Chiquita Ridge History and Property Usage

3 Parts of the Property

The 92-acre City-owned property is comprised of three parts:
  1. Usable Acreage (55 acres)
  2. Disturbed Acreage
  3. Preserved Acreage

Usable Acreage

If this is ever developed, there must be an active sports park that is a minimum of 23 acres, including parking improvements, leaving approximately 32 acres for other potential uses. The design and development of the sports park are being considered through a separate Request For Proposal (RFP), however, a coordinated effort will need to be made between the two developments. Therefore, the development of the 32 acres must either be concurrent with the development of the park or the park must be developed first.

The property's Usable Acreage is currently zoned as "Open Space." The City must comply with all land use entitlement procedures, including zoning, California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and permitting through outside agencies if there is development on the remaining 32 acres (23 + 32 = 55 acres).

Disturbed Acreage

Any portion of the remaining 37 acres which may be disturbed and temporarily used for construction activities (55 + 37 = 92 acres). Disturbed acreage must be restored with the exception that if any portion is used for fuel modification, the City will have to enhance and restore natural habitat at a 2-to-1 ratio in addition to the approximately 83 acres discussed below.

Preserved Acreage

This consists of any portion of the 92-acre property that is not part of the usable acreage or disturbed acreage. The City has a duty to preserve and protect habitat value of this parcel from third-party encroachment.

Chiquita Ridge Property History

In 2005, the City of Rancho Santa Margarita began legal action against the County of Orange regarding several hundred acres at the southern boundary of the City, collectively known as Chiquita Ridge.   After years of discussions and negotiations, a Settlement Agreement (PDF) between the City, the County, and an environmental group known as the Endangered Habitats League established the City’s right to own the Chiquita Ridge property.  As part of the settlement agreement, signed in January 2009, the acreage is distributed as:
  • 410 acres are added to O’Neill Park to be forever preserved as open space
  • 100 acres are declared as local protected open space as part of the Dove Canyon Preservation Easement
  • 15 acres were purchased by the City and transferred to the County as part of O’Neill Park
  • 92 acres became City-owned

Environmental Conservation Restoration Component

As part of the Settlement Agreement, the City is required to enhance and restore approximately 83 acres of property identified as Conservation in the Southern Subregion Habitat Conservation Plan (to be concentrated in O’Neill Regional Park). The location of this conservation property is located in the northwestern portion of the City and is referred to as the Upper Oso Restoration Project (Restoration Project).

In May 2014, the City Council approved a Professional Services Agreement with Habitat Restoration Sciences, Inc. to implement the Restoration Project. The Settlement Agreement and the obligation to restore this property is ongoing and will remain with the City regardless of whether or not development occurs on the Chiquita Ridge parcel.