BY JENNIFER MADRIGAL
The “Desi House” has become a symbol of great pride in the City of Eastvale, with its nostalgic history and beautiful design (the former Corona home of beloved actor, musician and race horse breeder, Desi Arnaz – see Eastvale News, October 2013). The immense 365-acre property that it inhabits once belonged to Bert Altfillisch, a construction company owner and breeder and trainer of thoroughbred horses, who passed away in 2006. Altfillisch’s son, Steve, who inherited the home, wanted the Desi Arnaz house to remain a part of Eastvale, Corona, and his father’s history. Much of the surrounding property has already been sold off for development – as is apparent by the beautiful Estancia homes nearing completion at Citrus Street and Granje Vista del Rio – but the Desi House still stands strong right in the heart of it.This year, as part of a $2.2 million purchase, Jurupa Community Services District (JCSD) purchased both the home and the land surrounding it to complete the section of the Santa Ana River Trail that will connect Riverwalk Park to Eastvale Community Park. While the primary interest of the area is the need to continue the Eastvale Trail to the eastern city limits, JCSD is interested in exploring the possibility of the Desi House being utilized as a wedding destination/meeting venue, public meeting place, trailhead or concession area.
The acreage around the house is quickly developing as Lennar Homes has transformed the once verdant pasture land into a collection of exclusive homes, including the “Desi Collection” in tribute to Mr. Arnaz. With that project in full swing, the house and the land surrounding the iconic house need to be taken care of. The JCSD Parks Committee is now being asked to authorize the spending of over $1,000,000 to develop the land immediately surrounding the Desi House. The landscape plan was put together by Architerra Design Group, with the best ideas for any future use of the property in mind.
Some of the key points of the design plan include a gazebo positioned as a trailhead – along with three smaller turf sections moving south toward the river trail – which would serve as a perfect south view picture location. The turf sections, according to JCSD, were designed in alignment with the steep slope behind the home, but they also provide an aesthetically pleasing environment. The plans also show a patio and fountain reminiscent of the original style of the home, with an outdoor kitchen area and conservation friendly irrigation design.
At the JCSD Special Parks and Landscaping Committee Meeting held on May 7, JCSD presented Architerra with plans, explained the landscape design, and tried to answer as many questions as possible. JCSD General Manager, Todd Corbin, expressed the need for the staff to move quickly on the landscaping, “as the land surrounding the property is developing fast and site has easier access now.”
However, not everyone is in as much of a hurry. Some members of the community feel that JSCD paid too much for the house and that it simply was not needed to complete the trail project. Chad Blais, JCSD Board Director, wants to make sure that any financial decisions that are made concerning the project are clearly thought about and planned out. “JCSD collects millions of dollars each year from CFD (Community Facilities District) taxes we all pay as homeowners that is used to pay off the $300 million in bonds previously spent to build our water, sewer and parks infrastructure, and to pay for the annual O&M (Operations and Management) to operate the parks system.” Blais is concerned that JCSD wants to spend $1,000,000 to develop the property surrounding the Desi House even though no architectural or financial plans have been developed for the house itself. He simply wants the landscaping plans to be put on hold until a clear decision for the house is made to avoid wasting money should anything need to redesigned. He also would like to see the new residents who are going to move into the homes immediately surrounding the Desi House have some say in what goes on there.
During the meeting, Blais questioned many aspects of the plan, including the structural integrity of the house and how much repair it might possibly need. JCSD member, Jane Anderson, and Director of Parks and Community Affairs, Ric Welch, shared various “wish list” ideas for the property and explained some of the policies that the City already has in place regarding facility rentals and noise issues for the surrounding homes. Anderson also questioned some of the landscape design choices as well as other various design aspects. A representative from Architerra was unable to attend, so some of these questions were tabled until the next meeting. After much discussion, the committee agreed to place the project on hold until an overall plan and concept for the house is finalized. Staff was asked to propose a budget for the investigation and hiring of the necessary architectural consultants to develop an overall plan including what improvements might be needed to create the desired look, feel and use of the building.
While there are still many questions to be answered, the Desi House is part of Eastvale and is loved by many residents – much as Desi Arnaz was – and it will remain a part of our history for years to come. The exact future, however, is still uncertain. While both sides may differ on their desires for the property, everyone will agree that it needs to be done with both the integrity of the property, and the financial health of the City and JCSD in mind.
K.P. Sander contributed to this story.