27 January 2010

Neighborhoods of Carbon Canyon, Part Seven: Carriage Hills

At a planning commission hearing in Chino Hills last year concerning the proposed Stonefield housing development, slated for an area north of Carbon Canyon Road and east of Fairway Drive in Carbon Canyon, Commissioner Karen Bristow pointed out to concerned citizens from the Carriage Hills development across the highway from the Stonefield site that she was part of many concerned citizens fighting the loss of prominent ridgelines and views when Carriage Hills was built in the late 1980s and 1990s. She was, of course, seeking to link the opposition of the folks in that development to Stonfield with good old fashioned NIMBYism.

Whether or not Commissioner Bristow was correct in that characterization, it is important to note that Carriage Hills was probably the first development in Carbon Canyon that attracted some widespread concern about the effects of housing tracts on the viability of the Canyon's lifestyle, environment and character.

It is also noteworthy that the tract was created just before the incorporation of Chino Hills, with one of the stated goals of the proponents of cityhood the desire for residents to control more of their own destiny, rather than leave matters purely to San Bernardino County.

Carriage Hills is a community of what could be described as executive homes, generally 2,500 square feet or larger on lots that tend to be around 10,000 square feet or more. Many have commanding views of the canyon and beyond to the Pomona Valley and to the San Gabriel Mountains and, in a few cases, there are some very large custom homes. One of these latter is prominently situated overlooking Carbon Canyon Road and is probably 5,000 square feet or bigger. Homes in the neighborhood are well-maintained and are attractive in appearance. As a community, Carriage Hills has a homeowners' association, although it appears that the only maintenance is for common landscape areas, as there are no amenities such as pools, tennis courts, a clubhouse or others found in, for example, Summit Ranch.

There is an interesting anomaly within the general boundaries of the subdivision; namely, a remnant of the old Carbon Canyon Road, which can be seen veering off to the south and east of the current highway path when at the summit of the S-curve as you head east, has some older custom homes, one dating back to the 1920s or 1930s, along it. This remarkable isolated stretch of Old Carbon Canyon Road would almost certainly not be considered by its residents to be part of Carriage Hills but is worth pointing out nonetheless.

Interestingly, this Old Carbon Canyon Road terminates at a dirt road not open to regular traffic and drops down a hill before meeting up with an unconnected portion of Old Carbon Canyon Road that then meets up with the current highway to the northeast. There are also a few custom homes along this latter stretch of Old Carbon Canyon Road, which has an entrance into the Carriage Hills development, the other gateway is on the downslope of Carbon Canyon Road from the aforementioned summit.

Residents of Carriage Hills undoubtedly prize their substantial homes on large well-kept lots and enjoy generally lightly-traveled streets and the privacy and quiet location of most residences. As said before, many houses have expansive views.

Still, as Commissioner Bristow pointed out, Carriage Hills also marked the changing landscape of Carbon Canyon and Chino Hills generally, as being one of the first (if not the first) subdivisions to spark protests about the future direction of the city and the transformation of the Canyon, which has lately become a much bigger issue.

In all fairness to the folks in Carriage Hills, however, it must be pointed out that, in the late 1980s, when work began there, most of Chino Hills did not exist and Carbon Canyon Road was lightly traveled and was not, for some years to come, the freeway alternate to Orange County that it now is.

One could make a strong argument that whatever might be said about ridgelines and views, which are very legitimate concerns (even under extremely lax, if not non-existent, county development standards), Carriage Hills was hardly the threat to the viability of the Canyon that development from this point forward will be.

There is only so much traffic the road can handle, only so much infrastructure demands that can be placed, only so much more rapidly disappearing open space that can be lost. Rather than blaming Carriage Hills residents for being concerned about new development 20 years after its creation, when standards and practices of planning have changed greatly, Planning Commission and City Council members ought to be far less concerned about perceived NIMBYism and more focused on how much more future development the Canyon can take.

Carriage Hills and all of its forbears are here to stay and that cannot be changed, but something could still be done about future development, if not by law than at least from sentiment. In other words, city leaders could be more forthright about the undeniable effects of more houses and do what can be done with the limited powers of mitigation available to them, even if stopping projects is legally not possible. That, however, is a debate about CEQA powers that might be better saved for another post.

Residents of Carriage Hills should not have to feel guilty for being concerned about future Carbon Canyon development when their community was approved a quarter-century ago, a whole different era in planning and development.


Anonymous said...

Paul, I came across your blog by chance a few months ago. From time to time I have read it and would like to let you know I truly enjoy your deep insight to the history of Carbon Canyon. I love the beautiful pictures of nature that you post on your blog, especially the ones that date back to so many decades ago. I look forward to reading future articles! - G.B.

Paul said...

Hello G.B., thanks for the very nice comment and glad that you have found the blog. I haven't had as much time to devote to it in the last several months, but please come back often and see what is new.