03 November 2019

La Vida Mineral Springs Property For Sale

The sign has been up for about a couple of months now, but only more recently has information been made available about the offering of the 36-acre La Vida Mineral Springs property on the Brea side of Carbon Canyon.

The property, which is two parcels, has long been owned by Tadayao Hata, a Tokyo businessman who owned a large therapeutic spa in Japan, where volcanic activity provides plenty of hot mineral springs and which has a long cultural tradition of using these for medicinal purposes. 

In the late 1990s, Hata submitted plans for a remaking of the La Vida property, the history of which dates back to the early days of oil prospecting at the nearby Olinda field.  It was said that oil drilling on the site led to the discovery of the springs, though it may be that the indigenous people knew of the existence of the mineral waters long before that.  It was reported that Hata was planning to spend up to $5 million rebuilding the hotel and remaking the spa, which would also include facials, massages and other services.

A circa late 1920s or early 1930s real photo postcard of the La Vida Mineral Springs resort.  Click on any image to see them enlarged in a separate window.  All are from the author's collection.  
In any case, by 1915, a small resort was in operation at La Vida and the enterprise grew in succeeding years, including the erection of cabins, the opening of a cafe, and the building of a hotel, the expansion of the soaking tubs that were the core of the buisness and, finally, the bottling of La Vida Mineral Water with several flavors.

Under the long tenure of one family, the resort stayed open for decades and was sold in 1974 to Leo Hayashi, who sold the site to Hata and was his manager for a period.  As times changed, the canyon being less remote, and then a fire broke out in 1988 that destroyed the hotel, all that was left was what was known as the La Vida Roadhouse, where live music was performed on weekends.  That, too, went away, by the early 2000s.

Hata's first plan for the property did not get beyond the planning stages and the property became weed-infested and overgrown.  The Freeway Complex fire of November 2008 burned nearly all the plant material off and, among other things, exposed the old pink-colored La Vida Mineral Springs tank perched on the side of the hill.

A 1940s color postcard of two gents playing badminton at the resort.
A few years back, my next-door neighbors told me that a Japanese-language newspaper had a report of new plans for a spa at the La Vida site and, not long after that, I spotted some well-dressed men standing next to some nice cars at the location.

Now comes the listing.  Though there is not a sale price shown, there is a well-designed web site by the realty firm, The Kondo Group, with drone video of the property and the tagline "Opportunity Awaits."  After pressing "Read More" and getting a summary of the history of La Vida, a "Read More Here" link takes you to the first post on La Vida from this blog, though a search can be made on the home page for many more posts on the resort and its fascinating history.

A tab marked "Waters" gives a brief description of the therapeutic properties of hot mineral water and a short reference to the bottling of La Vida Mineral Water, accompanied by some photos, including a couple from this blog.

Judging by the cars, this looks to be an early 1960s postcard of La Vida.
The "Opportunities" tab has a few site photos, but, more interestingly, includes images of site and floor plans and drawings of a new resort there.  They include a pair of two-story hotel buildings totaling over 12,000 square feet, the spa building of just under 10,500 square feet, a restaurant of a little below 1,900 square feet, a reception room, an office, and a little more than 150 parking spaces.  All of this looks to be clustered at the west end of the parcel.

The five hotel room plans show spacious, Japanese-style spaces ranging from 360 to 650 square feet and occupancy from two to four persons.  All contain outdoor decks of various sizes and, in keeping with Japanese tradition, they also have a tatami space, which might be seen as an analog to a living room.  Traditionally, these were used in Japanese homes to entertain visitors, serve ceremonial tea, contains a religious altar and, in more modern times, be used for meditation and yoga.  Images show spartan but fine furnishings appropriate to the style.

A "New Building Plan & Image" at the bottom shows a view of what the facility would look like from across Carbon Canyon Road and the effect is a very traditional Japanese arrangement of the clustered buildings a roofed entrance and walls around the compound with landscaping that, of course, would also feature Japanese-inspired plantings and hardscape.

Another Sixties postcard, this one showing one of the pools built on a terraced hillside above the motel.
The tagline in this section is "Dare to Dream" and a link goes to a website showing the City of Brea's zoning code, though there is a Carbon Canyon Specific Plan ordinance, as well.  Regardless of whether the spa that is shown on the website is allowed under these plans and codes, there is the practical considerations of whether such a facility would even have a chance of being successful were it built.

It will certainly be interesting to see what transpires with the La Vida property and, if it is purchased what could be done with it that would meet the criteria of the specific plan and codes and be commercially viable.

To see more of the listing, here is a link to the La Vida web site..

02 November 2019

Recent Carbon Canyon News from the Champion

In the last couple of issues of the Chino/Chino Hills Champion, there have been some noteworthy items of news relating to the Chino Hills portion of Carbon Canyon.

Last week's edition of 25 October, featured a front-page article by Marianne Napoles concerning three older properties and upcoming changes regarding them.  A 2.6-acre property that Napoles noted has been called "The Haze" since the 1970s and which is off Canyon Hills Road just north of Carbon Canyon Road and behind the Circle K convenience store was sold.  

John Klavins owned the property since 1962 and died two years ago and his heirs sold the parcel to Alchemy Acquisitions, LLC this past July.  Napoles reported that the firm has been engaged in cleaning of the property, though nothing was said about future plans.  She did note that the zoning is low density residential, allowing no more than eight housing units.

The photos here are a sample of incidents in the last several weeks where drivers have drifted from Carbon Canyon Road and damaged guardails, signs and fences along the state highway.  Click on any image to see them enlarged in a separate window.
What was not stated in the article, likely for reasons of available space, was that Klavins acquired the property when it was being used as a social club under several names.  The first was Club El Circulo, which was opened by the Olinda Development Corporation in August 1961 and lasted until about spring 1964.  

Then, the same company opened the Canyon Hills Swim and Saddle Club, with Olinda's subsidiary the Circle C [get it?  El Circulo?] Development Company as manager, with the new version opening in July 1964.  Soon, however, there was another change and the facility was rechristened as the Canyon Hills Country Club, apparently during 1965.

The following year came another transformation as the site was repurposed into the strange novelty known as Ski Villa, in which club buildings were turned into offices and other uses while, across Canyon Hills Road, the steep hillside was carved out into a ski slope with a concrete base with plastic tiles with needles on them affixed to the base.  Though the oddity got some wide coverage, including in Sports Illustrated, during 1966, it only lasted a season.

A Carbon Canyon Country Club followed and operated in the late Sixties before "The Purple Haze" came on to the scene for a few years around the early Seventies.  Klavins then maintained the existing structures for residential uses over many years until he passed in 2017.

Those buildings, however, predated all of these variations and before Klavins' purchase.  For thirty years, the site was the Camp Kinder Ring, operated by the Arbeter Ring of the Workmen's Circle, a left-leaning Jewish organization that sill exists in Los Angeles.  Established in 1928, the facility was solely for children in its early years, though it became an all-ages camp later.  

By 1958, with changes in the organization and its community, as well as unreliable water sources in the Canyon, the Workmen's Circle sold the property.  A devastating fire broke out shortly thereafter and ravaged much of the property.  Klavins then acquired the section where many of the remaining structures from the Camp Kinder Ring period and then reused by the various clubs during the 1960s remain today—though for how much longer remains to be seen.

This blog has many posts related to the history of the property and these can be viewed by putting in the several names (Camp Kinder Ring, El Circulo, Ski Villa, etc.) into the search bar at the right of the main page.

Napoles' article also mentioned the red-tagged apartments at the east end of Sleepy Hollow, south of Carbon Canyon Road.  The eight units are situated on what was known from at least the 1930s as Tidwell Oaks.  David Tidwell operated store along the road and a two-story home for the family remains at the rear of the parcel.  In the 1970s, the property was owned by the Norris family and, in the 1990s, Fred Gentry operated the store there. 

The place were shuttered in January because of health and safety code violations and the owner retained an architect to revamp the units to current standards.  Work was fairly consistent for a period, though it now seems very sporadic.  There was no response from the owner or the City of Chino Hills on requests by the paper for updates.

Finally, another historic structure was featured in the piece.  What was last operated as the Canyon Market and before that was a store and gas station under many names over the decades, including Party House Liquor #2 (the first was on Chino Hills Parkway at Pipeline Avenue until recently), Ichabod's and Joe Tatar's, has been purchased the City of Chino Hills.  

The store property is on a little over an acre, while an adjacent undeveloped three-acre tract is already owned by the City along Carbon [Canyon] Creek.  Long advocated by council member Ray Marquez, the parcel is being considered for relocation of the Sleepy Hollow Community Center, which has been on a former community center and volunteer fire house off Rosemary Lane to the east for over fifteen years, or for other community uses.  Marquez stated that community meetings will be held to solicit input on the property's future.

Today's edition of the Champion contains the news that a man's body was found in Carbon [Canyon] Creek adjacent to the former liquor store site.  A call was made Thursday afternoon and the incident was obviously still under investigation by press time. The Chino Hills Police Department is asking for anyone with information to call 909.364.2000.  Notably, this is not the first time bodies have been found in that area.

In the "Community News" section is a reader-submitted photo of a damaged guardrail on the S-curve east of the summit along Carbon Canyon Road with the caption observing that this section, recently replaced during the ongoing rehabilitation project for State Route 142, has been hit twice recently by eastbound drivers speeding downhill and crossing the westbound lane before crushing the rail.

While this blog used to be very active in reporting such incidents, social media platforms of various types tend to be faster in posting and sharing this information, so less has been done here in noting these activities.  There, however, have been more incidents than just this one in recent weeks, including on the Chino Hills side:
  • A 50mph sign flattened on the highway east of Old Carbon Canyon Road.
  • More signs damaged on the S-curve, including at the summit and the first curve just east of it.
  • A section of fence at a private home in Sleepy Hollow demolished (this property has had this happen several times over the years.)
And, on the Brea portion:
  • A guardrail end crushed by a wastbound driver who crossed the eastbound lane to hit that object and another guardrail "nudged" near the San Bernardino County line in the same direction.
  • Two advisory speed signs just east of the Chino Hills State Park Discovery Center,
  • A car that plowed through the recently erected chainlink fence at the former La Vida Mineral Springs property.
  • Two spots where eastbound vehicles skidded off the road and hit the embankment on the south side of the highway leaving undercarriage pieces and other debris.
There are undoubtedly more incidents and, as has been noted here many times over eleven years, dangerous driving is a frequent occurrence, especially weekend evenings.  Moreover, CalTrans is deliberating on whether to ban trucks over 50-feet in length on the highway.  Twice in October, school buses had to either stop or pull over where there is virtually no shoulder, to make way for big rigs that crossed the yellow divider and into the opposing lane to try and negotiate the S-curve.

While many needed improvements have been made in the Carbon Canyon Road rehabilitation project to try and improve safety, the smashing of guardrails and signs, as well as some private property, and continuing reckless driving are, once again, reminders that a consistent, on-going patrol presence is needed if any expectation of reducing dangerous driving is to be met.

27 October 2019

Carbon Canyon Fire Safe Council Trunk or Treat Today

Image may contain: one or more people and text

The Carbon Canyon Fire Safe Council, which was launched in 2001 to advocate for better protection of the canyon in the event of wildfires and involves individuals and public agencies in Chino Hills and Brea, as well as the state's CalFire agency, is holding its second annual Trunk-or Treat event this afternoon.

Come out to his free event at Western Hills Country Club on Carbon Canyon Road and Fairway Drive in the Chino Hills portion of the Canyon from 3-5 p.m. for a special appearance of the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow, who has been mystifying and electrifying Americans since Washington Irving's story, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" was published in 1820.

There will also be a Halloween costume contest for children, hot dogs, games, vehicles from the Chino Valley Fire District and much more.  Visitors are encouraged to wear their Halloween costumes, decorate their vehicles, and bring candy and prizes to share with others.  This event is one of several ways the Carbon Canyon Fire Safe Council promotes wildfire safety awareness, so we hope to see you there!

12 October 2019

Updated Hills for Everyone Wildfire Study Released

The remarkable Hills for Everyone organization, which has done so much to protect and preserve open space, parkland, and wildlife corridors in this area for decades, has provided another great service recently, especially as a major wildfire has blazed through the Porter Ranch area of the foothills of the northern San Fernando Valley.

After the 2008 Freeway Complex fire, which raced through much of Carbon Canyon, especially the Brea portion, Hills for Everyone engaged in a study of wildfire history in the region.  With increasing activity in an era of rapidly growing climate change, the group revised its study and the results were released and reported upon in today's Champion.

Most striking, in the piece by Marianne Napoles, is that fires have exploded by 50% in the last several years compared to nearly a century prior to 2012.  The data goes back to 1914 and the study shows that over 150 blazes were documented (though there may have been more, especially in earlier years, that were not.)

Of these, only two were known to be from natural causes, that is, lightning strikes, with the rest caused by human activity, principally from arson, automobiles, and fireworks.  Most of them, it was noted, were small and easily contained and extinguished.  The most common months for conflagrations were July, September and October (Santa Ana wind conditions being prevalent in the latter two.)

Significantly, two major hot spots for these fires were identified.  One is the 91 Freeway corridor through Santa Ana Canyon, where the narrowness of the passage of the state highway through that area in proximity to wildlands and large numbers of homes built in recent decades is a significant aspect.

The other is Carbon Canyon, where State Route 142 (Carbon Canyon Road) winds through and has become a significant commuter alternative to the 91 and 57 freeways entering Orange County.  There is a wider section with much more housing on the San Bernardino County portion of the Canyon through Chino Hills.  The more sparsely populated area of the Canyon in Orange County through Brea is far more narrow and wildland-adjacent with communities like Olinda Village/Hollydale just outside the narrowest portion.

Finally, the report has many recommendations for improving fire protection for the area of study, including more careful vetting of proposed housing projects; a more robust system for fining violators of codes, ordinances and laws that affect fire safety; a more vigrorous fire watch system of patrols of area prone to greater risk during wildfires; better construction of new houses and improves for older ones pertaining to attic vents, closed eaves and the like; improvements to the highways from which some fires start; and, very importantly, these days, given new power shutoff policies, improvements with power line maintenance.

For more on this important study, here is the link to the Hills for Everyone page.

10 October 2019

11-Home Carbon Canyon Housing Project Extension Rejected

As reported by the Champion a couple of days ago, the Chino Hills City Council rejected another extension for an approved 11-home project in Carbon Canyon.

Nestled next to the Carriage Hills community off Old Carbon Canyon Road, the project, promoted by Everbright International, LLC, already had a three-year extension granted in 2016 as problems in pushing the project forward developed.  Notably, no representatives appeared for the meeting,

The company sought a new two-year extension, but this was turned down by a 3-1-1 vote, with council member Ray Marquez abstaining because of a requirement concerning his living within a 500' proximity to the project. 

Mayor Cynthia Moran voted for the extension, stating that she was concerned that otherwise the city could lose any leverage it would have on a future proposal for the site.  She particularly expressed concern about the state's aggressive push for more housing, an issue that is definitely in the forefront for any new development projects being brought to cities.

This was a very small project with little impact on the Canyon compared to, say, the Hidden Oaks project east of Sleepy Hollow and which is moving forward, but, as Mayor Moran noted, something else may well be brought forward for the slightly less than 7 acre parcel.

27 September 2019

Carbon Canyon Fire Safe Council Brush Drop Off Results

The weather is cooling down, it's cloudy this morning, and there is a chance of showers in the forecast for tomorrow.

But, we know that the fall Santa Ana wind season is coming, raising the threat of wildland fire in the Carbon Canyon area, including the possible shutting down of power by Southern California Edison.

When hot, heavy winds blow, temperatures rise, and humidity plummets, these are the conditions that are most worrisome for a blaze, so these are prime reasons why, every fall, the Carbon Canyon Fire Safe Council hosts a brush drop-off from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. so that residents of the Chino Hills portion of Carbon Canyon can clear their properties of flammable plant material and bring these to the spot on Canon Lane, near Fire Station 4.

Local residents unload brush into a roll-off bin during last weekend's brush drop off service coordinated by the Carbon Canyon with the City of Chino Hills paying for roll-off bins supplied by Chino Hills (Republic) Disposal.
There a trio of Council volunteers assisted in off-loading, piling and packing brush and other matter into a pair of large roll-off bins supplied by Chino Hills (Republic) Disposal, thanks to the support of the City of Chino Hills, which pays for the bins.

It was pretty busy in the early hours of the event and the first bin was filled within 1 1/2 hours.  Normally, a second bin is on stand-by and then brought in at 9:30, but two bins were dropped off, so we were able to move right on to loading the second bin with less delay than normal.

The second bin wasn't quite full, but, by the time 1 p.m. rolled around, there was an estimated 5,000 pounds of plant material dropped off.  This is a modest contribution to reducing flammable material susceptible to burning in a wildland fire, but every little bit helps.

The first and full roll-off bin being taken away and the second being readied.  Roughly 5,000 pounds of flammable plant material was dropped off during the morning.
The next brush drop off will be in late April or thereabouts, so we hope that residents of the Chino Hills side of the Canyon will take advantage of this service and utilize it in the spring.

19 September 2019

Carbon Canyon Fire Safe Council Brush Drop Off This Saturday!

As we gear up for the fall, one of the most important fire-protection activities a property owner can do is the removal of brush to help lower the chances of a blaze doing significant damage to a house and other structures.

This is especially true during Santa Ana wind events when temperatures rise, humidity plummets and strong winds blow, particularly in places like Carbon Canyon.

So, this Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Carbon Canyon Fire Safe Council, which has done much important coordination with programs to reduce the risk of wild-land fires, is offering its fall brush drop-off program.

Bring your newly cut brush to the location on Canon Lane, north of Carbon Canyon Road, adjacent to Fire Station #4 and volunteers from the Council will assist in unloading and placing the material in a roll-off bin provided by Chino Hills Disposal through a donation by the City of Chino Hills.

This program is limited to Carbon Canyon residents on the Chino Hills side only.  Hope to see you there as we work to minimize the risks and effects of fire in our canyon!