Baker Ranch wants to add 250 more homes into the Foothill Ranch Portola section of town.
That’s on top of the 2,200+ they are building right now.
And on top of the 4,700+ new homes that are already approved to be added, most of which are in a thin slice of land one mile East and West of the 241.
That’s the bottom line that came out of the Planning Commission (PC) meeting of March 27, 2014.
WHAT’S BEING PROPOSED
Baker Ranch LLC is asking to squeeze 250 more homes into a 30 acre plot opposite the Sports Park, thereby changing the General Plan zoning from commercial to residential. The company proposes to build 112 single family residences on approximately 4000 sf lots, and also to add 138 multi-family units in a separate 12.5 acre section. Along with all these homes they propose a 0.5 acre recreation area, which seems small for such a project, but the developers point out that with a Sports Park across the street the project doesn’t need onsite recreation areas.
There will be a single gated entrance to the project, facing opposite to the entrance to the Sports Park, and regulated with a traffic light.
Click on the imagine above for a very tentative site plan.
There wasn’t a lot more detail than this at the so-called “workshop”. Most of the presentation was taken up by a history of what good things the Baker family and Baker Ranch LLC have done for the City. What wasn’t said, of course, was how much money they made from their holdings, nor was there any mention of the thousands of dollars they have delivered to the campaign coffers of various City Council members over the years, allowing them to get the votes Baker Ranch needed to make their fortune. In fact, Baker Ranch was busy giving money to City Council candidates in Lake Forest even before there was a city here. As far back as March 1991, before incorporation, Baker Ranch gave a very generous $1,000 each to Marcia Rudolph, Richard Dixon, and Helen Wilson, all of whom became council members.
But neither the largesse of the Baker family and Baker Ranch LLC nor their past forays into local politics should be on the table in a discussion of their new project.
INITIAL PC REACTION
Following the opening comments by Baker family grandson Michael Watkins and Baker Ranch attorney Larry Tucker, the PC opened the questions up to the Commission members, all of whom lavished praise on Watkins and Tucker for what seemed to me was a rather ordinary, and some might even say, subpar presentation. Most of the answers to the questions were “We don’t know yet” and “The HOA will have to handle it”, showing that indeed this project was at an early stage, although apparently Baker Ranch has already engaged companies to do the research required for projects of this nature (e.g., CEQA).
With a General Plan change on the table, it was incredible that no one on the Commission addressed this issue. Instead, they fretted over how tall the walls were going to be, how the gate was going to work, and how big the garages were. At one point Commissioner Fuentes wanted to know “how big” the 30 acre site was going to be, reminding me of one of the questions from Jay Leno when he walks on the streets and asks people “What was the color of George Washington’s white horse?” She was assured that this 30 acre project was going to be 30 acres.
Only 10 year veteran Jerry Verplancke hinted at the enormity of what the PC was being asked to do. He wanted to know what new “stresses” this 250 unit project would put on the City, singling out water. Baker Ranch spokesman Tucker assured Verplanke and the multitudes assembled that he would get a letter from IRWD saying they would supply the water. What he didn’t say, of course, was who was going to supply IRWD with the water so that they could supply it to everyone else.
When the mutual admiration society had finished, newly appointed Chairman Hamilton opened the comments up to the public, and all 4 speakers expressed their disappointment that the PC seemed to have already made up their minds to approve the project, and only the details needed to be worked out. Foothill resident Tim Morisette lamented “my quality of life is going down”. Another Foothill resident, Wayne Hofman asked them to “just think with some vision” and worried aloud about the impact on the neighborhood, especially the schools. Indeed, he suggested that the 30 acres would make a great location for the school that should have been built to accommodate the 6,000+ new students who will be arriving in Lake Forest as a result of the 4,700+ new homes already approved.
Following the lambasting from the residents, each of the Commissioners assured the audience that their minds had not been made up, but there was little evidence of that on display.
Tomorrow we’ll go into more details about the project.