To protect the unique charm of old Orange, the City Council in 1982 drafted an Historic Preservation Element. The boundaries of what it termed “Old Towne” are Cambridge, Walnut and Batavia streets and La Veta Avenue. One purpose of this document is “protection that insures new construction in historic neighborhoods will be structurally and architecturally compatible.”
Chapman College wants to remove 13 houses and build an 88,000-square-foot, 63-foot-high Learning Center with adjacent parking lot in the midst of a residential neighborhood. The modern design of the proposed building is clearly prohibited by the preservation element, and its height is more than twice as high as the building code permits in a residential area.
This project would be the first of its kind, setting a precedent for future development in and around residential Old Towne.
The city’s Planning Commission told the college to do an environmental impact report in order to see what effect the project would have on the neighbors, in particular, and the community in general. The Chapman College Committee of the Old Towne Preservation Assn. has thoroughly reviewed the report. Although we dispute many of the findings and much of the methodology of the report, it supports our position that the building and parking lot would have an “unavoidable adverse impact” on the land use, aesthetics and cultural resources of this area, even after taking the necessary steps to lessen its effect.
Copies of the impact report are available for public viewing at the Orange city libraries and are on loan at the city Planning Department.
The residential quadrants that comprise Old Towne are, after all, one neighborhood that must be respected for its character and uniqueness, which can never be duplicated. It is appreciated by current residents and visitors, and worthy of the time and energy taken by volunteers to protect and preserve it for future generations. That is why so many citizens will be at the Orange City Council Chambers on Wednesday at 7 p.m. when the Planning Commission votes on this project.