14 December 2010

Blackstone Master Planned Community: Carbon Canyon Adjacent

While not within Carbon Canyon per se, but quite close, the master planned community of Blackstone is on some 800 acres of former oil land, last owned by Nuevo Energy, in what is generally referred to as Tonner Hills, west of Valencia Avenue and north of Lambert Road, is in the first phases of development.  The framing is going up for the first model homes in four neighborhoods being built by Shea and Standard Pacific and work is also underway for ninety-four "garden apartments" targeted for persons who fall under guidelines for affordable housing.

Standard Pacific has two neighborhoods in development.  Sorano (named for a town in Italy's Tuscany province) will have homes in the range of 1,739 to 2,001 square feet, but early information is limited to just that.  No prices, or lot sizes are given.  By contrast, Castillian (with reference to the Spanish region of Castile) has much larger homes, spanning from 4,223 to 4,971 square feet.  Notably, while the description for Sorano noted the abundance of "oaks trees," we learn the Castillian has a proliferation of "walnut trees."  Better still, the community is located only 30 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles (funny, but thirty miles northeast of downtown LA seems to put the unsuspecting homebuyer smack in the middle of the Angeles National Forest in the San Gabriel Mountains.)

Still, the "master planned village" claims that "hills, valleys, canyons and ancient oaks trees dot the landscape at Sorano at Blackstone. Part of a premier master-planned community in Brea, Sorano pairs rugged, natural beauty with stylish suburban living."  While the carefully-crafted description (well, except for the "oaks trees") note that that there will be "a proposed park with athletic fields" (even though the new Brea sports park is less than a mile south), and the de rigeur pool and spa, as well as "proximity" to Birch Street Promenade, there is no mention that the Olinda Alpha Landfill is just a hop, skip, and a dump (ouch) away.  Castillian, according to Standard Pacific's Google map location finder on its Web site, appears to be on the west side of the 57 Freeway.  Even more interesting, Sorano's Google map indicator shows it to be west of Wildcat Way, the road that leads to Brea-Olinda High School!

For more, preliminary though it is, see here and here.

As for Shea, the builder of the recently-completed "Walden Estates" fronting Lambert below Blackstone and which homes were going for up to about $1 million during the peak of the great ho(u)sing boom of the 2000s, there are two communities that are less geographical in name than those offered by Standard Pacific, but sparkle with references to precious gems (which they, no doubt, will be.)  Amber is the smaller of them with homes measuring from 2,015 to 2,177 square feet.  Jade is in the 2,806 to 3,360 square foot range.   There is also some reference to another community called Cortesa, but the Shea Web site has essentially no information on any of the projects up at the moment.  For more see here and here:

Yet, it is the Bonterra apartment complex, formerly known as Tonner Hills Apartments, is probably the most intriguing of the Blackstone "family" of developments.  The City of Brea refers to its location as "north of Lambert Road at Valencia Avenue in the new Pepper Tree Hills housing tract."  Slated for completion in September 2011, the 94 unit complex will have "rents affordable to extremely-low, very-low and low income households," expected to be from $465 to $1,180 per month.  Maximum eligible incomes for those contemplating renting at Bonterra range from $52,050 for a one-person household to $92,150 for seven-person households.  For more see: Bonterra spec sheet.

There is also an Internet real estate Web site with an interesting article on the Bonterra project, which, as "a critical component of the Blackstone master plan, Jamboree’s workforce housing component is being built as a requirement of Tonner Hills’ Affordable Housing Implementation Agreement with the City of Brea."

The article noted that the groundbreaking ceremony was on 1 December, including city officials and council members.  A concise description of the developement noted: "the new property encompasses seven three-story buildings arranged around central courtyards and are linked by tree-lined pedestrian friendly landscaped walks. It will provide 21 one-bedroom, 34 two-bedroom, and 39 three-bedroom apartments. The Spanish influenced architecture features tuck-under garages for each apartment along with additional surface parking areas for residents and guests. Completion is scheduled for Fall 2011." 

Brea's Community Development Director, Eric Nicoll, observed that, “we are very careful in choosing partners that reflect a high level of sensitivity to community values and Jamboree supports these values. Bonterra will provide new apartment housing for Brea’s workforce, estimated at 7,500 workers within 1.5 miles of the site. The master developers, Shea Homes and Standard Pacific Homes, have shown leadership by seamlessly integrating the Jamboree workforce housing development with other housing choices in the community and we look forward to seeing these new neighborhoods developing soon.”

The project is promoted in the piece as a model of modern development.  For example, Bonterra will "include a 3,500 square-foot community recreation center for use by Jamboree residents as well as landscaped community spaces for outdoor recreation. The building amenities include property management offices and classroom space designed for resident services to be provided by Housing with HEART, Jamboree’s nonprofit resident services group. Additional amenities include community meeting rooms, a computer lab, a swimming pool with patio area, a tot lot, barbecue/picnic areas, and a central laundry facility. Each apartment home will feature ENERGY STAR appliances."  The buildings will also seek a Silver rating in the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification standard for energy-conserving construction.

It is further stated that "residents will also have exceptional views of surrounding cityscape and open space including the future Wildcatter Park located across the street from the neighborhood. A central landscaped paseo connects the neighborhood’s residential buildings and community center to the main thoroughfare, Santa Fe Road."

To show how complicated the financing for these projects can be, the article observed:

Financing for development of the new Jamboree community consists of funds from tax exempt bonds, California Tax Credit Allocation Committee (TCAC) four percent federal tax credits syndicated by Merritt Community Capital Corporation, a $14 million construction loan and a $4 million permanent loan from Bank of America, construction and permanent financing from the City of Brea totaling $1.2 million, and a County of Orange permanent loan of $4 million including $2 million in HOME funds that was funded at start of construction. Financing also consists of Multifamily Housing Program (MHP) funds of $7.7 million from California’s Department of Housing & Community Development (HCD), and American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds of $7.8 million as a bridge loan to guarantee HCD’s permanent loan commitment.

For the full text, click here.  From the City of Brea Web site, click here.  For photos from Orange County Supervisor Bill Campbell's Web site, discussing his staff's attendance at the groundbreaking, click here.  For another recent article, click here.

Putting aside what will almost certainly be big demand for the afforable-housing apartments, there is the question of whether or not there are enough buyers out there with the down payments, equity, income-to-debt ratio, and FICO scores to make building new, generally larger and relatively expensive homes at Blackstone a wise decision in a recessionary economy.  By comparison, Elements (formerly Pine Valley Estates) on the Chino Hills side of the Canyon, has been barely registering sales for a few years running.  Maybe those folks are out there and we won't know until late next year and into 2012, which, SP and Shea are undoutbtedly betting, will see significant improvement in the economy.
The most obvious effect of the Blackstone master planned community on Carbon Canyon will certainly be in traffic in and around the project area, particularly on those morning commuters going west and south bound on Lambert Road and Valencia Avenue and for those traveling afternoons the other way heading toward the Canyon on those roads.  Oh, and one might wonder about fires in the "open space" among the so-called "Tonner Hills" around these tracts, the same areas that burned during the Freeway Complex Fire of November 2008.  Undoubtedly, planners have accounted for every such contingency in the development of Blackstone.

07 December 2010

On the Skids in Carbon Canyon #6538 and #6579 1/4

More recent escapades on the state highway through our bucolic canyon, despite striping, guardrails, signs, reflectors and, theoretically, common sense that seek to dictate otherwise.

The debris du jour is along the east downslope of the S-curves on the Chino Hills side (lest the Brea side dominate too much in the way of damage) and some of the detritus managed to skitter down the short slope off the highway.

The 1/4 is but a slight push of a section of guardrail up higher on the S-curve that has been frequently knocked off-kilter.

While there, the opportunity to lighten the mood arose--hence, the nice view towards the peaks of San Antonio (aka Baldy), Ontario, and Cucamonga.

06 December 2010

On the Skids in Carbon Canyon #6400

There was another debris-depositing dust-up on Carbon Canyon Road over the weekend, just a few yards from the recent incident west of Olinda Village on the downslope toward Carbon Canyon Regional Park and Olinda Ranch.

In this incident, there didn't appear to be any skid marks, just pieces of fenders, mirrors, light panels and other assorted odds and ends scattered for quite a distance on both sides of the highway.

Perhaps someone knows more about this latest event?  There obviously seems to be something about a downhill curve that (going on a limb here) almost certainly involved excessive speed, but as to whether there were injuries beyond the damage to a vehicle or vehicles is not known to this blogger.

After several months of quiet, there have been a series of collisions on the roadway, with a couple of new minor ones noted on the Chino Hills side and maybe from last weekend, as well.

05 December 2010

Historic 1858 and 1862 Maps of Rancho Santa Ana del Chino

In 1851, a decade after the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino was granted to Antonio Maria Lugo and eight years after Lugo's son-in-law, Isaac Williams, secured an addition that expanded the property to some 44,000 acres, Congress passed a land claims act for California.

The question of the legitimacy of Spanish and Mexican-era land grants had been raised with the treaty that ended the Mexican-American War three years previously.  Even though the American envoy, Nicholas Trist, agreed to include a provision that guaranteed these grants, that article was stricken from the ratified treaty at the behest of Congress and President James K. Polk.

When gold was discovered in the Sierra Nevada Mountains just nine days before Mexico ratified the treaty, the dynamics of land ownership changed dramatically.  Instead of some 10,000 non-Indians residing in California, the next several years saw about a quarter of a million emigrants, many of whom tried placer gold mining to little or no success and a great deal of whom thought to acquire land.  Much of the prime holdings, however, were congregated in large ranchos granted under Spanish and Mexican rule.

Congress commissioned two reports to determine the validity of land grants and one came up with the idea that they were largely legitimate while the other thought differently.  Accepting the latter, under the proposition that it was better to open up California land to new settlers, Congress passed the 3 March legislation mandating that holders of existing grants take their documentation and send witnesses to a land commission for a hearing.  After that body's decision, however, there was a right of appeal to federal district and, ultimately, the Supreme Court.  With the land commission approving about 75% of the 800 or so claims, this meant that most appeals were brought to the courts by the United States, which did so automatically, regardless of the merit of the claim.

The costs to land owners could be staggering.  Lawyers had to be hired, surveyors brought in to make maps required by the process, and property holders faced the unsavory prospect of having their claims take, on the average, seventeen years to adjudicate from the commission and courts.  During that enormously long period, the economy went through great turbulence.  In 1851, the Gold Rush was in full flower and owners of ranches stocked with cattle made significant sums feeding the teeming hordes that came to California.  By the end of the decade, though, the decline of gold production was precipitous and ranchers suffered with little demand for their growing inventory of livestock.

In 1861-62, a period of heavy rainfall of biblical proportions unleashed flooding on a massive scale, washing away cattle and crops.  The El Niño phenomenon was followed, though no one knew it then, by the La Niña effect--that is, a two-year drought that decimated an already tottering cattle industry.  For Spanish-speaking Californios who built their society around the cattle ranch, not just their economy, the results were devastating and they still had to contend with the land claims proceedings that were, in most cases, not concluded until later in the decade.

By 1870, then, agriculture was predominant on smaller farms carved out from foreclosed and sold ranchos that were subdivided.  American migrants came again in large numbers from the destruction caused by the Civil War.  Massive economic, political and social change ensued during the land claims process.

Surprisingly, the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino survived intact and would largely remain so until the 1890s.  Isaac Williams, owner of the rancho from the early 1840s, died in 1856 before the worst of the trials and tribulations mentioned above took place.  The property passed to his two daughters, Merced and Francisca, whose interests were managed by their husbands, John Rains and Robert Carlisle.  Disputes between the brothers-in-law led Rains to sell his interest to Carlisle and move to a new home at Rancho Cucamonga.  Rains was mysteriously murdered in 1862 and suspicion rested in many minds upon Carlisle.  The latter, too, met a violent death through a legendary gun battle with the King brothers, Frank and Houston, of El Monte, which took place at a Los Angeles hotel, the Bella Union, which had been once owned by John Rains.

Still, the land claim first filed by Williams and then continued under Carlisle was approved.  As part of the process, surveys were conducted of Rancho Santa Ana del Chino.  Thanks to OAC, or the Online Archive of California, a database of collaborating libraries and archives in California, these documents are available for viewing on the Internet.  Two surveys of the rancho are provided through the database, one from 1858 with 1864 amendments and another from 1862.

The November 1858 drawing is by Los Angeles-based surveyor Henry Hancock, who surveyed a great many land claims parcels.  Hancock, born in 1822 in New Hampshire, was a lawyer as well as a surveyor and came to California during the Gold Rush, but moved to Los Angeles in 1850.  He represented the Rocha family as attorney in their land claims case and, when their legal expenses led them to sell the ranch, it was purchased by Hancock (he also had an interest in the rancho that included much of Beverly Hills, though he lost this to foreclosure to William Workman of Rancho La Puente, a near neighbor of Isaac Williams.)  Hancock was a partner in one of the first attempts to drill for oil in the Los Angeles region because the rancho he obtained from the Rochas had large surface deposits of asphaltum or tar, called in Spanish brea.  Hence the name of his rancho, La Brea (as well as the Rancho Cañon de la Brea in Brea Canyon, which gave the name of the city within which is the western portion of Carbon Canyon!)  Hancock's wife was Ada Haraszthy, whose father Agoston, a Hungarian, was a major viticulturist in winemaker in 1850s and 1860s California.  Their surviving child, G. Allan Hancock, inherited his father's interests at Rancho La Brea and, when oil was produced there in the early 1900s and afterward (around the time of the development of Olinda in this area) became a wealthy man.  Allan Hancock developed the still-exclusive residential neighborhood of Hancock Park on the La Brea rancho, was the discoverer of the La Brea tar pits archaeological site, and was also invested in Santa Maria in northern Santa Barbara County, where Hancock College is named for him and where he died at age 90 in 1965.

Henry Hancock's survey has some notable features, including the siting of the ranch house, though without any specific locating notations.  There is also reference to "High Rolling Hills," meaning the Chino Hills, running northwest to southeast.  Up at the northern side of the rancho there is an interesting notation of a "Clump of Willows in Permanent pool of Water." This would be somewhere in Chino, east of the 71 Freeway and south of the 60, but specifically it is not possible to tell from the map.

At the bottom of the survey is a small portion of the "Overland Stage Road," which had been called the Colorado Road (because it went from Los Angeles to the Colorado River) from at least 1850 and which became known as the Butterfield Stage Road (hence the Butterfield Ranch neighborhood of Chino Hills.)  Later, this was the Pomona-Rincon Road, a name still retained in a road that is in several segments in our area.  Finally, the route of State Route 71 was aligned generally along portions of the old road.  The "Overland Stage Road" route appears again at the top of the map along the border with Rancho San José, at the Chino Hills/Diamond Bar/Pomona boundary area.  What is striking, however, is that the indications of the road from the partial markings at the southern and northern extremes shows that the route went clearly west of the ranch house, once located at what is now Boys Republic.  This seems to lead to the idea that the road went more along what would be closer to Peyton Drive.  Other later maps might give better clues as to the route followed by the old highway, a major transportation route for the broader Los Angeles region.

At the far upper left or northwest corner of the rancho is a notation for "Cañada de la Brea," although this is actually what is now known as Tonner Canyon.  We know this because the entirety of the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino falls within San Bernardino County and what is today called Brea Canyon is in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

Interestingly, a similarly-named canyon is partially marked out at the southwestern portion of the Chino rancho and is named "Brea Cañon" with two other smaller canyons clearly outlined just to the south.  This is almost certainly Carbon Canyon being the first with Soquel and, probably, Telegraph canyons being the other two.

The link to the 1858 Hancock survey, which was resurveyed in May 1864 by Thomas Sprague, and which is archived at the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley is:


In October 1862, Robert Carlisle hired surveyor Frank Lecouvreur to draw up a new map of the Chino Rancho.  Lecouvreur was born in 1829 in Prussia to a French father and Prussian mother.  He, like Hancock, was a Gold Rush migrants, coming to California in 1851.  Settling in Los Angeles in 1855, he was the deputy county clerk for three years and then was hired to be the deputy surveyor for Hancock and likely assisted on the 1858 survey of the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino.  Lecouvreur then succeeded Hancock was county surveyor when the latter, an avid supporter of the Union cause during the Civil War, was given a military commission in Los Angeles.  This appears to explain why Lecouvreur conducted the 1862 survey.  After finishing his second term as surveyor, Lecouvreur left from the business and became cashier at the prominent Farmers and Merchants Bank of Los Angeles, where he became a member of the board of directors before retiring because of health problems in 1886.  He lived, however, fifteen more years before dying in Los Angeles in 1901.

The 1862 map actually provides less detail in terms of landmarks or notable features than the earlier survey.  At the far southern portion, instead of the Butterfield Stage Road, there is a marking for "Chino Creek," which emptied, as it does now (albeit as a flood control channel), into the Santa Ana River.  It might also be noted that the rancho to the southeast was called El Rincon and there was a village in that area in what is now the Prado Dam area in Riverside County at the conjunction of the 71 and 91 freeways.

The same "Permanent Pool of Water" as well as a nearby section of "Gray Sandstone Rock" demarcated on the earlier survey are also shown, but no indication of the road to the west.  More pronounced than before, however, is the "Cañada de la Brea" along a longer portion of the western boundary of the rancho sloping from northeast to southwest.  As stated above, though, this is Tonner Canyon.

And, as previously, at the extreme southwest corner of the ranch is the markings of a small canyon (though not any to the south, as before) as well as what is identified as "Brea Creek."  There is even a smaller gully coming from the south and emptying into the creek--this could be anywhere within the Chino Hills portion of Carbon Canyon, but likely west of the S-curve where the Carriage Hills subdivision is located and probably quite close to where the Western Hills Oaks community is located.  Indeed, just outside of the rancho boundary and extending north of the creek is a long narrow small canyon, which gives every appearance of being Lion Canyon, the access point for the St. Joseph's Hill of Hope religious compound that is just to the west of the Sleepy Hollow neighborhood of Chino Hills.  This is evident, again, from the fact, that the western boundary of Rancho Santa Ana del Chino is also the dividing line between San Bernardino, Orange and Los Angeles counties at various points.

Finally, it is notable that the 1862 Lecouvreur map has a lengthy title that includes the notation: "showing the proposed Alteration of the Exterior Boundary line, on the authority of the approved Maps of the 'Rancho Santa Ana del Chino,' 'Rancho Addition to Santa Ana del Chino,' and 'Rancho El Rincon' . . ."  The differences appear, in fact, to be entirely about adjusting the boundary that separated Chino, the 1843 addition to the north and east (the boundaries of which do not appear on the 1858 map), and El Rincon and have nothing to do with the portions that include or are near Carbon Canyon.  Boundary disputes and differences, however, were common because of the inexact determinations of these lines during the land grant periods under Spain and Mexico. 

The link to the 1862 Lecouvreur survey, also deposited at the Bancroft Library, is:


04 December 2010

La Vida Mineral Springs Water Tank's Good Samaritan Returns!

Over at the old water tank at the historic La Vida Mineral Springs property, it looked like a seasonal change of color for the Fall, as the graffiti-marred structure, hit again some months back, was tagged with additional hues of yellow and who knows what else.

The augmented artistic expression on the La Vida
Mineral Springs water tank as of 23 November.

However, it appears that the same Good Samaritan who painted over the "artwork" last year (or was it the year before) came back within the last few days and obliterated the newest markings. 

The handiwork of the mysterious Good Samaritan, who
gave the old tank a nice touchup, as of 1 December.

So, for now, the base is a brownish gray and the tank is again a faded pink--the colors they were for years and years when, before the 2008 Triangle Complex fire burned down the surrounding brush and weeds, they were almost completely obscured from view.

Let's hope the latest treatment remains for awhile.

03 December 2010

On the Skids in Carbon Canyon #6217 & #6382

Within the last week or so, another two incidents have occurred in which drivers have strayed away from the usually adequately striped and marked Carbon Canyon Road (State Highway 142) and caused some notable property damage, including private and public property, as well as the offending vehicle.

The first involved the side-swiping by an eastbound traveler of a pickup truck parked in front of some apartments at the east end of Sleepy Hollow in Chino Hills, the scene of another errant auto that crashed into a rock wall remnant there within the last few weeks.  The photo of the pickup doesn't actually show much of the damage, save some crumpling of the side, but there was a blown tire and many scratches, in addition to the significant dents.

The other took place on the westbound side of the road downhill from Olinda Village on the Brea side of the Canyon.  In this case, the vehicle took a curve too fast, overcompensated, and skidded off the roadway and into the steep hillside.  A reflector or two took hits and several souvenirs of the conveyance in question were left to little the shoulder.  Sprinkled liberally throughout this post are some shots of this latest escapade.