28 September 2016

Tres Hermanos and Its "Highest and Best Use"

The latest development in the fate of Tres Hermanos Ranch, which is just north of Carbon Canyon, and situated between Diamond Bar and Chino Hills as one of the last large pieces of undeveloped land in the region, was in the news today.  Click here for an article in today's San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

The successor agency to the former Industry Urban Development Agency, axed when redevelopment agencies were outlawed several years ago, commissioned a report from a consultant to determine what the "highest and best use" of the ranch would be.

This action was taken in light of the City of Industry's recently unveiled bid of just under $42 million for the 2,400-acre ranch, a figure determined by an appraisal from a firm hired by the city and taking into account its current zoning and future use.

The new report, however, presented to the successor agency stated that this figure was far too low and that the land should be sold in conformance with state law which mandates that such properties be disposed of "in a manner aimed at maximizing value."

Naturally, this means "dollar value," not just because of the sale price, but because future residential and commercial development means more tax revenue for the state, county and cities.

Of course, there are other less tangible "values," such as the cost of increased pollution, the lost hours stuck in traffic, the long-term net effect of residential property, which most of the ranch would undoubtedly become, with respect to maintenance and care.

Tonner Canyon and Tres Hermanos Ranch from the south, March 2016.
When the report states "highest and best use," the operative term is not "best," it is "highest."  After all, if the only criteria for determining whether a property has "value" is that it brings top dollar for its sale and development, there would never been a reason for any government--be it local, county, state or federal--to dedicate or purchase property for parks, monuments, open space areas, conservation easements or other passive uses, which are often "best" for the broader public.

The City of Industry's city manager has been quoted as saying the offer of $42 million for Tres Hermanos was to keep the property for public use and not for housing. although past plans have discussed a reservoir and talk lately has also centered around a solar farm.

In any case, anyone who has driven Carbon Canyon Road just in the last several months and seen the very obvious and noticeable increase in volume and the lengthening of commuting hours readily understands the problem, just with this one issue alone, that would come with approximately 2,000 houses as well as commercial development that have been slated for Tres Hermanos if it is sold to developers.

Grand Avenue is the only road through the ranch.  A public roadway, namely Tonner Canyon Road, which exists as a prviate thoroughfare on the ranch, could be built to the 57, but that freeway has also seen a significant increase in volume in recent years with backups for miles in either direction depending on the time of day.

Regional pollution levels are rising precisely as we should be dramatically reducing them as climate change worsens.

If regional leaders addressed the broader issues of greater development, such as the mind-boggling number of homes being built in Eastvale, Corona and other Inland Empire areas, and then square those with the consequences of more pollution and traffic (and other variables) that would be remarkable.

Instead, what is driving the discussion is what this report highlights (lowlights?).  That is, the "highest and best use" of property is that which is handled "in a manner aimed at maximizing value."

What about "best use" for the public good as a whole?

What about "value" being quality of life, rather than chasing short-term revenue gains exceeded by long-term costs?

Can we afford our public policy to be pursued by these outmoded and outdated perceptions of "best use" and "value"?

21 September 2016

Hillcrest Model Grand Opening in Carbon Canyon on Saturday

Hillcrest, a gated community of 76 houses spanning from about 3,500 to over 5,000 square feet, located north of Carbon Canyon Road at Canyon Hills Road just east of Sleepy Hollow, has its model grand opening this Saturday.

The property, which was a Jewish camp from 1928 to 1958 and then a series of resorts for some years after, including the strange, short-lived Ski Villa, which had a plastic needle-covered ski slope, was given a negative declaration in the mid-1980s, exempting it from environmental impact reports and basically allowing development in lieu of blight.

Conditions relative to traffic, water, diminishing habitat and fire risk have changed a great deal since then, but the project was not subject to any substantive review.  Now, as our region is mired in a historic drought, as we continue to lose open land to development, as climate change brings bigger and more damaging fires, and as traffic worsens on Carbon Canyon Road, as anyone who uses it can attest even within the last few months . . . here are 76 more homes.

No doubt, the models are beautiful, the views stunning, and the development will sell quick as buyers seek executive homes in a tight and pricey market.

Undoubtedly, the glossy brochures, well-rehearsed sales pitches, and other marketing and public relations endeavors will look past the fire threat, water scarcity, traffic issues and so on and buyers will find out sooner or later what all of these mean.

Coming soon, most probably, will be application for over 100 more houses right across Carbon Canyon Road on the so-called Hidden Oaks property (well, hidden might apply to the 2,000 oak trees butchered by a developer who then abandoned their plans years ago.)  The development plan requires a zoning change which city staff are more than happy to accommodate for the owners.

Further east, the Stonefield property, with approval for 28 houses, is for sale below the S-curve and near the Western Hills Golf Course.

So, do the math and see that are possible 200+ homes that could be in the works on the Chino Hills part of the canyon alone.

In Brea, there is an appeal pending on an Orange County Superior Court ruling overturning the city's approval of the Madrona project of 162 houses between Sleepy Hollow and Olinda Village.  The State of Idaho, which holds the property in receivership, is pursuing the appeal.  That's why a fundraiser is being held this weekend--a post just a few days ago here gives a link for more info on that.

19 September 2016

Fall Brush Drop Off for Chino Hills' Carbon Canyon Residents Saturday!

This Saturday, the 24th, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., residents of the Chino Hills portion of Carbon Canyon, including Sleepy Hollow, Mountain View Estates (Canon Lane), Oak Tree Estates and Downs, Western Hills Oaks, Carriage Hills and Summit Ranch, are encouraged to bring your cut brush to the Carbon Canyon Fire Safe Council's brush drop off location on Canon Lane, north of Carbon Canyon Road, adjacent to Chino Valley Fire District Station 64.

Volunteers from the Council will be on hand to assist with the unloading of material into a roll-off bin, provided courtesy of the City of Chino Hills and Republic (Chino Hills) Disposal.  It definitely helps when the brush is cut to pieces that are easily transferred off vehicles and piled into the bin.

The goal is to reduce as much flammable material as possible from the canyon before the fall Santa Anas, with windy and dry conditions, come along.  However, as we all should know by now, there are no "fire seasons," because the entire year is susceptible to wildfires.  Look at the enormous wildfires that broke out in late spring/early summer.

So, if you have material ready to be cut, or already cut, load them onto your vehicle and head on down to the drop-off site this Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Help us reduce the risk of wildfire in our ever-sensitive Carbon Canyon!

18 September 2016

Hills for Everyone September Shindig Next Saturday

Hills for Everyone, the non-profit organization that was a major force behind the creation of Chino Hills State Park and which has been working to preserve remaining open space in the area, is poised to go to court once again over the Madrona project, which would include over 160 houses on 367 acres on the northern edge of Carbon Canyon in Brea between Olinda Village and Sleepy Hollow.

An Orange County Superior Court ruling last year determined that the City of Brea did not follow its own ordinances in voting to approve the project, which was a tremendous victory for HFE and others opposed to Madrona, but the property owner, the State of Idaho (through receivership for the bankrupt Old Standard Life Insurance Company), has taken the matter to a state appeals court.

Obviously, while Idaho can use taxpayer money to foot the bills for its legal maneuverings, Hills for Everyone has to fundraise to be able to continue the fight.  So, next Saturday is a "September Shindig" so that organization can marshal its resources and carry the legal campaign forward to the next level.

The flyer for the event, with the all the information, is here.

30 August 2016

Carbon Canyon Historical Artifact #54: La Vida Mineral Springs Water Crate

This was quite a find--a crate for carrying quart-size water bottles from the La Vida Mineral Springs, probably dating to the 1930s or 1940s.

As noted in this blog previously, the naturally hot mineral water seeping down from the hills above the old La Vida resort, north of Carbon Canyon Road, just a short distance east of today's Olinda Village, was bottled and sold throughout western America from the late 1920s.

Over the years, there were various sized bottle of the product, ranging from 7 ounces on up to the quart and a wide variety of flavors, including lemon-lime, cherry, root beer, grape, strawberry, grapefruit, and more.

There was a bottling facility on the premises, which had a Placentia rural route mail delivery address, as well as in downtown Fullerton.  There were branches of the company elsewhere, such as in Sacramento.

Advertisements in newspapers and magazines, especially in the early days of the end of the Twenties and in the early Thirties, touted the health benefits from drinking the water and testimonials from homeopathic doctors, regular users and others claimed that La Vida water was a restorative product sure to help out others.

Whether or not the flavored mineral water actually delivered on the promises and hype, the product had a long life and seemed to have been pretty successful for a number of years prior to the 1960s.  Having this crate, even if a little worse for wear, along with a good sampling of bottles from the company, is a nice addition to a decent little collection of artifacts related to La Vida.

28 August 2016

Hillcrest Grand Opening on 24 September

Hillcrest, the 76-unit housing development north of Carbon Canyon Road adjacent to Sleepy Hollow and Oak Tree Downs, will have its model grand opening on Saturday, 24 September.

Homes will range from about 3,500 to over 5,300 square feet with anticipated starting prices at a cool $1,1 million.

Glossy publicity folders will, of course, highlight the fine architecture, flexible floor plans (the "Canyon Hills Room" will be interesting to see), and community amenities, with the exception of a few little details, such as growing commuter traffic times, less stable water supply, and greater fire risk.

No doubt the project will do very well, however.

27 August 2016

Carbon Canyon Traffic Enforcement Yields 46 Citations

As reported by Josh Thompson in today's Champion, a dedicated traffic enforcement operation on Carbon Canyon Road along the Chino Hills portion of the state highway on 18 August yielded 46 citations.

Infractions included speeding, following too close to the vehicle ahead and, the article states, unsafe lane changes.  Presumably the latter means passing, because this is prohibited the entire length of the highway (yet goes on all the time.)

What wasn't stated is what time of day the operation took place.  Newly appointed captain Darren Goodman was quoted as saying, "if we have to write more tickets to get people to drive safety, then we will."  He went on to suggest that, "the operations thus far have been successful in curtailing some of the unsafe driving practices."

Whether this is really the case remains to be seen.  As noted above, it depends very much on time of day and day of the week.  The 18th was a Thursday and if the operation was during daylight hours, that is a big difference from a Friday or Saturday late evening, which is when many, if not most, of the worse excesses in driving take place.

Moreover, if this operation is a one-off, rather than part of a regular effort and by that it is meant consistent, certainly not daily or even weekly, enforcement, then it is impossible to state that "curtailing some of the unsafe driving practices" can be known.

Notably, Captain Goodman made reference to the fact that "many residents would enjoy seeing a reduction in commercial vehicle usage in the canyon," before stating that it was not possible to prevent such use because Carbon Canyon Road is a state highway.

This was a big issue for some local residents who held meetings and lobbied the city and CalTrans to do something.  The result was a series of signs in both Brea and Chino Hills that are advisory for vehicles longer than 50 feet.  Clearly, these signs are about as effective as speed limit and other warning signs here and elsewhere--in other words, there are still plenty of trucks longer than 50 feet that drive the highway.  A sign is essentially ineffective without on-locale enforcement.

Which goes back to the operation of the 18th.  It is great that the department did this and shows that there is a modicum of concern for the ongoing problem of unsafe driving on Carbon Canyon Road.  But, hopefully, the effort doesn't stop with the one dedicated day of enforcement, especially given the weekday and, presumably, daylight time for the operation.

The worst examples of dangerous driving are weekend evenings and a truly effective enforcement program would target those days and times, although it is understood that there is a greater cost to the department in doing so.  And, again, this enforcement has to be somewhat regular and consistent, so that drivers understand that there is a demonstrable presence, rather than a one-time promotional effort.

So, kudos to the department for carrying out this operation.  Let's see if there is any follow-up.