Santa Paula East Area One Becomes Master Planned Community

By Sheryl Hamlin 

On the city council agenda for Monday, September 21st, item number 11 described modifications to the East Area One Specific Plan. The Specific Plan was approved earlier this year. Notices were mailed per legal requirements. Such a notice means that the council will take an action to modify a previously approved action involving a specified legal procedure, in this case an amendment to the Specific Plan for East Area One. The pink notice alerted citizens that “a public hearing will be held, as provided by law…”


A summary of the requested modifications was presented by the Planning Director Jana Minsk:


A detailed discussion of these changes had been considered by the Planning Commission on August 25, 2015 and summarized here where Limoneira requested changes to reduce the setbacks between the houses.

The Planning Director, Jana Minsk, presented an overview of the proposed changes saying the need for “flexibility” was driving the reduction in setbacks. Note that reduced setbacks increases the density by minimizing space between the homes.

Prior to the presentation, Council Member Gherardi stated that she understood all high density housing and condominiums had been removed from the project making it entirely single family. In the ex parte declarations, she had declared a meeting with Limoneira and Lewis, as did Vice Mayor Hernandez and Council Member Tovias.

Mr. Penrod of the Parkstone Companies, who has been working with Limoneira on this development since the initial stages, stated that Limoneira has found the “exact perfect partner” in the Lewis Group. He reassured the council that Limoneira was not selling out, but would be a 50-50 partner with Lewis. There would be an Executive Committee for decision making purposes. Lewis provides expertise in development of schools, downtowns, job creation, and development. They are not homebuilders, he said, but will work with homebuilders. Originally the plan called for 1254 single family units and 250 apartments/condominiums. The changes now under discussion represent a “new idea” of single family homes on small lots as a condo alternative, which according to market studies are preferable. He then introduced Glen Crosby with Lewis.

Mr. Crosby introduced himself as a Vice President of Lewis Operating Group saying that Lewis builds “Master Planned Communities” and will market to builders providing all infrastructure elements. He emphasized that this is not a “large subdivision” but a diverse community with different types of housing “products”, private homeowner amenities such as a pool, a Park House, a Club House and an HOA which with enforceable codes.

Mr. Crosby showed several slides from the Chino Ag Preserve, as an example of a Master Planned Community (MPC) where the houses have two-car garages accessible from the rear creating a pleasant streetscape without driveways.


Note: there is no mention of the development of a Master Planned Community (MPC) in any existing planning documents. This is new with the Lewis relationship and the first time an MPC was proposed for East Area I. No one questioned if changing East Area I to an MPC with HOA’s required another EIR.

It is important to understand that a Master Planned Community (MPC) has a specific meaning in the planning vocabulary:

Master Planned Community (MPC) – The term Master Planned Community is commonly used for a PUD (Planned Unit Development) that is larger than 2,500 acres. The MPC was spawned by the desire for suburban retreats in places where land could be aggregated to create a self-contained suburban environment. The development type may comprise tens of thousands of acres and numerous individual subdivisions that include both single-family and multi-family homes. The master developer generally allocates the subdivision development to individual builders thus creating “neighborhoods” within the MPC. The MPC typically has an abundance of recreational and social amenities that are usually restricted for use by residents, exclusively.


Sheryl Hamlin spoke in Public Comments referring to a document provided to the council earlier containing many concerns. Two of the concerns stated at the council meeting were parking and rentals. The entire document can be downloaded here. Additionally, she questioned the need for the setback reduction if it was merely a matter of “flexibility” in light of the fact that the September 10, 2015 staff report failed to indicate Mr. Penrod’s statement to the Planning Commission that Limoneira “could not make it work” without these changes. Was it “flexibility” or necessity?

Responding to Public Comments, Mr. Crosby responded to the parking issue saying that they have solved the parking problem by requiring residents to register cars with the HOA and that garages cannot be used for storage. In other words, there cannot be cars permanently left on the streets in the HOA rules which the HOA can enforce with fines.  In a separate conversation at the break, Council Member Tovias said he would look into the RV street parking issue also mentioned by Sheryl Hamlin.

Planning Director Minsk responded to the Public Comments by saying that the setbacks were required for flexibility in order to get closer to the 1500 units. She did not appear familiar with the issue of investors buying large blocks of homes for rentals, as described by Sheryl Hamlin. As to parking in the streets, she felt that with more garages this should be less of a problem, not acknowledging the multi-generational family home purchases also mentioned by Sheryl Hamlin.

Mr. Crosby returned to the podium indicating that his company “removed risk” by providing an embryonic environment for the home builders: CalTrans changes, schools, parks, water infrastructure, landscaping, open space, corridors, rough grading, utilities and storm drains.

Council Member Gherardi asked if the homes were all two story. Mr. Crosby replied affirmatively, unless the builder wanted to provide a single story at a different cost. Council Member Gherardi also asked about budget implications and in particular when would they pull permits.

Mr. Crosby indicated that the first project, the water tank and pumping station, is underway. He said the water tank alone is $3 million, so the city would presumably see permit revenue from this activity.

Council Member Gherardi asked about the relationship to East Area II. Mr. Penrod replied that they are waiting for infrastructure. Retail clients are interested but need water, storm, sewer and traffic changes at Hallock to proceed. He estimated that this would occur in 2018, about the time the first homes would be ready.

Council Member Crosswhite asked about Lewis’ commitment to the use of local labor. Mr. Crosby said that they will put all homes out to bid and that a lack of affordable housing will create a big demand. Lots of history will be brought to the project from the community. Council Member Tovias said that this project represented 7 to 10 years of work for people who live in town. Based on the previous date of a 2018 start for the first homes, this would equate to the time period of 2025 through 2028 for such construction jobs, a point not stated at the meeting. There was no mention about using local labor for the infrastructure projects.

Council Member Crosswhite asked about the community area. Mr. Crosby responded that 2 ½ acres will be devoted to a “Harvest” Community garden to encourage people to grow their own produce “Farm to Fork”. He also described the community center for meetings.

Council Member Crosswhite asked if the community areas thus described were private to East Area 1 HOA members? Mr. Crosby responded affirmatively. Council Member Crosswhite asked about the pool and its size. Mr. Crosby replied that it would be a ½ or full Olympic sized pool for HOA use only, but perhaps the sports park could have a pool. Council Member Crosswhite asked what is in the plan for “this side” of the city?

Council Member Gherardi asked about restrooms for the soccer area.

At this point, Mr. Penrod interjected that there is a major effort to create something for the city, in the area of public parks and trails. There are 50 acres in the plan and $5 million for the city to add any amenity, appearing to answer Council Member Crosswhite’s question about “this side” of the city.

Council Member Hernandez asked about Public Safety, particularly in the areas to the rear of the development away from the main area. Mr. Crosby said he would get feedback from the police and that in the Chino Ag Preserve, a mini-substation for police was built. The cost of such a station was not discussed.

Council Member Tovias moved to approve item 11 without reading the text and Council Member Gherardi seconded the motion. A roll call vote was unanimous. Mayor Procter had recused himself from the room due to conflicts.

During the Consent Calendar portion of the meeting, prior to the discussion of item 11, item I was approved (Mayor Procter abstaining) to “Consent to the Assignment and Assumption of the Amended and Restated Development Agreement to Limoneira Lewis Community Builders, LLC”.  This is the agreement wherein the 50-50 partnership mentioned by Mr. Penrod is written into the city’s contracts. Note that this agreement was also reported to the SEC in a FORM 8 on September 10, 2015. If it is true that Lewis required the changes to the setbacks, as represented by Mr. Penrod to the Planning Commission on August 25, 2015, why would the FORM 8 have been submitted to the SEC prior to the council approval? And why would the council approve the restated Development Agreement in the Consent Calendar prior to the public discussion about the amendment to the Specific Plan? Was the public hearing just a perfunctory exercise for a fait accompli?


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5 years ago

No mention that they changed the project to a Master Planned Community without an updated EIR reflecting the new layer of use …

5 years ago

9/25/2015 … council video has been reposted …

Sheryl Hamlin
Sheryl Hamlin
5 years ago

Note: as of 9/23/2015, the video for the 9/21/2015 Santa Paula City council is no longer on-line. It was on-line on 9/22/2015.