Yeah, tract homes are so much sexier...
Yeah, tract homes are so much sexier...
Kenneth M. Ruggiano

Saddle Crest Development in Trabuco Canyon Overturned!

Hell YES! Just last Friday, Orange County Superior Court Judge Steven L. Perk ruled in favor of 2,000 petitioners and activists to reject the Saddle Crest housing development in Trabuco Canyon. The development would have bulldozed over 150 old oak trees and figuratively raped the beautiful and unadulterated landscape just northwest of Cook's Corner.

In place of the rolling hillside would have been a new, 65-unit McMansion neighborhood, because we really don't have enough of those already. Presumably, the project wouldn't have come this far had Orange County Supervisors followed the Foothill-Trabuco Specific plan that the county adopted in 1991. The plan was designed to protect the canyon lands from the mass grading of hillsides and from being stripped of their historic oaks, but Supervisor Bill Campbell (who oversees the area) and others took it more as advice than a rule. Last October the Supervisors made a unanimous decision to approve Saddle Crest, citing that the environmental impacts would be minimal, if not insignificant.

Supervisors also amended the Orange County General Plan during the same time. The plan placed restrictions on developments that would impact traffic flow, but they said that the new neighborhood would have little bearing on the movement of the two-lane highway.

Oddly enough, Rutter Santiago LP, the company hoping to build Saddle Crest, was a campaign contributor to all five of the Orange County Supervisors, and the rules against development were changed solely for this project. Many canyon residents immediately jumped to action after hearing about the plan and began petitioning and speaking out against it. This kind of aggressive effort to save the area around their homes got them labeled Nimbys by media folks like Rick Reiff and other supporters of the plan, but they purport that saving the canyon should be a priority for anyone living in Orange County. Even if you don't reside within the hills, you can access it for hiking, biking, and picnicking without running into too many people or dealing with a ton of traffic.

Thankfully, Judge Perk saw the potential hazard of the development and how amending the plans now could now make it easier to develop more in the future. This is all after Rutter was rejected by an appellate court for their first housing-tract of 162 units in 2003.

At this point, we can expect Rutter to continue fighting for their development. And even if it is rejected again, they'll most likely come back with a new plan. If you would like to support the effort to save the canyon follow Save Santiago Canyon on Facebook or visit

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