Rancho Cucamonga Makes Annexation Application To Expand By 6.36 Square Miles

The City of Rancho Cucamonga will grow by more than 6.38 square miles in accordance with an annexation plan adopted by its city council Wednesday night.  If finalized, the acquisition will zoom Rancho Cucamonga from the twelfth largest municipality in San Bernardino County landwise to the eighth largest.
The property the city is now seeking to be added to the existing 40 square miles within its city limits consists of 4,088 acres of county land located just above the northeastern corner of the city that has long been within the city’s sphere of influence. The council’s action sets in motion the codification of the Etiwanda Heights Neighborhood and Conservation Plan, which is applicable toward all 4,088 acres to be annexed as well as another 305 acres already falling within the city’s boundaries, totaling 4,393 acres. The property included in the annexation request extends to 1,200 acres of what more than a decade ago was categorized as surplus San Bernardino County Flood Control District land.
The property proposed to be brought into the city will run from Haven Avenue on the west all the way to the existing border with Fontana on the east northward from the existing northern outer rim of the city right up to the edge of San Bernardino National Forest at the foothills below Cucamonga Peak.
While under the plan some 82 percent of the land being brought into the city will be preserved or conserved as recreational, undeveloped or open space, there will be an intensification of the land use on the remaining 17 percent, or 694 acres, as well as on 96 of the acres that already fall within the city limits. On those 790 acres, 3,000 dwelling units in five separate neighborhoods will be, in the city’s land use parlance, “clustered,” meaning grouped closely together, and augmented with a small commercial district which will confine itself to the area of two city blocks.
In a major deviation from the standard that the city has insisted upon from its inception as a municipality in 1977 with only a few exceptions, the residential component will not feature curbs or sidewalks. A condition to be imposed on the street layout is that cul-de-sacs will not be permitted and all streets and roadways must run continuously out of each of the neighborhoods to be created, with no dead-ends.
Of the 3,603 acre identified as rural or conservation space within the plan, areas and vistas are dedicated to ensure the survivability of endangered plants indigenous to the area, along with 85 acres of parks and 11 miles of trails, and an equestrian center replete with stables and an arena.
In a report to the mayor and members of the council dated October 2 from City Manager John Gillison that was initiated and authored by Deputy City Manager Matt Burris, Deputy City Manager Elisa C. Cox and Planning Director Anne McIntosh, it was recommended that the city proceed with actuating the  Etiwanda Heights Neighborhood and Conservation Plan.
“[T]he city has long held a vision for the conservation of the alluvial fan and foothills between our northernmost neighborhoods and the National Forest,” Gillison, Burris, Cox and McIntosh stated, saying the plan proposed would provide an opportunity to achieve that goal. “This detailed vision for the unincorporated foothills above the neighborhoods of Etiwanda was developed after an extensive multiyear process that included analysis of various development and conservation options, a thorough review of the goals and policies described in the general plan, review by the planning commission, directions from city council, and extensive participation and input from the overall community. Through the specific plan, the community has articulated a vision for extensive conservation of the alluvial fans, foothills, and drainage areas that border the city to the north, enabled and supported by high quality, complete, walkable neighborhoods that reflect the rural history of Etiwanda and provide a range of housing opportunities to the south. This vision is unlikely to be seen without gaining local control through annexation of this land currently in the city’s sphere of influence.”
The city council’s action alone does not settle the matter. The annexation must be signed off on by the San Bernardino County Local Agency Formation Commission, known by its acronym LAFCO. All entities interested in the annexation, including owners of the property to be annexed, some of whom are not supportive of the city’s imposition of jurisdictional control over the land, will be provided with an opportunity to offer input on and register opposition to the proposal. The Rancho Cucamonga community in recent years has been well represented on the Local Agency Formation Commission board, a situation that came about after several adverse decisions against the city by the commission in its border war with the City of Fontana in the 1980s. At that time, the LAFCO board had as two of its voting members Bill Kragness, a city councilman in Fontana, and then-San Bernardino County Fifth District Supervisor Robert Hammock, whose campaign war chest was heavily endowed by developmental interests doing business within the City of Fontana who were receiving favorable treatment from that city with regard to the infrastructure requirements and developmental standards to be applied to their respective projects. Since that time, Rancho Cucamonga has sought to cultivate influence over the Local Agency Formation Commission’s processes by placing officeholders from Rancho Cucamonga onto the LAFCO board. Until she left office last year, Rancho Cucamonga Councilwoman Diane Williams was a LAFCO board member. James Curatalo, a board member with the Cucamonga Valley Water District, has long been and remains a member of the Local Agency Formation Commission board. In this way, the board is very likely to cast a favorable eye toward any applications made by the City of Rancho Cucamonga, although Williams was replaced on the board by Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren. Because of Rancho Cucamonga’s historical enmity with Fontana over border and jurisdictional issues and the contiguity of Fontana’s border with the 3,088 acres in question, there remains a possibility that Warren might prove a sympathetic ear to those who might object to the Rancho Cucamonga annexation, and she could potentially logroll sufficient votes on the board to prevent it.
If LAFCO approves the annexation, Rancho Cucamonga will increase from its current 40 square miles to 46.38. If that takes place, the boost in its girth will propel Rancho Cucamonga in size stature above Chino Hills, Fontana, Barstow and Yucca Valley, all of which currently encompass more land than it does.
Victorville is the county’s largest city areawise, including both land and water, at 73.7 square miles. Apple Valley, which is cataloged as a town rather than a city, is next, at 73.5 square miles, though when land area is strictly considered, excluding water-covered acreage, Apple Valley is the largest of San Bernardino County’s municipalities landwise with 73.2 square miles of dry territory. Just behind Apple Valley is Hesperia with 73.2 square miles of total acreage. San Bernardino is fourth, with 59.6 square miles. Twentynine Palms is fifth, at 59.1 square miles total, all of it land with no water. Adelanto is currently the county’s six largest city, at 56 square miles. Ontario is seventh at 49.99 square miles. Chino Hills is the eighth largest city in the county at 44.73 square miles. Fontana ranks ninth with 43.02 square miles. Barstow at 41.33 square miles, is the tenth largest. The Town of Yucca Valley, the eleventh largest incorporated municipality in the county, is just slightly larger than Rancho Cucamonga at present, at 40.02 square miles.
In taking Wednesday night’s action, Rancho Cucamonga city officials made the somewhat dubitable claim of having engaged 150,000 people in an online effort to obtain input and feedback with regard to the Etiwanda Heights Neighborhood and Conservation Plan after an outpouring of objections from some stakeholders, city residents and property owners following a preview of the plan at the May 16, 2018 Rancho Cucamonga City Council. Neither the Sentinel, which is based in Rancho Cucamonga, nor its publisher, who lives in the Etiwanda district of Rancho Cucamonga, was contacted by the city with regard to the Etiwanda Heights Neighborhood and Conservation Plan.
Mark Gutglueck

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