Orange County

Live Amid Acres of Nature in an Orange County Park, and It Won't Cost a Penny

The person who gets to live on the 33-acre Santa Ana Thornton Park grounds as park host will have to work, like restock toilet paper and raise and lower the flag, but will get to live there rent-free, utilities included.

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Picture yourself living amidst acres and acres of park grounds with a basketball court and two full size playgrounds at your disposal, and it won’t cost you a penny in rent.

The rent free home at Thornton Park in Orange County will go to someone who agrees to volunteer as a park host. There is no paycheck but city officials hope you’ll look at the upside of living where others come to play.

From the bubbling three-acre lake to the sight of nature at your doorstep, it’s all included. The utilities used by the future park host that will plug into a fifth wheel at the north end of the park are also included.

City officials hope to find someone willing to be the eyes and ears of the nearly 33-acre property. The park host will be responsible for some tasks within the park, like raising and lowering the flag, restocking the toilet paper, and if the trash over flows on busy days, that’s the park host's job too.

Brian Morris, a park goer, says he’s toying with the idea. He’s a software developer who could work anywhere.

"I think it's cool to have someone right here to pick up trash there for any visitors. I think it’d be kinda cool," Morris said.

Angel Barrondo is not so sure. He brings his little ones here often.


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"For them to allow someone to live in park sounds obscure," Barrondo said.

He says there are security guards now and questions how or if a full time care taker is needed.

"I like my privacy and I'm pretty sure thats what people want too," Barrondo said.

Granted there are rules for the park host.

You’d have to be available seven days a week, be good at customer service, and limit visitors to 10 days a year.

With rents in the surrounding zip code ranging from $2,000 to $4,000 for a two-bedroom apartment, it might be the affordable housing some are seeking, if they can handle the sounds of strangers day and night.

There were eight applicants for the park under review by Tuesday afternoon. The city was hoping to add two more park hosts to Centennial and Santiago parks in the future.

Here's more information on applying.

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