Sexlinger Orchard, Santa Ana
The Historic Sexlinger Orange Orchard located in Santa Ana, California is the only remaining intact orchard of its kind in Orange County. The George and Sophia Sexlinger family purchased this property in 1913 and maintained it as a viable orange orchard continuously up until 2006, when the last family member died. At its height, this 5-acre orchard featured up to 500 Valencia orange trees. Although only a handful of trees remain today (due to pre-development demolition activities), the original 1914 Craftsman Bungalow family residence remains intact, along with the full 5-acre lot. Ironically, of the 45 packing houses operating in Orange County at the height of the citrus industry, the Santiago Orange Growers Association facility, one of those used by the Sexlinger family, still exists and is currently owned by Chapman University. In 2007, the new owners proposed the development of a residential housing project on the site. A 22-unit project was ultimately approved by the City of Santa Ana in September 2014.
The Old Orchard Conservancy fought, at every stage, to retain the orchard as an intact example of Orange County's historic agricultural and economic past. Our attempts to purchase the property were ultimately thwarted by the owners and litigation efforts were, in the end, unsuccessful -- despite our contention of serious violations of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) on the part of the city and landowners. For example, does destruction of 95% of a designated landmark (listed on the Santa Ana Register of Historic Properties) have no significant adverse impact on its historical integrity? Or, does whole-sale demolition of the orange trees by the land owner constitute an adverse change to the environment? Additionally, can the definition of "agricultural land" under CEQA automatically exclude certain urban parcels (i.e. less than 10 acres), even if they are in active agricultural use? These, and other, CEQA-related issues, we believe, were evaded by the lower courts. Our petition to the California Supreme Court to review the lower court's decision was denied.
A quarter-acre lot situated in the NW corner of the property with the Sexlinger family home and 16 trees is all that will remain of this unique historic community resource, with 95% converted into residential housing. A demonstrative public outcry is perhaps the only action that can affect this outcome.
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