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.


Canyon Native said...

Merry Christmas, Paul,

Thanks for keeping everyone in the Canyon informed and updated. We appreciate your quality writing and balanced approach.

Canyon Native said...

Paul, it's been a long time since we've been able to read one of your blogs. Hope all is well and that you are just taking some vacation.

prs said...

Hi Canyon Native, the month of silence is at last broken and the blog resumes once more. Thanks for checking in!

dagohoy620 said...

Has there been any health risk in the canyon area from the Olinda Alpha Landfill a mile from the residential neighborhood? Any incidence of leaks or seepages from the landfill?

prs said...

Hello Dagohoy, I happened to be doing a followup on Blackstone tonight and saw your comment. I don't know of any documented examples of health problems emanating from Olinda Alpha, though there may be some. Perhaps someone else has come across confirmed reports? Thanks for visiting!