Chino Makes Rare Denial Of Residential Development

The 45-year-long mad rush to develop San Bernardino County at all costs took a temporary pause last week, when a capacity crowd flooded into the Chino meeting chambers. Most, though not all, of those there came to protest the proposed rezoning of 30 acres to allow D.R. Horton to build a mix of 180 residential units of various types on some infill property referred to as the Brewer Site.
Hundreds of nearby residents have grown accustomed to what has remained for the past five generations as rural land south of Francis Avenue between Vernon and Benson avenues in north Chino not too far from the Ontario city limits. Many who now live in homes on land in a low density neighborhood that a generation or two ago was undeveloped fear that putting more homes into the area will intrude on what remaining serenity the neighborhood retains.
That tranquility is not a right, however, and the residential development company that wants to transform it along with those who own the property feel it has conceded enough in agreeing to build only what will amount to six net single family residential and/or condominiums per acre, and believe those with an interest in the property should be able to cash in on their trade or property ownership. The proponents were supported by some local entrepreneurs who feel that having more people living in proximity to their businesses will mean more customers for them.
Current zoning favors those opposed to the project as proposed.
While some celebrated the relative placidity of the neighborhood, others who stand to make some money characterized the neighborhood as old and decaying, and they said putting between 900 and 1,200 new residents onto the acreage as something that will revitalize the area. The average size of the lots would be roughly one-eighth of an acre, which is half the size or less than most of those plots on which homes that were built in that area in 1960s or earlier now sit.
Those in favor of the development, referred to as the Brewer Site Project, want the district to be entirely citified. Those opposed to the development want to retain the rural character, where a more laidback aesthetic applies. The former group points out that little more than a half mile away is the Chino Promenade. Those who live in an area where much of density is consistent with the agricultural uses of the last century are fooling themselves, the project proponents say, and those resisting need to wake up, smell the coffee, get real and welcome themselves into the Third Millennium. Development is coming and there is no use resisting it, they point out. They said the project would make the neighborhood safer by bringing in additional street lighting, sidewalks and roads suitable for vehicular traffic.
But many of the residents of the area were galvanized into resistance and action when, in 2013, D.R. Horton, which was founded by Donald R. Horton and bills itself as the “largest homebuilder in the United States,” signaled its intention to develop the property to an intensity far in excess of its current and longstanding RD1 zoning, which permits no more than one dwelling unit per acre. D.R. Horton’s initial proposal extended to 33.5 acres upon which the company wanted to erect 232 dwelling units in addition to the eight existing homes already there. To achieve that goal, the project proponent had to get the consent of not just the planning commission and city council, but the city’s voters. Under Measure M, a growth control measure adopted in 1988, land in Chino cannot be rezoned to allow more homes without a vote of the city’s residents. The project proponent must pay for that election. An effort to get enough signatures on a petition which was first circulated late in 2013 did not achieve the threshold needed to get a question on the matter placed before the city’s voters on the November 2014 ballot.
Those opposed to the project said going from 33 units on the property to 232 was “spot zoning” that would interrupt the flow of horses off street trails to surrounding property and would present a clash between “country” rural life with farm-like settings including animals and the urban condos that were contemplated. They also maintained that the density did not conform to the surrounding area, that the project did not include bridle trails, that it would impact the area’s already near-capacity schools and that it would impact traffic. Ontario residents living in proximity to the project complained that their input was being ignored.
In December 2014, the city council told D.R. Horton that if the company was serious, an environmental impact report would be needed. D.R. Horton in 2016 moved forward, reducing the footprint of the project from 33 acres to 30 acres and 232 units to 12 single-family homes on 7,000-square-foot lots, 87 detached single-family units on 4,500-square-feet lots, and 73 detached condominiums in addition to the eight existing homes.
On March 6, thirty-four of the overflow crowd at City Hall offered their views on the project, with 22 speaking against it and 12 speaking in favor. The six commission members present – Brandon Blanchard, Kathleen Patterson, Harvey Luth, Steve Lewis, Walt Pocock and Sherman Jones – voted in unison against recommending approval of the project as is, saying it was out of step with the city general plan, out of compliance with the applicable zoning and incompatible with the existing neighborhood.
The matter is to come before the city council on April 4.

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