31 January 2009

On the Skids in Carbon Canyon #615: A Passing Fancy, Part Deux

Here's another item related to reckless driving in Carbon Canyon: an hour ago, as I was turning right from Canyon Hills Road onto Carbon Canyon Road westbound, two motorcyclists heading east passed two cars while vehicles were coming in the other direction. Because there is a left turn lane at this location, the cyclists "had enough room" to make this maneuver. EXCEPT that if one of the cars they were passing, say the one at the front which they could not really see, decided to turn left at Canyon Hills, the outcome could have been very different.

Notably, my "Useless Documentation #614" post generated three comments or e-mails very quickly. I'm putting them in this post because it would be something to add to the "archive" just in case there was any hope of convincing the police departments in Brea and/or Chino Hills that there may be a need to do more patrolling in the Canyon. I can imagine the plea of poverty being made because of the economy, but even when times were prosperous (or gave the appearance thereof) there wasn't much of a concern that I could determine, at least not on the Chino Hills side.

At any rate, here are the comments offered today:

laurel said...
It would be wonderful if there was more of a police presence here in the Canyon. An incident happened a few days ago where a truck passed me on the left and a car was coming his way. I slowed down to let him back into the lane but it was very close. Shook me up a bit.

January 31, 2009 8:30 AM

Canyon Native said...
I actually think passing over the double line has become more common since the fire. Does the absence of vegetation growing next to and overshadowing the road give maniacs a false sense of safety? Just about two weeks ago, a person (that is giving the driver the benefit of the doubt) passed me while I was in the left turnout lane ready to turn into Olinda Village. Naturally, a car was coming so the driver had to swerve rapidly back in front of me. Luck only lasts so long!

January 31, 2009 12:09 PM

(An e-mail comment from another Canyon resident)

Interesting about the speeder later last night. I almost got nailed at about 6:45 PM heading westbound. The eastbound lane was still clogged - and on a blind curve - led by a flashing police motorcycle that I couldn't see until they were right on me (because of the curve) was a tow truck. My heart sank and my pulse raced. Thee was barely any room to pull over. I mean did they need to speed up the hill for a tow truck on the wrong side of the road. I would understand if it were an ambulance but a tow truck ?

These anecdotes, along with my own, are probably only representing a few of the incidents that have happened just in the last couple of weeks and are really daily incidents.

As has been already said, if there was a major fatality, involving an innocent person, or a child, maybe there would be a sudden sense of urgency, but what I see now is fundamentally benign neglect. Not that this is an excuse, given that the core responsibility of government is the protection of life (and property.)

Prevention, however, seems to be something of an afterthought as being reactive, rather than proactive, is the order of the day.

30 January 2009

On the Skids in Carbon Canyon #614: A Passing Fancy

Here it was on a Friday night at a quarter to nine in the evening. Motoring along at 50 mph eastbound on Carbon Canyon Road where the road had just narrowed from six lanes to two, I noticed the bright halogen headlights approaching rapidly behind me, but I'd already merged over to the two-lane portion. Undaunted, the silver BMW accelerated and not only passed me, but also the two cars that were just ahead of me.

I'll say that again: at night, on a two-lane road, with a curve approaching, this "person" passed three cars doing at least 60 mph. The two cars ahead of me turned off at Olinda Village, so they, like me, probably cursed or shook our heads for a moment and, perhaps, put it out of their minds, resigned to the fact that this happens far more than it should. Fortunately, for those of us who were passed and for those who were approaching from the east a few seconds later, nothing happened. Just like nothing happened around 8 this morning when a motorcyclists passed several cars in Sleepy Hollow.

But, I'm reminded, whenever I see or experience something like this about an accident that my wife and I came upon about ten years ago at the bottom of the hill leading out of Olinda Village. Three cars were involved, one had gone off the northern side and into a culvert (that's happened more than a few times even in the five years I've lived in the Canyon) and the other two were askew on the road. In a silver truck, there was a person with a bloodied face and in shock. Another person, presumably from this vehicle was stretched out on the road injured. I didn't see if there were any other injuries and, being one of the first cars on the scene, I called 9-1-1, got out a blanket for the person on the ground, and did whatever else I could. Within a few minutes, a police car arrived and we left.

This could have very well happened again tonight, although I'm sure Speed Racer knew exactly what he (I'll go out on a limb here and assume this "person" was a male) was doing.

Anyway, it's easy, when you live in the Canyon, to get jaded and maybe this is, after all, another pointless exercise in useless documentation, but, as I've said before, it may take innocent deaths to raise some awareness (or not) about the recklessness that occurs daily and frequently on Carbon Canyon Road.

Hidden Treasures of Carbon Canyon, Part Two

The Freeway Complex Fire from November burned thousands of acres in and around Carbon Canyon and has yielded some surprises, including the intriguing structure shown in the photo above.

Provided courtesy of Canyon resident Duane Thompson, the image shows a hollowed-out section within a berm and faced with this arched stone entrance and facade. Evidently, this was a playhouse of sorts built for the children of a family that lived on the property many years ago. Another Canyon resident has stated that: "I have been inside of it and it appears it may be what I call a root cellar, used in the 30ties and 40ties to keep food cool."

Being, however, a dedicated conspiracy theorist and fueled by paranoia, mistrust of all forms of authority, dark suspicions, and other assorted symptoms of a healthy cynicism (or not), I've decided to simply cast aside this perfectly reasonable explanation and offer the following secret history for the use of this hidden treasure of Carbon Canyon:

  1. In 509 A.D., the Tongva/Gabrieliño Indians were visited by extraterrestrials who (which?) showed them how to build a sweat lodge out of stones brought from out of the area. But, the space aliens for some reason decided to erase the knowledge from the minds of their subjects before leaving, so the Tongva forgot the technology (the circle at the lower left could well be a mark left by the aliens when they visited.)
  2. 1200+ years later, in 1777, the Franciscan priests who established the California missions found and fortified the structure to conduct secret religious rituals and were ordered by the Vatican to abandon its use when Mexico secularized the missions in 1833.
  3. In an October 1852 visit to the Los Angeles area, bandido Joaquin Murieta found this and used it to hide his loot. After Murieta was captured and killed the next year, the loot was removed by the remnants of his gang.
  4. In 1858, just weeks before his death, rancher Bernardo Yorba, who made bundles of money selling cattle in the gold fields, found the site and buried his hard-earned gold pieces in it.
  5. Bandit Tiburcio Vasquez learned of its existence while on a visit to the Los Angeles area in spring 1874. After robbing a rancher in today's Monterey Park, Vasquez hid his ill-gotten gains here, but was shortly thereafter captued and executed. A member of his posse returned to extract the booty.
  6. After almost fifty years of inactivity, the structure was rediscovered in the 1920s and the era of Prohibition by bootleggers working in the canyon to hide their stills and other contraband there.
  7. For thirty years, the structure was abandoned, although in 1942 overheated citrus growers searched it for suspected Japanese-American loyalists to the Emperor.
  8. In 1954, after Vice-President Nixon remembered playing in the structure as a boy in Yorba Linda, the site was appropriated by the Department of Defense as part of a top-secret military installation, related to the Nike missile silos placed in local hills during the height of the Cold War.
  9. When the missile silos were decommissioned, hippies invading the Canyon in 1967's Summer of Love secreted their marijuana, magic mushrooms, and LSD in the structure.
  10. In 1974, New Age devotees used this as a shrine over what they thought was a magnetic field that they claimed was an opening into a higher realm of consciousness. After a weekend of waiting to be transported to this realm they called Xenex, the group of seven men and five women gave up and went back home to Garden Grove.
  11. Frances Klug, founder of St. Joseph's Hill of Hope compound appropriated the site in 1978 and used it to store the sacred texts she was compiling. After eight years, the texts were moved to a bullet-proof glass shrine at the compound and this structure vacated.
  12. Horace MacKenna, ex-CHP officer and then wealthy strip club owner, who was killed in his Carbon Canyon hilltop home's driveway, used this in 1988 to hide drugs and money from his business, but partner Michael Woods, who ordered the hit on "Big Mac" found the hideout and took everything with him.
  13. In 1993, Orange County Treasurer Robert Citron hid boxes of papers here detailing his use of public funds to invest in repurchase agreements (repos) and floating rate notes. When his scheme was discovered, Citron arrested, and the county thrown into bankruptcy the following year, the papers were seized by the authorities.
  14. In 1995, as Aerojet Corporation began planning to sell some of their explosives testing land in Chino Hills for real estate development, they transported some of their most dangerous chemicals to this structure and then removed them after two years for "proper disposal."
  15. In 2003, ex-Orange County Sheriff/"America's Sheriff" Mike Carona secreted some of the many thousands of dollars given to him by "Assistant Sheriff" Don Haidl in this structure, but had his mistress Debra Hoffman remove it shortly after his arrest. Ms. Hoffman did, however, leave Corona's ethics, integrity, and morals behind.

    29 January 2009

    Arundo and arundo

    Ouch, now there's a painful anagram pun. Anyway . . . a "friend of the blog" has informed me that arundo spraying and treatment on the Orange County side of Carbon Canyon appears to be fairly imminent.

    Because of the unseasonably hot weather (it's strange to think of some silver lining in the fire and the January heat wave!) the new growth of stalks has been greatly accelerated. The development of the stalks is important because spraying would only work once there was enough plant material exposed for the absorption of the chemical to work its way throughout the body of the plant.

    Even with the devastating financial crisis still evolving in our Golden State, it appears that there is the funding for the initial treatment. There are overlapping jurisdictions within the Canyon, moreover, so a greater level of coordination has been required, but the opportunity has never been better.

    So, in areas that are within the purview of CalTrans, that agency will handle the treatment and the same goes for California State Parks. What still needed to be arranged was a very generous offer by the Santa Ana Watershed Authority (SAWA) to fund and coordinate the spraying on the eight parcels of private property that are on the Brea side.

    Key, however, is the ability to move beyond an initial treatment and the funding for that has yet to be located.

    Still, a critical first step looks to be coming quite soon. As more news is made available, further posts will be made.

    21 January 2009

    Carbon Canyon Historical Artifact #11

    Here is yet another postcard from La Vida Mineral Springs, probably from the 1960s, and shows what is called the "Roman baths" in an indoor setting at the resort.

    The image shows two women soaking in the 110+ degree water in two of seven tiled units with steps, a handrail, and valves to control the water. The tiled floor leads to a door in the background, next to which are possibly timers, a clock and a window.

    This is undoubtedly the same facility that was mentioned in the 1985 "Los Angeles Times" article on La Vida that was the subject of a recent post on this blog and which noted that there was one such room for men and another (this one) for women.

    On the reverse is a simple caption reading "Roman Baths at LA VIDA MINERAL SPRINGS / Carbon Canyon / BREA, CALIFORNIA." Dividing the message section from the address area is the information for the publisher, Amescolor of Escondido, from which there are other postcards that have been featured in this blog, including one of the restaurant and another showing the footbridge leading to the motel. As always, double-clicking on the image will provide an enlargement.

    This is item 2008.10.1.1 of the Carbon Canyon Collection.

    20 January 2009

    Neighborhoods of Carbon Canyon, Part V

    After Sleepy Hollow (1922), Mountain View Park/Estates (ca. 1925), Olinda Village (1964) and Western Hills Oaks (ca. 1965), the next neighborhood to be created in Carbon Canyon was Summit Ranch, located just east of the hairpin curve on the Chino Hills side of the Canyon.

    What made this subdivision of 356 homes (probably around 1,100 or 1,200 residents) different than its predecessors is that it came along as a planned tract community, the first phase occurring in the the late 1970s and early 1980s and the second in the 1986-87 boom period.

    The earlier built homes, as part of a subdivision closer to Carbon Canyon Road called "The Ranch" and which were started in 1978, had many of the features that were considered advanced for the era: tri-level floor plans, conversation pits around the fireplace in the living room, and "popcorn" ceilings. While the latter has certainly become more than dated, there is something retro and cool about the conversation pits and the split level feature is also pretty great in terms of creating very defined spaces.

    The later phase from the Eighties, called "Summit Trails" abandoned those features (an update: a visitor pointed out in her comment to this post that the conversation pits and split level layouts did, after all, continue with this phase), but, from what I understand some of the homes in these areas of the development suffered from foundation problems and soil slippage, as the construction of later phases took place in the higher, steeper elevations along the hillsides to the north.

    Still, Summit Ranch, the name that linked the two separate tracts, is a highly desirable community, with twelve floor plans and variations within many of these and a significant attraction being the amenities, including swimming pools, a community clubhouse, tennis courts, parks and horse stables with trails that wind throughout the neighborhood. The cost for these and community landscaping are covered by association fees run $105 per month and there is an HOA and property management firm based in Chino Hills. In addition, there are some lots at the northern end of the tract that have sweeping views of the Chino and Pomona valleys, the San Gabriel Mountains and, looking southward, Carbon Canyon.

    For those who are interested in more information about the community, a local realtor created a website: www.summitranchneighbors.com and there is also a site for the HOA/property management at: www.myhoa.com/carboncanyon.

    17 January 2009

    Carbon Canyon Interactive Google Map, Redux #5

    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

    11 January 2009

    Arundo Treatment in Carbon Canyon Forthcoming?

    At a December public meeting at a Brea City Council meeting concerning the proposed Canyon Crest housing development, a recommendation was made by Claire Schlotterbeck of Hills For Everyone, a major opponent to the project, that the aftermath of November's Freeway Complex Fire, which burned most of the Brea portion of Carbon Canyon, provided a golden opportunity to deal with the highly invasive arundo donax (the above photo from 26 November 2008 shows some burned areas of arundo and a few small sprouts of new growth only a week after the fire.)

    The plant, a perennial reed, seems to have originated in the Mediterranean and spread east through the Middle East to India. It has evidently been in California since the 1820s and was brought for roofing material and erosion control in drainage canals, but it has also proved to be very problematic in crowding out other plans and organisms in environments such as Carbon [Canyon] Creek. Morevoer, it is a highly flammable material (the November fires amply demonstrated this.)

    One of the difficulties in eradicating the plant, in addition to its durability, is its incredible growth rate, deep roots and ease of spreading. It can grow by several inches per day and reach twenty-five feet in height, making it one of the fastest-growing terrestrial plants.

    Interestingly, arundo has been cultivated for many useful purposes, including fishing rods, walking sticks, paper, and a base material for woodwind musical instruments. There has even been talk of its adaptability for biomass and biofuel, because of its extremely rapid growth and yields, at twenty-five tons per acre twice annually, and the fact that it doesn't need to be replanted for some quarter of a century or treated with pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Samoa Pacific, a lumber company in Humboldt County in northwestern California, even considered growing it for paper several years ago.

    The problem in treating arundo for removal is that the plant's prodigal toughness, height, density and rapid spread and growth mean a very rigorous program of treatment over several years is required. Because of the fires, however, most of the above-ground portions of the plant have largely been burnt off, although there is quick regrowth going on. A considerable amount of time and money will be saved if treatment with chemical spraying and physical removal can begin soon.

    At the December meeting, council instructed staff to investigate the arundo removal process and it appears that there has been some action, to the extent that initial spraying could begin in late February when the new growth is extensive enough in height, but not density, so that leaves will absorb the herbicide, which then migrates to the roots. There is about a twenty-five acre area involved, but the area needs to be monitored for five years. At the moment, there needs to be a lead agency to direct the process.

    Even though the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers has overarching jurisdiction over the creek because of its role in the flood control system run by the Corps involving Carbon Canyon Dam, it is unclear whether the agency will assume that lead position.

    So, let's hope that there can be some meaningful, and sustained, progress against this infestation, which has been getting very close to the Chino Hills portions of the creek in recent years.

    La Vida Mineral Springs Resort: 1997

    An earlier post on this blog covered a 1985 Los Angeles Times article about La Vida (at left, in much better days,) which was still, it appeared then, a viable business. Three years later, however, a fire roared through the resort and destroyed a considerable portion of it, basically leaving only the restaurant untouched and in operation.

    An article, though, in the 22 July 1997 issue of the Times by Esther Schrader appeared presenting hope of a renaissance for the resort. The piece began by stating:

    It has been years since the warm waters of La Vida Hot [Mineral] Springs bubbled up unfettered from an underground source. The gracious old hotel where generations of weekend escapees from Los Angeles once lounged is boarded up and crumbling.

    But, it went on, there was a proposal submitted earlier that month by a Japanese businessman, Tadayao Hata, to rebuild La Vida with

    a slightly larger hotel, a new pool to add to the two that sit dry at the springs, graceful wooden bridges across a gurgling creek and a new clientele seeking what the old patrons did--peace, calm and soft warm water.

    In addition to giving some history, which has been covered in several postings on this blog, Schrader also mentioned that

    La Vida's first life as a hot springs resort came to an end with the 1988 fire, which ended then-owner Leo Hayashi's short-lived dream of a renaissance at the dilapidated oasis. Hayashi bought the resort in 1974 and had spoken for years of rebuilding the hotel. But money was tight, and by the time the blaze ripped through the uninsured place, only a few dozen people regularly frequented the pools of La Vida. These days the old bridge across the creek leading to the hotel tilts into the steam choked with undergrowth. Cornstalks [actually, the highly invasive and flammable arundo] are growing high on the banks. The faded hotel is pocked with broken windows and trash.

    Returning to Hata, the article noted that the owner of a large spa in Japan

    plans to pump $3 million to $5 million into rejuvenating the hot springs and cafe. Under his plan, the 12-room hotel would grow slightly, to 15 rooms, with a new parking lot serving it, and the spa would offer massages, facials and other beauty treatments along with the baths.

    Notably, although Hayashi sold the resort to Hata, he was, in 1997, still managing the site and noted that, with the new plan, "we're hoping to attract Japanese tourists, you know." Hayashi went on to suggest that, though "the bar is kind of a fun place to go now if you want something a little different, a little campy," the new goal was to develop a "really nice resort for the so-called baby boomers." Moreover, though the motorcycle enthusiasts who largely patronized the restaurant were considered welcomed under the new plan, Brea's community development director was quoted as saying "you got to put a helmet on to go there these days. I don't know if helmets and hot springs are the best combination." Hayashi's comment that the goal was to have a "nice" place for boomers to go to also seemed in direct contrast to the clientele then using the cafe.

    Anyway, although Brea was supportive of the Hata plans and the community development director stated "we'd like to see the place come back. It's part of Brea history," he also acknowledged that "they'd need to do an awful lot of work to bring it back."

    When Hayashi sold to Hata in the late 1980s, the real estate bubble in southern California was just about to burst and, in 1997 when this article appeared, there was only the slightest hint of a recovery before a new recession hit in 2001. About this time, the cafe closed and was razed, leading to a continuing deterioration of the site, which was almost unrecognizable as anything but pure abandoned property. Even when the real estate market "recovered", what followed was another bubble, built almost exclusively on skyrocketing equity artifically supported by "creative" mortgages. For a few years before the Triangle Complex Fire in November, a banner hung precariously on the misshapen chain link fence that lined Carbon Canyon Road advertising the place for sale.

    Ironically, a biker interviewed for the article noted that the appeal of La Vida was "for the solitude . . . a lot of us come here just for that reason, to get away from too many people. It's always been a really great place for people to get away from city life." Actually, after the mid-1980s, that was no longer nearly as true as it once was. The massive building boom in the Inland Empire, the use of Carbon Canyon Road as an alternate route to the 60 and 91 Freeways for westbound commuters, and, yes, the future threat of 367 new homes in the Canyon, make La Vida increasingly less remote. It should be added that the groundshaking, window rattling roar of many motorcyclists (and, to be fair, plenty of cars and trucks) rumbling and roaring through the Canyon renders that comment about "solitude" patently absurd a great deal of the time!

    At any rate, it is really hard to imagine what a developer would do with La Vida. Could the site be redeveloped as a restaurant? Would enough people go there to make it profitable? Could a revived spa really work given just how much of an investment it would take to build almost completely from scratch? Would worsening traffic conditions and infrastructure demands preclude commercial uses of the site? Moreover, a rezoning to residential use would seem to be infeasible.

    One could, however, easily imagine the site as a park. A cleaned up site could have picnic tables, walking trails, a new bridge across a cleaned-up Carbon [Canyon] Creek, and other passive-use amenities. Moreover, since the community development director in 1997 noted that the site was "a part of Brea history," La Vida could be designated a city historic landmark and interpretive signs could be installed discussing the history of the site from native American uses of the springs to the modern resort. Security, however, would be a problem, especially against graffiti and vandalism, and it would not be hard to imagine the site as a haven for drug dealing and use and other illicit activities without a regular police presence. Finally, even in its unkempt and degraded state, the owner would obviously want "top dollar" for the site and it is difficult to see Brea having the interest, ability, or will to buy the property. As it is, in this economy, nothing will happen there for some time to come.

    Still, it'd be nice to think that there would be a viable future for the site, other than as a weed-choked relic.

    The above photo is of La Vida, ca. 1960s, and is from the Carbon Canyon Collection.

    Winter in Carbon Canyon, Part Two

    A couple of weeks ago, it looked and felt like winter here in Carbon Canyon. Temperatures were in the 50s and we'd had a few desperately-needed inches of rain from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Now, however, winter has left us and summer has shown up. In January! A high pressure system is, in the parlance of the meteorologist, "parked" over our region. Consequently, temperatures are now in the low 80s and there hasn't been rain for almost three weeks (and even the last big storm of three to four inches on Christmas Day failed to materialize). Tomorrow is supposed to be the hottest day of the week, with readings close to 85 degrees. In January! Yesterday, I had the surreal experience of going to a "snow day" at one of our Chino Hills parks, complete with a fenced-in play area and two sledding runs. Having artificial snow in Chino Hills is strange enough, but with the thermometer registering in the upper 70s? In January! Now, this is a blog about Carbon Canyon and not carbon dioxide, but wherever one stands on the issue of climate change, an 85-degree day in January might be cause for us to sweat for multiple reasons.

    08 January 2009

    A New Twist on Canyon Crest!

    I've been informed that the Brea City Council will not be deliberating on the proposed Canyon Crest housing tract at their 20 January meeting, which was supposed to address the issue of whether to revise the Environmental Impact Report in light (oops) of the effects of November's Freeway Complex Fire, which tore through the site and virtually the entirety of the Brea side of Carbon Canyon.

    The reason is that the city has asked The Shopoff Group, the project developer for $30,000 with which to make this investigation, the issue arising at a December council meeting at which Hills for Everyone, one of the main opponents of Canyon Crest for over a decade, submitted a lengthy letter and supporting documentation and comments requesting the reevaluation. This money has not, it seems, be delivered.

    Moreover, it appears that The Shopoff Group already owes the city an additional $75,000, which has gone unpaid for a period of time, to the extent that the old "the check is in the mail" line has started, evidently, to wear a little thin.

    Now, who knows for sure what all of this means. It is possible that Shopoff will come up with the $105,000 and the process will continue. Then again, given the fact that Shopoff has been trying to sell the property for quite some time, has had a construction partner that has gone bankrupt, and is facing a rapidly worsening real estate market and general economy, maybe the company won't be able to come up with the cash.

    If this latter scenario were to be the case, the project, as it is now constituted with Shopoff as developer, would be terminated.

    Someday, however, there will be a buyer for this land--the crux for Shopoff has, apparently, always been that the "golden ticket" to enhancing the value of the land and maximizing profit is the approval of the project by the city and the certification of that tract map, which is essentially valid forever.

    The point is: let's just see what transpires over the next few weeks, see if Shopoff comes up with the $105K, and then see what the city does from there.

    Stay tuned!

    07 January 2009

    Party House Robbery

    Party House Liquor, a long-time business in Sleepy Hollow and one of only two retail establishments in Carbon Canyon, was robbed early in the morning on New Year's Day.

    The break-in occurred about 1:30 a.m. when a truck, which had been parked off to one side of the property, stopped in front of the door. Four persons, heavily bundled up, smashed through the front door and grabbed liquor and cigarettes. Not satisfied, the thieves returned about twenty minutes later for another go. Although the incident was captured by an on-site camera, it does not appear that there was any way to identify the perpetrators or the vehicle.

    Obviously, it is not known if the four were locals or outsiders, but in any case it's an unfortunate loss for the owner, who is already struggling with the economy and, in a world riddled with 7-11s and AM/PMs, deserves the support of those who live in and travel through the Canyon. Now, he needs our backing even more.

    It would also probably help if there were more regular overnight patrols, for this and other reasons, including the propensity of some drivers to race recklessly through the Canyon, but I doubt that an "isolated" (in more ways than one) incident like this will provoke a change in well-established policy.

    Meantime, I hope that Kenny, the owner of the store, is able to keep his business going. If you're a resident, commuter or regular visitor, please patronize Party House Liquor and support small business.

    04 January 2009

    La Vida Mineral Springs in 1985

    In the 3 February 1985 Orange County edition of the Los Angeles Times, staff writer Shearlean Duke offered a description of the two remaining mineral spring resorts operating inthe county. One was the San Juan Hot Springs in San Juan Capistrano and the other was La Vida Mineral Springs here in good ol' Carbon Canyon. The portion of the article devoted to La Vida noted that
    "La Vida, set in the rustic and picturesque Carbon Canyon, about six miles from the Orange Freeway, is owned by two Japanese businessmen, Ichiro Ishikawa, who lives in Japan, and Leo Hayashi, who operates the spa with his wife, June.

    La Vida Mineral Springs was founded in 1924 by William Newton Miller, but as Orange County historian Jim Sleeper pointed out, the presence of the springs in Carbon Canyon was known as far back as Indian Times.

    Hayashi and Ishikawa bought La Vida 11 years ago.

    Today the springs continue to flow at 40 gallons a minute, much as they did in 1900, according to Sleeper . . .

    Daily output runs about 25,000 gallons, Sleeper noted. . .

    La Vida's two large outdoor pools are closed while its 16 indoor baths continue to do a brisk business.

    A soak, a session in the sauna and a blanket wrap, followed by a shower, go for $7.50 at La Vida. A bath and a shiatsu (Japanese-style) massage are $26.50, and for $38 they'll even throw in a facial. La Vida also operated an adjoining 14-room motel (There is also a restaurant, currently leased and operated independently) . . .

    La Vida has an efficient, health-club atmosphere with separate facilities for men and women and a staff of 15 . . .

    Clients disrobe before entering the indoor, tiled baths, which are cleaned after each use. At La Vida, women are ushered into baths on the left side of the building, and the men use facilities on the right. There are private dressing areas with towels, and sheets to wear from massagfe. (During the summer, when the outdoor pools are open, all customers wear swimsuits in the pools.)

    Many clients at La Vida visit the spa to relieve health problems, according to manager Bob Shibata. [What follows are testimonials from three regular visitors who went to La Vida for back problems.]

    In recent years, owners June and Leo Hayasho say they have noticed that 'more and more young people without disabilities are coming.' [June Hayashi added that the average age of users was 30-40, not older people, and that 99% of La Vida visitors were Americans not of Japanese descent. Elaborating, she noted that Japanese-style bathhouses are unisex, which would not work in Brea.]"

    The article concluded by noting that the shiatsu technique of massage was introduced by the Hayashis when the bought the property in 1974. Finally, hours of operation were 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except for Thursday and Friday when closing time was 7 p.m.

    There was also a nice photo of the Hayashis standing on the old wooden footbridge that led from the motel on the east end of the property across Carbon [Canyon] Creek toward the bathhouse at the west end, below the water tanks. You can see images of the bridge, motel, bathhouse and restaurant from old postcards in earlier posts about La Vida on this blog.

    A sidelight to this article: Leo Hayashi remains a landowner in Carbon Canyon and has been involved in a number of controversies regarding changing land use policies and designations as the Carbon Canyon Specific Plan has changed over the years. In an 30 October 2006 profile in the national conservative publication The Weekly Standard, writers Shikha Dalmia and Leonard Gilroy's article "Taking 'Takings' to the Voters" began their essay with: "the life story of Leo Hayashi, 75, is the stuff of Hollywood epics. Arriving penniless on these shores at age 17, a refugee from war-ravaged Japan via a Siberian concentration camp, he painstakingly scaled the heights of the American dream. He put himself through college, started a one-man real estate company, and raised a family. Then the trouble began."

    The article went on to describe how Hayashi's 300-acre property in Carbon Canyon bought in the mid-1970s (when La Vida was purchased) "as a nest egg" stood to be only open to the development of 15 houses, "instead of the 400 permitted when he bought the land" if a new specific plan [which was adopted] were passed.

    In the election, which came the week after the article was published, California voters were to decide on Proposition 90, an initiative to prevent zoning and regulatory power (a.k.a. eminent domain) from diminishing the ability of private property owners from developing their property. Prop 90 narrowly failed by a 52.5% to 47.5% margin.

    Someday, there may be a post on this issue of private property rights juxtaposed with planning issues that limit development in places like Carbon Canyon, because this continues to remain a timely, relevant, and essential issue for the canyon.

    01 January 2009

    Winter in Carbon Canyon (and some New Year's Thoughts)

    From a little before Thanksgiving until about a week ago, we in Carbon Canyon were experiencing about a cold and wet early winter. Temperatures were generally in the 50s during the day, down below freezing a few times at night and rarely climbing above 40, and we've had between 4 and 5 inches of rain, more than the "normal" level of rainfall for this time of year. A view of the snow-capped San Gabriel Mountains over a clear inland basin from the hairpin turns near Carriage Hills adds a nice backdrop to these seasonal conditions. The photo above at left is a view of the San Gabriels from Sleepy Hollow and the one at right is of a Sleepy Hollow home covered with morning frost, both taken in mid-December.

    There is, however, a little dilemma in that a good dose of rainfall, combined with heavy snowpack in the Sierras, means a dent will be put into the drought that has lessened reservoir capacity severely over the last couple of years.

    The threat of heavy winter rains, though, also means a stronger likelihood of mudslides in the steep canyon walls charred by the Freeway Complex fires that roared through the canyon in mid-November.

    On the other hand, another subpar year of precipitation will continue the severity of the drought and could very well lead to water rationing in 2009. Neither of these is an enviable outcome for any of us who live here, but the latter is of larger concern in context. In the meantime, there is no forecast for rain over the next several days and we'll just have to wait it out and see.

    At any rate, there is green growth returning to the burned areas and let's hope the City of Brea is able to secure funding to try to significantly reduce, if not completely remove, the insidious invasion of arundo that has steadily and relentlessly marched through the Orange County side of the canyon over the course of the last couple of decades.

    Another steady and relentless threat (and one that is about as hard to fight as arundo) is continued development. The economy has certainly put a complete halt to any thoughts of actual construction for the forseeable future, BUT the plans continue to secure those all-important tract maps, which are essentially good forever, for housing developments that will have an enormous impact on the canyon.

    As has been amply covered in this blog, the Canyon Crest development on the Brea side (165 houses on large lots) poses the single biggest threat. The Triangle Complex fire led to an unplanned public meeting and an equally unplanned request by opponents to reconsider the Environmental Impact Report with regard to public safety issues engendered by fires such as the November blaze. As matters stand now, the next consideration of the project will come at the 20 January city council meeting. This will at 7 p.m. at the council chambers in the civic center at the southeast corner of Birch and Randolph streets.

    Meantime, there is Pine Valley Estates, a 98-unit development, north of the Western Hills golf course in Chino Hills that is only a fraction completed at the moment, so, while the wait-and-see process continues, the scraped hillsides stand testament to the power of the faltering economy on new housing construction.

    A little to the west, the 76-unit Canyon Hills project site, with homes slated to go in between Sleepy Hollow and Oak Tree Downs in Chino Hills has changed owners, but this project has been approved so it appears that, whenever economic feasibility warrants, this development will be pursued.

    Finally, there is Stonefield, comprising 28 units, east of the golf course and in a pocket of land beneath the hairpin turn at the highest elevation reached by Carbon Canyon Road in Chino Hills. The Planning Commission is due to make its examination of the Draft Environmental Impact Report and consider the project's merits any time now.

    This means that there could potentially be 367 houses, well over 1,000 persons, and nearly 4,000 daily car trips (added to an already overburdened two-lane state highway not intended or built to accomodate the load) that, if built, will forever change the and, in fact, significantly erode the viability, attraction, and uniqueness of the canyon.

    It is at times like this, when economic woes override almost any other consideration, that housing projects can get approved when government officials know there is no opposition.

    Resolutions aside, let's hope that 2009 brings us no innocent victims of the reckless drivers who treat Carbon Canyon Road as a personal race course (and are about as hard to fight as arundo and housing tracts); the water we need to avoid rationing, even if it means mud slides in the canyon; and the resistance we need to avoid approving any more housing projects that will make our canyon less livable.