22 April 2011

The Carbon Canyon and Tonner Canyon Connection, Part 8

In August 1982, the Chino Hills Specific Plan was adopted, setting guidelies for the management of over 18,000 acres of land (out of some 40,000 in the general area denoted as Chino Hills) in the far southwest corner of San Bernardino County in what was then an unincorporated area.  The impetus for the process was attributed to county supervisor Robert O. Townsend, a Chino native who had served on the county's regional planning commission.

In a March 1983 article by David Kinchen of the Los Angeles Times, the first sentence was "It's virtually impossible to discuss Chino Hills in San Bernardino County without trotting out the superlatives."  It repeated what had been stated in 1979 articles from the same paper; namely, that the plan "represents the largest scope of land planning ever undertaken by a California public agency in cooperation with so many private property owners; more than $5 billion in construction—both residential and commercial—is projected . . ."
Moreover, the county had just then finished approvals for nearly $600 million in financing that would provide for public facilities and other improvements.

As explained by Supervisor Townsend, "although Chino Hills is largely rural and undeveloped, many years ago it was committed for future development."  He didn't elaborate on the commitments mentioned, and it would be interesting to know just when that all occurred.  He went on to say that "it [the area] has experienced increasing development pressures over the last decade and we felt the need to upgrade the quality of planning to protect the area from inappropriate development and, at the same time, provide the needed services for people."  Again, some of these statements went unexplained as to detail, especially the nature of "increasing development pressures" and what constituted "inappropriate development."

By 1983, the Chino Hills area had about 1,500 acres of developed area consisting of 4,700 dwellings housing 13,500 persons.  Under what was termed conservative estimates by county planners, the Specific Plan called for an additional 29,000 units for 76,500 residents over 30 years, meaning by 2013.  Of this, there was a target to have 20% of the structures to be considered as affordable housing.  Moreover, because a professed goal of the Plan "was to assure retention of the rural character of the Chino Hills," it was stated that 46% of the plan area was to be open space with about 30% of that to be considered natural open space.  Projections called for some fifty miles of equestrian trails and, after "development pressures" led to the consideration of housing, freeways and even an airport in the hills to the south and west of the plan area, environmental groups, led by Hills for Everyone, successfully lobbied for the creation in 1982 of Chino Hills State Park, which at the time of the article had 6,000 acres, but plans for additional 4,000 were being formulated.

Ten planning firms participated in the development of the plan and a county official characterized the effort as "beyond the traditional level of public planning" because the county was "advocating suich an extensive development program" proactively, rather than being reactive to what developers and property owners would ordinarily do.   As stated in the last post, the plan's financing came directly from some 150 property owners, who agreed to a one-time tax assessment that generated over $800,000 to pay for its creation.

Notably, the Plan organized the Chino Hills area into eight villages that had their own cores and it was projected that development would be more dense around these centers and less so on the peripheries. A mixed-use corridor for industrial and commercial uses was planned for the Highway 71 corridor. At the time and, until the late 1990s, the roadway was a two-lane expressway.

Prior to the creation and approval of the Specific Plan, five developers had already received approval for plans in the area.  These included M.J. Brock and Sons in Brea; Rolling Ridge Estates Partners in Newport Beach; Payne Ranch; C/L Builders-Developers, Inc. from Upland and Moreland Development Company in Anaheim.  Rolling Ridge was the biggest of these, working with a section of 1,500 acres owned by Bramalea, Ltd. of Newport Beach and Huntington Beach firm Creative Communities. 

A view of Tres Hermanos Ranch looking southeast from Grand Avenue, 2 March 2011.

This first village to be developed in Chino Hills became the Rolling Ridge village north of Grand Avenue, west of the 71, south of the 60 and east of Chino Hills Parkway, which was slated for buildout at over 3,700 dwellings, a shopping center, schools, parks, a church, a fire station and the preservation of 20% of the land area, or 500 acres, for open space.  Some of these amenities, including the church and an 89-acre "Chino Hills Mall," did not come to fruition, even though it was scheduled for completion in 1986 and had May Company as one of four major department stores to be anchor tenants  for the $100 million complex.  Years later, the shoppng center that includes Costco, Lowe's and Sport Chalet was developed on that site.

As to homes in Rolling Ridge village, there was anticipated to be some $300 million in construction with 264 lots (priced at $50,000 to $90,000) on 283 acres coming first, comprised of 133 houses ranging in price from about $165,000 to $205,000.  At the time of the article, the first fifteen houses were completed and 118 more to come in the next two years.

Meanwhile, to the south, was Woodview Village, which was near existing housing in the Glenmeade suubdivision, most from the 1960s and 1970s.  There, Brock started construction in October 1982 on a 45-acre parcel, in which 65 houses were planned with pricing in the $100,000 to about $120,000 range.  This seems to be the area south of Chino Hills Parkway and east of Pipeline Avenue, adjacent to the Lake Los Serranos Club mobile home park.

West of that was Carbon Canyon Village, which included a development by Moreland Development Company for 137 single-family estate lots on a 450-acre site and prices from $77,000 to $120,000.  This would appear to be what became the Oak Tree Estates and Oak Tree Downs area.  Meantime, C/L Builders was created "The Ranch," with houses ranging from $140,000 to $190,000—this became the newer portion of what is now Summit Ranch, the earlier homes having been built in the 1970s.

Payne Ranch, west of Peyton Drive and south of Grand Avenue, adjacent to the long-standing equestrian properties on the former English Ranch, was planning to develop 110 custom home lots on 117 acres over a decade.

Other builders looking to develop projects, included Sunwest Paciic from Whittier; two Canadian firms, Melcor of Edmonton and Olympia and York of Toronto (this latter with the Roberts Group of Marina del Rey); the Galstain Family Trust from Glendale; and Irvine's Lusk and Sons.

There was, however, one additional village that was given the briefest of references: this was the "Tres Hermanos Village." Since its 1978 purchase of the 1,800 acre ranch, the City of Industry had certainly been aware of "development pressures" in the area and was planning accordingly. The 1983 Times article, however, simply stated that "the City of Industry hasn't outlined plans" for the property.

While construction of many areas within the Chino Hills Specific Plan took off during the economic boom of the mid-1980s (to be stunted by the crash of 1987 and the resulting crisis in the housing market that lasted through the mid to late 1990s), the Tres Hermanos Village remained unrealized. The next and final installment of the series deals with some issues that arose as a result of perceived inequities in zoning within the Chino Hills Specific Plan.


Jeff Fischer said...
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Jeff Fischer said...

Great article. One minor correction (fifth paragraph from the end, in the sentence that starts "Meantime, C/L Builders..."): The *original* development was "The Ranch." The newer development to which the paragraph refers was "Summit Trails." These two separate developments were merged (as the article correctly states) into "Summit Ranch." This occurred in the mid-1990s, if memory serves correctly.

prs said...

Hello Jeff, thanks for the comment and the correction. This clarifies matters from some earlier posts, as well. So now it is established that there were two distinct developments: "The Ranch" was first and then "Summit Trails" came later and these merged about 15 years ago to "Summit Ranch." I appreciate your help with this.