Santiago Hills Assessment District

The Santiago Hills Landscape Maintenance District was formed in 1987 to provide funding for the maintenance and upkeep of the landscape as well as improvements in the Santiago Hills Development. The maximum assessment rate remained the same from 1987 to 2015 at which time a majority of the property owners in the District approved a ballot measure to increase funding for landscape maintenance and renovations.
During the June 9, 2015 Public Hearing at the Orange City Council Meeting, in view of the public, the Santiago Hills Landscape Assessment District ballots were officially opened, sorted, and the votes counted. For the 1,571 parcels in the District, a total of 633 votes were received.  The weighted ballots were in favor of the increased assessment, with 54% of those returned voting "Yes" (51% in favor was needed for the assessment to pass).  The assessment was approved by the City Council on July 14, 2015.

Santiago Hills Assessment District Community Liaison Committee

With the passage of the increased assessment in July 2015, the City of Orange formed a Community Liaison Committee for the Santiago Hills Assessment District to provide an opportunity for neighborhood input for decisions regarding landscape maintenance and budgetary priorities for the Santiago Hills neighborhood. The Committee was formed by volunteers coming forward and consists of 8 property owners representing different geographic areas of the District and the different types of properties (single family homes and condos). The committee meets twice annually. To provide opportunities for other property owners to participate in the future, members will serve staggered two-year terms, with the first four vacancies occuring in 2018.  Opportunities for prospective new members to submit an application will be publicized on the City website. 

Minutes for the past two Santiago Hills Assessment District Liaison Committee meetings are available for review here:
 April 2017 Meeting Minutes
 October 2016 Meeting Minutes

Maintenance Service Level Restorations

As a result of the increased maintenance funding levels, in October 2015, the annual contract with Nieves Landscape, the company which provides landscape maintenance in Santiago Hills, was increased to provide appropriate landscape maintenance service levels.  Since then, Nieves Landscape has removed many dead shrubs throughout the District and is continuing with removals on an as-needed basis.  Other landscape maintenance service levels are being evaluated to determine what increased frequencies, fertilization, etc., would be appropriate.  Due to drought conditions and mandated water restrictions, much of the turf in the medians in Santiago Hills has suffered and died back and some of the trees have shown signs of stress. City staff is working with Nieves to direct irrigation to the trees while eliminating irrigation to the turfed areas, in an effort to preserve the substantial investment that the tree canopy in the District represents. City staff will continue to look at ways to manage the existing landscape until such time that the landscaped areas can be renovated.

In December 2015, the City approved a contract with West Coast Arborists (WCA) to provide regularly scheduled tree trimming services for the District.  The contract also provided an increase to the frequency from every three years to every two years for individual trees to be trimmed. This should ensure that the tree inventory stays healthy and aesthetically pleasing, as well as reducing the concern over fallen trees during wind events. WCA has already removed approximately 40 dead trees throughout the District and is continuing removals as needed.

Turf Removal and Landscape Renovations Projects

Upon the passage of the increased landscape assessment in June 2015, City staff began work on a long-term, comprehensive plan to replace outdated and inefficient landscape and irrigation throughout the District over a number of years. As part of that plan, and based on input from the Liaison Committee, the City considered two separate efforts: 1) Renovation of the large, landscaped area located from Chapman and Newport on the north, to White Oak Ridge on the south and referred to as the Handy Creek Paseo; and 2) Smaller renovation projects of landscaped areas throughout the District.

Handy Creek Paseo Renovation Project

In May 2015, the City held an open workshop at Chapman Hills Elementary School inviting the residents of Santiago Hills to provide input on the proposed plans.  The conceptual plan was generally well received, and some additional suggestions were provided to the City staff and consultant. City staff shared with the residents that the cost estimate for the project was approximately $600,000 to $700,000 and it will take some time to amass sufficient funds to complete this project. Therefore, the Handy Creek Paseo renovation will have to be constructed in phases. The first phase will start at the corner of Chapman Avenue and Newport and is anticipated to begin in late summer 2017.

Handy Creek Paseo Renovation Project Documents

General Renovations

At the October 2015 Community Liaison Committee meeting, City staff presented a conceptual drawing and plant palette for smaller, proposed landscape renovations which can be phased over time throughout the District and which can begin sooner than the larger Paseo Project. These proposed landscape renovations will replace outdated plant materials and water-thirsty turf in various landscaped areas and replace existing irrigation with new, more efficient irrigation systems. As funds accumulate and are not needed for on-going maintenance of this District, these landscape renovations can be completed over many years. The Community Liaison Committee assisted staff in identifying priority areas for phasing in the smaller landscape renovations. The Committee members agreed that the priority areas are the main entrances to the neighborhoods.

General Renovations Documents

Trails End Renovation

The recently renovated landscape at Trails End, which was completed late last year, is establishing very nicely. All of the plants are growing in, and really responding to the changing season and warmer weather. The hydro-seeded “meadow grass” which replaced the previous turf grass on the corners, in the median, and along the parkways is also doing very well. The meadow grass recently received its first mowing earlier this year, which may have appeared a bit shocking, as it looked quite brown and sparse immediately after the mowing took place. This was all part of the plan however, and was actually good for the plant to help develop a strong root system below. Generally the meadow grass won’t require mowing more than two-three times per year, but the first mowing is necessary during establishment to promote root development and to encourage germination of any remaining seed. We anticipate the next mowing to take place sometime this summer (if necessary).

Skylark Renovation Project

The next effort will concentrate on improvements from Newport Blvd. and Skylark Place to Presidio Way.  We are currently beginning the 3 month process of spray-kill and removal of the existing turf grass. This will include the use of a public and pet safe systemic herbicide, which is registered for safe use in parks, schools and residential areas. The process involves a minimum of three applications, coordinated with periods of irrigation and non-irrigation, to achieve a complete kill of all the existing turf grass. Once we are confident that we have a complete kill, the turf will be removed. Removal of the turf is tentatively scheduled for mid-July (2017).  Construction for the Skylark project is tentatively scheduled to begin this August (2017) and should be completed by October (2017).

Future locations for re-landscaping will be determined as we continue to meet and consult with the Santiago Hills Liaison Committee. 

The new plant material and irrigation improvements will not only help conserve water in the District, but also provide a fresh new look to the original 1980s era landscaping.

District Landscape Watering Update

On August 9, 2016, the Orange City Council adopted Resolution No. 10961 rescinding some aspects of the water restrictions for Orange water users. This was a result of latitude given to water agencies to maintain a water conservation effort consistent with local water supply. The significant change made to the Orange water restriction was the removal of the specific days of the week for irrigation. In line with this new water restriction, the frequency of irrigation has been increased in the parkway and paseo areas of Santiago Hills , as well as at Santiago Hills Park. It is important to note that the State prohibition of irrigating turf on public street medians remains in effect, so continuation of no watering of the medians remains unchanged.

For more information regarding the current water restrictions, please click here.  

Public Hearing for Annual Assessment

On June 13, 2017 the Orange City Council will conduct a public hearing to receive and consider public testimony regarding the maintenance of the landscape improvements and the proposed assessment.  The rate for Landscape Maintenance District 86-2 (LMD 86-2) is proposed to remain the same as the previous year, which is $369.44 per year for single family lots.  The rate for Landscape Maintenance District 15-1 (LMD 15-1) is proposed to increase by 2% (tied to the consumer price index) to $244.49 for a single family lot.  As voted upon by the property owners in the District, the assessment for LMD 15-1 provides revenue to fully fund the cost of ongoing maintenance of the District as well as a capital reserve for landscape renovations over time.  For inquiries about the public hearing, please contact Taylor Abernathy at or (714) 744-5561.
If you would like additional information regarding the Santiago Hills Assessment District, please contact Nathan at