Chino Hills, long a bucolic vestige of California's ranching and homesteading history, has grown in the last two decades into a prosperous bedroom community on the western edge of San Bernardino County. The city of 73,000 draws commuters from Los Angeles and Orange counties seeking more affordable family living.
The rumpled folds of the landscape protected the area from much development until the 1980s, according to a history of Chino Hills published on the 10th anniversary of its 1991 incorporation.
City planners have tried to retain some of that open feel by land-use planning that clusters housing in villages throughout the 46-square-mile city to conserve undeveloped space.
As a result, Chino Hills has 3,000 acres of city-owned open space, 635 acres of public landscaping, three dozen parks and 38 miles of equestrian and walking trails. It is surrounded by 16,000 acres of wild lands, including Chino Hills State Park, a 12,500-acre haven for red-tailed hawks and mountain bike enthusiasts.
Although the last dairies that once filled the valley to the east of Chino Hills are giving way to housing and industrial developments, the bovine aroma still lingers on some days. Odors aside, residents tout the city's recreational offerings, including equestrian facilities, the historic Los Serranos Golf & Country Club, free summer concerts and film series in city parks, and Big League Dreams Sports Park, an amateur sports facility with replicas of six major league baseball stadiums.
Chino Hills had the second-highest median income — $86,443 — in 2002 of all cities in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, behind the desert enclave of Indian Wells.
Although the presence of the California Institution for Men, a prison in neighboring Chino, may give some pause, Chino Hills has the third-lowest crime rate for cities larger than 50,000 residents in California, according to an economic and demographic analysis presented to the City Council last month by economist John Husing of Economics & Politics Inc.
Good news, bad news
The city is roughly bounded by Pomona on the north and California 71 on the east. It is about 30 miles from downtown Los Angeles and 35 miles from Irvine, but rush-hour traffic can make both commutes an hour or longer. Caltrans plans this month to begin widening the two-lane segment of California 71 just north of the Riverside Freeway. The extra lanes may ease the commute, but gridlock on the Riverside Freeway will continue to plague Orange County-bound commuters.
The city is served by the Chino Valley Unified School District. The nine elementary schools in Chino Hills had 2003 Academic Performance Index scores ranging from 732 to 899, on a scale of 1,000.
Canyon Hills Junior High scored 816 and Townsend Junior High scored 742. Current API scores for the city's two high schools are not available yet, but in 2002, Chino Hills High School scored 681 and Ruben S. Ayala High scored 695. Some students from Chino Hills attend schools in the city of Chino.
Chino Hills has 20,479 single-family residences, which are 85% owner-occupied, and 875 multi-family units, according to city planners.
The city draws buyers from Orange and Los Angeles counties and is a popular market for corporate relocations, said Marion Proffitt, broker associate with ERA Prime Properties.
Corporate executives from the Midwest find that their salaries don't go far in Los Angeles and Orange County housing markets, Proffitt said, and may locate in Chino Hills because it is relatively affordable and close to Ontario International Airport.
Four-bedroom, 2,200-square-foot houses are selling for $400,000 to $510,000, according to Cindy Gonser, with Tarbell Realtors. In addition, the city has five gated communities where homes sell for $800,000 and up.
On the market
At the end of January there were 70 single-family residences for sale in the city, ranging from an 1,100-square-foot house listed for $265,000 to a 7,900-square-foot house listed at $2.2 million. Also for sale were four condominiums and townhomes ranging from a 910-square-foot, $258,900 unit to a 1,280-square-foot, $319,900 townhome.
Historical values Single-family detached resales for the 91709 ZIP Code:
Year...Median Price 1990...$218,743
Sources: chinohills.org, http://www.cindygonser.com , http://www.marionproffitt.com , api.cde.ca.gov, California Department of Transportation's District 8 office, Chino Hills Planning Department, DataQuick Information Systems.