Its boundaries are blurry and it may seem dwarfed by adjacent large cities, but Santa Ana Heights has a personality all its own. A refuge of rural charm, the Orange County equestrian community is sandwiched among Newport Beach, Costa Mesa and Santa Ana.
Santa Ana Heights was unincorporated until last summer, when the eastern half became part of Newport Beach. The western side, originally slated to become part of Costa Mesa, may now merge with Newport Beach instead. Either way, east and west will continue to make up a single distinct neighbor- hood.
Residents come for the convenience of living near major metropolitan centers with access to the 73 Freeway, but they stay for the down-home feel and rural lifestyle in this area roughly bordered by Santa Ana Avenue, Mesa Drive, Bayview Avenue and Bristol Street.
One end of the popular Mesa Drive equestrian trail offers stunning views of the Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve. The other end overlooks two pristine golf courses. In between are dog kennels, neighborly residents and the occasional stray chicken.
The most in-demand homes overlook the bay and the Santa Ana Country Club's expansive golf course. Within these areas, Mesa Drive, Pegasus Street and Santa Ana Avenue have some of the largest and nicest homes.
There's not much turnover in this small community. The first week of April, there were five homes on the market. The most affordable was a two-bedroom, two-bath for $775,000. The most expensive was a seven-bedroom, 7 1/2- bath for $4.9 million.
High school students go to Newport Harbor High School, which earned a 2003 Academic Performance Index score of 724 out of a possible 1,000; Ensign Intermediate School earned 735. Three elementary schools serve Santa Ana Heights. Kaiser Elementary earned an API ranking of 783; Woodland Elementary scored 755; and Mariners Elementary scored 883.
Good news/bad news
Santa Ana Heights is a redevelopment area, flush with cash to fund a number of improvements down the pike, including a new community center. On the downside, this community feels the brunt of air traffic from John Wayne Airport. Homes in the flight path, such as those on Kline Drive, rattle throughout the day to the sound of jet engines.
Historical values Single-family detached resales:
Year...Median Price 1990...$262,500
Sources: DataQuick Information Systems, SchoolWisePress, Realtor.com.