Category Archives: Homes

Oakbrook Village a mixed use project in Laguna Hills

LAGUNA HILLS, CA – The residential project, which broke ground two years ago, is adjacent to the Oakbrook Village retail center, which is undergoing a façade remodel and other improvements.

Both projects are part of the Urban Village Specific Plan, a vision created by the city in 2002 to give a 240-acre area in Laguna Hills a face-lift and more of a downtown, said David Chantarangsu, community development director for Laguna Hills. The new Civic Center area and the future renovation of Laguna Hills Mall are also part of the redevelopment area.

“A downtown is kind of like the social heart of the community and creates a sense of place,” he said.

The redevelopment is part of a larger trend in south Orange County for cities striving to create more of a city center. In Laguna Niguel, plans for the Agora Arts District Downtown Project feature a mixed-use development with specialty retail, restaurants, event space, 200 rental apartments and walkable open space plazas. Lake Forest has undertaken a similar revitalization project along El Toro Road.


The Spanish-style residential project, which offers one- and two-bedroom apartments from $1,860 to $2,700 a month, features a sky deck, pool with private cabanas, barbecue and seating areas and an outdoor movie theater. It also has a residential lounge, game room, fitness center and ground-level parking within a gated portion of the building and subterranean parking in the back.

Sarah Klaustermeier, multi-family development manager for Shea Properties, said the apartments will appeal to everyone from college age to empty-nesters. She noted the complex has no playground, but that doesn’t preclude families from living there.

Area residents shopping at Oakbrook Village recently seemed pleased with the development. “More people mean more stores and businesses,” said Tara Gonzales of Laguna Hills. “Good rental spots are needed.”

The apartment complex includes 11,000 square feet of retail space on the ground level, which the company is looking to lease to two restaurants and up to five retail businesses, Klaustermeier said.

A 17,000-square-foot village green with a lawn area, entertainment stage, shaded seating and public art displays will be completed between the Oakbrook Village shopping center and the apartments in the fall. Pedestrian paseos will connect the residential area with the center and the Laguna Hills Mall, Klaustermeier said.

“The attempt is to create a symbiotic relationship where people don’t have to drive to get food, go to restaurants, entertainment or get a haircut,” said Paul Bernard, Fritz Duda’s western region vice president.

“It will be fun to get to see new stuff,” said Laguna Woods resident Gloria Gentile, who has been coming to the shopping center for 10 years. “It’s all positive changes.”

As part of the approved project from the city, Fritz Duda has the option to build another 200 apartment units within 12 years at the site. However, there are no plans taken yet to move forward with that project, Bernard said.


To make room for the new housing, an 86,000-square-foot retail building had to be demolished in the Oakbrook Village shopping center and its tenants relocated to other parts of the center.

The center, owned and operated by Fritz Duda since the late 1970s, is undergoing a redesign to a brighter Spanish-style exterior. The renovation of the 26,000-square-foot building that houses Trader Joe’s and Woody’s Diner has been completed, Bernard said. The building’s dark wooden beams and roof have been replaced with brighter colors, a smooth exterior finish and a Spanish tile roof. “This will make it look like a brand new center,” Bernard said.

In August, work will start on the 52,000-square-foot building housing Marshalls, Mandarin Terrace and Road Runner Sports, along with the building where Calico, a fabric and upholstery store, is located. The renovations are expected to be completed in December.

“It will be nice to have it renovated,” said Jerrad Bresyn, who works at Road Runner Sports. “This area is kind of hidden so more customers couldn’t hurt.”

Some locals are worried about what the housing development will mean for the area.

“It’s too high-density and there will be no parking and a lot of traffic,” said Sharon McNamara, a frequent shopper at Oakbrook Village.

City officials, however, said the added residential units will have no traffic or parking impacts to the shopping center since a commercial building was removed to make room for the apartments. A traffic study actually showed less traffic for the center during peak hours, said Kenneth Rosenfield, city engineer.

Laguna Hills Residents Protest Cell Tower They Say Was Illegally Approved

Laguna Hills, CA – More than 100 upset homeowners gathered at a town hall in Laguna Hills Tuesday evening to protest a planned cell phone tower in their neighborhood that they say was illegally approved.

The residents say their homeowner association acted in bad faith by secretly negotiating with Verizon Wireless to erect a cell phone tower near their 900-unit community. Last week, the city approved the permit, they said.

“The [HOA] needed a two-thirds vote, they needed to send out ballots,” resident Maria Tagarao said. “Ballots were never sent out … It’s outrageous.”

The protesters are the latest in a long string of activists to protest cell towers in Southern California communities.

To draw attention to their cause, protesters hired a blimp lit in neon green, displaying a ticker that read, “Illegal land lease???”

Laguna Hills resident Larry Fleming said he hoped the attention would convince Verizon to reconsider the deal.

“We’re hoping that Verizon recognizes that the community is not happy with it,” he said. “Hopefully Verizon will find a way to work with the association and find a way to back out of this.”

Cost of Living Comparison: Laguna Hills, California

Laguna Hills, CA – A salary of $130,000 in Laguna Hills, California should increase to $172,765 in Sunnyvale, California

Laguna Hills
U.S. Avg.
Cost of Living Indexes Laguna Hills Sunnyvale
Overall 190.6 253.3
Food 107.7 118.1
Housing 365.4 555.1
Utilities 111.2 123.7
Transportation 114.6 112.6
Health 107.8 113.9
Miscellaneous 103.6 102.1
100=national average
Sunnyvale is
more expensive than Laguna Hills.

is the biggest factor in the cost of living difference.

Housing is
more expensive in Sunnyvale.

Historic preservation of Aliso Viejo Ranch hits another roadblock

Laguna Hill, CA – City Councilman Ross Chun has seen plans for development at the Aliso Viejo Ranch site fail for the past 12 years.

The 7.7-acre ranch and its five original structures – a barn, a bunkhouse and three sheds – are the last remaining vestige of the Moulton Ranch, purchased by Lewis Moulton in 1895. The 22,000-acre ranch covered what today encompasses South County cities, including Aliso Viejo, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel and Laguna Woods.

The county gave the ranch to AVCA in 1998 but found itself unable to decide on an economically viable development plan, so the city assumed control of it in 2006.

A decade ago, Aliso Viejo Ranch seemed destined for historic preservation. Five years ago, the land looked like it would be home to a $19 million community center that would house the Boys and Girls Clubs of Capistrano Valley.

In the past year, the City Council has returned its focus to preservation, but three design plans failed to meet council members’ expectations when presented Wednesday. The council voted 4-0 to reject designs by Thirtieth Street Architects. City Councilman Phil Tsunoda was absent for the presentation and vote.

“When the city took control of the ranch, their comment was that AVCA had sat on the property for far too long,” said Chun, who also served on the Aliso Viejo Community Association board. “The city said it would develop there, but here we are 10 years later and it’s in the same state..”

Momentum had been building for the ranch’s preservation. After deciding a year ago to scrap the community center development plan, the city has held three workshops to gather community and City Council input on what design elements would be of most use to residents.

Thirtieth Street Architects – which got a $50,000 contract with the city in November – attended the most recent workshop in January. The three plans presented Wednesday illustrated various levels of preservation.

In one plan, three of the buildings would merely be stabilized to prevent further decay. In another, the buildings would be refurbished for everyday use. In the third plan, the buildings would be razed to make way for a new, 14,000-square-foot central building.

Cost estimates for each project are $16.4 million, $16.2 million and $19.5 million, respectively, according to a report by Thirtieth Street Architects.

Mayor Mike Munzing and City Councilman Bill Phillips expressed dismay over the cost estimates – the scrapped plan community center plan’s $19 million price tag was the primary point of objection. Mayor Pro Tem Dave Harrington and Chun said the three plans lacked key elements discussed in the workshops.

Harrington and Chun noted a lack of dedicated spaces for a teaching garden, a working ranch and outdoor educational spaces, all of which were discussed at a workshop with the council and Thirtieth Street Architects in January.

“When I look at these plans, I see parking lots and a big building,” Chun said. “I don’t see most of the things we talked about.”

Harrington said he felt his time visiting other refurbished historic sites, like the Irvine Ranch Historic Park, and discussing potential uses for the ranch in previous workshops was wasted.

Jim Wilson, a partner with Thirtieth Street Architects, said the plans may not accurately explain the project and that his group can come back before the council to discuss how the site uses can be consolidated and how to move forward.

Harrington said if the revised plans are unsatisfactory, the City Council may be brought to a point where it must decide whether it will “fish or cut bait.”

“If you look at the history of that property, many organizations have failed to move forward without breaking the bank,” Harrington said. “If you can’t resolve that, that leaves one of two options: sell it or leave it an open piece of land that does nothing but sit there until those buildings disintegrate.”