La Habra Heights is a city in Los Angeles County, California with a population of just over five thousand people. It is a rural canyon community located on the border of Orange and Los Angeles counties featuring open space with no sidewalks or street lights, and no commercial activity aside from a small real estate office, plant nursery, private golf course, and numerous home-based businesses.

The gradual change in the image of La Habra Heights as an avocado producing area to one of residential estate character has continued without interruption, and this rural and secluded community has become one of the most beautiful and desirable home site areas in Los Angeles County.

La Habra means “a low pass in the mountains.” This area was originally La Habra Rancho, a grant which Marina Roldan received from Mexico in October 1839 and subsequently sold to Andres Pico, a brother of Pio Pico, who was the last governor of Mexican California. The Picos lost the rancho to Don Abel Sterns, a great cattle baron who was known as the richest man in California.

A great drought in 1861 ruined Sterns and in 1900 the 3,500-acre area that would become the Heights was sold at a price of $15 per acre. Developer Edwin G. Hart envisioned the area as an avocado growing belt and named it La Habra Heights.

During its peak of development in the 1920s, hundreds of men were employed, including engineering crews, mule skinners, pipeline men, nursery men and laborers who built roads and pipelines, contoured the hills and planted avocados. Today these trees stand high above the orchards and add much to the beauty of this area.

Agriculture in the early days was not limited to avocados: flowers were grown on the slopes above the county line; farmers grew rhubarb, cucumbers, tomatoes and string beans; oranges and lemons were planted in the valley lands. At one time about 40 acres were in citron production. But the avocado was king; many new varieties originated here, including the Hass.

Some magnificent homes were built in the Heights in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s; nearly all homes were individually designed. Many were hidden in the irregular tree-covered terrain and reached only by private roads. At one time a National Geographic article cited La Habra Heights as one of the three most beautiful living spots in the world, along with locations in Italy and Africa. It is small wonder that La Habra Heights grew in stature as a fine residential community. By 1939, almost two-thirds of the original 3,500 acres had been divided into groves and spacious home parcels owned by residents from all parts of the United States.

The La Habra Heights Improvement Association, existing in some form since 1932, established and maintains the objective: “To encourage and promote the development of the Heights as a rural residential area.” It has worked constantly for agricultural betterment, improved roads and roadside planting of bougainvillea, oleander, and other colorful shrubs. It has distributed thousands of trees to maintain the green belt character of the area. During the 1940’s, some of the land was being subdivided into smaller and smaller parcels. The Heights’ Association president worked with the County Regional Planning Commission to ensure the orderly and proper course of development in the future, resulting in a zoning that required 1 acre lots, limited the types of commercial agriculture, and prohibited roadside stands and signs of any description whatsoever. This zoning ordinance is unique to La Habra Heights. The one-acre minimum land requirement recognizes the limited building area on the steep hillsides, and the limited capacity of the scenic winding roads.

From the earliest days of the city, horses and horsemanship have been an important facet of rural life in the Heights. Many property owners are members of the Highland Riders, who have three horse shows a year geared to the junior horsemen.

Drugs and Crime in the Heights

At the end of 2015, ABC news covered the story of a narcotics investigation conducted by the La Habra Police Department that resulted in three arrests and the seizure of dozens of weapons along with 40 pounds of marijuana. Marijuana has since been legalized in California for recreational use, but this bust showed that even such rarefied and idyllic communities are not immune to the ravages of drugs.

Research on marijuana’s effect on the brain indicates that, among other side effects, marijuana exposure during development through adolescence can cause long-term or possibly permanent adverse changes in the brain, including problems with specific learning and memory tasks later in life.

For those seeking to live lives free of substance abuse, a number of effective inpatient rehabilitation facilities exist to provide support on this often difficult journey. A variety of approaches are available, increasing chances of success.