31 October 2009

Sleepy Holloween and the Scary Future of Carbon Canyon

One of the most enjoyable aspects of living in Sleepy Hollow is the sense of community that exists for many of the people who reside in the neighborhood, a sense that knowing your neighbors is generally more pronounced in the area than in most other places.

For example, events held at the Sleepy Hollow Community Center have included children-focused activities, such as a Christmas puppet show and a Halloween party, sponsored by the Carbon Canyon Women's Club, an institution that dates back to the 1960s.

Now, it appears these recent traditions are phasing out, because the Halloween party is not being held this year and it is likely the Christmas event will also fade out.

This is too bad, because in this era of disjointedness, and by that it is meant that people are simply not joining and belonging to organizations as they once were, that sense of community is eroded. In a place like Sleepy Hollow, which has been especially known for that identification among its residents, it means that the general sameness and isolation that tends to mark suburbia is making its inroads and eroding the identity that makes the community unique and attractive to those who still believe in the power of community.

Well, for some years starting in the 1960s and through the 1980s, there was another tradition that developed in Sleepy Hollow during the Halloween holiday, one that occasionally is talked about in terms of revival but has yet to happen. This was the holding of the famous ride of the Headless Horseman from a short story that people once read called The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving.

Irving published the story in 1820 as part of a collection of tales called The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. The tale takes place in Tarrytown, New York, specifically in a locale in the town called Sleepy Hollow. Ichabod Crane, a schoolmaster, is in love with Katrina van Tassel, who, however, is also wooed by Abraham (Brom Bones) van Brunt, a town dandy who wants to fight Crane for the hand of Katrina, but, because Ichabod shrinks from physical confrontation, resorts to playing practical jokes.

Among the local legends in Tarrytown (changed in 1997 to Sleepy Hollow) was one that concerned a Hessian (German) soldier, who had been killed during the Revolutionary War (Hessians were employed as mercenaries during that conflict) and rode on horseback each night in the area searching for the head that had been dislodged from his body courtesy of a cannonball.

Because Ichabod is known in town for his fascination with magic and witchcraft, Brom Bones conceives of an idea to rid him of his adversary in the contest for the fair Katrina. Mr van Tassel, a wealthy farmer (hence one of the attractions offered by his daughter), throws a party at his Sleepy Hollow residence, at which ghost stories are bandied about by the guests. Meantime, Ichabod brings himself to ask for Katrina's hand in marriage, but is rejected. As he leaves the party, both dejected by his failure and filled with with the stories told at the party, his level of nervousness on the ride home is noticeably elevated.

Finally, ahead in the darkness he sees a shadowy figure approaching and it appears to be a headless man with what appears to be a head on the pommel of the saddle. Convinced it is the legendary figure of which he'd heard of in his short stay in Tarrytown, Ichabod rides away convulsed in fear and awe. Chased by the fearsome rider, Crane's last recollection is of the creature lifting the awful head to throw at him before he is hit by the projectile, and knocked unconscious from his steed.

The next morning, Crane has disappeared from Tarrytown, never to be seen again. People find his hat, a bundle of his possessions and a smashed pumpkin lying on the road he had been riding on and, while some suspect Brom Bones had conceived another practical joke, others conclude the legendary Headless Horsemen had made away with the unfortunate Ichabod Crane, who forever would be linked to the legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Our own little community is, of course, in a hollow at the lowest point of Carbon Canyon and is (certainly was more in the past) "sleepy." So, what better place to hold a reenactment of the famed ride of the headless horseman of Irving's story?

Consequently, in about 1965, the Sleepy Hollow Women's Club (as the current Carbon Canyon organization was then known) began the yearly tradition, along with a haunted trail, in which fake corpses and other scary components were placed in a forested area within the community for kids to walk through. A Sleepy Hollow family that owned horses would loan two: one for the Ichabod Crane rider who would pass first by the gathering of children and adults and then one for the dreaded Headless Horseman following just behind. By the early 1970s, however, the horse-owning family left and the ride died out.

It was revived, however, in 1976 and kept going for most of the next decade or more. The festivities, held at the old volunteer fire house and community center that is now the site of the modern Community Center, included, as with the more recent Halloween parties mentioned above, a costume contest with prizes paid for by donations placed in a can at Party House Liquor, the community's sole business, now known as Canyon Liquor. After the costume contest was over, someone would yell "He's coming!" and everyone would run out of the building to see the Headless Horseman ride by and throw a pumpkin out onto Rosemary Lane.

Of course, the ride down the fairly steep hill toward the gathering didn't come without its risks. One year, a rider had his costume slip down over his eyes obstructing his view so that he almost ran into a parked car. Another had a lit candle in the pumpkin that caused so much smoke that he had trouble breathing. Finally, the tradition ended when the last rider fell off his horse and broke both wrists. It had been suggested that maybe the Headless Horseman had, in this instance, lost his head to alcohol rather than a cannonball!

As noted earlier, there has been intermittent talk of reviving the Headless Horseman's ride through Sleepy Hollow, but to no avail. With the ending of the recently-held Halloween party at the Community Center, it appears that, at least for now, the children (and adults) of the neighborhood will have no commemoration at all of the Halloween holiday.

This is really too bad, because there is no better display of the sense of community that Sleepy Hollow has historically maintained than events such as these.

Much of the information about the Headless Horseman's ride comes from a well-written article by Marilyn Pitts, "Town Loses Its Head Over Horseman on Halloween," Los Angeles Times, 26 October 1986. In it she notes that Sleepy Hollow was "perched above the Carbon Canyon Highway between the oil derricks of Brea and the fast-encroaching housing developments of Chino Hills, [and] the town offers its residents [then about 300] the pleasures of quieter times." In another passage, Pitts noted that "the community exudes the small-town ambiance that has been lost by other towns in the pell-mell crush of Southern California's urban expansion," was "occupied by an eclectic mix of people ranging from a neurosurgeon to artists to retired couples living on Social Security," and that "crime in Sleepy Hollow is virtually nonexistent, according to residents" because neighbors watched out for each other.

Now, just about a quarter-century later, as at least 200 more homes are approved for the Chino Hills side of Carbon Canyon, much of what Pitts wrote about is on the verge of being lost forever. It isn't just the Women's Club, or the neoghborhood events, it's the encroachment of suburbia, the increased traffic, the loss of open space and ambiance. Whatever the stated benefits of development, Carbon Canyon's unique setting is being transformed and cannot be reclaimed. It appears that the end of the Halloween party and other events are a microcosm of a bigger picture, in which the identity of Sleepy Hollow and the broader Carbon Canyon area is being lost to the anonymity, sameness, and "big box chain store" character (if it can even be called that) embodied in Pitts' phrase "the pell-mell crush of Southern California's urban expansion."

To make full use of the holiday metaphor, the treat of living in Carbon Canyon is that there is still enough of the "country" atmosphere separating it from the densely-populated areas around it, but the trick is that this condition is being compromised by more approved housing projects and other incursions.

The scary part is what the future of Carbon Canyon might be: the "Headless Horseman" of rampant, unreasonable development chasing out the Ichabod Cranes of our Canyon communities.

28 October 2009

On the Skids in Carbon Canyon #2838

It wasn't that long ago (see the post of 8 July) that this very sign at about the middle of the switchbacks on the westbound side of Carbon Canyon Road (SR-142) in Chino Hills was bent while its associates to the right were plowed down or lightly shoved by a driver who thoughtlessly left the roadway to attack these poor, innocent guides to better driving. Alas, here it is again, just within the last few days, pushed face down into the hillside by yet another errant traveler on the highway.

Not to worry, our tax dollars will continue to go to support CalTrans' continuing efforts to support sign vs. human, because our local officials have, it seems, decided that it's not worth spending local dollars on better patrolling and monitoring of the road, as opposed to using statewide monies to repair the damage that gets done. Moreover, if the damage done by distracted drivers occurs on private property, why then it is every man (and woman) for themselves. This constitutes, evidently, the epitome of sound public policy.

Still, it has been a long time since a major injury, much less a fatality, has occurred on Carbon Canyon Road. So, if an innocuous and inanimate sign or guardrail has to take the brunt of the recklessness that reguarly recurs on the road, then there is no cause for alarm. Right?

27 October 2009

Stonefield Project Approved by Chino Hills City Council

It was, perhaps, inevitable. At least, that's what seems to be the case with the Stonefield housing development's approval tonight by the Chino Hills City Council.

A host of reasons can be offered as to why: property owners have the right to develop their land; the project is high-end and from a developer with well-regarded projects in Newport Beach, Coto de Caza, and other south Orange County upscale cities; it's only twenty-eight houses; and so on.

Still, how can anyone look at the prospect of 202 approved residences (not to mention the 110 now evidently in the pre-application stage) in the Chino Hills side of Carbon Canyon and conclude that the overall quality of life there will be improved? That is, how will 98 units in Pine Valley Estates, 76 to be built in Canyon Hills, and now the 28 at Stonefield make the commute through the Canyon easier? As water (and other issues of infrastructure like electricity and landfills, to name two) continues to be a concern, how will these homes--all executive and luxury residences of larger square footage and bigger lots--make conservation easier? Just as importantly, how much less of the Canyon will we actually see to know that it will no longer be its own uniquely situated buffer and instead be swallowed up by the sprawl on both sides? How do "manufactured slopes" seriously be considered "open space"? The list of rhetorical questions along these lines could go on.

For the Council, the issue never was about whether the project had merit. Members were clearly enamored with the prospect of big, beautiful luxury homes to pad the portfolio of the city's housing stock. The only concern was that city staff recommended that Stonefield pay the entire $1.5 million bill for traffic improvements (adding acceleration/deacceleration lanes to Carbon Canyon Road at Fairway Drive) while the developer, noting that only 1.5% more traffic would be added to SR-142, insisted that it only pay that proportion, or $15,000. So, the developer will have to decide to either pony up or file suit.

In the meantime, in my remarks to the Council, I asked a fundamental question: can a project be approved there that doesn't require a "Statement of Overriding Considerations" to supercede unmitigatable impacts? Notably, there seemed to be no acknowledgement that anything other than these sized homes on those sized lots is possible.

In other words, to reduce aesthetic impacts (including several homes that would actually be situated higher than the highway) and cut pollution emissions down below already-low AQMD thresholds, could fewer than 28 residences of lesser size on smaller lots be built there and still make the developer a reasonable profit? After all, the rights of Stonefield to develop their property are not rights of house square footage, lot size, number of units, or level of profit. None of those things engender an obligation upon the city, which gets to the heart of why the "Statement of Overriding Considerations" is considered such a necessity.

Why isn't there a project possible on that site that meets CEQA critieria, city development plans, community concerns, and the developer's bottom line? Stonefield bought that property in 2006, at just about the peak of an overheated and overvalued real estate market, but why is that a concern of the city or the local community?

The plain reality is: the city could have required the developer to come back with a project that generated less construction-related emissions of particulate matter, lowered the profile to keep canyon viewsheds, and, as a result, build fewer homes of smaller square footage and lot size. The "Statement of Overriding Considerations" is never an imperative placed upon a city. Local governments have discretion as defined by CEQA. Unfortunately, the Chino Hills City Council chose not to take full advantage of its discretionary powers.

One other interesting tidbit: when the developer and the council were jousting over traffic mitigation costs, the former's attorney actually suggested that, because most of the traffic came into Carbon Canyon from outside, therefore the future residents of Stonefield were, rather than perpetrators of increased congestion, instead its victims.

Now there's a selling point for the developer to angle before prospective buyers:

"Buy at Stonefield Chino Hills and be a victim of Carbon Canyon's traffic congestion"!

Actually, the real lesson in all of this is that most everyone seems to understand that this pace of development in our region is completely unsustainable in the long term. But, because of our laws, legal precedent, and patterns of land use and development, we'll keep on going anyway, because the problem is always attributable to someone or something else.

And, to go back to my first statement in this entry, that this continued development in the face of and in spite of this unsustainability, just seems inevitable.

21 October 2009

Carbon Canyon Development News

Last Saturday's Chino Hills Champion contained two pieces of information about housing development plans in Carbon Canyon.

The first was that the Chino Hills Planning Commission voted to require Warmington, the new owner of the stalled Pine Valley Estates project on the north side of the Canyon, to hydroseed disturbed slopes and install landscaping and irrigation on lots and manufactured slopes prior to building the remaining 54 houses on the 98 lot subdivision. These new homes will be about 15-25% smaller than those already completed by former owner Meritage. In fact, the two will be working together to install this landscaping within 45 days.

Notably, the Champion reported that "a landslide area was encountered that compounded the landscaping problem." Now, without knowing the seriousness or extent of this "landslide area," it is assumed that this was something that was not forseen in the geologic studies conducted under the auspices of the environmental impact report. Over and over again, these situations arise in which EIRs claim that there are ways to "engineer" hilly sites so that landslides will not occur and, yet, time and time again, they do. Once more, there were no specifics offered as to the degree of the problem, but it was striking that, years into the project's planning, designing, and construction, this landslide has now occurred.

Item #2 in the Champion concerned an application for an 11-lot subdivision on 6.64 acres on the south side of the Canyon, north of Pinnacle Avenue and south of Carbon Canyon Road, with two open space lots and one for a private access road. Of the 365 trees on the site, 172, or a little less than half, will be removed.

It appears that this small project would be built on land just outside the Carriage Hills Estates tract near Old Carbon Canyon Road, the site not being specifically identified in the article.

In the meantime, remember that next Tuesday, 27 October, at 7 p.m., the Chino Hills City Council will take up the appeal of the Stonefield housing development, 28 units proposed for the northeast corner of Carbon Canyon Road and Fairway Drive. This project's EIR identified two significant, unavoidable adverse impacts (aesthetics and grading pollution) that cannot be mitigated, hence staff recommends a "Statement of Overriding Considerations," citing four alleged benefits that would override the negative impacts. Those concerned about what this means for the Canyon should come and speak to the issues. If a vote comes up on Tuesday, this will decide the project's fate, so far as an approved tract map is concerned (whether the market will bear these large luxury homes in the near future is another matter.)

19 October 2009

Patrick Curran Tonner (1841-1900): Namesake of Tonner Canyon

Patrick Curran Tonner was born in Ireland in 1841 and, according to Frank Brackett's 1920 history of Pomona, he came to America as a child and was enrolled at a Roman Catholic school in Philadelphia. Indeed, in the 1860 census, there is a "Patrick Toner," age 19, from Ireland living as a seminarian in the Roman Catholic Church's archdiocesan seminary of St. Charles Borromeo. Notably, one the seminary's earlier rectors was Thaddeus Amat, a Spaniard who only served for about a year, before being assigned to be the bishop of the Archdiocese of Monterey (later Monterey and Los Angeles, when Amat petitioned to move the headquarters to the latter city) in California. Bishop Amat High School in La Puente is named for him.

As for Tonner, Brackett then stated that he ran away with some others from the seminary to join the Union Army during the Civil War, only to be returned at some length when the bishop of the Philadelphia archdiocese, James F. Wood, petitioned for Tonner's return. Undaunted, Tonner ran away again, this time traveling to far-flung California.

After a brief time in San Francisco, he is said to have taught Greek at a new college in Monterey, although nothing was located in a search of Catholic colleges there. Brackett stated that Tonner was fired from his position and "plunged into the ways of self-indulgence and masterful gain," meaning that he began to drink heavily.

In July 1869, Tonner was teaching school in Castroville, just north of Monterey and had been hired for an additional four months beyond his existing contract. At any rate, an 1889 history of Los Angeles County places Tonner as one of several educators migrating to Los Angeles during the years 1868-69. Finally, Brackett states that, when Tonner made, about this time, his first visit to Rancho San José, part of which later became Pomona, he was so enraptured with the area that he wrote a poem to celebrate it.

In October 1870, the first Los Angeles Teachers' Institute, a four-day conference for educators in the county, was held with Tonner as the recording secretary. He also made addresses to the attendees on reading and elocution and recited poems, including his own on Los Angeles. According to Brackett, Tonner appeared in Los Nietos, a township now encompassing the areas of Santa Fe Springs, Whittier, Pico Rivera, Downey and other areas, where he taught school. In Spring 1871, however, Tonner was teaching over 100 students at San Antonio township, closer to Los Angeles in what is now the Bell Gardens, Maywood, Cudahy, Vernon and Huntington Park areas, and was paid $80 per month.

By 1874, Tonner had relocated to the town of Spadra, now part of Pomona, and remained in the Pomona area the remainder of his life. Initially, he taught in the Palomares School District (named for Ignacio Palomares, one of two grantees, along with Ricardo Vejar, of the Rancho San Jose.)

In the 1880 census, Tonner, listed as 36 years of age, was in Pomona and married to Mollie L. Wear, a 26-year old native of Texas (the couple were childless.) By then, however, Tonner quit teaching and was admitted to the bar, opening his own law practice. This was in the days when lawyers did not necessarily attend law schools and when bar exams didn't exist. A prospective attorney would appear before a district (later, superior court) judge and submit to whatever questioning the judge saw fit to ask in determining the legal fitness of the candidate. Tonner became, in fact, a prominent attorney in Pomona (drafting, for example, the articles of incorporation for the city in 1888) and took on many young lawyers to work with him in his practice, some of whom became well-known in California legal circles.

In one notable case, Tonner defended, before the county school board rather than in court, a Pomona teacher accused of misconduct in the use of Palomares School District funds for purposes other than specified by state law. It turned out that the teacher had been given a $20 per month raise and that Tonner was loudly proclaiming (after pulling on the bottle?) that he was the teacher's "broker" and being paid $20 per month to be so. It turned out, however, that Tonner turned over the ten months' (the length of the school year at the time) worth of money, totaling $220, to the trustees of the district in order to reduce its debt. While this may have been a worthy cause, the problem was using state money for the purpose of paying debts not incurred by the state, but by the district. Consequently, the county board reprimanded and censured the teacher for his conduct, having no ability to do anything to Tonner, who'd left his $170 per month teaching position for the district for the more lucrative field of the law and real estate.

Meantime, Tonner began investing in land, owning several choice properties in Pomona, one of which he developed as a park, which he named Ganesha (after an Indian god of the arts and sciences, embodying intellect and wisdom.) This name was later applied to a road leading south from the park and to a high school in the city. Tonner purchased and ran an orange grove from Thomas Burdick, north of Orange Grove Avenue on what had been Palomares family land. In 1874-75, Tonner, Cyrus Burdick and Francisco Palomares (son of Ignacio) bought 3,000 acres from Louis Phillips, who had acquired the abajo, or lower, portion of the rancho from Ricardo Vejar's creditors, Hyman Tischler and Louis Schlessinger. Of this, about two-third was subdivided by Tonner with water rights he had with Burdick and Lugarda Palomares, which was bought from Concepción Palomares. He was the donor of the lot in downtown Pomona that became the home of St. Joseph's Church. He also owned some 250 acres in the Puente Hills on the former Rancho La Puente, which he bought for only $2,000 and which, in 1886, he said he would not sell for less than $500,000, because oil had been discovered in the area the previous year. In 1874, he and some partners formed the first water company in the locality, which eventually became Pomona's supplier.

Yet, most of Tonner's biography in Brackett's tome is dedicated to stories detailing the colorful Irishman's penchant for drink and to his poems, of which several are liberally quoted. Whether this was a contributing factor to his death in 1900 at the relatively young age of 59 is now known, but Tonner certainly lived a full and interesting life.

The question remains, however, "How did Tonner Canyon get named for him?"

17 October 2009

On the Skids in Carbon Canyon #2752

It's actually been pretty quiet as far as reckless driving in Carbon Canyon lately, at least so far as I have seen. Tonight, however, there was a real doozy which took place before my own long-jaded eyes.

I was coming home from the Brea side at about 7:00 p.m., so it was dark, and, after I climbed the hill toward Olinda Village and was descending down the other side, I approached two sets of headlights coming side by side. Naturally, I had to slow down because, as the road slightly widens to allow a left-turn lane on eastbound Carbon Canyon Road for Olinda Drive, a vintage VW Bug decided to use the double-yellow lined area AND THE LEFT TURN LANE THAT I MIGHT HAVE WANTED TO USE in the center of the roadway as a passing lane. In doing so, the Bug managed to squeeze between the white SUV it was passing and me coming the opposite direction.

It's one thing when a car passes another on a two-lane highway in which no passing is allowed anywhere along its length, but in which at least there is no one coming the other direction. But, when there was another car traveling in the opposite lane (in this case, moi) and who might have wanted to turn left onto Olinda Drive, that's just about as reckless and irresponsible as it gets.

A close call, to be sure, but this time disaster was averted. But, will everyone be so fortunate the next time?

16 October 2009

Of Treehouses and More Sleepy Hollow History

Well, it appears that I was wrong about those photos that appeared yesterday and my assertion that they represent the remnants of the treehouse built by Dr. Paul Nolan Hyde and friends some fifty-five or sixty years ago. It might be the same tree, but, as you'll read below, what is there now came later.

But, Dr. Hyde's response about this is another enlightening excursion into Sleepy Hollow history, so, with his indulgence, I'm offering more of this remembrances, as delivered in an e-mail from this morning:

I will tell you where my treehouse was. You remarked at some point about the cement stairway that led down to the creek from Carbon Canyon Road. I was there when that was built. The path was quite wide, with little or no vegetation and led to a foot bridge that my father and several other men in Sleepy Hollow built. It was about four feet wide and crossed about six or seven feet above the level of the creek bottom. On the other side of the creek, the path continued up the hill past a couple of houses to Oak Way Lane. When I was there a couple of years ago, the bridge was gone and the path was somewhat overgrown. By the way, the neighborhood kids built a large dam in the creek bottom there and because the bed was wide, we effectively created a large pond about sixty feet across. Down stream from the bridge, about 100 yards at the most, was where my eucalyptus tree was. Between the cement stairs and the tree were two large settling tanks for the well water, plus two wells from whence came most of the sulfur water. By the way, next to the cement steps, a bit upstream, was the main pump house that sent the water up a six-inch galvanized pipe to a tank at the top of the hill above Oak Way Lane. All of this was maintained and operated by San Bernadino Water Works #8. Every year we were promised Metropolitan Water, but it had not come by the time I had left the Canyon in 1959.

To get an idea as to what my tree house was like and where exactly it was located, I submit the following: If one were standing on the side of the Canyon road, looking at the tree, the tree house was located right at road level. The whole contraption was about twenty foot square and had two levels. There was a main room and two side compartments, one each for Billy Craig and myself. We more often slept on the roof, however. Neither Billy or I ever became restless sleepers; the thirty foot fall was somewhat intimidating. Billy fell from the treehouse once, landing in a pile of brush, but I lived out my youth unscathed. To my knowledge, it was by far and away the largest tree house ever built in Sleepy Hollow, and perhaps in the entire Canyon.

One more detail. From the eucalyptus tree it was possible to cross my own four-foot creek dam to the other side, turn down stream about sixty feet and walk into my downstairs bedroom. The old cabin made of railroad ties (now in ruins) was my boyhood home. The downstairs area was built by my father for his radio room and my bedroom. All of the stonework terraces were made by my father and me prior to 1958, inspired I think by the Schlendering terrace work at their Long Cabin further up Oak Way Lane.

I hope that this clarifies the geography a little. The old tree house, by the way, was disassembled in our anticipation of building a new one another thirty feet up the tree. Both Billy and I moved before we were able to complete it. I suspect that fifty years would have erased all traces in any event.

Again, this is great material, so far as I am concerned, about Sleepy Hollow history, of which, compared to, say, La Vida Mineral Springs, there is little that has been shared with the wider world.

There are others who, undoubtedly, have much they could contribute to the preservation of this history and, perhaps some day, there'll be more to share here and elsewhere. Meantime, thanks to Dr. Hyde, we learn more about the particular period of the late 1940s through late 1950s in a community that was, in most respects, a world away from the community now slowly being drawn (with trepidation in some cases) into the increasingly suburbanized world around it.

15 October 2009

Reader Comment on Carbon Canyon Water

I've already posted one of the short recollections (and there are more to come) of Dr. Paul Nolan Hyde, a resident of Sleepy Hollow from 1948 to 1959, about his years in the community.

In my post yesterday on the La Vida mineral water bottle, however, he offered another neat micro-reminiscence that I thought would be of interest to readers of the Chronicle, so here it is:

It is interesting that La Vida Spring water became famous. The wells in Sleepy Hollow that supplied the central part of the Canyon pumped sulfur water that had to be aerated with a wooden tower down by the eucalyptus tree where I had my tree house. Most people had Arrowhead water brought in by the 5-gallon bottle. It was possible to drink the well water but it had to be ice cold with a lot of lemon juice and sugar. Even then it was just barely palatable. We kids drank out of the creek. It was cold and sweet and it had the additional quality of offering us boys a kind of Russian roulette, gastronomically speaking.

Once again, it is amazing to think about how much life changes in former rural areas over the course of decades, including how the water supply was handled before the modern delivery system of hilltop tanks and pipes.

The other aspect that struck me was the comment about drinking out of the creek. Of course, it wasn't all that long ago (a few decades) when hikers and backpackers could drink directly out of natural water sources in our local mountains, though now it requires boiling or purification tablets. Looking at the creek now and knowing what must get dumped into it from Western Hills Golf Course and other places . . .

One last item to mention in relation to what Dr. Hyde remembers: there are still references on the Net to the Sleepy Hollow Mineral Springs in exactly the location he described along the creek on the north side of Carbon Canyon Road and just west of where the community center and old community church was located.

As for the eucalyptus tree and treehouse, I'm almost certain they're still there today (see the above photos of said tree and treehouse taken on 5 October,) so that water tank used to aerate the sulphurous water would have been located in that vicinity.

Great stuff and thanks to Dr. Hyde for his comment!

14 October 2009

Carbon Canyon Historical Artifact #20

Here is another La Vida soda bottle, similar to the one posted back in July, dating to probably the 1940s or 1950s, but, instead of being bottled in Stockton, as that one was, this one comes from Sacramento.

Note that the company name is the La Vida Bottling Company of Northern California, which seems to mean that water from the La Vida Mineral Springs here in Carbon Canyon was sent to our state capitol to be bottled.

Otherwise, the lettering and physical attributed of the bottle are the same as the one from Stockton and the lettering style is somewhat akin to those bottled locally in Placentia or Fullerton.

This item is 2009.9.1.1 from the Carbon Canyon Collection and, as always, clicking either image will zoom it in for a better view.

11 October 2009

Stonefield Appeal Heard On 27 October

It was previously stated here that the appeal to the Chino Hills City Council of the Stonefield housing project of twenty-eight units in Carbon Canyon might be heard on 13 October, which is this Tuesday. Evidently, that matter has been pushed back to the meeting on Tuesday, 27 October. City Council meetings begin at 7 p.m., though the agenda, when posted on the city's website, will list where in the order of items the Stonefield item appears.

It will be remembered that this appeal was actually filed by the developer who objected to being required to contribute "fair share" monies to proposed traffic improvements (even though traffic was not deemed, in the Environmental Impact Report, to be a significant impact) and instead has argued that it should only be responsible for 1.5% of the cost since that is the percentage of traffic the project would add to the overall usage on Carbon Canyon Road. City staff has argued that the impact of those car trips are far greater than their representation of total trips on the highway because of the issues of entering and exiting traffic.

Subsequently, council member Bill Kruger requested a delay in hearing the matter to allow the public an opportunity to speak on the project. So, anyone who has anything to say about this development should be sure to be present and be heard.

As for me, at the very least, the City should require the developer to build a project that conforms to the site by not allowing a "Statement of Overriding Considerations" that seeks to argue that unmitigatable impacts in grading and aesthetics can be countered by four dubious claims of broad benefit generated by the project. These include:

1) filling a demand for housing (luxury, that is, which is hardly a widespread community benefit);

2) conforming to the canyon's surroundings (by having manufactured slopes and nice landscaping, rather than the remaining natural beauty which defines the Canyon?!);

3) fitting in with existing surrounding land uses (all of which were approved under county jurisdiction before current general plan criteria were established AND in eras in which the Canyon had room for development and Carbon Canyon Road was not nearly as congested and impacted as it now is), and;

4) traffic improvements that are now in dispute.

It just seems obvious that the justifications for these purported benefits are dubious and that, this being the case, the project should be rejected and, if something must be built there, another presented that brings impacts below established (and already low and insufficient) thresholds under the California Environmental Quality Act.

This is the case I will make on the 27th and, hopefully, there will be plenty of others to make their own arguments.

05 October 2009

Pine Valley Estates Scaled Down

Courtesy of last Saturday's Chino Hills Champion, it has been reported that the new owners of Pine Valley Estates, the stalled 98-home development on the northern end of Carbon Canyon in Chino Hills, are seeking approval from the city's Planning Commission to build smaller homes in completing the project.

Approved in 2005, this subdivision was originally developed by Meritage Homes, which completed a 22-unit first design phase, followed by an aborted second phase, in which twenty units were built. The remaining fifty-six lots were sold to the Warmington Group, which has built many homes in Chino Hills over the last twenty plus years.

Warmington went before the Planning Commission this evening to seek (and undoubtedly received, as the most obvious of formalities) permission to scale down the homes from the 3,337 to 4,287 square foot sizes under Meritage to homes in the range of 2,899 to 3,316 square feet in three plans.

This reduction of about +/- 15-20% in size is explained as a concession to the realities of the depressed real estate market, but, given, that most of what seems to be selling these days are bargain-basement priced foreclosures, rather than still relatively expensive new production homes, one can only assume that Warmington is banking on a comeback in the housing market so that the fifty-six homes that are left can be built in a reasonable timeframe.

The problem seems to be severalfold, as the last housing boom was built on sand, consisting of

(1) desperate, frenzied, boom-infused buyers willing to amass massive amounts of debt while their wages stagnated (and have for nearly 40 years!) being given

(2) exotic mortgage "products" peddled by companies who were going to sell those mortgages off tout suite, often bundled into investment packages so complex that they can't be explained with anything else than calculus-like equations covering billboard-sized blackboards, allowed by

(3) a government (of Republicans and Democrats alike, just so we're clear) who were all too willing to wink at the absurdity of the situation and accept a near-total lack of oversight, while some of them received discounted loans, like Christopher Dodd (D-Connecticut), chair of the Senate Banking Committee, who was a highly-valued FOA (Friend of Angelo--that is, Angelo Mozilo, CEO), with Countrywide Financial, one of the most egregious sellers of risky mortgages.

So, the $64 billion question is: who is going to buy these homes? The number is somewhat small, fifty-six, but the prices will undoubtedly be at least $750,000, so unless people have very good incomes, big down payments, incredible FICO scores, and banks who will actually loan them money, it's going to be interesting to see how this will all go down.

At the moment, it's hard to imagine, as job losses mount and a recovery in the employment arena lagging far behind the recent growth in the stock market (thanks to banks coupling their bailout money with slapping higher fees on their customers), how there'll be enough people able to buy these "executive" residences--at least in the near future.

The above photos, taken 27 July 2009, show the development from Canon Lane, next to Western Hills Golf Course and the entrance to Oak Tree Estates at Western Hills.

Incidentally, the Champion also reported that Chino Hills city staff are requesting that Warmington be required to hydroseed all "disturbed" (now, there's an interesting euphemism for the bare, blasted, moon-like appearance of the hills!) slopes seen in these photos. Moreover, staff wants the developer to have to install all permanent landscaping and irrigation on all lots and manufactured slopes (i.e., open space!) before the first certificate of occupancy is granted for the development. This, at least, is some recognition by the city that the ghost-town like appearance of PVE demonstrated by these photos can be mitigated.

It's just too bad there couldn't have been some proactivity on this the first time around!

01 October 2009

Tonner Canyon: Carbon Canyon's Neighbor

There are two adjoining major canyons to Carbon Canyon: Soquel, which is to the south and which has often been discussed in this blog and Tonner, which is to the north. Let's spend a little time getting to know the latter.

In early maps, including some shown on this blog, Tonner has been referred to as La Brea Canyon (at which periods, Brea Canyon was called Canon del Rodeo), but since at least the 1920s, Tonner has been the standard name. This canyon runs for about nine miles from its intersection with Brea Canyon at the 57 Freeway and Tonner Canyon Road in the City of Brea on the south to a point near the boundaries of Diamond Bar, Chino Hills, and Pomona on the north, near where today's Chino Hills Parkway and Chino Avenue intersect.

Historically, the canyon was not associated directly with any of the Spanish or Mexican-era ranchos, but was, rather, part of established public lands. These were set aside for ranchers to graze their animals in common areas. So, Ygnacio Palomares and Ricardo Vejar (later, Louis Phillps [hence, Phillips Ranch]) on Rancho San Jose in the Pomona area; Antonio María Lugo (later, Issac [Julian] Williams) on Rancho del Chino in the Chino/Chino Hills area; the Ybarra family on Rancho Nogales, now Walnut; and Bernardo Yorba of Rancho Cañon de Santa Ana, in the Yorba Linda/Placentia area, and perhaps others, would use the general Puente Hills area, including Tonner Canyon, for common grazing.

Eventually, however, the rancho system ended and smaller ranches were created from these public areas, including the Diamond Bar Ranch, which was sold in the 1950s and subdivided to create the city of that name. In the case of Tonner Canyon, much of the northern end became the 2,400-acre Tres Hermanos Ranch, sometime in the 1910s or 1920s.

Who were the "three brothers"? One was William Richard Rowland (1846-1926), whose father, John, was the co-owner of the massive Rancho La Puente spanning 49,000 acres of the eastern San Gabriel Valley from the San Gabriel River on the west to Diamond Bar, Pomona and Walnut on the east (near the 57 Freeway basically) and from north of the 10 Freeway on the north to the Puente Hills on the south. William Rowland was well-known in his early years as the youngest sheriff in Los Angeles County history, winning election to that office in 1871 when he was 25 years old. His most famous action as sheriff was the coordination of the capture of famed bandido, Tiburcio Vasquez, captured in present-day Hollywood in June 1874 and executed in San José the following spring. In 1885, Rowland, having found oil on his inherited share of Rancho La Puente in what is now the upper hills of Rowland Heights, formed the Puente Oil Company with William Lacy, a Los Angeles capitalist. For decades, this company was a successful mid-level player in the local oil industry and also had a presence in the Olinda field, as previously discussed in this blog.

The second of the tres hermanos was Tom Scott, an oilman of whom there is very little information available from my research (though, if someone knows something about him--and he is not the Tom Scott from Pennsylvania who sought to build a transcontinental road from Texas to San Diego in the 1870s--please let me know.)

The third of the "brothers" was Harry Chandler, whose claim to fame was serving as the immensely powerful publisher of the Los Angeles Times for decades until his death in 1944. The three men, it is said, bought the ranch for weekend hunting trips and parties, although Chandler, a strict Congregationalist, according to a descendant, was not a drinker.

The ranch remained in private hands until 1978 when the City of Industry acquired the land. Naturally, the property is non-contiguous, meaning it is not directly connected to the rest of the city and there has been criticism that the property was acquired with redevelopment funds, through the city's Urban Redevelopment Agency, even though the property was not designated a redevelopment area (usually reserved for blighted, as opposed to undeveloped, areas.)

This was followed, in 2001, with the City of Industry's acquisition of 2,350 acres south of Tres Hermanos, comprising two-thirds of the Firestone Boy Scout Reservation, a property long owned by the Los Angeles Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, and known as Middle Tonner Canyon.

Notably, conservation groups offered the Scouts $1.5 million more for the land than Industry, but the Scouts took the latter's offer. An offer to purchase the land for $17.6 million had been tendered in Spring 2000 by The Wildlands Conservancy, in fact, followed by an $18 million offer from the Wildlife Corridor Conservation Authority, an entity dedicated specifically to preserving land in the Puente and Chino hills areas. There was speculation, however, that the agencies were not able to come up with the full amounts of their offers, whereas the City of Industry's final offer (in 1999 it offered $10 million) of $16.5 million was guaranteed.

To add to the controversy, tt was noted by many that Los Angeles Area Council board member John Semcken, a Majestic Realty VP now spearheading the evidently-successful drive to build a NFL football stadium in Industry, was the conduit between the Scouts and the City of Industry, which has a long history with Majestic.

Finally, in 2004, Industry bought 525 acres of Lower Tonner Canyon for $22.5 million from Tonner Canyon, LLC, formerly Brea Cañon Oil Company.

While the City of Industry's position has been that the approximately 5,500 acres it now owns in Tonner Canyon is to be considered open space, plans have been in the works for nearly thirty years to flood a significant portion of the canyon as a reservoir for Industry's benefit. Another much-discussed use for Tonner Canyon has been the realignment of Tonner Canyon Road as a commuter bypass into Orange County from points east (and north.)

More on that, the reservoir issue, and the interesting history of the canyon's namesake, Patrick C. Tonner, in upcoming posts!

The above two photos were taken during the Freeway Complex Fires (therefore the haze) on 16 November 2008 from Chino Hills looking across Middle Tonner Canyon towards Diamond Bar. The detail in the lower photo shows the remaining structures at Tres Hermanos Ranch.