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YORBA LINDA : Fastest-Growing City Still a Bit ‘Country’

When Carol Metz moved to Yorba Linda in 1971, she used to ride her horse into the open fields of what was then the eastern edge of Yorba Linda. Today, those fields are central Yorba Linda, covered with houses and shopping centers.

“The growth exploded in the last eight years,” Metz said.

Much of Yorba Linda’s growth has taken place over the past 12 years, as owners of large ranches east of the city sold to developers, said Phillip Paxton, the city’s director of development. Since 1978, Yorba Linda has doubled in area and population.

Last year, about 4,480 people moved to Yorba Linda, making it the fastest-growing city in Orange County and the sixth fastest-growing city in the state.

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Recent growth has been so rapid that one of every 11 of the city’s residents either moved to or was born in Yorba Linda last year, according to population estimates released this month by the state Department of Finance. The city’s population is now listed as 52,367.

In comparison, the fastest-growing South Orange County city, Dana Point, grew at half the pace of Yorba Linda.

The growth has meant more traffic and strained nerves for residents, most of whom moved to the city because of its rustic atmosphere, Metz said. But the city has struggled to maintain that atmosphere despite the growth, she said.

“I moved here because it was really country looking,” she said. “It’s not as country as it was, but it’s still there.”

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The city still requires large lots in several residential areas of the city, Paxton said. One-acre and half-acre lots are common. The average lot size in Yorba Linda is the second largest in the county, behind Villa Park, he said.

The city also owns a five-acre equestrian center, maintains a series of horse trails throughout the city and has more lenient rules than most cities about stabling horses at home.

You can drive through Yorba Linda and still find a horse tied up in front of someone’s house. Children still occasionally ride horses to the local McDonald’s for a burger.

When the city incorporated in 1967, the hills east of Fairmont Boulevard lay empty. Even in the settled west side of the city, five- and 10-acre citrus orchards still existed, said Frieda S. Smith, 71, who moved to the unincorporated west side 40 years ago.

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After incorporation, “an awful lot of houses” replaced the orchards on the west side, she said. “Now, you don’t see an open acre. There are solid houses.”

Yorba Linda’s new construction has taken place almost exclusively on the city’s east side. After a series of annexations beginning in the late 1970s, developed sections of Yorba Linda now stretch through the hills to the San Bernardino County line.

State figures show 1,427 homes were built in 1989.

But the city’s phenomenal growth may be nearing an end, as available land runs out. Major annexations were completed in the mid-1980s, and the city’s borders now are stable, Paxton said.

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“We’ll be pretty much through with the big building and the big development in about three years,” he said.

Even though growth has eroded some of the rural atmosphere, Smith said, Yorba Linda is still her favorite city.

“I’m going to live in the city the rest of my life,” she said. “I still like the area. I like it a little bit country.”

Yorba Linda Population In thousands of people: ’90: 52,367

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