09 March 2009

Carbon Canyon Development History: A 1963 Example

Ah, the good old days! When massive housing developments went unchallenged by bothersome wacko, tree-hugging, socialist environmentalists, when city and county fathers recognized and appreciated the freedom in the free market, and when, in fact, about the only way that building projects were halted was because the conditions of that market weren't right.

Such was most likely the case in 1963 when the Los Angeles Times reported on a 600-acre development proposed in what is now the Chino Hills portion of Carbon Canyon by the Aspen Land Company.

Back then, the area in question was under San Bernardino County's jurisdiction, was in an almost completely undeveloped region (excepting the 1920s subdivisions of Sleepy Hollow and Mountain View Estates to the west) and was almost certainly free from any opposition to the plans of Aspen, the President of which, Ray Watt, had hired a project director, Fred Kayne, for the development.

As expressed in the paper, "the master plan will call for approximately 600 ranch-type homes on half-acre to three-acre sites, garden apartments, and a village shopping center at the project's entrance across Carbon Canyon Rd. from the new Western Hills Golf and Country Club."

Moreover, the article continued, "residence owners in the community also will own a proportionate share of the company's bridle trails, central clubhouse which will be complete with tack room, riding rings and stables, and two neighborhood recreation areas."

Because the project site was described as being immediately across from Western Hills, it appears that this may have been a much larger precursor to what became Western Hills Oaks, a subdivision that has homes dating to at least 1966.

The lot sizes certainly fit the description, although "ranch-type homes" could mean just about anything. The garden apartments, shopping center, bridle trails, clubhouse, and "recreation areas" never happened and there are far fewer than 600 houses. Moreover, Western Hills Oaks is much smaller than 600 acres, so one wonders if the land to the south that is now encompassed within the Vellano subdivision was included or if the area that is today's Carriage Hills neighborhood was to be part of the massive development.

Given what took place in later projects (Summit Ranch and Carriage Hills, in particular) and what is being proposed for the future (Canyon Crest, Stonefield, Canyon Hills, Pine Valley Estates--totaling about 360 homes), it's good that this project went mostly unfulfilled.

Almost a half-century ago, Carbon Canyon seemed a world away from the suburban development then under full sway in Orange County and the eastern San Gabriel Valley. These days, it's facing the intense pressures that are entailed in the agression of urban sprawl, even if the miserable state of the economy has eased matters. For now.

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