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Construction of townhouses near Nixon Library approved





The City Council’s approval of 51 townhouses across Yorba Linda Boulevard from the Nixon Presidential Library & Museum marks the first success by a developer looking to build high-density housing on the city’s westside since voters approved Measures H and I.

The measures rezoned a number of properties in hopes that they would attract developers to build affordable housing. However, there will be no units for low-income and very low-income buyers in the townhouse community being built by Brandywine Homes. Jim Burke, one of the property’s trustees, said the limit of 10 units per acre on his property wouldn’t allow for denser, affordable housing is that typically built at 30 units per acre.

Burke said he was elated with the council’s decision, which was the culmination of his family’s 12-year effort to sell and develop the land.

“I’m just very excited that they saw the extra work that Brandywine has put into making this a great project for Yorba Linda,” Burke said.

The council’s decision was a defeat for many residents on Yorba Linda’s westside who want to maintain the semi-rural, equestrian character that brought them to the Land of Gracious Living.

Homeowner Rhonda Richards said feels she was conned into voting for Measure I based on the fact that properties such as the Brandywine townhouse site would be zoned at higher-densities for state-mandated affordable housing. Richards told the council they would negatively affect the equity in her home on Via Buena Vida if they allowed Brandywine to build.

“I just feel that they went with the builders,” Richards said. “I had higher hopes for the little City Council. I just wasted my time.”

Mayor Tom Lindsey and councilmen Craig Young and Gene Hernandez voted to approve Brandywine’s project.

Hernandez didn’t buy into the argument that the mostly vacant property was really rural since it borders Yorba Linda Boulevard and is visible from the Nixon Library.

“To me it’s a public embarrassment,” he said.

Young said the decision to approve the development was difficult because the voters had already decided to rezone the property.

“Government has grown too big,” he said. “I think for us to not approve what out voters have already approved would just put more government into the mix.”

With Councilman John Anderson absent, Councilman Mark Schwing was the lone concerned voice on the dais. Although he liked the project’s design, Schwing said he did not believe there was enough parking and that its single entrance and exit could be hazardous during a fire. He also opposes requirements from the state to provide affordable housing.

“They’re trying to make the county homogenous and I hate that,” he said. “I moved to Yorba Linda because it was semi-rural.”

Richard Elliot, a 42-year resident, said he enjoyed raising a family on Blair Drive, just south of Brandywine’s site, with two horses and four steer. He’s watched horses in his neighborhood disappear over the years.

“It was great,” he said. “Those times are over.”

After Brandywine is done with demolition and grading, it must spend about $1 million to improve a storm drain buried on the property, relocating water meters and extending the sewer line, said Brett Whitehead, president of Brandywine Homes. Brandywine will also put $150,000 into the city’s housing fund to help with the city’s affordable housing needs. The first houses will be available for sale late next year.

An artist rendering of the future Brandywine townhouses from Yorba Linda Boulevard and Eureka Avenue. Demolition of the existing buildings is expected to start in December.