13 January 2012

Chino Hills Champion Carbon Canyon Chronicling Continued

Last week's edition of the Chino Hills Champion, the weekly paper that has, amazingly, been continuously published since 1887 and which is a great local newspaper, had a notable piece by Marianne Napoles on the Circle K convenience store, which opened several months ago at Carbon Canyon Road and Canyon Hills Road, just east of Sleepy Hollow.

It was interesting to note, for example, that the store and associated building constituted the sole commercial construction project in all of Chino Hills during the last year.  The family of Jasbir, Kamal and Shawn Singh, who have resided in the city for about two decades, spent some $2 million to develop the property.  After a late 2007 approval, work started almost two years ago in Spring 2010 with the store opening this past October.  While there was a significant sum ($200K) invested in soil and engineering reports as well as a wastewater treatment system (sewers not existing in the area), there was also $170,000 assessed to the family for the construction of a traffic signal at the intersection, as a "fair share" of mitigating for traffic.  As has been noted here previously, this signal is on the city's priority list, so the day is coming.

Also reported is the fact that the store, open all day every day, has six employees, five of which are from Chino Hills (how many are family members?) and one from Chino, and the Singhs were said to have stated that "business has been pretty good so far."  There are four additional suites (one for retail and the others for offices) adjacent to and below the store (the structure is built on a slope so that the three lower level spaces are not visible from Carbon Canyon Road) and the family was quoted as saying that negotiations are ongoing regarding the retail space, while a passerby inquired about an office unit.

Finally, sometime early next month, the Singhs are planning a grand opening, including vendors and giveaways.  At least one canyon resident will not be there, having opined here previously that the development is completely out of character in the canyon. 

The rural atmosphere that defines Carbon Canyon and which has, it is assumed, been the inspiration for people to move here, is slowly and methodically being eroded by this and other incompatible uses.  This includes suburban "amenities" like a convenience store with its glaring parking lot lights on all night and the claims of new jobs (at what rate per hour?) ring hollow. 

Then, there'll be the traffic signal there, ostensibly to "alleviate traffic," but only really serving the interests of the very few residents who will be accessing Carbon Canyon Road from Canyon Hills Road.  And, let's not forget the approved housing project that is slated for the hills to the west of Canyon Hills Road in and around the old Ski Villa slope.  All of this will continue the onslaught, emasculate the rural nature of the canyon, and turn the area into more of what has already consumed too much of our region.  For now, the moribund economy, ironically enough, provides a respite from the inevitable. 

But, enough here--these views have been expressed before and others have countered them in comments, all of which can be located via a sidebar search tool.

Meanwhile, in news from tomorrow's paper, another article by Napoles concerns the 10 January deadline for Southern California Edison to submit alternative routes to the California Public Utilities Commission on the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project's Segment 8 through Chino Hills, passing just north of Carbon Canyon.

Not surprisingly, the route preferred by the opponents of the project and the City of Chino Hills, which would go through Chino Hills State Park (which was only recently the site of a long-delayed requirement upon SCE to remove old transmission towers and lines!) and include a special switching station at the old Aerojet munitions testing facility adjacent to the upscale golf course community at Vellano, is estimated by SCE to be a mind-numbing $600 million or so. 

Moreover, the company claims that this route is technically not practical due to unstable slope conditions at the Aerojet site and that, even if the route was workable, the project would not be completed for another decade.  In addition, the company asserts that the grading and soil removal at Aerojet would be enormous and that, because the Aerojet facility, which had all kinds of toxic materials from decades of weapons testing, is under the auspices of the Department of Toxic Substance Control (the early days of the Chronicle had some entries on Aerojet--accessed via the search tool at the right sidebar), delays would, naturally, ensue.

The existing route, including sections that come very close to houses, is largely complete, with twelve of eighteen massive 198-foot towers completed and the remaining in various stages of work.  The cost there is said by Edison to be about $166 million (more than a third of which, nearly $60 mil, has been spent) and completion could be had in a few months, including finishing the last six towers and stringing the lines.

In all, the submitted report, spanning close to a hundred pages, detailed fifteen routes, including nine completely new ones.  Of these latter, four involve shorter towers at increased costs of between $8 and $25 million dollars from the $166 million mentioned above.  The other five routes deal with underground construction and the estimates are also staggering: from about $600 mil to $1 billion.  Completion dates for these nine new routes vary from 2014 to 2017 and Edison was sure to point out that the hurried nature of the reporting process, mandated by the 10 January date, meant that a full, detailed analysis was not included.

City Manager Michael Fleager was quoted by Napoles as saying that the state park and underground options are "viable options," but Edison and, perhaps the CPUC (or even the DTSC), might beg to differ. 

This whole project is enormously complicated, far more than many of those deeply invested have been willing to admit, at least publicly.  While those who live adjacent to and close to the right-of-way are understandably upset and concerned about many elements, including property values, noise, and others, assertions of astronomical property value losses involving the entire city are more than slightly disingenuous. 

So, too, is the admittedly clever and creative claim by congressional representative Ed Royce (R-Fullerton), running in this fall's elections for the newly-reconstituted district seat now held by longtime incumbent Gary Miller (who, incidentally, announced just this week that he is moving to a Rancho Cucamonga home he owns so he can run, against another Republican, Bob Dutton, for the redesigned district seat there--so much for the beloved hometown of Diamond Bar!) 

Royce avers that federal housing loan rules apply to the homes next to SCE's right-of-way, so that government-funded loans would not be available to them in the future.  A look, however, at those rules shows quite clearly that any prohibition only involves homes that are actually within the right-of-way.  What's the old saying about "the devil is in the details?"

In sum, the towers are massive, unattractive, too close to a significant number of houses, and may well generate a significant amount of unwanted noise.  As to whether these behemoths would fall and inflict enormous damage in a massive earthquake, Edison claims the design prevents the likelihood, but we really can't know, since we haven't had a true "big one" (that is, an 8.0 or higher quake) since January 1857 (boy, are we overdue!).

The merits and pitfalls concerning wind power and renewable energy also have led to statements that are politically charged (!) and motivated and, therefore, are as likely to contain somewhat plausible-sounding manipulations as legitimate critiques or reasonable claims of benefit.

Between the polarized talk at the ends of the political spectrum, the reality (let's not use the word "truth," hmm?) is that the impacts of these "towers of terror" are probably somewhere tending to the middle between benign and disastrous.  More likely, their existence would be along the lines (!) of a significant inconvenience for those living close and not much at all for most anyone else.  If there was a quake big enough to topple the suckers, it would almost certainly be so big that we'd have a whole lot else to be worried about, like leveled freeways, buckled and collapsed bridges, burst and snapped gas, electric and water lines, and a bunch of other life-changing crises, including many injured and a lot of lost lives.  It's easy with these highly emotional issues to, as the cliche goes, not see "the forest for the trees."

Having said all this, the folks at Hope for the Hills deserve great credit for mobilizing an impressive level of community activism and power (!) at its most potent and effective form.  Not that there haven't been exaggerations and dramatizations and not that their work will lead to the (full) accomplishment of their goals.  But, it does show that grass-roots activism is alive and well and can lead to political success, if not a total victory.

The latter, though, remains to be seen.  A pre-conference hearing comes up later this coming week and there is still much at play.

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