Smart Infill Development in Orange County

Posted by Stacey May on Saturday, June 18th, 2011 at 6:37pm.

There's not much of it, but there's a growing demographic that are hopeful that more Orange County Cities will start embracing smart, infill growth as soon as possible. Currently, all of the Orange County Cities that I'm aware of have unrealistic density restrictions and ESPECIALLY parking restrictions. I'm hopeful that I see a lot of city staff at BIA-OC's upcoming event shown below!
I've been fortunate to work with developers who have a lot of experience in how a city can evolve into a more walkable city with greater connectivity and prosperity. It's uncomfortable for a city to go from sprawling tract homes and strip centers that require a car to get to any basic service to a walkable, well connected community where someone can live with just a pair of tennis shoes, like many people my age (28) are anxious to experience. Orange County must endure more traffic and density before people can live without a car and before light rail and improved public transportation will make sense. If walking or riding a bike can be popular in cities with significantly worse weather, how can this strategy not thrive here?
Either residents need to demand this type of living or Orange County needs elected officials and their staff need to wake up and lead. It's frustrating to see planning commission seats, redevelopment agencies or city council positions used as just a stepping stone for a career in politics instead of working hard to improve OC Cities.
Orange County, especially South Orange County, was designed around the automobile and cheap transportation fuel. Electric cars offer a promising hope, but until we get to hydrogen or another renewable transportation energy than we must recognize that all resources are finite and we must adjust our use of them to reduce how dramatic the change is when the tap runs dry.
Northern and Coastal Orange County Cities like Orange, Fullerton, Anaheim or parts of Newport Beach and Dana Point have a significant advantage as the County moves deeper into the Peak Oil Age. Orange especially has a very well planned city around Old Towne Orange with a train station, central plaza and grid designed streets.
Orange of all cities should be leading the charge towards the future of Orange County and they even have an affluent college university, Chapman University, to help support the transition. Poor City leadership and naive senior residents who continue to show up at planning meetings to fight density, traffic and Chapman's aggressive expansion throughout Old Towne Orange. Well guess what narrow minded Orange residents, you're making real estate less desirable for private developers by reducing density and requiring unrealistic parking restrictions. Developers can't make money building anything in Orange. This gives Chapman University more time to gobble up more and more property since there's little to no competition from private developers.
Thankfully we do have a least a few projects thanks to Olson Homes & City Ventures, but how many projects will builders be able to snatch-up and will this tear the peak oil band aid quickly enough. On sale now in Downtown Santa Ana by City Ventures is their Santa Ana Lofts. Shown below is one of their playful lofts with a dramatic stair case from the 1st to the 3rd floor where the main living space is found. No 2nd floor. Straight up to the top and you feel like you're in a real downtown, which is what many Orange County natives like myself fantasize about.

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