Tustin is sometimes thought of as the “forgotten” Cliff May Neighborhood. While it has far fewer homes than the Ranchos in Long Beach, the Tustin homes feature larger lots and are located within a very central location that has great access to the 5, 55, and 22 freeways. While the Tustin Cliff May homes are typically more expensive than those found in Anaheim and Garden Grove, they are frequently less expensive than those found in Long Beach, putting them in a bit of a sweet spot of pricing.
Many people do not understand the history of the Cliff May ranch homes. While the homes themselves often feel very similar, there are differences in construction as well as the way the neighborhoods were planned and cited. The biggest reason for this is that Cliff May himself was not a developer on his kit-based ranch home projects. Instead, he would work with local developers and license the home designs to them. He would often consult on things such as colors schemes and where the home were situated on the lots, but developers often made final decisions on appliances and fixtures.
The Long Beach Ranchos were developed by Ross Cortese, a man who went on to develop his namesake, Rossmoor. Most of Orange County’s Cliff May homes were developed by man names George Holstein III. He built homes in Tustin and Anaheim. Because of this different developer, there are several notable differences that make the Tustin Cliff May homes unique, especially compared to the Long Beach Ranchos.
As was mentioned above, the lots sizes in Tustin are a bit larger than the Ranchos, averaging 8,000 square feet with some approaching 10,000 — the Ranchos tend to be between 5500 and 6000 square feet. As the Tustin Cliff Mays were built in 1954 and 1955, they feature ONLY the sliding windows whereas Cliff May homes built in 1953 often have the crank out casement windows. One of the Tustin tracts also features the rare, larger model 4212 floorplan with approximately 1543 square feet.
There are actually two tracts in Tustin, one with over 30 homes and another with just under 20 homes. While we often discuss them together, they are actually slightly different. The smaller tract was built in 1955 and is closer to the 5 freeway while the larger Tustin Cliff May tract was built earlier. Interestingly, the smaller tract has slightly larger lots (most are around 9,000 square feet) whereas the bigger Tustin tract has lots averaging 8,000 square feet.
The overall history of Tustin is rather interesting. Its origins are as a farming community dating back to the 19th century but the 1950s were really a turning point for the city, when tracts were first developed. In fact, the Northerly Cliff May tract in Tustin was actually one of the first tract developments and advertisements at the time often referred to it as the “Bel Air” of Orange County. One original owner recounts that the now brisk and busy intersection of Red Hill Avenue and Irvine Blvd was once just a simple four way stop sign as there were no other homes around aside from the Cliff May tract and the custom homes up on the hill.