26 November 2012

New Name, Same Game: From Canyon Crest to Madrona

This is not something to give thanks about, especially the day after the holiday, when the mail brought a notice from the City of Brea regarding the "Notice of Availability of 2012 Update of EIR 02-01 for the Madrona Residential Development Plan (a revision of the former Canyon Crest Plan.)

That's right, it's time to go through the wringer one more time and play another round of that game involving a 367-acre parcel to the north of Carbon Canyon at the northeastern corner of Brea.  The long-playing drama involving housing development plans for this scenic, undeveloped land moves to its next stage.

The Shopoff Group, which had taken its Canyon Crest development plan to the City Council, which then was hearing an appeal of a (narrowly-successful) Planning Commission approval, terminated its plans for the project just as the November 2008 Freeway Complex fire scorched the entire site.  Because of the blaze, the City Council directed staff to consider the conflagration's effects on any future development plan for the area.

Meantime, the property passed into the hands of the Old Standard Life Insurance Company of Spokane, Washington, which hardly behaved by any old standards of ethical business behavior before it, too, faced financial distress before its reorganization.  A lengthy series of posts here in the first part of 2009 detailed, or tried to, the convolunted, complicated and complex story of that business.

Finally, the severe recession of Fall 2008 (brought about by financial companies, not perhaps unlike Old Standard) put the brakes on any idea of development with the Canyon Crest project--at least for awhile.  The new owners of Old Standard, however, recognizing the potential value of an undeveloped property, which would appreciate with a tentative tract map in hand, regardless of whether the likelihood to build was present, made a move to restart the project. 

This link (click here) from the State of Idaho in Spring 2009 detailed the liquidation of Old Standard, but note that the end indicates that the portfolio of its bonds, loans, and real estate is "significant" and that "good success" had been experienced with liquidation.  The situation with Canyon Crest should, obviously, be examined with this situation in mind.

Early last year, Canyon Crest was revived with Old Standard hiring Irvine-based Concorde Development to manage the project.  Concorde, founded by Dennis Gage in 1984, is not a big-name developer, but has had some housing projects in the far southern portions of Orange County, specifically San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente. 

On occasion, as is often the case, problems arose in these communities.  At San Clemente, his proposal to build houses at what was the end of Camino de las Ramblas met with resistance from local residents, who had enjoyed being at the earlier end, and the City Council, which felt that the project had too many issues to be approved until Concorde came back with a plan that met their approval, if not those of the residents.

In San Juan Capistrano, Gage proposed an apartment complex on land near a projected high school.  To that end, he engaged in some agreements with the school district to assist in financing for the school, while working to get his project approved.  When the city enacted a moratorium on all application for proposed housing projects while seeking to update its mid-1970s General Plan, Gage sued the city, aided by a builders' association legal defense fund, and won.  Eventually, Gage bowed out and sold the property to another developer, which succeeded in building single-family homes on the site.

Finally, Concorde, through a subsidiary (and can those relationships be tough to sort out), built a commercial center in Stockton, in central California, during the glory days of 2005.  The property was sold last year after Stockton became a "poster child" for all that can go wrong with untrammeled development and poor planning.

Canyon Crest, however, has become a phrase loaded with baggage from many years of travails and travels through the several layers of the planning process in Brea.  Clearly, it was time, at some point in 2011 and 2012, for a new start.

Hence, Madrona!

At the moment, there are several documents available online for those who just don't have enough to do, but might be concerned with the future of Carbon Canyon to pore through.  Characteristically, these can be mind-numbingly long and filled with technical language.  Perhaps the most accessible and least weighty of these is the Madrona Development Review Submittal, of 19 June 2012, which can be accessed here.  At 89 pages, it is not as War and Peace-like as some other docs, such as the updated Environmental Impact Report, which can be found with the above submittal and a boatload of other material by clicking here.

In any event, the main "changes" to the Madrona Project from Canyon Crest are:  3 fewer houses (these that were strangely situated away from the others very near the border with Chino Hills), but a drastically-reduced amount of grading from 9,500,000 cubic yards to a little under 5,000,000.  There is, obviously, more to the reboot, but that's for another post.

Meantime, public comment on the updated Environmental Impact Report is to be sent to the city's chief planner, David Crabtree, by no later than 7 January, so anyone concerned about what the Madrona project will potentially do to Carbon Canyon has until then (interesting how the comment period comes during the busy holiday season) to have their say.

No comments: