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YORBA LINDA : Face Lifting Proceeds Near Nixon Library

With less than two months to go before the July 19 opening of the Richard M. Nixon Library and Birthplace, the city is polishing its appearance.

Changes include a $1.2-million beautification of Yorba Linda Boulevard, replacement of utility poles in the area with underground cables, and $103,300 worth of landscaping to a riding trail that runs behind the library site.

Mayor Gene Wisner says the city needs to create a plan for additional improvements to the library area.

“I wish there were a plan,” he said. “The Nixon library is going to add a lot to our community. We just want to complement the library with the proper landscaping and so on.”

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The most visible improvement is the Yorba Linda Boulevard Beautification Project, which began Feb. 1 and will be finished about June 15. Medians landscaped with small trees are being installed at intersections at Imperial Highway, Lakeview Avenue, Mountain View Avenue and Casa Loma Avenue.

Although council members expressed concern late last year over the increased traffic the library would bring, Wisner said officials are no longer worried.

“Most of the people coming to the library will be tourists,” he said. “They’ll probably be staying around Disneyland, and this will be a side trip for them.”

Completion of the underground utility facilities, including buried cables to bring power to four houses in the area and the library complex, is expected later this month, Assistant City Engineer Fernando Saldivar said.

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The cost of that $10,000 project will be shared by the city and Southern California Edison Corp., with the city’s share being about $5,000, said Roy Stephenson, director of public works.

Although the project is part of a larger plan to place all the city’s utility cables underground, Stephenson said the work in progress near the library site is being completed specifically to beautify the area by removing telephone poles within sight of the library.

In fact, the city’s aversion to telephone poles goes so far that the City Council in March deadlocked on whether to ban the use of palm trees in landscaping because they resembled poles.

Although no policy was adopted, the council directed City Manager Arthur C. Simonian to discourage developers from using palm trees.

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“We’re doing everything we can to get our utility poles underground,” Wisner said. “Why have landscaping that looks like telephone poles?”

The effort to beautify the riding trail behind the library began earlier this year and will take several years to complete because the landscaping is being installed one section at a time, Saldivar said.

“We’re primarily interested in making it a park setting,” Wisner said.

The city has also moved to shield the library from the effects of other development in the area.

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In March, the council unanimously defeated a zoning change that would have allowed a retirement community to be built across the street from the library. Several council members were reluctant to change the area’s residential zoning out of fear that commercialization of the library might result.

“It would be a terrible thing to look across from the beautifully landscaped library and see storefronts with Nixonburgers and T-shirts,” Councilman Mark Schwing said.

“That would be the last place in the world we’d want to change our zoning,” Wisner added. “We don’t want to use the library as a draw for a commercial base.”

Although some Yorba Linda residents have complained about the ways the city has honored Nixon--including making his birthday a city holiday--Wisner said he has received only positive responses about the new library.

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“You wait for the negatives. A lot of people don’t care for President Nixon,” he said. “But that’s not what we’re hearing.”


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