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A review of Siena in Laguna Altura

Posted: 03 Jan 2012 03:00 AM PST

Note by zovall: This post is written by Wendy Larson.  She toured the models at Siena and has provided her thoughts on the community and floor plans.  We'd love to hear your comments on Siena as well as her first post.

The Laguna Altura community (Overview PDF) is located where the 133, 405 and 5 freeways meet in Irvine. Situated just off Laguna Canyon Road, the property is surrounded by stunning canyon views, and is removed far enough from the freeways to still have the ambiance of a quiet nature retreat. There are four tracts in this development: Siena, San Remo, Cortona and Toscana.

The neighborhood has something to offer almost any type of homebuyer—particularly singles, couples and families. The community is perfect for people who enjoy spending time outdoors. There are three parks, pools and plenty of places to take your pooch out for a stroll. Be aware that you are in the canyon and there may be coyotes around, so keep your pets on a leash and indoors at night. Having an outdoor cat would concern me in this neighborhood.

Laguna Altura is convenient to many recreational amenities such as Laguna Beach, hiking and bike trails. The Irvine Spectrum is minutes away from the community, but there is no grocery store “just around the corner.” The closest shopping center is Quail Hill which offers the typical grocery store, pharmacy, and bank amenities. If dining is important to you, you’re limited to the Irvine Spectrum and Quail Hill. Laguna Beach and Aliso Viejo aren’t a far drive if you’re looking to expand your palate.

The Siena tract (Siena Overview PDF) is the smallest of the four communities. It offers 3 residences ranging from 1,618-1,788 square feet (Floorplans PDF). Each residence is offered in a Tuscan, Classical or Italianate style. The Tuscan style has the most charming appeal, featuring a partial rock surfaced exterior.

Phase 3 Pricing PDF


  • New, gated community
  • Homeowners can customize property
  • Beautiful location
  • Private backyards
  • Attached garages
  • Build it Green™ certified
  • Energy efficient air conditioning, gas furnace and tankless water heater


  • No fireplace
  • Small bedrooms
  • Inadequate closet space
  • High kitchen cabinets
  • Construction will continue for 2-3 years

General overview

In my opinion, the Siena tract is better served for singles and couples without families. My recommendation is based upon the size of the bedrooms, closets and backyards. The second and third bedrooms in the Siena tract are tiny. While they are suited for babies and small children, the space does not offer any room to grow. I can imagine a young boy playing with Legos in the room, but when he grows up to be a teenager, there’s no room for an Xbox. Let’s be practical. Your living room will become a game room before you know it.

Residences 1 and 2 offer a loft option as the third bedroom. I think the loft option makes the space more practical, adding a private seating retreat, but at the price of losing a bedroom. After viewing the small bedrooms and tiny closets, I determined that the only way to make these houses function was to turn one bedroom into a guest room and the other bedroom into an office. I couldn’t imagine anyone past the age of seven living and growing up in these bedrooms. Teenage girls need more closet room than Siena has to offer. In just a few years a family would feel the strain of needing more space. 

For singles and couples, the space is ideal. The living area is large enough to feel comfy and there’s not much to clean or maintain. Create a separate space in the second and third bedrooms to give yourselves privacy, or use the bedrooms to make your house more suited and functional to your lifestyle. The Siena tract offers more workable space for singles and couples.

The Siena tract is currently in phase 3 of development, which gives original homeowners the ability to personalize their residence. This is a big bonus. New homeowners have the option to choose the interior design elements. The design consultants at the Irvine Pacific Design Center located in Woodbury Town Center will assist buyers in choosing cabinetry, countertop preference, tile, furnishings and any optional features.

Siena residents are part of the Laguna Altura Community Association. The proposed monthly HOA dues are $295.00 per month. An extra $300 a month tacked onto your mortgage may seem like a bit much to stomach, but the community is well landscaped, and you can be sure that it will always remain clean and appealing. The association dues are comparable to many properties in Orange County. The estimated property tax breakdown is as follows:

Base Property Tax: 1.03% of the sales price
AD Tax: $3,063 per year
CFD Tax (Mello-Roos): $1,700 per year
Other Taxes: $156 per year
Overall Effective Tax Rate: Approximately 1.8%

Below are reviews of each residence (in the order the homes were laid out on the model tour):

Residence 3
• 3 bedrooms
• 2 ½ baths
• 1,788 square feet
• Base prices starting from $630,000

Residence 3 opens to a small entry way, with immediate access to the stairs. You can access the garage from the entry way. There’s a powder room and a huge walk-in coat closet with extra room for storage.

Residence 3 features a large gourmet kitchen which overlooks the living room. The kitchen has an oversized island, ample storage and includes a stainless steel appliance package. The island can accommodate 3-4 barstools for extra seating. It houses the dishwasher and has a double wide sink, which will be much appreciated by those who cook and clean dishes often. The pantry and cabinets span the entire kitchen and it’s almost overwhelming. The homeowners have the option to build a glass display hutch which is a nice element because it breaks up a wall full of nothing but cabinets. The upper cabinets are quite high, making the top shelves difficult to reach. Luckily, there’s plenty of lower cabinet space available.

The dining area is an extension of the kitchen. The windows overlook the back yard and provide nice light, making the space seem airy and bright. You can comfortably seat 4-6 people around a table in this space, but squeezing anything past 8 people would be uncomfortable. It is a functional, not formal dining space.

The living room, or great room, is a decent size. There’s enough wall space to mount a large flat screen television and can accommodate larger furniture. There is no fireplace in this property. The living room contains a long built in desk with overhead storage. The only downside to having a desk located in the living room is that you must keep it free of clutter at all times.


The master bedroom is an adequate size. It can accommodate your typical bedroom furniture set and a king-sized bed. The master bedroom has large windows to let natural light through, making the space appear larger. The ensuite bathroom has a separate tub and shower, with double sinks. The toilet is in a separate room for extra privacy. The master bedroom has a walk-in closet, but it did not provide the “wow factor” I was expecting. Two people could easily fill up the closet space, and battle each other for more territory. 

The second and third bedrooms were quite small. You could fit a daybed or twin bed with a dresser and possibly a night stand in each room. The closets in both rooms were disappointing.

The guest bathroom follows suit with a double sink vanity and separate room for the toilet. It contains a shower/tub combo. It serves its purpose. Near the guest bathroom is the laundry room which can accommodate a full washer and dryer. There’s overhead storage in this functional space.

The backyard is large enough to entertain 6-10 people. The backyards are not landscaped with the purchase of the house. The models showed brick and grass flooring. I believe that stone or brick would be the best option. Storing a mower for such a small yard would be a hassle. You can create a nice seating area facing the dining room and have extra space for an outdoor table and grill.

Residence 2
• 2-3 bedrooms
• 2 ½ baths
• 1,672 square feet
• Base pricing starting from $605,000

Residence 2 was my favorite floor plan. Perhaps it was the enlarged entry way that made the ambiance more inviting. Like its sister properties, access to the garage is off the entry way. There’s a powder room to the right and a coat closet. The coat closet is located off the stairs and does not have the storage space found in Residences 1 and 3. The downstairs layout of Residence 2 is reminiscent of Residences 1 and 3—except the kitchen and living room setup is flipped. The kitchen is considerably smaller, but the recessed lighting makes it appear larger. The homeowner has the option to build a home management storage cabinet into the full height of the pantry. This feature would maximize your space and keep your kitchen pantry organized. The kitchen has the same amenities as the other two kitchens—stainless steel appliances, island, ample cabinet space. The dining area is offset of the kitchen and offers a unique option to build a banquette with storage. This is a great feature that adds charm to the space, particularly because the banquette is built below the window, making it a delightful nook to read a book in.

As with Residence 1, Residence 2 has the loft option. This space is big enough for a bedroom, and you can have a nice set of double doors, but there’s no closet so you couldn’t even consider making it into a bedroom. Leave it as a loft or turn it into an office.

The master bedroom is adequate. The ensuite has the tub/shower combo option, or the homeowner may opt for a walk-in shower only. The toilet is sectioned off into a separate room, where you have the option to build extra storage. The dual sink vanity has enough his and her storage. The walk-in closet is standard regulation and two people could fill it up quickly. The second bedroom is big enough for a twin or daybed. The closet is tiny.

The laundry facilities are located on the second floor. However, there are two options:

  1. Stackable washer and dryer with storage and countertop
  2. Full sized washer and dryer with no storage

Residence 2 seemed less clinical out of the 3 properties. It felt more like a home than a house. However, it is the second largest of the Siena tract, but feels like the smallest.

Residence 1
• 2-3 bedrooms
• 2 ½ baths
• 1,618 square feet
• Base prices starting from $590,000

Residence 1, although smaller, features a similar layout to Residence 3. Upon walking through the door, you have immediate access to the stairs, the same walk-in coat closet, powder room and garage access. The difference between the two models can be felt in the size of the kitchen and living room.

The kitchen has an island that can accommodate 3 barstools. There is a double wide sink and a dishwasher. The cabinet layout is very similar to Residence 3. There is less cabinet space, but it is more than sufficient. You also have the option of adding the glass hutch. As with Residence 3, the cabinets are high, so keep a step stool handy or utilize the lower cabinet space first. The dining area is a replica of Residence 3, and I would say that you can have a 6 person maximum seated at your table.

The living room is smaller with less seating space. There’s not as much empty wall space, so an alternative would be to have furnishings that can fit your television. It’s still a comforting space with lots of light. The built in desk is noticeably smaller, but can accommodate a desktop computer.

At the top of the stairs is the optional loft. The homeowner can choose to build a desk and entertainment storage cabinets, which would make the space ideal for an entertainment room. The loft is spacious enough to fit a sofa and a couple chairs. The loft option is more practical than turning this area into a bedroom. Otherwise, you have another small bedroom directly at the top of the stairs. 

The master bedroom has little space to spare. You can squeeze your king bed into this room with a dresser and nightstand. The bedroom does get a lot of light, so the tight space isn’t as noticeable. The master bathroom has two options:

  1. Enjoy a large walk-in shower without a tub
  2. Build a shower/tub combo

It’s disappointing that the master bathroom does not offer a tub and stand-alone shower. The vanity has double sinks with storage, but the space between the vanity and shower is cramped. The walk-in closet is standard size. The homeowner can elect to build the closet organizer storage drawers, which would maximize the space.

The remaining bedroom and guest bathroom are nearly identical to Residence 3. The rooms are small and the closets are inadequate. 

Other than the magnificent views of the location, there were very few things that stood out within the homes that would justify paying the purchase price. In my opinion, the Siena tract is over-priced. If I’m going to spend upwards of $600K I’d expect to see larger bedrooms and practical closets.


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