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Attempt to Switch Cities Hits a Wall

Community: Placentia officials deny a bid by most of a cul-de-sac's residents to join Yorba Linda.


The residents of Wabash Circle considered it a pretty simple matter to change their address from Placentia to Yorba Linda.

Their pristine cul-de-sac of 13 homes in a northeast sliver of Placentia is bordered on three sides by Yorba Linda. Just de-annex from one place, annex to another, they figured.

Oh, were these homeowners ever wrong. Wabash Circle isn't going anywhere. At least not for now.

"We have no intention of giving away a piece of our city," said Joyce Rosenthal, Placentia's community development director.

The Wabash Circle people haven't given up. But they know now that they have a mighty struggle ahead of them. For one thing, they'll need to do a better job at public relations.

Placentia city officials didn't even know what the residents were up to for a long time. The residents had gone to the Local Agency Formation Commission, thinking that was the right agency to get things rolling. It was, but both cities involved were supposed to be informed too.

A recent 5-0 nay vote by a slightly irritated Placentia City Council put an end to any Placentians leaving the fold.

"The council didn't want to set a precedent," said Placentia city administrator Bob D'Amato. "We have other neighborhoods in similar situations. We're not about to lose part of our eastern border to Yorba Linda."

Which leaves the Wabash Circle residents a bit dazed.

"It seemed like such a natural thing to us," said Rick Warwick, whose family is one of three original homeowners left in the tract built in 1979. "We saw this as a no-brainer from the beginning."

Linda Wesley, who has lived there since 1983, said she has felt for years like a Yorba Linda resident. Every decision made regarding their area was made by the Yorba Linda City Council, she said. Residents felt isolated from Placentia. Placentia services, such as trash pickup or police or paramedics, have to drive through Yorba Linda to even get there (though city administrator D'Amato considers that a nonissue because it happens in other cities).

"I wanted to see this move made years ago," Wesley said, "but I just never did anything about it. So when someone else did, I was all for it."

That someone was her neighbor of 11 years, Sally Barron. A key incident for her was Yorba Linda's recent decision to close off the east end of Wabash Avenue, the street that Wabash Circle bulges out from, to make way for a new housing development.

"I wasn't necessarily against closing the street, but if we'd lived in Yorba Linda, at least we would have had some say in it," Barron said.

So she, Warwick and Richard and Barbara Kempton organized a meeting with the other residents in the spring to see if they could do anything about it. LAFCO told them all the steps they needed to take, including a formal petition among themselves. They chipped in $1,600 for the necessary LAFCO fees. The agency was behind them all the way. Its analysts told them they were making a solid move.

"It is simply not logical for those people not to be a part of Yorba Linda," said agency policy analyst Jay Wong.

That led to the residents' first mistake: They assumed LAFCO would make sure everything was fine with both cities. Actually, LAFCO says, it did inform both.

Yorba Linda certainly raised no objection--it would be getting added tax revenue and more population, which would allow it to gain dollars in state and federal grants based on a population formula.

Placentia didn't seem to object, either. The problem was, the communication between LAFCO and Placentia involved lower-level staff members. No one knows for certain where the breakdown occurred, but word didn't reach the level of Rosenthal or D'Amato's office. Not until the agency put the swap on its September agenda did higher Placentia officials learn that their city was about to be carved up a tad.

"The city felt blindsided," said Barron. "But we felt blindsided too. We assumed everything was moving along just fine."

LAFCO has the authority to create cities and move tracts from one city to the next. But the cities losing residents have veto power, and Placentia exercised that right.

Other times, Placentia has gone along with de-annexation, D'Amato said. But that occurred only when a new housing development would be mostly in Yorba Linda and include only a home or two in Placentia.

Barron and Warwick say they will try again next year.

"But we need to do this in a friendlier fashion," Warwick said.

They say they won't make a move again without keeping the council informed.

Not everybody on Wabash Circle is upset that Placentia rejected the plans. Lila Underwood, 81, one of the three original homeowners left, was the only resident who did not sign Barron's petition.

"I've lived in Placentia all my life," she said. "Why would I want to move to Yorba Linda?"

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