Rancho Cucamonga expanded from 40.12 square miles to 46.5 square miles in one fell swoop this month, with the annexation of 4,085 acres at the top of its northeastern quadrant.
Now part of the county’s fourth-largest city population-wise is the generally rectangular-shaped piece of ground bordered by the Fontana City Limits on the eastern end, reaching northward to the San Bernardino National Forest, ending at Haven Avenue to the west and involving a zig-zagging southern boundary using a combination of parcel lines, Wilson Avenue or its logical extension, Wilson Street and Milliken Avenue, all within what was Rancho Cucamonga’s northern unincorporated sphere of influence.
The San Bernardino County’s Local Agency Formation Commission on November 9, 2020, based upon an executive hearing of the board held on November 5, approved the annexation of the acreage from the County of San Bernardino, allowing it to be incorporated into the City of Rancho Cucamonga. According to the Local Agency Formation Commission, all of the landowners of the property to be annexed had an opportunity to protest the city’s takeover, and protests did not manifest from owners of land equaling or exceeding fifty percent or more of the assessed value of the total land to be annexed. Had such a protest been lodged, a traditional vote of the city’s residents would have needed to be held to confirm or block the merger. The Local Agency Formation Commission also accepted the environmental impact report the city completed to support the annexation request.
On December 16, the city council took official action to accept and ratify the Local Agency Formation Commission determination, thereby drawing the property, referred to as Etiwanda Heights, into the city.
While the city has indicated that it will welcome the development of about 12 percent of the property into as many as 3,000 single-family dwelling units, a modest commercial component and an elementary/middle school, officials have indicated they will ensure the portion of the land lying immediately south of the foothills, which is currently described as an alluvial fan at the base of Cucamonga Peak featuring chaparral, sage scrub and oak woodlands in their natural state, will ultimately to be enhanced with 11 miles of trails that are to provide the public with access to both Day Canyon and Deer Canyon, which nestle into one of the farthest-east-reaching extensions of the San Gabriel Mountains.
The annexed property contains the Etiwanda North Preserve. In the past, the city and San Bernardino County have moved to restrict public access to the preserve by having sheriff’s deputies, who serve as the city’s police force, ticket and sometimes arrange to have towed the cars of those who have parked near its entrance when they have sojourned by foot onto the preserve. The preserve is to be included as part of the open space the city has committed to keeping in place as part of the annexation proposal that was approved by the Local Agency Formation Commission.
Despite the commitment to preserve the majority of the land involved in the annexation from development, the annexation clears the way for the actuation of the full Etiwanda Heights Neighborhood and Conservation Plan, which was given approval by the city council in November 2019. That plan permits a relatively narrow swath of property that was previously within the city limits, featuring chaparral, grasslands and oak woodlands alongside a natural alluvial creekbed, to be developed with something on the order of 90 to 100 homes. Another 790 acres in the annexed property is to be designated as eligible for a variety of residential uses, including senior living cottages, some relatively small single family units as well as a number of half-acre sized lots to be zoned to allow equestrian use. Overall, the lion’s share of the land to be annexed, 88.2 percent or 3,603 of its 4,085 acres, is zoned for “rural/conservation” land use.
There is negligible existing residential use of the property that was annexed.
At its December 16 meeting, the council directed that the entirety of the annexed property be brought into the city’s District 4. On November 3, incumbent City Councilwoman Lynne Kennedy was elected to represent that district.
By gobbling up the property, Rancho Cucamonga advanced from being twelfth among San Bernardino County’s 24 incorporated municipalities in size stature to eighth, leapfrogging past Chino Hills, Fontana, Barstow and Yucca Valley, all of which previously encompassed more land than it did.
Victorville is the county’s largest city area-wise overall, 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. When land area is strictly considered, excluding water-covered acreage, Apple Valley is the largest of San Bernardino County’s municipalities land-wise 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. Prior to Rancho Cucamonga’s expansion, Chino Hills was the eighth largest city in the county at 44.73 square miles. Fontana ranked ninth with 43.02 square miles. Barstow at 41.33 square miles, was the tenth largest. The Town of Yucca Valley, previously the eleventh largest incorporated municipality in the county, was just slightly larger than Rancho Cucamonga, at 40.02 square miles.