the weekends, the Brookers say they rarely leave Anaheim Hills. Instead they nestle into their 2,400-square-foot, two-bedroom townhome, which they bought for $250,000.

"After a hectic week at work, we enjoy not having to get on the freeways and drive out of town," said Brooker, who is financial director for an international wholesale distributor; her husband is a general contractor. "Anaheim Hills is like a resort town. Everything we need is right here."

It's the city's rural feel, yet convenient location that attracts residents to the area, said Jeanie Cooper, an agent with Seven Gables Real Estate in Anaheim Hills.

"Many people comment on the greenery and hills here," she said. "As a matter of fact, the area often attracts out-of-state buyers because it has a Midwest and East Coast feel to it. At the same time, it's freeway close to the rest of Orange County."

Anaheim Hills is an extensive development in the city of Anaheim that takes up about 4,000 acres of rolling hills. The area is bounded by Esperanza Road and the Riverside Freeway (91) on the north; the city of Orange on the south, Coal Canyon Road on the east and on the west by the Newport Freeway (55).

Since the city of Anaheim began developing the Hills area in the early 1970s, they have followed a community plan that is designed to preserve the area's natural beauty, said Anaheim deputy planning director, Mary McCloskey.

"In order to maintain the area's open space and rural feel, we've preserved the natural topography as much as possible," she said. "Not only have developers built around many of the rolling hills, a series of riding and hiking trails have been incorporated throughout the area."

The hilly topography thrust Anaheim Hills into the news this past winter, when nearly 50 houses had to be evacuated after major landslides caused by the heavy rains damaged or destroyed a number of homes.

Although there have been many changes in Anaheim Hills since Eunice and Walter Messner moved into the area in 1975, Eunice agrees that the area has retained its rural feel. When they bought their four-bedroom, 1,900-square-foot home for $55,000, which is now worth about $300,000, they were the first people living in the tract. And although many more developments have sprung up around them since that time, Messner, who is an avid gardener, says that Anaheim Hills continues to keep its country atmosphere.

"This is really an urban forest," she said. "The trees tend to hide a lot of the surrounding houses."

In some ways the construction has made the area even more attractive to the Messners.

When Eunice and Walter, who is an instrumentation engineer, first moved into their house, all you could see at night was total darkness. "Now at night there are lights all over the hills, and we enjoy the view tremendously," she said.

Kathy and Jim Rucker moved into Anaheim Hills in 1977 when they bought a 2,175-square-foot, three-bedroom home for $72,000, which is now worth $250,000. Today they still feel like they're living in the country.

"Although there has been an incredible amount of growth since we moved here--at the time the hills were empty and now they have houses--Anaheim Hills still has a rural feel to it compared to other parts of Southern California," said Kathy Rucker.

For years Rucker, who is an administrative assistant, worked in Norwalk (her husband is a telephone installation technician). She says she always looked forward to her drive home to Anaheim Hills.

"After the graffiti-filled, run-down areas of Norwalk, I used to love coming down Santa Ana Canyon Road," she said. "The clean open spaces are really satisfying to see."

Another attractive quality the area has to offer is its apparent safety. "When we first visited Anaheim Hills, we could tell it was family oriented and safe," said Donna Blythe, who bought a 2,300-square-foot, four-bedroom $265,000 with her husband, Kurt, in April, 1992.

Safety was the No. 1 priority for the Blythes, who were moving from a downtown Anaheim neighborhood that had become gang-infested.

"When we looked around Anaheim Hills, we were happy to see that people aren't afraid to leave their garage doors open during the day," said Donna, who works for a bank in Newport Beach. "The crime rate is low here and everyone takes good care of their homes."

"It's really a nice place to come home to," agreed Kurt, a sales representative for contact lenses. "We're raising our 4-year-old daughter, Dannon, in a safe, family oriented atmosphere."

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