El Modena, California

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El Modena, California
Unincorporated area in Orange County, CA
El Modena High School, midday, 5-2-21.jpg
Coordinates: 33°47′16″N 117°48′31″W / 33.78778°N 117.80861°W / 33.78778; -117.80861Coordinates: 33°47′16″N 117°48′31″W / 33.78778°N 117.80861°W / 33.78778; -117.80861
 • Total11,045
View from a trail in the El Modena Open Space at night. Most of northwest Orange County can be seen here.

El Modena /məˈd.nə/[1] is a and neighborhood surrounding El Modena High School and within the city of Orange, California and the surrounding unincorporated county area. It is located near and east of the intersection of Hewes Street and Chapman Avenue. Much of the area was annexed by Orange in the 1960s and 1970s, but there are still enclaves of unincorporated county land to the east of the high school. The neighborhood is named after Modena, Italy, plus the Spanish article el.[1]


The area was historically, and remains, a barrio[2] or colonia settled by Hispanics of Mexican heritage, as well some Californio and Spanish American settlers in the first half of the 19th century (1790-1850) before the annexation of California by the United States during the Mexican American War (1846-1848). In 1883 Quaker settlers arrived and established a local chapter of the Society of Friends.[3]

El Modena's agricultural days have had a rich cultural impact on the town's history. Between the time of its foundation in the 1880s to the suburban development boom in the late 1950s, El Modena was an area filled with citrus groves. Roses grown and shipped to Eastern markets were also a major part of the agricultural industry. It is now fully urbanized with the majority of its residents being low to middle income families; the annexed areas of the city became upper income in the real estate booms of the 1990s and 2000s (decade). The original Quaker church still exists and currently operates as a Mexican restaurant.[3]

El Modena Family Resource Center, on Center Avenue

Like the trailer parks of western Santa Ana facing the Santa Ana River, and Panorama Heights within Orange and facing Tustin, the El Modena neighborhood is among the poorest parts of Orange County. By the 1970s, much of the older residential areas were poorly maintained: No paved streets, no gutters or sewer caps, poorly dimmed street lighting and mobile home parks without proper utilities. As time progressed, however, El Modena's living environment has gradually improved.[4]

In June of 1993, the El Modena Family Resource Center opened to combat gang violence in the area. The project valiantly succeeded, and gang related crime dropped drastically, as well as violent incidents. The center and surrounding neighborhood is declared neutral turf by the members of the rival Pearl Street and Varrio Modena Locos gangs, mutually agreeing on keeping relations peaceful between members when in the area.[5]

The Southern Pacific Railroad formerly had an El Modena Station, located off La Veta Avenue, just south of the present-day La Veta Park.[6]


In literature[edit]

Kim Stanley Robinson's novel Pacific Edge is set in El Modena circa 2065.[7]


  1. ^ a b Bright, William (1998). 1500 California Place Names: Their Origin and Meaning. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
  2. ^ Alexander, Karen (3 October 1999). "Old Town Is Gone, but Neighborhood Ties Remain". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 5 February 2021.
  3. ^ a b David W. Kean, Wide Places in the California Roads: The encyclopedia of California's small towns and the roads that lead to them (Volume 1 of 4: Southern California Counties), pp. 62-3
  4. ^ Web Page: Cause for Celebration : With Gang Truce Holding, Life in El Modena Area Is More Livable
  5. ^ "The Turf's Neutral : 2 Gangs Find a Rare Haven From Violence at El Modena Center". Los Angeles Times. 1993-10-26. Retrieved 2021-02-04.
  6. ^ "Tustin". coastdaylight.com. Retrieved 2021-02-17.
  7. ^ Web Page: Pacific Edge: Three Californias (Three Californias Series)

External links[edit]