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Where Families Take Root : Residents feel safe and enjoy a sense of community in Orange County's Green Valley.

February 11, 1996|JULIE BAWDEN DAVIS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Davis is a free-lance writer who lives in Orange

The night they moved into their new home in the Green Valley planned community in Fountain Valley, Linda Acosta and Ernesto Galvan put their toddler to bed and prepared to celebrate with champagne and crackers.

The only trouble was, they had no refrigerator yet and couldn't chill their champagne. They also couldn't find any glasses.

"We were disappointed and thought, 'Oh well, there goes our mini celebration,' " recalled Acosta, 34. "But a few minutes later our next-door neighbors surprised us with champagne and congratulations. We met them when we were looking at the house, and they knew how much we wanted it."

For Acosta and her husband, few things had ever been more important than getting the three-bedroom, 1,300-square-foot home they bought in September for $190,000. The couple had been renting in Green Valley for a year until their landlord wanted the house back.

"We panicked when the owners told us we had to move, because we didn't want to move out of Green Valley," Acosta said. "We love it here. It's a perfect place to raise our daughter."

Acosta and Galvan are among numerous young couples attracted to Green Valley, a 1,000-home development in the Orange County city of Fountain Valley. Green Valley is bordered by Ward Street on the west, Euclid Street on the east, Warner Avenue on the north and Talbert Avenue on the south.

One of the first planned communities in Orange County, Green Valley was begun in 1967 and finished in 1976 by the Holstein Brothers construction company. The builders envisioned the development as the ideal community and even built their homes there.

Among Green Valley's biggest attractions are a host of family-friendly amenities, including 21 acres of parks, two clubhouses, three pools, an elementary school and a middle school, swim team and recreational activities planned for all residents from preschoolers to senior citizens. Everyone in the community keeps in touch with what is going on through the community's local paper, the Gazette, published by the Green Valley's homeowners association.

"Once many young families outgrow a home in Green Valley, they almost always want a larger home in the area," said real estate broker Tim Olivadoti with Star Real Estate in Fountain Valley. "Many of the residents even grew up here as children and come back to raise their own family here."

The typical Green Vally single-family home has three bedrooms and two baths in 1,600 to 1,700 square feet and is priced at about $250,000, Olivadoti said. For about $150,000, buyers can find houses with 1,350 square feet, two bedrooms and 1 1/2 baths. Patio and town homes also sell in the $150,000-to-$180,000 range.

On the higher end of the market are homes with four or five bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths and 2,200 to 2,500 square feet for about $280,000. Many Green Valley residents could afford to move out of the area into more expensive homes, but very few move unless they find it necessary, Olivadoti said. "Most people who do move out of Green Valley relocate out of state, and many hold on to their houses and rent them out," he said.

Olivadoti has lived in Green Valley for 22 years. "My wife and I could find no place that replicates the values and old-town feeling of Green Valley," he said.

The homes in Green Valley are all located on or just off Los Jardines. The neighborhood is a large oval and gives the neighborhood only one entrance and exit. In the center of Green Valley is the park, which can be seen from just about every house. Because of the visibility the community's layout provides, there is little vandalism, and residents feel safe walking at night.

"You get a real sense of security about your home here," said Acosta, who works at home and cares for her 18-month-old daughter, Kayla.

"If you go on vacation, you know that your neighbors will look out for you," she says. "We never felt this security in any of the other places we've lived."

Robin and Rick Atkins have lived in many places in the United States, and they say Green Valley is unique.

"Green Valley is like a real neighborhood," said Robin Atkins, 32, who stays home with her son, Taylor, 6. Rick Atkins is a branch operations manager for Toyota Motor Credit Corp.

"We've lived in neighborhoods where you never meet your neighbors. In Green Valley there's a tremendous amount of friendliness and camaraderie."

When they moved to Orange County and were shopping for a home, the Atkinses looked at about 70 houses in the area. Green Valley stood out, and they bought their four-bedroom, two-bath, 1,700-square-foot home with a large yard in April 1994 and paid in the mid-$200,000s.

"I love the fact that my son can ride up and down the street on his bike and I'm not overly concerned for his safety," Atkins said. "I also really enjoy walking him to and from school and interacting with other parents and his teachers."

A number of residents of Green Valley actually grew up in the neighborhood and returned because they can't get the area out of their blood.

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