Canyon Lake History: Incorporation of the Property Owners Association

Gordon Heath, president of the Corona Land Company, developers of Canyon Lake, stands on the veranda of the $550,000 Canyon Lake Lodge.

In the early 1960s, Temescal Water Company became aware that the land around the Railroad Canyon Reservoir had development possibilities. Subsequent planning and basic design culminated in Riverside County’s approval of the Canyon Lake project in October 1967.

Gordon Heath, who had managed the early development of Sun City, because president of the Corona Land Company. On February 15, 1968, the company took over the land from the Martin family and started construction.   

The first lot sold on March 31, 1968.

The Canyon Lake Property Owners Association (POA) was incorporated on May 5, 1968. Dino Serafini was its first president. Frank Holden was the first general manager.

The POA assumed responsibility for the commonly owned land and facilities on November 30, 1970.

Seventeen properties, including the golf course, lodge, amphitheater, launch ramp, campground, and stable were leased to the Association and the streets and some of the parklands were transferred in fee.

The board of directors negotiated the purchase of the leased land for $1,530,000 to be paid in annual installments of $96,000. The last payment was made on June 1, 1987.

Several properties, including the amphitheater and launch ramp, were dropped from the sale.

The subdivision of Canyon Lake was accomplished through the development of 27 tracts, resulting in a total of 4731 lots. The total average involved was 2017 or approximately three and one-half square miles.

The reservoir was expanded, mainly along Salt Creek, using cut-and-fill methods, which created many finger inlets. The result was 1034 lakeside lots. The expanded lake surface averaged during the year 383 acres with 14.9 miles of shoreline. All 48 miles of streets were paved with hard curbs.

The lake and the fringe of land around it were owned by the Temescal Water Company and leased to the POA for recreational purposes.

On August 10, 1989, the lake and these leases were acquired by the Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District. The lease allowed the Architectural Control Committee to issue encroachment permits so that owners of property fronting on the lake could install docks and other lakeside facilities on Temescal’s property. In 1974, an additional lease was signed covering the slalom course area north of the north causeway.

The POA and the Architectural Control Committee were established by the Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) recorded as part of the Canyon Lake subdivisions. Their function is to manage the facilities for the benefit of the property owners and to provide some of the services normally provided by the municipal government.

The board of directors, which was elected by the membership each year (today every two years), establishes policy, approves the budget, and makes major decisions. They appoint the members of the ACC and the officers of the corporation. The latter is responsible for the operation of the Association. A professional general manager was employed for detail management. Advisory committees have been organized with varying success over the years.

Each property owner designated a prime member of the POA had five votes in the election of members of the board of directors. In the beginning, the Corona Land Company owned most of the lots and thus dominated the board. However, by 1972, no company directors sat on the board.

The deed restrictions established an upper limit on the annual assessments (dues) of $250. By 1979, it was found that inflation and the cost of required services could not be covered under this limitation. In 1980, as a result of a class action suit, the Riverside Superior Court set aside the restriction allowing a maximum increase of ten percent each year.

One of the early complaints of the residents was that while it was billed as a gated community, there was very little fencing other than on Goetz Road and Railroad Canyon Road. Outsiders had ready access in many places. Attempts to get the developer to complete the fencing proved futile.

Little by little over the years, the fencing has been extended and improved at the POA’s expense and, except for the fairway estates, was finally completed in 1989.

The shopping center consisted of 71 lots located across from the main gate and was originally developed as a part of Canyon Lake. In 1975, the owners of all the lots, with the exception of number 71 on which the condominiums, the motel, and the Mexican restaurant are located, elected to leave the Association. A small commercial development was built outside the east gate in 1978.

The original concept of Canyon Lake was that of a high-grade resort community with weekend or second-home retreats. It was thought of as a place where job-bound residents of Orange and Los Angeles counties could get away from it all and enjoy the recreational facilities. 

The minimum building size by deed restriction was set at 900 square feet with 1,000 square feet for lakeside lots. Instead, it has evolved into a community with a majority of permanent residents where 1,500 square feet is a small home and many residences run 3,000 to 5,000 square feet.

Information in this article was provided through research and by Chuck Bishop, 1977-1978 president of the POA Board of Directors, 1987 chairman of the President’s Council, and editor of the POA, Home Owners Club, and Community News publications.


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