San Elijo Hills blossoms into a small town-San Diego Union Tribune

The San Elijo Town Center

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Residents began moving into the development 10 years ago; now they say it has established a sense of community in suburbia

BY MICHELLE BREIER- San Diego Union Tribune

The San Elijo Hills master-planned community features a town square with a clock tower and other elements typical of Americana. The area’s retail portion is still developing. The neighborhood was designed to be walkable, with 19 miles of trails.

SAN MARCOS — Head south past Cal State San Marcos, over the hill as Twin Oaks Valley Road becomes San Elijo Road, and you will land in a place many have come to call their own little slice of Americana.

Nearly 10 years after residents started moving into San Elijo Hills, the sense of community is strong, residents say, and the neighborhood is taking shape.

Every element of the master-planned community in southwest San Marcos — from the purposeful placement of liquidambar trees whose leaves change colors in the fall to the divided road around the town square — is designed to evoke the quaint feel of an early 1900s small town.

San Marcos City Councilman Chris Orlando and his wife moved to San Elijo Hills in 2002.

“We lived in Sorrento Valley but it didn’t have that sense of community, sense of neighborhood,” said Orlando, the father of two sons, ages 10 and 8. “We definitely found that, not only in San Elijo Hills but in San Marcos.”

The road to a modern-day Mayberry has had its bumps. The largest residential project in the city’s history inspired a ridgeline protection ordinance approved by the City Council in 2006 after extensive grading for the development drew wide protests. Voters followed up with stricter protection in 2008.

Some residents have expressed frustration over the years with the slow pace of business development in the Towncenter, the community’s retail core.

San Elijo Hills: Vital statistics

• Acreage: 1,921 acres, 1,115 of which are open space

• Groundbreaking: 1998; first move-ins, 2000

• Residences: 2,550; 3,400 at build out

• Population: 7,462

• Developer: Project is managed by HomeFed Corp., a publicly traded company, for the San Elijo Hills Development Co.

• Schools: San Elijo Elementary and San Elijo Middle; students go on to San Marcos High; Cal State San Marcos is less than five miles away.

And San Elijo Hills’ idyllic environs couldn’t escape the real estate meltdown. One example: D.R. Horton in 2005 paid $36 million for a site at Wild Canyon and San Elijo roads only to sell it back to San Elijo Hills Development Co. for $6 million three years later. It’s now in escrow, said Halé Richardson, spokeswoman for San Elijo Hills.

Mary Maloney, co-owner of Hometown Realty in the Towncenter, was among the founding families in San Elijo Hills. The Maloneys bought their home in November 2000 and moved in five months later, when their youngest child was 5. READ MORE VIA SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE

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