22 July 2014

A Ramble in the Hills Above Carbon Canyon

Taken from the hills behind the southern section of Sleepy Hollow, this view looks northeast toward the former Camp Kinder Ring/Ski Villa/Purple Haze property, now a cattle and horse ranch, and the Oak Tree Estates/Downs community and beyond.  The photo was taken on Sunday morning, as were the others shown here.  Click on this or any photo to see them in an enlarged view in a separate window.
Opportunities to get out and about in the hills around Sleepy Hollow have been too far and between in recent years.  So, the chance to take a decent walk in the area south of the community last weekend with a neighbor was more than welcome.

Fortunately, we had a period of cooler, if slightly more humid than usual, weather, so the mid-morning hike was pretty comfortable, even accounting for the steep climb up the dirt road from the top of the neighborhood to the ridge separating Carbon Canyon from Soquel Canyon.  Grazing cattle were everywhere on the ridgetop areas and vehicles were parked to the west--these being used by the lessees of the land for supervising the movement of the animals.

This photo looks northwest towards Sleepy Hollow and the Brea portion of Carbon Canyon.  On the ridgelines of the hills in the distance is where the Madrona project, consisting of 152 houses, which was approved in early June by the Brea City Council would go, if built.
From there, the jaunt headed east through some of the table lands earmarked for the 102-unit Hidden Oaks development that will soon be processed by the City of Chino Hills and, because it has a long-standing recorded tract map and is, therefore, entitled, then approved. 

The name Hidden Oaks is more than ironic, because a predecessor project years ago involved the removal of some two thousand (yep, 2000) oak trees before the developer went belly-up (leading to a too-obvious question, as my neighbor asked, concerning why a developer can remove anything from a building site before a building permit is issued.)  Some of the photos here show the cleared landscape where those trees, now protected, once stood.

If the project is constructed, hopefully there will be trail access from Sleepy Hollow to Chino Hills State Park, which is beyond Soquel Canyon to the south, as well as protection for important drainages such as Rock Creek and Rock Canyon at the east end of the Hidden Oaks project site, these having three spectacular sandstone waterfalls that are targeted for project runoff access.

This is the drainage cut almost completely clear by FEMA grant-funded work crews who were supposed to limit their work to 100' wide firebreaks, one of which is visible just in front of the houses at the center of the photo.  If any heavy rainfall were to come this winter, it could pose problems for the folks in the houses below.
Another strange and more recent issue has to do with the FEMA grant-funded work to create a 100' wide fire break on the Chino Hills side of the canyon--an important project to provide some extra protection for local communities against wildfires. 

Yet, it was pointed out by my neighbor that there were areas that were cleared by work crews that were beyond the designated break locations.  One of these was, as shown in another photo here, in a drainage in which almost all plant material was leveled.

This is one section of the area earmarked for the 102-unit Hidden Oaks housing project, which has an entitled tract map from years ago and is likely to get quick approval from the City of Chino Hills.  If the project is built, this area will be filled with houses, streets and so forth.  In the distance beyond Soquel Canyon is the North Ridge Trail in Chino Hills State Park.
So, provided there is any decent rainfall this winter (and the latest NOAA estimates suggest another below-average year, which, if true, has all kinds of consequences for water availability and restrictions in 2015), runoff could race down the desiccated drainage and straight into Sleepy Hollow's southern sections and cause some significant problems.  Again, this assumes meaningful precipitation occurs in coming months.

Another question:  why was this landscape removal, clearly beyond the scope of the project, done and who was tasked with inspecting the work?

Another view of open table lands, stripped of their oak trees years ago, that will be covered with streets, houses and other elements of the Hidden Oaks development, if approved and built.
On the positive side, as noted above, it was a nice morning and gradually clearing by the end of the ramble, so the views were great and another reminder of why the canyon, threatened as it is by over-development, drought, fire and so on, is such a special place.

Before the canyon changes too much and homes take over the ridgetop areas that provide oak and walnut woodland habitat, such spectacular vistas and a sense of openness, more hikes like this will, hopefully, happen, so that a fuller appreciation of the beauty of the canyon can be had before the transformations, whenever they happen, do occur.

This was a surprise located toward the end of the walk, an approximately 25' high dry waterfall following a gully that runs northward from the hills above Sleepy Hollow and empties through the eastern edge of the community, under Carbon Canyon Road, and into Carbon [Canyon] Creek.  This must have been spectacular in the recent wet winters of 2004-05 and 2007-08.

16 July 2014

Madrona Lawsuit Fundraiser This Saturday

It's still remarkable how far Brea's city council, excepting the lone dissenter Marty Simonoff, was wiling to accomodate and approve, in early June, the Madrona project, which would't even be allowed to be processed now under current city ordinances.

Even more flummoxing (love that word) is that, with the news filled with drought-related items concerning low reservoir levels, farmland drying up and going unplanted, a $2.2 billion loss on agriculture for this year, and now a first-ever statewide mandatory water rationing plan being implemented and likely to be more stringent in 2015--is how local governments like Brea can even approve water-wasting projects like Madrona, which will use several times the average water level of current city residences.

However, despite the council approval a little more than a month ago, the fight is far from over.  Changes were introduced to the Madrona project that were not fully disclosed to the appellants and which can very well require an amended environmental impact report.  Hills for Everyone, along with the Friends of Harbors, Beaches and Parks, a support group for public county recreational facilities, has filed suit in Orange County Superior Court, challenging the approval on those and other grounds.

To date, Hills for Everyone has raised tens of thousands of dollars from grassroots support to use toward the litigation.  Part of the fundraising program is an event Saturday evening, 19 July, at an Olinda Village residence that will include a silent auction, as well as food, drink and great conversation with a lot of dedicated, organized and forward-thinking folks.  Held from 4-6 p.m. at 275 Verbena Lane, Brea, the event is $30 per person of $50 for two by advance sales and $10 more for each set at the door.

You don't have to live in Olinda Village or Carbon Canyon to go out and lend your support.  If you care about the direction of development in our region, about the issues of water, traffic, loss of vanishing habitat, and others that are involved in the Madrona project, and about the preservation of the little remaining hillside land left in this area, go out, support the cause, and have a great time.

For more information on Saturday's event, please click here.

14 July 2014

Carbon Canyon Historical Artifact #46: Olinda Oil Field postcard

A postcard with a colored photograph of "Oil Fields near Fullerton, Calif.," published by M. Kashower Company of Los Angeles and showing the Santa Fe lease at Olinda.  The date is circa 1910.   Click on the image to see it in an enlarged view in a separate window.
In 1897, the discovery of oil by Edward Doheny on land leased on the Olinda Ranch by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad ushered in the Olinda field, the first oil-producing area of Orange County and, at the time, one of the major fields in California.

Yet, for years, this area was known instead as the "Fullerton Oil Field," almost certainly because of the fact that the nearest town to the site was Fullerton.  This unused postcard, probably dating to around 1910, reflects that through its title of "2.  Oil Fields Near Fullerton, Calif." as well as the short description on the reverse, which slightly amends the title to "2.  VIEW OF A SECTION OF THE FULLERTON OIL DISTRICT,' and adds the observation that "the wells of which have returned untold millions to their owners."

Why these riches had to be "untold" is an interesting semantic question, but the fact is that the earlier producers did quite well, including Doheny, the Santa Fe railroad, and other players like Graham and Loftus, the Fullerton Oil Company and the Bailey family, whose Olinda Ranch was considered a failure as a subdivision project until black gold was located a decade after they bought the land.

In any case, the card shows the hillside location north of Carbon Canyon Road and east of Valencia Avenue where the Santa Fe-held area, much of which was known for years as the C.C.M.O. (Chanslor-Canfield Midway Organization) lease, was located.  Wooden derricks, sheds, storage tanks, what may be homes as well as outbuildings, and power lines are in view.

Once the wells were basically played-out and operations shuttered, the site, which underwent an extensive cleaning operation, became the Olinda Ranch subdivision.  The original Olinda oil well, brought in by Doheny nearly 120 years ago, is still operating and the Olinda Oil Museum exists to tell the story of the field.

06 July 2014

Madrona Lawsuit Filed

A few days ago, Hills for Everyone, which has actively campaigned against the Madrona housing project, approved a month ago by the Brea City Council, proposing 152 homes on 367 acres in Carbon Canyon from Olinda Village east to the Orange/San Bernardino counties line, and Friends of Harbors, Beaches and Parks, a volunteer support group for county recreational facilities, filed a lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court challenging the council's decision.

A press release announcing the suit quoted former Brea council member and mayor Bev Perry, who is also secretary/treasurer of Hills for Everyone, as observing that, "we had four City Council members sell out the people they were elected to represent, and they threw out Brea's long-standing values of good planning and hillside protection."  Noting the prolonged severe drought that has wracked the region, Perry criticized the council decision "to approve a project that uses five times the amount of drinking water of an average Brea household in order to permanently irrigate huge fire fuel modification zones."

Specifically, the suit alleges that the approved Madrona project violates "state planning laws mandating consistency between general and specific plans and the California Environmental Quality Act for failing to disclose the project's true impacts on traffic and environment in the EIR."

Seeking donations for their cause, Hills for Everyone has already received some $20,000 in the last few weeks and the organization is hosting an upcoming fundraiser.

The Wine and Cheese Fundraiser to fight Madrona is being held Saturday, 19 July from 4 to 6 p.m. at the home of Duane and Luz Thompson in Olinda Village.  A silent auction is being offered as part of the festivities, which cost $30 per person or $50 for a pair, with the at-the-door price $10 higher.  For more information, including advance ticket information, please click here for the StopMadrona.org Web site and direct links to the event.

It will be interesting to see what the lawsuit will entail and what it can do to bring attention to some of the irregularities involved in the decision-making process, especially some last-minute changes and invitations to the applicants to present additional information without prior notification to the appellants and changes to required documents (such as the approved tract map and amendments to the Environmental Impact Report.)

Stay tuned here for more!

30 June 2014

Two Carbon Canyon Parcels for Sale

Signs have recently sprung up on the Brea side of Carbon Canyon for two undeveloped parcels.

One sign indicated a 36-acre property at a gate for a dirt road that leads from Carbon Canyon Road to Carbon Ridge, which separates Carbon Canyon from Soquel Canyon.  This parcel has been listed for sale on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) for a few years now, though specified there as just under 28 acres and with a sale price of $336,000.  The site lacks utilities, survey or other preliminary work, though the site is zoned hillside residential under Brea's Carbon Canyon Specific Plan and Hillside Management Ordinance.

The other parcel is just under an acre and is off Carbon Canyon Road near and opposite the La Vida Mineral Springs site.  A short dirt access road leads up to a flat lot just above the road, though the total parcel appears to include some of the steep hillside around the site.  It is not clear if there has been an existing MLS listing for this property, which may well have the same raw land status as the bigger parcel.

27 June 2014

Sleepy Hollow Geodisic Home For Sale

One of the more unique houses in a unique neighborhood is up for sale.  A geodisic dome on Oakway Lane near the shuttered Canyon Market in Sleepy Hollow was listed for sale two days ago.

The 2,200 square foot home on a lot slightly smaller than 10,000 square feet (that's a lot of space for the community, which was subdivided in 1923 with small cabin lots being the norm) was built in 1988.  The current owners, who have been there nine years, have extensively remodeled the interior and put in a ton of improvements on the grounds, including, for Sleepy Hollow, a rare and expansive/expensive in-ground pool.

Geodisic domes have been touted for their ability to withstand strong earthquakes (not having walls at right angles that would pull away under the stress of the shaking and there is at least one other within the canyon, one being in the Mountain View tract off Canon Lane a little east of this one.

For more info, including about twenty photos of the house and property, click here.

25 June 2014

Carbon Canyon Historical Artifact #45: La Vida Mineral Springs Bottle Opener


This is another great artifact and is the second bottle opener featured on this blog that comes from the La Vida Mineral Springs resort and its mineral water bottling operation.

Where the other opener was the kind you'd punch into a cap and then pry it off, our example here fits over a cap and lifts it off, indicating a later generation than the first, perhaps from the 1940s or 1950s.

As can be seen in the above photo, the La Vida name is subscribed by the motto "Distinctive Beverages."


Then, on the reverse, another motto following from the first is found and reads, "They're Naturally Better," meaning, of course, that the water flows "naturally" from the springs.

In contrast to the first opener, this one is in generally excellent shape, with some minor rust, pitting, scratching and other surface wear, but nowhere near as rusty as its predecessor.  In fact, it would look good displayed next to a beautiful green La Vida soda bottle sitting atop the dining room buffet.