Strawberry Fields, but Not Forever: Housing Planned for Orange County Farm Site

CoStar News (January 5, 2022) – Shopoff Realty Investments is planning a residential development on the site of one of the last remaining agricultural properties in the Orange County city of Fountain Valley, California.

The developer, based nearby in Irvine, acquired an 18.6-acre parcel at 16300 Euclid St. for $65 million from a local trust led by the Miller family, which had farming operations on the site for several years, most recently harvesting and selling strawberries.

“This was being used for agriculture all the way up to our closing on the deal,” CEO Bill Shopoff told CoStar News this week, referring to the transaction’s December completion.

CoStar data shows the Fountain Valley deal was the second-largest land transaction of the past year by total price in Orange County. It was also the third-largest commercial deal of any kind for Fountain Valley in the past 10 years.

Shopoff said his company is planning a residential development on the site, though the exact mix of for-sale and rental housing units is still being decided. The developer plans to submit plans to the city in the next three to six months and anticipates approvals could take another 12 to 18 months, which would allow the first units to be completed around 2025.

The developer said the site, just north of Interstate 405, was among the last in the northwestern Orange County city still being used solely for agriculture, after several decades in which farm operators sold their land to developers to capitalize on soaring property values amid demand for high-end homes.

According to the Orange County Register, the Miller family property was one of just two significant agricultural plots remaining in once farm-rich Fountain Valley as of mid-2013. The region was once home to family farms raising strawberries, cabbage, corn and other crops.

Shopoff noted single-family homes in Fountain Valley now frequently top $1 million in price, with monthly apartment rents ranging from $3,400 to $3,500. Fountain Valley officials have not finalized development planning for agricultural conversions in the Shopoff property’s neighborhood but are considering density configurations that could help the city meet state and regional requirements for increasing the supply of affordable housing amid a chronic shortage.

“There will probably be opportunities to put inclusionary [affordable] units in the rental portion of the project,” Shopoff said of potential Fountain Valley elements. “We’ve done that with some of our other developments.”

The CEO said Shopoff Realty Investments has several residential and industrial projects underway in regions including Orange County, the Inland Empire and farther away in Phoenix, as it also scouts locations in Nevada and Texas.

Lee Aarons of Land Advisors’ California‘s LA & OC Urban Infill Land Team represented both the Buyer and Seller in the monumental transaction.