29 April 2009

Carbon Canyon Chronicle Photo Album Link Up

Over 300 photographs that have been featured on this blog over the last ten months are now available for viewing on a Picasa webpage photo album.

Simply head on over to the links column on the CCC's main page, click the link to the album and then you can click on individual photos or view a slide show.

Images include historic photos and maps, as well as my own images of the canyon, including scenes of its natural beauty, documentation of various traffic accidents and incidents, a series of photos of the Freeway Complex Fire from last November and its aftereffects, and historic spots within the Canyon.

Hopefully, this album will make a nice complement to the Google interactive map of the Canyon that was set up last summer and which is also available via a link at the right side of the main blog page.

28 April 2009

Another Carbon Canyon Area Map from the 1920s

This map, from the late 1920s, is an interesting contrast to the 1917 map profiled last week. For example, the La Vida Mineral Springs had opened within the canyon. Curiously, it seems to show three structures there, including two on the south side of the road, whereas all other indications have shown that the resort was entirely on the north side--though, this could have been a mistake by the mapmakers.

It is also interesting to see that Olinda Boulevard was changed to Valencia Avenue, which still (and would for years to come) curved into Carbon Canyon Road--with a portion of that curved section still visible behind a fenced oil property just east of the current roadbed of Valencia Avenue. Meanwhile, what is now Birch Avenue remained Brea-Olinda Boulevard.

Note, too, how the Olinda Oil Field is seen as a continuation west from the original 1890s location at the mouth of Carbon Canyon and extending westward to Brea Canyon, which road, then called Pomona Avenue, is at the upper left. Incidentally, the "Coyote Field" refers to the oil fields in Fullerton from where State College Boulevard and Bastanchury Road meet and heading west. In recent years, a golf course and homes have gone in at that location.

Also noteworthy is the presence of a "Unoco Golf Course", referring to the Union Oil Company's private course, shown as being north of today's Lambert Road. It seems that more oil exploration in this section at what is now the 57 Freeway led most likely to the dismantling of the course. My understanding is that the Birch Hills Golf Course was later put onto Union Oil land, which is why the Union Plaza shopping center is called by that name just south of the course and north of Imperial Highway. Remember, too, that, until just a few years ago the very modernistic architecture of the Unocal company headquarters was at the northeast corner of Imperial Highway and Valencia Avenue. All of this has its roots in the company's pioneering ventures at the Olinda oil field.

Other items of note that were on the previous map: the Pacific Electric Railway streetcar tracks and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe spur railroad line. It is interesting to see long-gone place names that were part of these transportation lines, like Loftus (likely named for the Graham-Loftus Oil Company, another early player at Olinda), Daum, and Carlton, which almost seems like its own little town between Yorba Linda and Brea.

Old maps are always interesting in showing us what has remained consistent over time and what has gone by the wayside or been altered through the years. Soon, a post will detail a Auto Club map of Carbon and Brea canyons, also for the 1920s.

27 April 2009

Party House Liquor Ownership Change

One of only two retail businesses (the other being the excellent Sol de Mexico restaurant in Olinda Village) in Carbon Canyon, Party House Liquor, an institution for several decades in Sleepy Hollow, has undergone a change in ownership. The previous owner, Kenny, could only keep the business going for about two years or maybe less and has now sold the store to Joe and his wife, a couple that says that they plan on having a grand opening under their tenure very soon.

It's hard enough these days to run any small business, but doubly (triply, quadruply?) harder for one that has to compete with the 7-11s and gas station markets (like AM/PM) with their omnipresence, corporate power, and lower prices (though customer service usually suffers, as a result), which can be said for almost any other individually or family-owned enterprise.

I've been a regular customer at Party House and will continue to do so, hoping that patronizing small businesses like it will help a little, but Joe and his wife will need all the help they can get.

So, if you're a resident or a passer-by, stop in and give the place some patronage so we can stem the tide of massive corporate businesses that continue to drive out the "mom and pop" establishments.

23 April 2009

Chino Hills State Park Visitor Center Reboot?

At a meeting this afternoon, I learned that the freeze on all bond-funded projects imposed by state government back in December has been lifted. This came about because State Treasurer Bill Lockyer has been able to sell $6.85 billion of general obligation bonds.

Here is the text of a press release from the governor's office:

Following the sale of $6.85 billion in bonds, including $5.2 billion in Recovery Act-backed bonds, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced today more than 5,000 projects will be restarted in California, reviving economic activity and creating jobs. Restarted projects include everything from transportation to school construction to environmental and park projects and many more. These projects had been on hold since December 2008. California is the first state in the nation to sell Build America Bonds, taking advantage of this new opportunity provided by the federal Recovery Act.

“California is restarting thousands of critical infrastructure projects that have been frozen because of tight credit markets and the state’s cash crisis,” Governor Schwarzenegger said. “And that, in turn, means that we can retain jobs, create jobs, and give California’s economy an additional boost at a time when it needs it the most.”

“I want to especially commend State Treasurer Lockyer and his staff for executing a successful sale of bonds. Their hard work will now be translated into more jobs and a stronger economy.”

Specifically, Gov. Schwarzenegger said that California will now have the necessary funding to restart all general obligation bond funded projects that had been frozen. The funding will be allocated as follows:
  • $1.7 billion for the state’s taxable general obligation bonds to fund stem cell research and stem cell related projects, various housing programs, and additional needs for High Speed Rail.
  • $5.2 billion from newly authorized Build America Bonds will provide funding to restart the balance of all state projects that had either been stopped and for those that have been proceeding with non-state funding. This includes projects for California State University, the University of California, California Community Colleges, Caltrans and the Department of Water Resources. In addition, this bond sale will fund grants that had been frozen, including school construction projects, environmental and park projects, grant programs to support clean air (engine retrofits and clean port projects), wastewater treatment projects, improvements to drinking water infrastructure, children’s hospitals, public safety grants and local library grant projects. Finally, all outstanding bills not previously funded will be paid.

A complete list of the more than 5,000 projects will be available shortly at www.dof.ca.gov.

Created by the federal stimulus legislation enacted in February, Build America Bonds are a new financing tool for state and local governments, designed to assist state and local governments in financing capital projects at lower borrowing costs and to stimulate the economy and create jobs. The program allows issuers to either sell taxable bonds and receive a direct payment from the U.S. government equivalent to 35 percent of the interest costs on the bonds, or sell taxable bonds that offer purchasers a tax credit. The state plans to issue the bonds and receive the direct reimbursement for repayment of the interest costs.

As explained on the Market Watch website:

California sold $6.85 billion in general obligation bonds Wednesday, including $5.23 billion in federally subsidized Build America Bonds, its state treasurer's office said Wednesday. The bond sale was expanded from original plans of about $3 billion, and the Build America portion is the largest under that federal program to date. All of the bonds in the deal were taxable, a change from most municipal issues. The U.S. is subsidizing interest payments on the Build America Bonds to help states sell taxable infrastructure bonds to a different group of investors without paying more interest. With the subsidy, the Build America Bonds carry a rate of 4.83%. All are in 25-year and 30-year maturities.

Meantime, the Sacramento Business Journal reported today:

After five months in limbo, more than 5,000 California infrastructure projects that have been on hold since December, including about $1 billion worth in the Sacramento area, will be restarted after the state successfully raised enough bond capital to begin funding these projects again, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced Wednesday.

The projects include school and road construction, environmental and park projects and a wide range of others funded through bonds. The state’s bonding ability had been severely impacted by the economy and the state’s budget impasse that ended in February.

California became the first state to authorize “Build America Bonds” a new federal program, as a way to get funding rolling again. About 300 projects in the four-county Sacramento region that had expected to receive $1.25 billion in state funding had been halted in December.

What this appears to imply is that the visitor center for Chino Hills State Park, which was started last year on the south side of Carbon Canyon Road just east of Carbon Canyon Regional Park, may be jumpstarted.

The property was cleared and graded and the concrete foundations, walls and steel girder placement was done before the freeze. Since then, the chain link fence that surrounds the property has been largely dismantled and knocked over and weeds are sprouting quickly.

So, it may well be that work will be resuming in the very near future.

CalTrans Completes Carbon Canyon Cleanup

CalTrans District 12 from Orange County was out en masse today working on Carbon Canyon Road (State Highway 142) from the San Bernardino County line out to Olinda Village with all kinds of equipment and personnel to remove the absorbent rolls (official name, anyone?) laid out back in November after the Freeway Complex Fires were followed by a threat of heavy rain.

It turned out that the mudslides did not materialize because of substandard rainfall for a third straight year and, now that the rainy season is, for all intents and purposes, over, it was time to remove the material.

Still, quite a bit of heavy equipment was brought out and dirt and debris, most of it presumably from the last big winter storm season of 2004-05, was cleared off the shoulders, making for quite an improvement on the road.

As an added bonus, the trash that was unceremoniously dumped on the side of the highway on the old La Vida Mineral Springs property was gone this morning, likely thanks to the CalTrans crew.

22 April 2009

Earth Day and Carbon Canyon

Today was the fortieth iteration (now there's a word you don't see every day) of Earth Day and each one seems, to some of us at any rate, to take on more urgency. In 1970, Carbon Canyon was a place still on the edge of suburbia and the environmental movement was on the fringes of American society. Four decades later, the Canyon is not only hemmed in by suburbia but it's vulnerable to, in many ways, being absorbed within it and environmentalism is more mainstream than ever; in fact, the deniers of our environmental challenges are now seen as more on the fringe, as well.

Already mentioned in this blog and covered in more detail in this week's Chino Hills Champion is the Metropolitan Water District's decision to impose mandatory water reductions (the first since 1991) of 10%, coupled with a nearly 9% increase in water rates--a direct result of declining reservoir and dam levels and a result (except for dissenters) of global climate change that is almost certainly (except for dissenters) significantly human caused. Now, of course, part of the water issue is federal mandates for environmental protections of Sacramento Delta areas that provide a large portion of exported water to southern California (here some can blame the tree-huggers and eco-nuts), but the fact is that snowpack levels and rainfall have been down in the last few years. As the president of the board of the Inland Empire Utilities Agency put it, "we don't know if we are very near the end of this drought or if this is just year three of a 15-year dry period."

NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies has noted that the eight warmest years recorded on the planet have occurred since 1998 and all fourteen of the hottest years have been since 1990.

Whether this is all or mostly "natural" or "human-caused" doesn't change the fact that there is an obvious overall warming of the planet (even if some places are colder, which leads a few to insist that global "warming" is a hoax, as if every place on earth had to be hotter for the overall temperature to increase.) Which, in turn, means that there are consequences.

Even Governor Palin, who clearly expressed doubt about global climate change as a primarily human-caused phenomenon during the recent presidential campaign is now saying that she can see (as clearly as she could Russia) that the effects of climate change are manifest in Alaska. As they have been with the recent flooding in North Dakota. As they have been with the incredible drought conditions in Australia, heavily contributing to the very deadly wildfires there earlier this year. As they have been with thinning ice floes ad rising water levels in the polar regions that are accelerating faster than previously thought. As they have been with the rising intensity of tropical storms (a scientist in the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory at the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration has stated that "it is likely that greenhouse warming will cause hurricanes in the coming century to be more intense on average and have higher rainfall rates than present-day hurricanes.")

And, as they have when we look at the Freeway Complex fires that ravaged Carbon Canyon, especially its Orange County/Brea portion, last November with the lethal combination of Santa Ana winds, hot temperatures, low humidity, drought, high fuel content in plant materials and so on. Our Canyon is vulnerable to many manifestations of climate change including continued fires, a change in the plant palate due to drought, and many others.

Which is why another Champion article from this week has relevance: "November fire intervened in plans for Canyon Crest." Now, not only did all 368 acres of the project area burn in November, which, in all fairness, would not happen if there was a landscaped housing project there, but the recent water restrictions, which might lead to "indefinite" measures if we are indeed in a long drought cycle, would have great bearing on a project that would generate 4-6 times the water use of an average home because of house and lot sizes. The particulate matter pollution generated from a year or more of grading would add to an already excessive level of that type of pollution, in which the Los Angeles Region continues to lead the nation (and, by lead, I don't mean in a good way!) The increased traffic, already at an F rating on an overburdened highway not built for the level of congestion that it now holds, would be another environmental black mark.

At any rate, Canyon Crest developer The Shopoff Group, which has been listing the property as for sale on its web site for a long time, has asked for a continuance on until 16 June concerning recent demands by the City of Brea that a new biological analysis in the wake of the fire be paid for by Shopoff. This analysis, which would cost in the tens of thousands of dollars, has not been paid for because "the applicant is working with its investors to come up with the funding." Yet, the article states, "given the current economic climate, the investors are a little reluctant to free up funds." The obvious question is: given how many millions of dollars have already been staked on this project, why would a few thousands of dollars be an issue? Whatever the answer to that (perhaps rhetorical) question, the 21 April Brea City Council meeting will include a recommendation to grant the continuance and then, as Brea's city planner succinctly states: "In the meantime, we'll wait."

On that note, back to Earth Day, because we can't wait to take the steps that need to be taken to address the enormous environmental issues that confront us. Considering the last forty years since Earth Day was introduced, we've made baby steps when long strides have been needed. We still can't get updated CAFE (fuel efficiency) standards for passenger vehicles. We still insist that the single-passenger gas-powered vehicle is a birthright. We still insist that swimming pools, golf courses, and high water need plants in a semi-arid desert is somehow sustainable. We still insist on generating as much pollution as China with four times fewer people. And, sooner than later, a paradigm shift will be an imperative. We've lived this way for about fifty years running and have made minor improvements, even then grudgingly by attacking environmentalists as pro-socialst, anti-American trouble makers before all-too-slowly making those small changes that the deniers later trumpet as progress.

As it is, environmental change on a place like Carbon Canyon, viewed as a microcosm of the wider world out there, is going to be challenging enough moving forward. To layer direct human impacts, like more housing, on top of that with water reductions, traffic increases, fire threats and other issues looming just makes the urgency that much greater.

And, on this Earth Day and any other looking ahead, one has to wonder about whether the commitment and the resolve is there to address the hard questions that face us. I, for one, would like to hope so, especially as I talk to my 7-year and 4-year old sons about Earth Day, which they talk about in school and scarcely understand. The questions we face are so vital for them more than for me, because the work of their generation will be so much harder in the absence of the action from ours.

21 April 2009

Carbon Canyon and Vicinity From a 1917 Map

Here is a great detail from a 1917 roadmap showing the area in around the Orange County portion of Carbon Canyon, meaning the map did not include beyond what you see here. Note how differently the roads were than today, ninety years later, in terms of extent and naming.

For example, Valencia Avenue was then named Olinda Boulevard and the road curved into Carbon Canyon Road at the Olinda oil field. At the curve, there is a gray line moving to the west--this would demarcate a private road through the oil fields that later became Lambert Road.

Connecting to Valencia Avenue south of the curve is Brea-Olinda Boulevard, now Birch Street. Imperial Highway did not exist, but part of the future highway was Elm Street. West of Olinda Boulevard is Carolina Street, this is now the extension of Kraemer Avenue, part of which is at the bottom just next to Bradford Street in Placentia.

On the outskirts of the map are some other interesting aspects. Yorba Linda Boulevard ended at Valencia Drive. At the far left is Pomona Boulevard, now Brea Boulevard, which changed names to Anaheim-Pomona Road (formerly Anaheim-Spadra Road) when drivers reached Brea Canyon. You can also see the last two letters of Central Avenue at the upper left.

There are also a couple of rail lines worth pointing out. "P.E.R.R." refers to the Pacific Electric Railway streetcar line, the right-of-way of which still exists. Coming from Yorba Linda it is a bike and horse path that terminates right near Valencia Avenue and Bastanchury Road. The right-of-way, however, can be traced off Kraemer Avenue as it cuts through the Birch Hills Golf Course and then crosses Birch Street, under the 57 Freeway and then further west past State College Boulevard.

"A.T.S.F." refers to the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, otherwise known as the Santa Fe. This line was a spur off the main railroad line which still runs along Orangethorpe Avenue and was built specifically to haul oil from the Santa Fe lease at the Olinda oil field. There is a little more information about this spur line that I'll try to remember and post someday.

Notably absent here is any reference to La Vida Mineral Springs, which is simply because the resort didn't exist in 1917!

Look soon for an entry relating to a map from a decade later when significant changes were to be found.

20 April 2009

On the Skids in Carbon Canyon #1363

No, this is not a new feature about the homeless, but I've decided that my "Useless Documentation" title previously employed for the various traffic "issues" posts on this blog was too negative and overly cynical about the Canyon's version of the "Freeway Fender Follies." You know: all those front ends of cars that mysteriously wind up laying against the center divider or shoulder-side sound walls of freeways.

Our variation is the increasing number of skid marks on Carbon Canyon Road that probably (though I can't say for sure) are the result of the same driving habits (speed, eating that nutritious AM/PM breakfast, following too closely, painting one's toenails, chemical impairments, crying with joy about Susan Boyle, etc.) On occasion, these marks lead right off the road and into some trees, or a guardrail, or someone's fence, and, once in a while, another vehicle. Property damage, injury and death are the unfortunate, but seemingly unpreventable (if not untreatable), side effects (that is, "collateral damage") of this annoying, but not particularly alarming, habit.

See? By referring to the matter (not "problem") in a semi-comical way, instead of an overtly critical one, I've avoided being negative or cynical!

Anyway, here's one of the newest examples that has made its mark on Carbon Canyon Road within the last week or two. This is on the westbound side in the left turn lane to Valley Springs Road and the Western Hills Oaks subdivision in Chino Hills. I'm not sure I can estimate how long the skid mark is, but, as you can see from the photos, it looks like a doozy!

Now, I can't really say whether there are more skid marks now that I'm watching for them than there were before, but I am certain of which ones are new since I started looking for them more closely a few months ago.

Just today, I noticed another a short distance away . . . check back in a couple of days if you just can't get enough of photographs of skid marks and annoying complaints about them!

19 April 2009

Spring Beauty in Carbon Canyon (But . . .)

Generally speaking, greenery that appears in Carbon Canyon is welcome after dry summers and falls that leave the place looking brown are followed by winter rains. Because of November's Freeway Complex Fire which ravaged the Canyon, especially the Brea side, the prospect of rain in the winter also brought a concern for mudslides, perhaps as bad as those that hit in the last big rainfall in 2004-05. But, the slides didn't happen, because for the third consecutive year there was a below normal (whatever the means these days) amount of precipitation.

Still, after the devastation wrought by the blaze, the appearance of new plant life, which came quickly because there was rain shortly after, was certainly welcome. The problem: the conflagration burned away native plant materials and allowed for invasives to become more prominent than they already had been. Hence, the carpets of wild mustard that have sprung even more noticeably than in past years.

On the surface it looks good to see something, but the problem is that this something is not necessarily what makes for a healthy habitat. Having said this, there are some areas where wildflowers have developed, although their growth has been limited.

The above photographs, taken yesterday morning, show a few views of some of these areas along the south side of the Canyon between the county line and the La Vida Mineral Springs property (the further desecration of which was profiled yesterday.) After the moonscape-like bleakness that came about as a result of the fall fires, these photos show a welcome development, in portions of the Canyon, five months later. More photographs of similar scenes are at the bottom of the blog page below.

18 April 2009

Keeping Carbon Canyon Clean?

Well, it's Spring and the weather is changing, wildflowers are appearing and . . . so is the graffiti and trash!

In the last several days, the former La Vida Mineral Springs property (which looked so well maintained in the 1960s postcard shown in a historical artifact post on this blog from a couple of days ago) has been defaced by two forms of expression: artistic (?!) and nihilistic.

The former is on the old water tank and concrete base from the Springs now sullied by someone's selfish sense of self-expression. I cynically use the term "artistic," because at the same Los Angeles conference referenced yesterday on the post concerning the forthcoming Olinda Village traffic signal, there was a panel of artists, who were explaining their very interesting projects on the intersection of art and history. All well and good, until an audience member, for some unstated reason, asked them whether graffiti was art. For the most part, all three acknowledged that it either was or it was a cry for recognition among the less privileged among us.

I'm not questioning their sincerity or good intentions, but, if society is to blame for those without a voice using spray paint on someone else's property (someone who almost certainly had nothing to do with the "artist"'s desire to make themselves seen), then wouldn't anyone who's had an ax (or spraypaint can) to grind be entitled to similarly express themselves? And, wouldn't it be a beautiful world if that were so.

As for artistic merit, I'll grant that there are "graffiti artists" who are very talented and some have made good use of their abilities in legal ways. What we see in the above photo, however, cannot, by any reasonable standard, constitute art. Besides, Carbon Canyon has enough natural artistic beauty and to spare!

Ironically, this old water tank, the only intact physical reminder of the La Vida resort, had almost been completely hidden from view off Carbon Canyon Road by the accmulation of years of weeds, bushes, and trees. Last November's Freeway Complex Fire burned off the cover and exposed the old tank to the depredations of our modern-day Vandals.

As to the nihilists among us, the last couple of days also brought a casual dumping of a wide array of trash, courtesy of someone who just couldn't be bothered to use those big blue things called dumpsters, those things that hold trash that can be found in any commercial area or, perhaps, where these people live. Instead, those of us who live in and/or enjoy the Canyon get the privilege of having other people's refuse dumped out, presumably in the middle of the night, by people whose moral fortitude and ethical standing rates just a tick higher than their spraypaint can wielding brethren--people doing their part to make sure our environment is just a little worse now than it was a few days ago.

For that, thank you!

Fortunately, I'll have something nicer to share about our Canyon tomorrow, although with a caveat.

17 April 2009

Carbon Canyon Road Traffic Signal Redux

Last Saturday's edition of the Chino Hills Champion featured an article by Marianne Napoles on the forthcoming traffic signal to be installed on Carbon Canyon Road at Olinda Village, the only such signal on the entire length of State Highway 142 within the canyon. This issue has been covered previously (10 March) on this blog, but the article offered some new information and insights worth relating.

First, the signal is actually two separate lights at one broadly defined intersection. In other words, a primary unit will be at Olinda Place, while the secondary signal will go at Ruby Street, which is just west of the former and is one entrance to Hollydale Mobile Home Estates and the entry point to Samsung Presbyterian Church adjacent to the mobile home park. As stated before, the signal was eagerly sought after by the folks at Hollydale and Olinda Village a decade or so ago.

The Champion article, however, quotes two residents of the Chino Hills side of the canyon who object to the light. According to one, "If you hold up that road uphill where people stop and go, there will be a real problem heading into Chino Hills . . . the next problem will be a proliferation of traffic lights on Carbon Canyon Road."

The other resident stated that "it's unbelievable they would think about putting a signal there for a very few that will cause a tremendous headache for a whole lot," while citing the rural drive enjoyed by users of the road during quieter hours.

In response, Brea traffic engineer Warren Siecke stated that the signal is activated only be persons waiting to turn onto Carbon Canyon Road from Hollydale and/or Olinda Village; that it wouldn't have a great deal of effect on traffic, because use from those areas is light; and that the problems of visibility and danger from serious accidents warrant a signal. Essentially, Siecke said, "It's being installed as a safety measure." He also gave the cost at $349,000, funded by federal transportation funds.

As has been opined here previously, the desire for the good folks at Hollydale (my father-in-law included) and in Olinda Village for a light there is understandable. I've had to turn onto the road many times from both locations and know the dangers, which, however, are fundamentally no different than the ones I encounter in my Sleepy Hollow neighborhood.

While one could accept Mr. Siecke's contention that traffic flow would not be "significantly" impacted, though he acknowledged that "the signal will add a little bit of delay," and could dispute one of the Chino Hills residents' statement that "you'll have the biggest traffic jam every night," the fact is that there will be an impact of some kind in westbound morning traffic and eastbound evening commutes.

More significant as an echo of a concern from this blog's previous entry is the comment from the first Chino Hills resident that "the next problem will be a proliferation of traffic lights on Carbon Canyon Road."

Indeed, there have been proposals to place two signals on the Chino Hills side, one at Fairway Drive/Ginseng Lane and the other at Canon Lane and there has even been an offer by a developer who wants to build 28 houses east of Fairway Drive and north and west of Carbon Canyon Road to pay for these signals as mitigation for this project, now stalled as the housing market is at a near-standstill, but certain to be rebooted when and if matters improve.

This point is an important one for reasons of foresight: it's one thing to have a single signal (say that five times fast!) at Olinda Village, but if the other two (or more, such as at Feldspar Lane and the Summit Ranch development?) are added, it will most definitely have an impact on traffic volume and flow on the highway. Unfortunately, too often foresight is not enough of a factor in planning.

Moreover, there is something to be said for the loss of Carbon Canyon's rural character when traffic signals are added to it. Having just recently heard an interesting presentation at a Los Angeles conference about the battle to preserve what could be saved of the rural ambience of Laguna Canyon by an artist who has been at it for over 35 years, I can see our Canyon as a lesser-known microcosm of that experience. Indeed, almost any canyon setting in southern California's urban environments faces these harsh realities.

Most of us likely moved to the Canyon because we wanted some buffer from the relentless suburban sprawl that has engulfed the region for at least the last eight decades. Maybe that is the height of naivete, or selfishness, or NIMBYism, but there is a point at which "amenities" like traffic signals (and, for that matter, housing developments that have threatened to bring well over 350 units to the Canyon) wind up not just being detrimental to a place like Carbon Canyon, but fundamentally change its essence and appeal.

For now, the presence of the signal at Olinda Village, understandable though it is for the residents there, isn't likely to make the traffic problem that much worse. But, if the others are forthcoming, that will almost certainly change and you can be sure there will be many more people having much more to say about that!

16 April 2009

Carbon Canyon Historical Artifact #14

The last installment of his feature showed an interior of a motel room at the La Vida Mineral Springs resort. This view, similar to one that appeared in this blog in the very first historical artifact post in early July 2008, shows the exterior of the motel, with the office at the center and a grass area with people relaxing on lawn chairs to the left.

At the far left side is a portion of the old wooden footbridge that led from the motel westward across Carbon [Canyon] Creek, which is in the foreground, where all the green plants are, toward the restaurant and the interior baths. The concrete footings for the bridge are still intact and visible today. Off to the far right is a part of a parking area and there are some cars in view.

This postcard, unlike most that have been featured on this blog, was postally used and there is a message to "Granny Weber" from "Irma," who was heading back to Buffalo to return home. The postmark, from Whittier, is dated 22 March 1967 and the photo on the card is perhaps a little, though not much, earlier than that.

Looking at the well-maintained grounds and the clean exterior of the motel, it's hard to imagine that the fire-ravaged landscape that is the site now is the same location. It's also difficult to envision anything changing out there anytime soon, particularly if the property remains zoned commercial.

As with the other 1960s cards of La Vida that have appeared on this blog, this is by Amescolor of Escondido. It is 2009.4.1.1 of the Carbon Canyon Collection and clicking on the image will give you a zoomed-in view.

15 April 2009

Robert B. Diemer Treatment Plant

It is a strange sight up on the ridge of the hills overlooking the intersection of Telegraph and Carbon canyons. Treatment plant? Could this be one of President Obama's secret reeducation centers that will force Orange County's young people into a socialist indoctrination program? Are there any teabags tossed at its doorstep? Does Rush Limbaugh know about this?

OK, OK, let's stop before it gets more ridiculous. The facility in question is one of five water treatment plants owned and operated by the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) in the Los Angeles area. The Robert B. Diemer Treatment Plant provides for water distribution via gravity flow to Orange and Los Angeles Counties from its 212-acre site at an 830' elevation in Yorba Linda. Opened in 1963, Diemer has a capacity of 520 million gallons, which is enough to serve 3 million persons, and currently treats about 75% of that, or 400 million gallons, each day, making the plant one of the biggest in America.

The water that is treated there comes mainly from the Colorado River through the 242-mile aqueduct that was completed in 1941, though there is some water that is brought in from northern California via the 444-mile California Aqueduct, completed during the 1960s via the State Water Project. Those with eagle eyes will note that there is property north of Carbon Canyon Road that is MWD-owned; well, the pipelines bringing this water from the north to Diemer runs through this portion of land and through easements from the aqueduct.

Through automated equipment, water level and pressure, as well as monitoring and surveillance, are carefully regulated, though the process of treating the water is fundamentally simple. Grates and screens along the distribution network keep large materials (debris, plant material, trash) out of the water. Initial treatment in the process involves coagulation, in which aluminum sulfate and other additives attach to particles in the water and then, through sedimentation tanks, the particle blocks, called flocs, settle to the bottom. Coal and sand are used to filter anything left, followed by a disinfecting with chlorine and ammonia. After this multi-stage process, the water is ready to deliver for use by consumers.

Much as landills, like Olinda Alpha (profiled last month in this blog) can use methane from buried refuse to generate power, Diemer is able to harness the forces that are created by the water speeding to the plant from the aqueduct and via pipelines for power generation. As the only one of the MWDs treatment plants to do this, Diemer's hydroelectric system creates 5.1 megawatts of power for the district's energy needs.

Incidentally, the other treatment plants operated by the district include Weymouth in La Verne, which opened in 1940 and serves Los Angeles and Orange counties; Jensen in Granada Hills, which serves West Los Angeles, Santa Monica, the Palos Verdes Peninsula and Ventura County; Skinner in Winchester, which opened in 1976, and serves San Diego County; Mills, which opened in Riverside in 1978, and serves that county.

And, who, you might ask (or not), is Robert B. Diemer. Well, as with Weymouth, Jensen, Skinner and Mills, he was a significant figure in the MWD, starting with the district in its early days in 1929. Diemer had a background in water canals and dams from 1911. After over 20 years with the district, he became general manager and chief engineer, serving for nine years in this capacity and overseeing the expansion of the Colorado River Aqueduct, which has an overall capacity of processing 1 billion gallons of water every day. After Diemer left MWD, though he was a Pasadena representative to the district board, he was present at the facility's dedication to him in January 1964.

The MWD began with an idea by the mayor of Pasadena in 1924 to create a regional water partnership, which was called the Colorado River Aqueduct Association. In 1928, the year the district was incorporated, eleven cities joined the association, including Los Angeles, Burbank, Pasadena, Glendale, San Marino, Santa Monica, Anaheim, Colton, Santa Ana and San Bernardino. By 1931, Fullerton, Seal Beach, Torrance and Compton joined, as Colton and San Bernardino dropped out. Even though the Great Depression was underway, voters approved a bond issue for construction of the Colorado River Aqueduct, which stated in 1933 and took, as was mentioned above, eight years to complete. San Diego County joined, under some immense pressure as water supplies were in jeopardy there, in 1946, a topic I happened to hear about at a Los Angeles conference a couple of weekends ago and now there are 26 agencies in the district, which provides about 50% of the water used by over half of the counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Ventura.

Because the Colorado River passes through several western American states (as well as a portion of Mexico), the use of its water is governed by a compact hammered out by the federal government by an apportionment system to these states (California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado). Major infrastructure development has been just abuot generational: with the Colorado River Aqueduct happening in the 1930s; the State Water Project in the 1960s; and the Diamond Valley Lake project in Riverside in the 1990s.

More recently and locally, the MWD's proposal to build a secondary access road to Diemer from Carbon Canyon Road and through Chino Hills State Park land caused Hills for Everyone, a local preservation organization, to file suit to block the road as fundamentally incompatible with state park uses. Recently, HFE announced that it was dropping the lawsuit because MWD agreed to transfer some its property to the state park.

Just today in major regional papers, we read that the WMD is responding to the continuation of a severe drought (human-caused global climate change, anyone?) by mandating a 10% cut in water use among its member agencies, coupled with a 20% increase in rates, the first time these measures have been enacted since the early 1990s. Agencies found to be using more water than called for face significant fines. The low rainfall prevented the mudslides feared in Carbon Canyon after November's devastating Freeway Complex Fire, but it also means the cuts in supply and raises in rates we're seeing now. Lake Mead is at about 46% of capacity, though it will increase some with Lake Powell water being released further up the Colorado River, but, across the west, reservoirs are below capacity and significantly so in most cases, even with some late rainfall and snowpack that occurred.

For most of us, a fundamental lack of understanding, awareness and appreciation for how water, the life-giving substance for all of us, gets to our taps is something that needs to change, if we are to change our habits and recognize that the supply is anything but infinte and inexhaustible. Can we keep building and developing; watering lawns, golf courses, and parks; filling seemingly endless swimming pools, shopping center fountains, Disneyland's "Rivers of America" and water-based rides, and housing tract lakes in the middle of semi-arid deserts; and supplying farmers with 80% of all water used in California?

That is hardly a rhetorical question--the answer is no, not indefinitely. As amazing as Diemer and its sister (brother?) plants are in treating massive amounts of water traveling hundreds of miles to get here and in providing clean, high-quality water to boot, we have to find some way to plan for a sea change in how we use this valuable resource. The challenge of past decades to find more water will be followed in future ones by how to make the best use of what we have, especially as supplies diminish and populations increase. We can't "drill, baby, drill" our way out of this predicament. One would like to believe that the ingenuity, intelligence and invention used to create the technologies and practices that developed and delivered Diemer could be used to plan wisely for the future. Let's hope so.

13 April 2009

Sleepy Hollow Photographs Sought by City of Chino Hills

The City of Chino Hills is looking to frame and display scanned copies of photographs of the Sleepy Hollow neighborhood at both the Sleepy Hollow Community Center on Rosemary Lane, just off Carbon Canyon Road, and at the new City Hall off Peyton Drive near Grand Avenue.

There will be a community photo collection day at the Community Center on Saturday, 25 April from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. At this event, city staff will be scanning photographs in and will credit those people whose images are used for the project.

There is also an opportunity for people to bring their photos to the Neighborhood Services department on the 2nd floor of City Hall on Friday, 24 April or Friday, 8 May from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. for scanning.

A third option is for people to send in CDs of their photos (probably 150dpi or higher would be best) to Bonnie Michaels at City Hall.

For those who can bring their photos or mail CDs to City Hall, here is the contact information:

City of Chino Hills
Neighboorhood Services Department
Attn: Bonnie Michaels
14000 Civic Center Dr.
Chino Hiills, CA 91709

This is a great opportunity to showcase Sleepy Hollow and let visitors to the Community Center and City Hall know what an historical treasure exists in the otherwise generally new city of Chino Hills. Hopefully, there'll be success in this project, which has a deadline of 1 June.

07 April 2009

Aerojet OB/OD and Public Comment, Part 2

With only three days left in the public comment period for the certification of closure by the state Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) of an Open Burn/Open Detonation area, composed of fourteen acres, on the former Aeroject munitions testing facility, there are some new items to report.

First, is an article in last Saturday's Chino Hills Champion by reporter Marianne Napoles stating that there were 45,000 fuses, used for detonating ordnance, that were recovered and removed during the 15-year cleanup process of the OB/OD.

A munitions authority, Michael Short of Parsons, Inc., who'd been hired by the City of Chino Hills in 2002 and offered criticism of the cleanup process, returned to review the work done by the third-party contractor, URS Corp., which was brought in to conduct the cleaning of the site.

While Short was commendatory of the work done by URS, which consisted of working with items a half-inch in diameter or larger, he said "there is no guaranteee that all the reactive components have been located, identified, and removed." Having said this, Short also indicated that "the possible hazards they represent are minute in comparison to the items recovered and destroyed." Moreover, the likelihood that missed fragments from fuses of less than one-half inch diameter "should be few in number." Even if there was a detonated item this small, Short said, the chances of the fuse going off would be miniscule whether held or stepped on. As he put it "The chances of either scenario occurring are extremely remote." In sum, Short "believed the OB/OD area is as clean as possible."

While the article reiterated the closing of the comment period as being this Friday the 10th and that "several voluminous reports [are] available for public review" at the city library, there is no mention of the fact that these reports were not available at all until half of the comment period was already passed. A "Response to Comments" will be prepared by the DTSC and made available at the library.

Secondly, Michael Collins, the investigative journalist who has extensively covered the Aerojet cleanup, passed along a comment to the last blog entry on this project, saying:

With only three days left for public comment, DTSC has STILL not posted the two OBOD reports or extended the public comment period so folks in Chino Hills, and other concerned parties, can comment. Your readers can see our letter to DTSC asking for the aforementioned and all we've received so far is a 'we'll get back to you.' This is beyond puzzling - it is a violation of the public trust and due process. What is DTSC hiding? With all the positive press we and others have given the cleanup, this is doubly baffling and can't be explained away by incompetence: if these folks know how to hold a public meeting (albeit without the actual reports that it was about), surely they can make this information available to the public in an easily-accessible manner. The public deserves better than this.

This is true, it is a disservice to the public and a compromise of the disclosure process and Collins is correct that the comment period should be extended two weeks. After all, as he states, is there something the DTSC is hiding? Is there a rush to close the comment period by the 10th? Is Aerojet really going to be able to develop the site in this economic climate anyway?

Fortunately for Aerojet and the DTSC, public awareness, interest and involvement in the cleanup seems to be at a very low level, if the meager attendance of the open house on the 26th is any indicator. Collins and a few others seem to constitute the proverbial "voices in the wilderness" on this one.

03 April 2009

Aerojet OB/OD and Public Comment

As stated in a recent entry in this blog, there was an open house held on 26 March at the McCoy Equestrian Center to inform the public about the state's DTSC (toxic substances control department) certification of an Open Burn/Open Detonation site at the former Aerojet munitions testing facility as clean and, thereby, closed.

In press coverage in the Chino Hills Champion, it was noted that two reports about the closure of the OB/OD were to be made available for public review prior to the event, but that this had not, in fact, been done. The intent was to provide these copies at the Chino Hills Library and they may, actually, be there now.

This issue of fundamental public disclosure and a related one having to do with the consequent compromising of the public comment period have been raised by journalist Michael Collins of Enviroreporter.com, who has done extensive investigations of the cleanup process for several years. Indeed, in an e-mail to a DTSC representative, Collins has pointed out that, the two reports in question have not yet been posted on the department's "Envirostor" page which documents the history of the Aerojet project and lists landmarks in the cleanup process. Moreover, the latest dates on this site are 23 September 2008 under the "Facility History" section and September 2005 for the three types of cleanup activities listed.

Collins' concern is an important one: if this project is to have full public disclosure, as mandated by state and federal law, it would seem essential that web site information be up-to-date, as well as that reports promised to be available, whether actually read or not, be produced as stated.

On top of this, a comment form distributed at the open house and asking for public comment by letter or e-mail by 10 April, a week from today, did not provide an e-mail address to which to send comments!

Finally, Collins makes the compelling argument that, because the relevant documents were not available by the 26 March event, which came two weeks after the review period ostensibly began, that period should be extended to a month after said documents were provided for public review.

Whether that happens or not remains to be seen, but it is important to point out the problems with the lack of updated information, late delivery of crucial public documents, and the corresponding effect these have on the one-month comment period which now began three weeks ago.

Collins, a seasoned investigative journalist, has done what his profession mandates: asking the relevant questions so that officials, to use his words, "adhere with due process (and common sense)" to full public disclosure. Unfortunately, the matter is complicated by the lack of public awareness and involvement.

And, yes, there are plenty of preoccupations out there: the economy, kids and family, watching a game played by athletes or a movie starring actors making more money this year than most people will make most of their lives, or whatever. I barely got in fifteen minutes on my way from work to picking up my kids from daycare when I attended the open house, and had only enough time to scoop up some literature and listen in on some conversations. But, it's hardly surprising to see what slips through the cracks, or is swept under the carpet, or papered over (choose your cliched metaphor) when the public is distracted. The Romans had their concept of "circuses and bread," meaning that, as long as people well-fed and highly-entertained (that is, distracted), then a lack of engagement opened up too many opportunities for the disregard, intentional or inadvertent, of essentials of public disclosure and/or benefit.

Now, to be clear, this is not suggesting the DTSC is guilty of any intentional malfeasance. But, there are some basic, fundamental requirements and responsibilities borne by public and corporate officials here and they haven't been fulfilled. Fortunately, there are a few people like Collins who are watching.

02 April 2009

Carbon Canyon Businesses: Compatible Electronics, Inc.

In the past, this blog has highlighted the two retail businesses in Carbon Canyon; namely, Party House Liquor and Sol de Mexico restaurant, both of which deserve our patronage as examples of small business in an increasingly-corporate, big box, mega-chain world.

There are, however, three other businesses in the Canyon that I know of and which are not home-based. This entry focuses on the more unusual of the three: Compatible Electronics, Inc. The facility is very visible on the corner of Carbon Canyon Road and Olinda Place, but it seems a strange location for any business. Until you learn what the business is.

Compatible Electronics is a testing firm for electromagnetic, telecommunications and other electronic equipment involving radio frequencies, transmitters and others. The reason it is in Carbon Canyon is because of elevation and relative isolation. As the company's web site explains, the canyon provides "low ambient conditions" that are ideal for "radiated emissions testing."

Olinda Village is the company's original location and headquarters, having opened in 1983 and expanded several years ago. Since then, the company has opened three other sites: two in Lake Forest, consisting of a testing facility in Silverado Canyon and a safety and testing site in a corporate park near the 5 Freeway and a site in the Santa Monica Mountains in Agoura. The company also has ten open area test sites in addition to indoor facilities. Again, hillside locations at Agoura and Silverado Canyon are necessary for the same conditions encountered in Carbon Canyon.

For those interested in learning more about the company, the URL for the web site is: http://www.celectronics.com.

01 April 2009

Carbon Canyon Fire Safe Council Meeting

Tonight was the monthly meeting of the Carbon Canyon Fire Safe Council, which previously was limited to the Chino Hills/San Bernardino County/Chino Valley Fire District side of the Canyon, but now includes the Brea portion. I'd been wanting to attend council meetings, but found Tuesdays to be difficult to commit to. Now, however, the meetings have been moved to the first Wednesday of the month.

Still, I waltzed right in a half-hour late and found the 15-20 people had already gone through about half of the agenda, including a report from Claire Schlotterbeck on the status of arundo treatment in the Canyon. I'd noted previously on this blog that there was some activity in dealing with the arundo, but I only saw anything happen that one time. Hopefully, there'll be some continuation of that important work soon.

At any rate, there was quite a bit of discussion about the 30 May fire awareness fair that will be held from 10 a.m to 3 p.m. at the Chino Valley Fire District station #4 at Canon Lane and Carbon Canyon Road. There will be more forthcoming about this event as planning continues, so I'll be sure to post new information as it comes along.

There was also news of some $30,000 in grant funding to allow the Council to secure a contractor for brush hauling in those areas of the Chino Hills side that are not under HOA management. In other words, this primarily means Sleepy Hollow, Mountain View Estates (the Canon Lane area south of Carbon Canyon Road), and Western Hills Oaks (Valley Springs Drive area.) Such communities as Oak Tree Estates, Oak Tree Downs, Carriage Hills, and Summit Ranch, all being under HOAs, have their own brush removal programs. Because, however, there are portions of Brea, such as Olinda Village and Hollydale Mobile Home Estates, now part of the Council, it will be seen if there is some money available for limited brush removal for those sections or whether additional future funding can be obtained to expand the program. Incidentally, brush piles can be no larger than 10' x 10' and 6' high and contact can be made with the Council for the program. In the meantime, fire department crews have been making the rounds, reviewing brush clearance needs, and issuing notifications to property owners or residents about whether they need to clear brush or not. As was stated in yesterday's entry, much of this green we see now will be brown by summer and another potential fire hazard makes clearing brush as essential as ever.

There were other business items but those were the major ones for the period that I was there. There was, however, mention made of a bill pending in the State Senate, SB 23, that would require evacuation plans for mobile home parks, an outgrowth, I suppose, of the disastrous loss of some 500 such residences in a Sylmar park during the November fires. Hollydale in Brea isn't the only park in Carbon Canyon; there is also Western Hill Estates, a relatively small park at the end of Fairway Drive to the east of Western Hills Country Club. A Hollydale resident present at the meeting gave a vivid reminder that there are many seniors who are often unaware of the danger present during a fire and that such an evacuation plan is essntial. Some Chino Hills residents did point out that there is a service in which residents with special needs can sign up to get a personal visit from a community patrol officer in the event of an emergency, but parkwide plans are a smart idea.

What was great about the meeting was that there were residents from Sleepy Hollow, Mountain View Estates, Western Hills Oaks, Summit Ranch, Olinda Village and Hollydale, as well as fire officials from Chino/Chino Hills and Brea, and the discussion was good with plenty of useful ideas and plans offered. I sat next to the owner of Manely Friends stables who lost his home and hopes to have a rebuilt structure by Christmas. I hope to attend future meetings and keep up with what is going on with this important community association.

There is a web site link via the overall Fire Safe Council site, but with minutes from the September 2008 meeting, although the contact information for the fire inspector is there for further information.

The URL is: http://www.firesafecouncil.org/find/view_council.cfm?c=11

The next meeting of the Carbon Canyon Fire Safe Council is Wednesday, 6 May at 7:00 p.m. at the Sleepy Hollow Community Center and residents who are concerned about the threat of fire in the Canyon (and I don't know why anyone wouldn't be) should plan to be there.