27 December 2008

Remnants of the La Vida Mineral Springs Resort

Mid-November's Triangle Complex fire not only charred most of the Brea side of Carbon Canyon, but it also revealed much of the remnants of the historic La Vida Mineral Springs resort, which opened in 1924 and closed in the early 1990s.

The complex consisted at various points in its history of individual mineral bath units, a larger bathhouse, cozy cottages, a motel, a restaurant (or two), playgrounds, swimming pools, and other elements.

I had tried to explore the property on Labor Day, about four months ago, but it was so overrun with weeds, shrubs, bushes and trees that it was hard to get anywhere. In the aftermath of last month's fires, however, I was able to walk much of the property.

Included in this post are some of the images (as always, double-click on any image to see a magnified view) I took on 26 November 2008 (descriptions from top to bottom):

1. This was a surprise as I thought this might be a hot spot from the fire that was burning on the hillside, not unlike one I discovered a couple days later in Soquel Canyon. When I got closer, though, I realized that this was a steam vent from the hot mineral water below the surface, the same water used by the resort for almost 70 years and certainly by native Americans for thousands of years!

2. In the same hillside, a short distance from the steam vent, was a dripping pipe, which could have been to gather rain water from higher up the hill for use in the resort.

3. This is a view of the surviving water tanks at the west end of the property. The larger tank still has the faded logo with the words "La Vida" on the side.

4. Here is a shot on Carbon [Canyon] Creek running through the parcel.

5. This is a concrete footing for what might have been one of the old cottages on the grounds. Check earlier posts on this blog for a circa 1930s real photo postcard showing these cottages in this location.

6. The footing in photo 5 is to the right of the red-tinted sidewalk. The walkway and the scorched eucalyptus trees are in some of the old postcards posted on this blog. Note how the sidewalk almost directly corresponds with the dip in the hills in the background.

7. Toward the east end of the property the creek turns from the hillside (at left) and bends closer to Carbon Canyon Road (to the right). In the distance you can see the piling for the old footbridge which crossed the creek and led to the flat area at the upper left, where the motel and swimming pool, also seen in postcards from earlier posts, once stood.

8. More footings, but right up against the hillside, so the purpose is not clear.

9. This is the red-tinted sidewalk seen in view 6, but leading eastward toward the location of the footbridge.

10. Here is another, but partially-buried, footing for a building--again, just adjacent to the sidewalk and the creek/hillside, corresponding to the structures in the historic postcards.

11. This shot shows debris in and around the creek as it winds through the La Vida property.

12. A view from the far west end of the parcel showing the sidewalk and eucalyptus trees. Carbon Canyon Road is at the far right.

13. A fairly large concrete pad for a building that once stood on the property.

14. Another view, from further east, of the old water tanks.

18 December 2008

Carbon Canyon Historical Artifact #10

Here is another old real photo postcard of the La Vida Mineral Springs resort, probably dating to the early 1930s.

The view looks west from what would be the motel location across Carbon [Canyon] Creek from the cottages (some of these can be seen through the small trees at the lower right corner) and bathing facilities. At the bottom center of the photo is a concrete sidewalk, the remains of which are still on the site today, leading to the steel bridge that crossed the creek and led visitors to the motel. That bridge is almost certainly the same one from the first of the historical artifact postings (from 7 July) on this site. Moreover, the large trees in the photograph are almost certainly eucalyptus, of which several trees are still standing, although they were charred in last month's Triangle Complex fire and who knows whether they will survive. The caption at the lower right reads "Picnic Grounds at La Vida Mineral Springs" and there are tables and benches underneath the trees. The black lines at the upper corners are the remains of the old mounting corners used to secure photos in the album.

As with any other image on this blog, double-clicking on it will give an enlarged view for better seeing detail.

This item is 2008.9.1.3 of the Carbon Canyon Collection.

16 December 2008

Olinda Oil Field History: Other 1920s Sources

Although not nearly as detailed as the other references that have been highlighted in recent posts on this blog, there are three other 192os era sources of information about the Olinda oil field that I know of that add to the stock of historical material.

One is Petroleum Resources of California, a bulletin issued by the California State Mining Bureau in 1921. Because it is a general survey of the entire state, descriptions of specific fields are, by necessity, quite brief. There is a paragraph devoted to the "Whittier, Brea Canyon, and Olinda Fields." Author Lawrence Vander Leck wrote that "The method of accumulation and origin of the oil is practically the same in all of these fields" in terms of the type of shale and sandstone formations which characterize the geological basis for the region. Notably, Vander Leck offered that "all of these fields have passed the flush day of their production and their limits are practically set." This can be contrasted with the 1964 federal report highlighted in a post yesterday, which stated that, from 1918-1928, production was low in the Olinda and surrounding fields. After 1928, however, there was an improvement in technology that allowed for deeper drilling and the tapping into pools of crude at these lower levels. In the 1921 report, it was observed that "In March 1921, the total proven acreage in this region was . . . 2073 [acres] in the Brea Canyon-Olinda district [note the combination of the two previously separate fields, a point also raised in the 1964 report]." Moreover, in December 1920 "the total daily average production in the Brea Canyon-Olinda district was 17,756 barrels of oil. The average number of producing wells was 372, with an average daily yield per well of 47 barrels of oil and 10 of water."

Another source is a report called American Petroleum: Supply and Demand, published in 1925 for the American Petroleum Institute by a committee of eleven men selected from its Board of Directors. Notably, the Institute was created six years before as an outgrowth of a National Petroleum War Service Committee, dealing with the use of petroleum for the World War I deployment by the United States. There are two brief references to "Brea-Olinda," the first coming in a section titled "Future Promise in California" and reading "production is obtained at Brea-Olinda from a fault-contact structure, rather than a closed fold. The sustained production and large undrilled reserves make this field of importance. Geologic correlations suggest possible deeper productive horizons which, if proven, will add large reserves." This is an interesting counterpoint to Vander Leck's 1921 contention that the heyday of Brea Canyon/Olinda had passed and to the 1964 report's recap that, after 1928, matters changed greatly in the area. Indeed, the 1925 report seems to anticipate what did happen by 1930, which was the change in drilling technology that allowed for deeper drilling. It is also worth repeating the uniqueness of Olinda, in particular, with respect to its condition as a fault contact zone, specifically the location of oil pools along the Whittier Fault. The second reference comes from quoting the December 1923 issue of Standard Oil Bulletin, a monthly publication issued to stockholders in the Standard Oil of California company, a giant in the oil business. Here, it was stated, as part of a discussion on the importance of rapid drilling and an equally fast period of recovering crude, that Brea-Olinda was yielding just under 100,000 barrels per acre. The significance here was the fast drilling would mitigate the loss of crude through drainage.

Finally, in 1930, a geology professor from the University of Wichita in Kansas, Walter Ver Wiebe, published Oil Fields in the United States, which included a short description of Olinda: "In 1897, Olinda and Fullerton . . . were discovered and reached their peak of production about 17 years later." In discussing geological structure, it was noted by Ver Wiebe that all Los Angeles basin fields were located in domes or anticlines, except the Los Angeles City, Whittier, and Brea-Olinda fields, in which "faulting has played a large part in trapping the oil." The Whittier fault, of course, ran through both of the latter fields, although Ver Wiebe stated that "in the Brea-Olinda pool the long Puente [meaning Whittier] fault, and some minor associated faults, seem to have exercised a controlling influence in trapping the oil as it migrated up the dip from southwest to northeast." Ver Wiebe also provided a table of data, in which the Olinda field [elsewhere described as Brea-Olinda] had a productive area of 1,500 acres, the seventh largest listed in the Los Angeles basin, with a degree of gravity falling about in the middle of the range. Total production of barrels as of 31 January 1930 was, combined with the Fullerton field, over 133,000,000, making these two fields the fourth most productive on the list, after Long Beach (386 million), Santa Fe Springs (267 million), and Huntington Beach (164 million).

There is one other report I have to locate, which is an 1897 California state report that might be the first published source on the then-new Olinda field.

The maps above come from the period 1900-1964 and show details of the Olinda field.

Sources: Petroleum Resources of California, Bulletin 89, Lawrence Vander Leck (San Francisco: California State Mining Bureau,) 1921.

American Petroleum: Supply and Demand (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc.,) 1925.

Oil Fields in the United States, Walter A. Ver Wiebe (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc.,) 1930.

Carbon Canyon Road Mudslide Threat #2

This morning as I drove west on Carbon Canyon Road into Brea it was obvious that the estimated 1.5 to 2 inches of rain that largely fell overnight on Sunday/Monday and into late Monday morning had caused some fairly substantial amounts of mud and debris to be carried onto the highway by the rainfall. There was no evidence of major sliding, but it can be easily seen just how significant the Freeway Complex fire's scorching of the canyon was in terms of removing any major barriers to the erosion of top soil during rain episodes. Total rainfall for the season stands at around 3.5 to 4 inches and, if we get a normal year of precipitation, we are only 1/3 of the way there. Once again, there is a certain amount of water the hillsides can hold and slides are not necessarily going to happen during a storm but very well can occur afterwards. The essential point is that slides can occur anytime between now and the end of the major period of rainfall, extending to at least the end of February, but quite possible afterward. It can be expected that CalTrans will shut the road down when the forecast calls for heavy rainfall, but, again, slides can occur at any time, even when it is not raining. We'll just have to see what happens, but it could be a long winter in the Canyon in the aftermath of the fires and the coming of rain.

15 December 2008

Olinda Oil Field History: 1964 United States Geological Survey Report

So far, much material has been given in this blog pertaining to the pre-1930 history of the Olinda Oil Field. It is interesting (hopefully), then, to compare and contrast a "professional paper" on what was then referred to as the "Eastern Puente Hills Area," including Olinda, published by the United States Geological Survey in 1964 with its forebears.

Naturally, most of the report concerns the stratigraphy, relative to rock formations, fault structures, physiography and the like. The specific reference to Olinda comes mainly in the section labeled "Economic Geography."

In it, authors D. L. Durham and R. F. Yerkes wrote that "The Brea-Olinda oil field, which is about 5 miles long and averages 0.8 mile in width is along the Whittier fault zone northwest of the village of Olinda. . . Tar seeps in steeply dipping strata of the Fernando formation prompted exploration that led to the discovery of commercial oil production in the Olinda area in 1897 and in the Brea Canyon area, 2 miles farther northwest, in 1899."

As was discussed in previous reports discussed in this blog, the authors noted that "at the time of their discovery, these two areas were considered to be separate fields, but the intevening area [including Tonner Hills] was proved productive by 1913 . . . Except for the years between 1918 and 1928, development of the Brea-Olinda field has been fairly steady." It isn't explained, but the assumption is that the existing technolgy in the 1920s was limited in terms of what could be extracted from the field. After 1928, better drilling technology and equipment and a stronger understanding of the geological issues allowed for deeper drilling and tapping into pools of crude further than the 3,000-4,000 feet range that was typical previously.

Notably, Yerkes and Durham point out that "in the mid-1950s, drilling activity was concentrated in the western part of the field," whereas before 1930 the emphasized areas were further east. Moreover, "of 7 companies active in the field during 1957, 2 had about 75 percent of the production and did nearly all of the development drilling." While there were always bigger players in the earlier years, as well, including the subsidiary of the Santa Fe Railway, the high percentage of producers by thesee two unnamed companies indicated a consolidation of control of the field by 1960 that was not found decades earlier.

Of special interest is a table that shows that production and reserves of the seven oil fields located within the broader "Eastern Puente Hills Area." These included: Brea-Olinda (founded 1897-99); East Coyote (La Habra/Fullerton), discovered 1911); Richfield (Placentia area, 1919); Yorba Linda (1937); Chino-Soquel (in Soquel Canyon east of Olinda, 1951); Mahala (located a mile northwest of Prado Dam in Riverside County near Corona, 1955); and Esperanza [now Yorba Linda, east of Imperial Highway, 1956).

What is striking is that, of the three oldest fields, only Brea-Olinda had its most productive year after 1922, that year being 1953. In 1957, the field accounted for a little over half (just under 7,000,000 barrels) of the crude in the entire distrct and three times more than Richfield and East Coyote, the next two highest producing fields. Total production up to the end of that year was 257,000,000 barrels, almost double its next highest competitor (Richfield) and accounting historically for over half of the entire output of the area. Proven reserves were estimated at about 80,000,000 barrels, more than three times that of East Coyote and Richfield and, again, well over half of the entire area. The number of producing wells was 632 with Richfield in second at 429. Of course, the field was also much larger, accounting for more than 2,400 acres, roughly double that of Richfield or East Coyote and well over a third of total area acreage. It is also important to note that the Brea-Olinda field's rating of oil gravity was, at the upper hand, far superior to that of any other field in the Eastern Puente Hills region, although its lowest ratings were also the poorest.

In a section titled "Outlook for Future Development," it was pointed out that "production is declining in most of the fields" but that there were some new areas being tested and some production resulting. This was especially pointed out in the Mahala field, which was first opened in 1921 and then lay dormant until the mid-1950s. There was also some mention of "the eastward-trending Diamond Bar fault," but neither proved subsequently to be very substantial. Nowadays, however, there is much talk about returning to old fields, when financially feasible, and introducing deeper and angled drilling to tap into even deeper pools believed to be present.

Finally, there was a great aerial photograph of the area eastward from Olinda including parts of Carbon, Soquel and Telegraph canyons, which is reproduced (with details, as well) above.


Top) Detail showing the intersection of Carbon and Telegraph canyons and eastward;

Second to the Top) Detail showing the area from the Carbon and Telegraph canyon confluence and west to what is now Carbon Canyon Regional Park. Note Carbon [Canyon] Creek winding through the photo;

Second to the Bottom) Detail showing the area that is now the Olinda Ranch subdivision and was a main area of the Olinda oil field;

Bottom) The entire aerial view showing the Olinda field and points eastward.

Source: Geology and Oil Resources of the Eastern Puente Hills Area, Southern California, Geological Survey Professional Paper 420-B, D. L. Durham and R. F. Yerkes (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office,) 1964. Courtesy of the Homestead Museum, City of Industry, California.

Stonefield Tract Planning Commission Hearing Delayed?

At an October public meeting concerning the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for Stonefield, a proposed gated 28-unit executive housng tract slated to go in north of Carbon Canyon Road and east of Fairway Drive in the Chino Hills section of Carbon Canyon, it was stated that there might be a Planning Commission hearing on the project in mid-December. A glance at the calendar of public meetings from the Chino Hills city web site, however, does not show any such meetings nor does the posted information about Stonefield have anything yet.

So, we can assume that there won't be any further action about the project by the Commission until the New Year. Just because, though, the project only has 28 houses is no reason to be unconcerned about its impacts. The DEIR very clearly states that there is no mitigation for this project when it comes to unavoidable, signficant and adverse impacts such as aesthetics. And, as has been stated before enough times (at least here!) the addition of any more traffic, pollution and, in the light of the recent fires, more structures that will need to be evacuated and protected in the event of a major wildfire, is an undesirable outcome for an already overburned canyon area.

A house or two (maybe three!) here and there in the canyon is one thing, but the prospect of 367 homes, the economy providing, someday springing up in Carbon Canyon is only really a pleasing one for developers. Keep your eyes and ears open!

The above photo shows the project site from the top of the S-curve on Carbon Canyon Road looking west, shortly after a fire from a power pole surge burned the area in May 2008. The aesthetics issue is because some of the proposed houses would actually be above the grade of Carbon Canyon Road and the general appearance of the project would conflict with the surroundings. Exchanging the fire-scarred landscape with a restored natural one, imagine what the view would be like with houses clustered here!

Carbon Canyon Road Mudslide Threat

As of this morning, Carbon Canyon Road was closed because of a potential mudslide threat from the heavy rains that came through the area overnight last evening and into the morning hours today. It appears, however, the road is open as I'm hearing traffic pass by as I'm typing this. There is the possibility of more rain up to and, perhaps, including Wednesday, so who knows whether another closure may be on the horizon. Moreover, canyon hillsides can hold a certain amount of water for a period of time before unstable slopes give way. In those areas of the Canyon on the Brea side that are already steep and given to falling rocks and soil during heavy rains, the fire-blackened sections torched in the Triangle Complex fire are that much more vulnerable. The above photo shows one such candidate near the La Vida Mineral Springs site, but on the opposite (southern) side of the road. So far, so good, but there is an entire winter to go yet.

07 December 2008

Photo Gallery and Google Interactive Map Revised

I've made some revisions to the "photo gallery" at the bottom of the blog page, removing some images that have been there a few months and replacing them with 15 images, similar to the one above showing the Carbon Canyon area in Chino Hills (with Oak Tree Estates and Oak Tree Downs at center) on 30 November, that dealt with the Triangle Complex fire and its effects on Carbon Canyon and surrounding areas. I've also revised the Google interactive map of the Canyon that I first created in August and added some elements pertaining to the fires--this was posted a couple of days ago providing a link to the map.

05 December 2008

Carbon Canyon's Greatest Hits #s 3-5: Out of Print!

CalTrans often gets a lot of criticism and much of it, I'm sure, is fully justified, but when it comes to the San Bernardino County side of Carbon Canyon Road (State Highway 142), the folks at District 8 tend to be pretty responsive.

Just a couple of days ago, I stopped to photograph three sites along the Chino Hills portion of the highway in which cars had veered off the road and crashed into two state-owned signs and an old private barbed wire fence.

Today, however, the signs were repaired and back into operation. Let's give credit where it is due--District 8 came through fast on this one!

Not that this negates the fact that there are people who were most likely driving recklessly in each incident (though we can't say for certain) and that irresponsible driving in the Canyon is still prevalent and potentially destructive. Nor should we forget that taxpayers bear the burden of paying for repairing damage on public roads.

But, it's pretty impressive that CalTrans got out and repaired the damage so quickly.

Carbon Canyon Interactive Google Map, Redux #4

I'm reposting this periodically so it appears current for (potentially) greater access and I will make updates to the text boxes as information becomes available. I've set up a Google interactive map for Carbon Canyon that has placemarks (various icons for housing tracts, recreational places, historic sites, and others) that you can access and read information about concerning places of historical interest, notoriety, or distinctiveness within the canyon. If you have corrections and suggestions, please let me know. Here's the link and enjoy: http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?hl=en&ie=UTF8&msa=0&msid=108410844123352552312.00045245ba05b66a7ae66&ll=33.96301,-117.763996&spn=0.029401,0.052872&z=14

04 December 2008

Olinda Oil Field History: United States Geological Survey Bulletin, 1907

Aside from a 1900 book called Petroleum in California by Redpath, which I focused on in an earlier blog and a state report from around the same time, from which I'll be showing some maps soon, a 1907 U. S. Geological Survey (under the auspices of the Department of the Interior) bulletin is one of the earliest detailed sources of information about the Olinda oil field, which was then about a decade old.

This report deals with the Santa Clara River Valley of Ventura County, the old San Fernando field (discovered in the 1860s) in what is now the Santa Clarita area, the Los Angeles field (opened in 1892 by Edward Doheny, the first to drill in Olinda), and what was called, in 1907, the Puente Hills Oil District, embracing Whittier, La Habra, Puente [Rowland Heights], Brea Canyon, and Olinda.

Interestingly, there were some prominent individuals involved in Olinda area oil prospecting who were mentioned in the opening paragraph on the Puente Hills district section, including Fred T. Perris of the Santa Fe Railway, for whom the city in Riverside County was named; Dan Murphy of the Brea Canyon Oil Company, whose namesake is the Murphy Ranch neighborhood of Whittier; and Robert N. Bulla, a prominent Los Angeles businessman and politician Robert N. Bulla, of the Central Oil Company.

It is notable that, almost all of the producing areas in the Puente Hills district were on the south side of those hills, excepting the first discovered area, which was brought into production in 1885 on the northern slopes in what is now Rowland Heights. It is also notable that there was no distinction seen between the Puente Hills and the Chino Hills and that the hill structure was seen as a continuation of the Santa Ana Mountain Range that is south of Santa Ana Canyon.

The main geologic formations include the Puente, as characterized by mainly sandstone and shale, but also clay, conglomerate, sand and gravel, and the Fernando, described as younger and "of gray to yellow quartzose and granitic conglomerate and sandstone" along with shale and clay. Notably the interface of lower shale and the overlying sandstone is identified as being "especially conspicuous along lower Soquel Canyon" with the sandtone being thicker and greater in extent there than further west in the district. Above the lower shale and sandstone overlayment is an upper Puente shale that is earthy, chalks and has a silica content to it and "in the region of the Olinda field it appears to be considerable less than it is believed to be in the western portion of the hills," meaning toward La Habra and Whittier. Moreover, what distinguished Olinda from the three other main fields in the district (Whittier, Puente and Brea Canyon), as showsn in a plate of geologic sections, was its clear division on either side of a main fault between the Puente and Fernando formations, with existing wells falling clearly on the side of the Fernando, with its mixture of quartz and granite conglomerate, sandstone and shale. In fact, throughout the district it was noted that all existing oil deposits were in the Fernando formation with none yet discovered in the Puente, although it was made clear that oil could be found in locations with the latter depending on localized factors.

Relative to a specific description from October 1905 of Olinda, the report notes: The Olinda oil field lies 6 miles northeast of Fullerton, just within the southern edge of the Puente Hills, near the entrance to Soquel Canyon. It is connected with the main line of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway by a branch line from Richfields [the area of southeast Placentia near today's Richfield Avenue], 4 miles south. As developed, the field extends . . . about a mile and a half, the breath [breadth] of the oil-bearing zone varying from one-eighth to one-third of a mile . . . Development has taken place in this valley and on the lower slope of the main mass of the hills to the north [above today's Olinda Ranch subdivision.]

It is also noted that: the Fernando formation constitutes the mass of the ridge south of Telegraph Canyon, the point of the ridge between Telegraph and Soquel Canyons, the hills west of the entrance to Soquel Canyon, and the low bench lands between the latter and Brea Ridge, at the west end of the field. It finally enters Brea Ridge and passes westward to the Brea Canyon field.

Concerning oil wells, the report stated that the oil wells of the Olinda field number over 100, and except for a few, chiefly along the outer ridge, all have been of wonderful productiveness, yields of 700 to 1,000 barrels of oil per day having been reached. The maximum depth attained is 3,000 feet. The wells are ranged along two lines, the northern group following the zone of greatest disturbance, together with the fault, and the southern following the land line which separates the properties of the Santa Fe and Fullerton Consolidated oil companies and having no connection whatever with the structure.

In terms of gravity, the heaviest (lowest quality) were to the west and lightest (highest quality) at the east end: the Olinda field furnishes both high and low grade oil, the high grade . . . coming from wells in the northeastern part of the field yielding from 2 or 3 to 150 barrels per day, and the low grade . . . coming from wells in the west end. Six "gushers" have been developed at Olinda, one of which is said to have flowed at the rate of 20,000 barrels per day for a short time.

Also of note is that in Olinda, the oil was stored in open earthen reservoirs, while inthe remainder of the district metal tanks were used. At the time of writing in the fall of 1905, there were 200,000 barrels stored at Olinda, equal to the capacity of Whittier, but twice that of the Puente field and about 2 1/2 times that of Brea Canyon.

As far as transport, most oil in the district was sent by pipeline controlled mainly by Union Oil Company, but because of the spur line of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe (ATSF) Railroad from Richfields, most oil from Olinda was sent out by rail, although Union Oil did have a four-inch pipeline carrying some oil to Brea Canyon and from there to the regional harbor at San Pedro.

Generally, it was reported that most of the oil in the Puente Hills District was used in southern California, principally for fuel, illumination of lights, gas engine power, lubricants and the oiling of roads before asphalt and concrete paving became the norm and this latter, new use was given some attention in the report as the light sprinkling of oil with a thin overlay of sand provided a "road dressing." There were, however, some exports made to western states, Alaska, and the Hawaiian Islands. Some oil was even sent to Chile. In Alaska, Arizona, and New Mexico, the crude was used as a power source for mining, while in Hawaii it was for refining sugar and powering mechanical irrigation systems for sugar and pineapple plantations. In Washington state, the product was used for fuel and gas production, as well.

Of interest is a chart that showed Puente Hills production climbing rapidly from 217,599 barrels in 1899 to over a half million the following year, nearly doubling again in 1901 and again in 1902. Production reached over 2.5 million barrels in 1903 and tapered off slightly the next year and down to 2 million in 1905. It was noted that "previous to 1899 the oil produced in this district came almost entirely from the Puente field." Although not mentioned, a rare exception was the first Olinda well drilled by Edward Doheny in 1896-97.

It is also relevant to see the price per barrel, which was 80 cents in 1901, dropping significantly as production rose to 60 cents in 1902, 53 in 1903, and 46 in 1905, with a slight rise in 1904 to 57 cents. Again, this is cents per barrel!

Finally, there was a chart of oil companies and number of wells in the district. At Olinda, there was:

Columbia Oil Producing Company with 12 wells;

Fullerton Oil Company with 12;

Fullerton Consolidated, 16;

Graham-Loftus, 18;

Hardison, 1;

Iowa, 1;

Olinda Crude, 5;

Puente Oil Company (leasing from Columbia), 28; and

Santa Fe Railway, 49.

Of these, Hardison, Iowa, and Olinda Crude were no longer operating in late 1905.

The images come from the report and are:

Top) U. S. Geological Survey topographical map detail of the Olinda field and surrounding area, dated 1906.

Middle) Detail from a township and section map showing oil companies and well locations operating at Olinda to Fall 1905.

Bottom) A set of panoramic photographs of the Olinda oil field looking north from the "Olinda Ridge", which is assumed to be the hills just south of Carbon Canyon Regional Park looking from farthest west in the upper left image to farthest east in the lower right, circa 1906.

Source: The Santa Clara Valley, Puente Hills and Los Angeles Oil Districts, Southern California, Bulletin No. 309, George Homans Eldridge and Ralph Arnold (Washington: Government Printing Office,) 1907. Courtesy of the Homestead Museum.

03 December 2008

Olinda Oil Field History: California Oil and Gas Report, 1917

In 1917, the State Oil and Gas Supervisor from the Department of Petroleum and Gas, State Mining Bureau issued his first annual report for the fiscal year of 1 July 1915 through 30 June 1916. A brief summary of the Olinda field was included and states:

The Olinda Field is located in the foothills on the north side of the La Habra Valley, between Soquel Cañon and Brea Cañon. It is now practically continuous with the Brea Cañon Field. There are 1100 acres of proven land with 395 completed wells of which 241 are producing and 100 are abandoned. In the month of June, 1916, there were 12 drilling wells, and production amounted to 220,000 bbls [barrels] per month.

As had been stated in other reports cited on this blog, the majority of this output came from the a geologic strata known as the "Fernando formation" with a relatively low degree of degrees of gravity, while that of the eastern end had a much higher quality of gravity and came from "Lower Puente shale." It was also stated that the field's geologic structure was "complex" given that there were two anticlines and a heavy degree of faulting and folding within the formations. Another notable feature of Olinda, discussed in other reports, but not mentioned thus far in the blog is the near absence of water in the higher, northern elevations and the significant concentrations of H2O down on the south side which enters the "La Habra Valley" continuation.

Elsewhere, a chart showed the existing producers in the field, with Union Oil Company having 30 wells completed; Columbia Oil having 54; Petroleum Development Corp, 71; General Petroleum, 34; Olinda Land Company, 17; West Coast Oil, 61; and Fullerton Oil, 12. Unfortunately, there were no photographic illustrations or good maps of the Olinda area provided with the report, so I'll include a detail from a period map that shows the field and the producing companies with well locations identified, as well.

Source: First Annual Report of the State Oil and Gas Supervisor of California for the Fiscal Year 1915-1916, Bulletin No. 73, R. P. McLaughlin (Sacramento: California State Printing Office,) 1917. Courtesy (as is the map) of the Homestead Museum.

Carbon Canyon Road's Greatest Hits #s 3-5

In themselves, all of these little "accidents" are seemingly minor. After all, what's the big deal about a crushed old barbed wire fence or a pulverized sign? No one got hurt (that we know of) or died, and there was no significant private property loss. As for those street signs, that's a CalTrans problem, isn't it? Well, except for the fact that taxpayers foot the bill for those!

What should be of concern, however, is the fact that, while it is certainly possible that may be a driver's grip on the steering wheel slipped or there was some distraction (glare from sunlight during the day or headlights at night), more than likely these incidents were caused by speed, intoxication or both.

Moreover, what happens, should this be true, if these drivers hit another vehicle instead of an inanimate object? And, as has been said before, what would happen if an innocent person were badly injured or killed?

So, looking at these photographs, all taken this morning, of incidents that have all taken place within the last couple of weeks, nothing looks too amiss on the face of it.

But, in addition to what has been stated above, there is also a growing documentation, at least on this blog, of incidents, just over the last couple of years, that demonstrate that there are too many occurrences of drivers leaving the road too many times. There hasn't been a major accident since the summer that I know of and no one has been killed for awhile.

But, why should benign neglect and a reactive instead of a proactive policing philosophy continue to hold sway? When people know that there is no real police presence, except at those same pre-determined patrol times that happen to occur when most of the accidents don't happen to take place, some of them drive with impunity.

Meaning: they speed, they pass on a road that prohibits all passing through its entire length within the canyon, they drive intoxicated. And, there's no one to really stop them, unless they happen to be on the road under those conditions at the pre-determined patrol times. As has been said here before, there will probably be nothing done, no sense of urgency, until something terrible has already happened.

A little investment, though, could go a long way as an inhibitor and preventative, but, so far, there has been just above no interest in being proactive. So, we wait to react to tragedy and it will come, someday. Meantime, the tallying of the signs and fences and skid marks goes on.

The photographs are: 1) North side of the road just west of Chino Hills Parkway; 2-3) The south side of the road at the upper end of the hairpin curve area; and 4-5) The south side of the road at the lower section of hairpin curve area.

02 December 2008

Canyon Crest Appeal Public Comment Reopened

Well, it looks like it will be at least February before the Brea City Council will make a decision on the appeal to the approval of the 165-unit Canyon Crest housing project for Carbon Canyon (the photo, taken last Sunday, shows the project site at the right of the water towers, which are the white dots about 1/3 of the way from left, as seen from Chino Hills State Park, west of Gilman Peak.)

At tonight's council meeting, public comment was reopened on the hearing due to the recent Triangle Complex fire and its relevance to the Canyon Crest proposal. There was, earlier in the session, a lengthy report by the city manager and fire chief on the fire, part of which started at the Olinda Alpha Landfill very near the western end of the Canyon.

When the comment period started nearly two hours into the meeting, there were considerably fewer speakers than at those held previously by the Planning Commission and the Council. On the other hand, whereas there were some, if tepid, shows of support for the project before, there was no one to look at the bright side of Canyon Crest in light of the fire, except, obviously, for the representative of the developer. In his case, the insistence was that the fire-resistant materials on the homes, the defensible space due to buffering and fire-protection zones, and the idea that staying in the home (aka "sheltering in place") in lieu of evacuating was safe made Canyon Crest perfectly suitable for the location that now looks like, as has often been said, a "moonscape." Evidently, the site looked much the same after the June 1990 fires, as well, so what future Canyon Crest residents could, by his argument, look forward to, every ten or twenty years, is the appealing visual of having their lovely 4-6,000 square foot homes potentially intact while thousands of surrounding acres are utterly charred.

Maybe the Shopoff Group, which is actively looking for a buyer for the property, should advertise on their web site with the tag line "Carbon Canyon Fire Sale!" Can't you imagine the sales brochures for these homes pitching the incredible safety features of these homes that will (likely) survive when all the beautiful open space that is supposed to be an amenity is burned and blackened by wildfires that do occur periodically? Or hyping the concept that, if evacuation was not possible because the only two access points were blocked off, residents could stay inside (that is, "shelter in place") safely as walls of flame and blankets of smoke swirled around them? Wouldn't you rush out to drop $1.4 million or so for a house in an area that has a history of being prone to large wildfires?

As has been stated often enough before, there were homes, despite the Shopoff rep's pitch, in Yorba Linda that were "fire resistant" with adequate fire protection zones that burned anyway. These were on higher elevations where the wind was fiercer, allowing for the heat of highly combustible plant materials to literally smash into the homes and set them alight.

As it turns out, just a few hours before the meeting, Hills for Everyone, one of the leading lights of the opposition movement, submitted a request for a review of the EIR in light of the fires, which, theoretically, could lead to a supplemental document, a new hearing before the Planning Commission and, potentially, a new appeal. What to some could be a prudent and reasonable revisitation of the project given the experiences of the Triangle Complex firestorm could, to others, be seen as an imprudent and unreasonable delay tactic.

Because of the recent delivery of the request, the documents need to be circulated to staff, council, environmental consultants, and the applicant. City staff will have to then make their recommendation to the council, which will, in turn, decide if there is a need to take the process back for supplemental EIR review.

In all likelihood, the next step will be taken at the 20 January 2009 meeting (hmm, isn't there something else kind of important happening that day somewhere in Washington, D. C.?) On top of this, the Council has still only gotten part of the way through its laundry list of issues to address with the applicant and staff, so, as was stated above, it will be February at the earliest before anything definitive will be forthcoming.

Meantime, enjoy the holidays and let's see whether we'll have enough rain to put a dent in the drought and expose the burned areas of the Canyon to mudslides or not enough so that the drought will be significantly worsened and we'll likely experience mandatory rationing come next summer.

30 November 2008

Canyon Crest Appeal Continues This Tuesday, 2 December!

The above photo was taken by me this morning from the North Ridge Trail of Chino Hills State Park and shows the area where the proposed 165- home luxury Canyon Crest development would go between the water tanks at left and the Hill of Hope religious retreat at right. This spectacular vista with the San Gabriel Mountains in the distance would be permanently and irreparably destroyed by this ill-advised project. Therefore . . .
. . .at the regular Brea City Council meeting, this Tuesday, 2 December @ 7:00 p.m. in the Council chambers at the civic center, corner of Birch and Randolph streets, the appeal continues before the Council seeking to overturn the approval of this project by the Planning Commission.

As I've stated before, I'm told that the portion of this meeting dealing with Canyon Crest will allow for public testimony on fire issues in light of the Triangle Complex fires that ravages tens of thousands of acres from Corona to Diamond Bar, including much of Carbon Canyon (and the site of Canyon Crest.)

Should this be the case, this is another opportunity for Brea residents and others to register their opposition (or, conversely, support) for this project with special emphasis on the fire risk. During the previous public testimony period before the council, a number of persons spoke about the devastation wrought in the eastern canyons of Orange County (Silverado, Trabuco, Santiago) and others spoke about other risks associated with building in wildland areas (including mudslides, which are a real factor now that the plant material often holding slopes together has been largely eviscerated throughout the canyon and adjacent areas.)

I've been told, as I also stated previously, that, before the fires, there was said to be a 4-1 or, at best, a 3-2 vote preference in support of the project and against the appeal, although this is hearsay!

Regardlessly, it is essential that those concerned about what this project (whenever it might get built given the growing economic crisis and disastrous state of the housing market) portends, along with 202 other approved or proposed homes on the Chino Hills side, for the future of Carbon Canyon.

If you care about the canyon, please come and lend your support or speak to the council about why this project is poor public policy, not just for the fire risk, which is now on everyone's minds, but because of the issues of traffic, open space habitat, and pollution which still form the justifiable basis for denying this project, as well as more general concerns such as infrastructure management problems, future water supply, and just overcrowding and overdevelopment of our region.

Olinda Oil Field History: United States Geological Survey Bulletin, 1924

In 1924, the United States Geological Survey, a division of the Department of the Interior, issued Bulletin 768, Geology and Oil Resources of the Puente Hills Region, Southern California by Walter A. English, with a section of chemical character of oil by the same Paul Prutzman who authored the California State Mining Bureau bulletin from 1913 covered in my last Olinda oil history post.

In the description of the "Brea Canyon and Olinda Field," the bulletin notes that there were nine companies developing the field, that most had been in control of their properties for some years, and that there was none of the spectacular activity as those in the boom oil zones of other regional fields (such as Huntington Beach, Signal Hill, Santa Fe Springs, and other bigger, more productive areas.)

It was also stated that determining the exact geological formations that characterized the Olinda field was difficult because of the fact that "the wells are old and the records imperfect, and the dips are so steep and the geology so complicatged that the oil zones probably do not in all places conform to the [geological] structure." Moreover, it was observed that "wells can produce from more than one zone, and the divisions are therefore of less importance" than in other fields. These zones had different names to describe their varied qualities, but the point is that Olinda seems to have been an anomaly in not having an obvious pattern of geological conditions for the pooling of oil below ground.

Also of significance is the fact that the lower the wells were located, the more the productivity, although this also meant that the wells had to be dug far deeper in the bottom lands of Carbon Canyon. At the east end of Olinda, in addition, the gravity of the oil, a measure of its quality, was far higher than in other sections of the same field. It is also worth noting that this deeper zone included, at the far western end, the famed Birch well #5 [see my post on the strange career of A. Otis Birch, namesake of the major Brea street], which had, by 1923, produced 5 million barrels of oil and, after a dozen years, was still yielding 200-300 barrels per day.

Finally, English wrote that "the field ends abruptly toward the east at the valley of Olinda Creek [now known as Carbon or Carbon Canyon Creek.] The writer suspects that there is a cross fault down this valley . . ." which would prevent the accumulation of crude.

One of the many plates that came with the bulletin was a map and panoramic photos of the Brea Canyon (second photo) and Olinda (first photo) field areas. Included with this post are some details of the map, with property boundaries for the various oil companies and numbered well sites, and copies of the photo.

Source: Geology and Oil Resources of the Puente Hills Region, Southern California, Walter A. English (Washington: Government Printing Office,) 1926. Courtesy of the Homestead Museum.

Firestorm in Carbon Canyon, Part VIII

This morning I took a five-hour excursion into the hills south of Sleepy Hollow to see the extent of the fire damage in those uninhabited areas. Labor Day I'd gone on a hike in some of these same areas, but, unfortunately, lost dozens of photos I'd taken, which would have made for a striking before and after. There are some images, though, from an early July walk I'd taken in the eastern end of Soquel Canyon that are on the lower part of the blog.

As far as today's trip was concerned, a few things stood out: first, the damage in Chino Hills State Park is as significant as was described in yesterday's Los Angeles Times article, which noted that, not only was 95% of the park burned, but that fires occurring too frequently can inhibit native plant regrowth and encourage invasive, non-native species incursions. At the same time, a good set of winter rains will bring a profusion of new growth come spring, which, obviously, is true throughout the canyon. Second, the fires appear to have largely jumped over the more easterly portions of Soquel Canyon, leaving many relatively untouched areas staying green, although there was some undergrowth burning with lower sections of trees scorched, while the narrower western portions were almost completely burned. Third, circumstance seems to have played as much a part in the sparing of Chino Hills-specific neighborhoods (Sleepy Hollow, Mountain View Estates/Cañon Lane, Western Hills Oaks, and others) as fire management plans and practices, given the patterns of burn more detectable from the hills above these communities between Carbon and Soquel canyons. Finally, the incredible views from these hills on a relatively clear day are powerful arguments for preservation of as much as the surrounding hillland as possible for a whole bunch of reasons.

I'm adding to this post some of about 150 photographs I took today as I walked from Sleepy Hollow to Olinda via Soquel Canyon, up to the North Ridge Trail of the state park and eastward to an access road; then down to Soquel again and eastward to a road leading up to the hills dividing the latter from Carbon Canyon near Vellano and then westward back to Sleepy Hollow. Descriptions from top to bottom:

1: In a small depression along Soquel Canyon Road, there was a small hole (bottom) where you can see the orange glow of embers burning and smoke rising from it. This was the only area where I saw any activity at all of hot spots and it was surprising to see this two weeks after the fire!

2: Looking east at the top of Sleepy Hollow showing the proximity of the fire to homes.

3: From the ridge south of Sleepy Hollow overlooking that neighborhood and, in the distance, Oak Tree Downs and Oak Tree Estates. Further out are the San Gabriel Mountains and snow-capped Mt. San Antonio (Baldy)

4: The west end of Soquel Canyon from the canyon bottom. Burned areas were most of the hillsides to the north (right) and mainly the upper portions of the south (left) indicating the fire jumped across the canyon in this area.

5: Chino Hills State Park looking southeast from the North Ridge Trail.

6: Charred sections of the park near Gilman Peak.

7: Olinda from the park's North Ridge Trail.

8: State park property in Soquel Canyon looking west. In this narrower portion of the canyon, the fire burned most of the hillsides and bottomland.

9: A charred sign on the ground demarcating state park and private property at the west end of Soquel Canyon.

10: More burned areas in the west end of Soquel Canyon.

11: Further east, in the wider section of Soquel Canyon, here was a relatively untouched area at the canyon's bottom.

12: Charred southern slope of the hills between Soquel and Carbon canyons.

13: A sliver of undeveloped land burned in upper Sleepy Hollow just yards from homes.

14: A burned hillside just above homes in upper Sleepy Hollow.