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A Community's Zone of Contention

Some residents don't want a strip mall on undeveloped parcel, regardless of impact report.


The recent release of an environment impact report on rezoning a 6.3-acre parcel of land from residential to commercial has stirred up the community.

Some residents don't want to see the lot at 17th Street and Newport Avenue turned into a strip mall and are fighting to stop the development of the proposed North Tustin Village Project. Others welcome an upscale grocery store, restaurant and specialty shops in this unincorporated community.

"To put a commercial piece of property in the middle of a residential area is inappropriate zoning," said North Tustin resident Jerry Wolf. "We are not saying no growth. Our position is good-quality housing would be more than welcomed and that it should be compatible with the neighborhood."

North Tustin resident Paula Baldini, who has read the report issued by Orange County, said she didn't like the idea of having more homes in the community and preferred a centrally located shopping center where residents can see one another and meet.

"I wanted something that would not be detrimental to the neighbors, and I think that everything in the [report] proved that it is the best alternative," she said.

The controversy began in July 1998 when an application was filed by Doug Prescott, whose family owns the property, to rezone the site from residential to commercial in order to build a residentially scaled shopping center.

Two opposing groups were formed: Friends of the North Tustin Village Project, comprising about 1,600 residents in support of the development, and Neighbors United, a group that supports quality residential development.

The main concerns of Neighbors United, which comprises about 150 active members and has gathered more than 5,000 signatures from North Tustin Village opponents, include traffic congestion due to lane alterations and additional light and noise pollution.

Susan Hori, land use attorney for Prescott Properties, said the impact report concluded the project would not have a significant impact on traffic or noise.


"I couldn't be happier that the [report] came out with a very positive evaluation of the project," said Prescott, who is the developer of the property. "There has been so much false information spread by the opponents. Now that there is a document out that addresses all the concerns, they can really see what the facts are now."

According to the environmental impact report, potential short-term and long-term noise impacts would be "below a level of significance." In regard to traffic, the report states that the "proposed project will not generate any significant unavoidable adverse traffic or circulation impacts."

Hori said the North Tustin Village design team has made several revisions to the project after receiving comments from the public in 1998. The truck-loading dock was moved near 17th Street instead of placed closer to homes and was designed to be fully enclosed. The center's size was also reduced from 65,000 square feet to 63,000 square feet, and public parking situated close to residents was removed.

Residents can review the report at the Tustin Library and submit letters to the county until May 2.


Marissa Espino can be reached at (714) 966-5879.

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