29 December 2012

On the Skids in Carbon Canyon #10564-66

Of recent vintage are three incidents that have taken place along the S-curve on Carbon Canyon Road on the Chino Hills section of Carbon Canyon.

The first involves the sign that just won't die—one that has been mauled, mangled, manhandled and mowed down many times over the years—on the tightest curve about half-way down on the eastbound side.  Its left "leg" below the shin has been sheared off, but it stands shakily on its remaining appendage, politely, if often futilely, asking drivers to take it slow around the bend.

A little further down along a set of guardrails just east of one of the entrances to the Summit Ranch subdivision is an area in which a debris trail, a crumpled portion of rail (to the left of the reflecting reflector) and a fender are left from a miscalculation.

This seems to be the case even further down at the bottom of the curve, where a bent reflector sign and pieces of yellow reflecting material testify to another errancy by an eastbounder.

22 December 2012

Olinda Oil Field Photos from 1916

Here are some great views of the Olinda Oil Field as it appeared in 1916 with the photographs appearing in an article about energy supply in the United States during the First World War, which America entered the following year. 

The creation of the American Expeditionary Force to fight in Europe, where the opposing sides had been bogged down in catastrophic trench warfare, led to the development of a quickly-mobilized industry of weapons and ammunition, tanks, aircraft, trucks and other vehicles, and ships with the demand for petroleum skyrocketing.  The Olinda field, along with the others in the several oil-producing states in the Union, were tapped heavily for the war effort.

The views here include panoramas of the general field and of a large reservoir of oil and the reflections cast from it, which is a timeworn photographic cliche, to be sure, but a very effective one.

These images could not be scanned together because they are on facing pages with the center fold between then and were obtained by the publication from the General Petroleum Company, one of the bigger firms operating leases at Olinda in that period. 

The company had its property to the north of the Chanslor-Canfield Midway Organization (CCMO), to which the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad spur line came into the field from Atwood in Placentia. 

This would be roughly in the vicinity of the Olinda Alpha Landfill above the Olinda Ranch subdivision.  Click here for a link to a post on this blog from just about a year ago showing a detail of a 1924 map in which the General Petroleum site was located.

Aside from the forest of derricks and collection of pump houses, sheds and other associated structures, residences are found scattered throughout the panoramas and some of the surrounding hills and open spaces are captured, as well.

These images were scanned from the article, which is in the collection of the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum in the City of Industry, California.

20 December 2012

Towers of Terror: TRTP Tottering/Teetering Towards Twenty-Thirteen

With the Chino Hills maternity "hotel" issue heating up in recent weeks, the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project controversy has gone from boiling to simmering and has gotten less attention.

Still, in the 7 December edition of the Champion, Marianne Napoles reported that Southern California Edison had issued a 100-plus page report, as required by the California Public Utilities Commission, concerning its projected costs for realigning the TRTP lines underground instead of strung along those massive 198-foot tall towers that are partially installed through portions of Chino Hills on a narrow easement owned by the utility.

SCE estimated the cost of its preferred underground route at a mind-blowing $620 million, juxtaposed with the $172 million expense of the above-ground route with the towers. Stating that there was no similar example of a "buried" system comparable to that of the TRTP, the company further offered that there was no realistic way to estimate the timeframe for the design, manufacturing, installation and test of the underground alternative.  In addition, the acquisition of property for such a line would entail additional time for either negotiations or condemnation of land necessary for the project alternative.  According to its "best case scenario," the first of two circuits could be completed by January 2016 and the second a year later. 

Though Edison, obviously, prefers to continue with the above-ground component with the towers, it came up with five potential underground routes with costs projected from just under a half-billion dollars to a little over $800 million.  In each case, the firm used a 50% contingency formula for unforseen costs, change orders and other possibilities.

To Chino Hills mayor Peter Rogers, the costs put forth in the report are "exorbitant" and do not reflect an average of costs in construction, but, rather, were simply the highest possible numbers.  Hope for the Hills president Bob Goodwin, meantime, accused SCE of overinflating costs to scare people from accepting the underground alternative.

Whatever the case, whether SCE is being reasonable or ridiculous in its cost estimates for the underground alternative, there will be a long wait until the CPUC makes its decision.  That is not expected until July, by which time it will be interesting to see how much momentum Hope for the Hills can reintroduce after the long lull and "competition" from the maternity "hotel" controversy. 

Its latest provocative banner in Carbon Canyon at the summit of the S-curve along Carbon Canyon Road warns motorists that they are entering SCE's EMF (electric and magnetic field) testing grounds, inferring that the project would contain unhealthful levels of EMF to those living near the towers.

The Environmental Protection Agency has this to say about the issue of EMF levels and power lines (click here), though, for those disposed to believe the EPA and governments generally cannot be trusted to provide truthful information about this issue (or, perhaps much else), this may not be satisfactory.  The Health Physics Society, a nearly 60-year old organization of professionals specializing in radiation safety issues, offers its views here.

On the other hand, those concerned about EMF could cite opposing views, such as this one from a company that makes products claimed to help reduce harmful exposure to EMF (click here to read more) or this one from EM Watch (see here.)  As with untold number of controversial issues, there is more than enough out there to advance one or more views that contradict one another.

Along Eucalpytus Avenue across from the Chino Hills Community Park, Hope for the Hills (click here for its Web site) has another banner that blames SCE for wildfires and other disasters and, as with the EMF issue, there could be plenty of material that absolves or admonishes the company for these problems, delives into the difference between accident and neglect, and so on.

Whether the CPUC, meanwhile, is reacting in a political way to the intense pressure put upon it by the effective propaganda and grass roots efforts of Hope for the Hills and the legal work initiated by the City of Chino Hills will be interesting to see come summer.

Will the Commission really force SCE to scrap tens of millions of dollars of completed work and go to the underground option which will, regardless of accusations of overinflation, will certainly drive the cost up by hundreds of millions of dollars? 

Or is it allowing the current "reexamination" process to lumber on for what will be a couple of years by the time it has made its decision in the hope that the scope of the underground project will be considered unacceptable or that either the activism spearheaded by Hope for the Hills will wane or that its effects will be watered down as time drags on?

As stated here before (and likely elsewhere), it is strange that the CPUC approved this project several years ago and then only realized that a review was necessary once Hope for the Hills launched its impressive drive, which, in turn, led the City of Chino Hills to authorize millions of dollars to mount legal challenges.

The events of 11 July when the Commission is slated to issue its ruling will, no matter the result, be a watershed day in the history of Chino Hills--that much is certain, but little else is.

17 December 2012

Madrona (Canyon Crest) Amended EIR Comment Deadline Extended

Upon request from citizens concerned that the Madrona (formerly Canyon Crest) Amended Environmental Impact Report public comment period ending on 7 January 2013 was not timed, with the Christmas and New Year's holidays, to allow enough opportunity for responses, the City of Brea has agreed to extend the deadline another 15 days to 22 January.

A post from 26 November on this blog had more information about the newest iteration of this controversial 162-unit project on the north side of Carbon Canyon between the Orange/San Bernardino counties line and the Olinda Village community.

To review that post, please click here.

If you are as concerned about the myriad impacts of this proposed development on Carbon Canyon as many of us who have registered opposition to it over the years (this blogger only coming into this in 2008, whereas others have been fighting this project for much longer), then review the documents as best you can and send your comments to City Planner David Crabtree so they can be entered into the public record.

From there, the project's appeal, filed in 2008, will return to the City Council and there will be another opportunity to register concerns then.

Whether or not the property owner intends to build, or (more likely) secure that valuable tentative tract map and then sell the land, the idea of a large residential subdivision in a wildland area, taking away increasingly rare open space, disturbing wildlife, being prone to dangerous wildfires, and subject to a host of other issues, is bad public policy.

If the City of Chino Hills can spend millions of dollars fighting the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project and its "towers of terror," then certainly the City of Brea can, for several legal reasons embraced under the California Environmental Quality Act, show its commitment to community by rejecting this project (and any others that involve the land in question.)

Carbon Canyon is slowly being swallowed up by a creeping suburbia and for the promoters of Madrona to refer to their project as a "refined country" one really only means that the term "refined country" is code for a permanaent destruction of a central part of the Canyon.

Developers have had more than their share of regional land to develop; we have more than enough people; more than enough cars and traffic; not enough space on Carbon Canyon Road; not enough schools and funding for them; too much trash and not enough landfill space; too little open space; not enough water (long term); and the list can go on and on.

Don't forget that Chino Hills has already approved two unbuilt projects in the Canyon, totaling some 120 houses and an application is expected soon for well over 200 more.  Think about what this, and the 162 proposed for Madrona, would do to the Canyon

So, if these issues matter to you, register your concern to the City of Brea and request the City Council to reject the Madrona project.

15 December 2012

Carbon Canyon Historical Artifact #29: A Rare St. Joseph's Hill of Hope Postcard

One wonders how many of these were made and it can be assumed they're pretty rare, but this is a circa mid-1970s postcard, a chrome card made by Kolor View of Los Angeles, advertising the St. Joseph's Hill of Hope religious community that has occupied a large compound  just off Carbon Canyon to the north astride the borders of Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino Counties.

As noted in previous posts, Frances Klug, a Placentia resident, was disenchanted with the direction of the Roman Catholic Church in its post-Vatican II era and formed St. Joseph's Hill of Hope in 1967 in response.  Raising funds from supporters, Mrs. Klug was able, in 1972, to acquire 440 acres and announced ambitious plans for a compound from which to operate.

This ca. mid-1970s postcard, manufactured by Kolor View of Los Angeles, shows a pastoral landscape of oaks, wild grass and shrubs along Lion Canyon Road leading to the St. Joseph's Hill of Hope religious compound to the north of Carbon Canyon and was intended to draw potential congregrants to the organization.
Usually, cards of religious facilities and institutions show the structures that constitute the core of the enterprise, but it appears that this card was made shortly after the acreage was purchased when there were no structures to depict. 

Obviously highlighting the natural beauty of the area, and it would be interesting to know where this exactly was taken—somewhere along Lion Canyon Road, the main unpaved access road to the site—the intention was to attract potential congregants.  A profusion of oak trees, carpets of wild grass, and a small portion of a shrub in the foreground set an idyllic scene from nearly forty years ago.

The postcard's back has a short message about the natural beauty of the Hill of Hope site and an address to write to for more information about the organization, which was founded in 1967 by Frances Klug who became disillusioned with the post-Vatican II direction of the Roman Catholic Church.

The text on the upper left of the card's reverse reads "Natural beauty along the rugged mountain road leading to St. Joseph's Hill of Hope in the Carbon Canyon area of Brea, California.  For information, write P.O. Box 940, Anaheim, Calif, 92805."  Presumably, that address is no longer valid!

12 December 2012

Carbon Canyon Fire History: The Conflagration of 1990

It was late June 1990 when a transient started a fire that raged throughout Carbon Canyon and scorched over 6,600 acres and destroyed fourteen houses, all of these in the community of Sleepy Hollow.

To the west in Brea, the flames came very near to destroying the La Vida Mineral Springs Cafe, which, notably, was said to have been "built on the site of a 19th-Century stagecoach stop," a claim that has no basis.   The owner of the restaurant, Don Himes, who noted the structure was 64 years old, placing its construction in 1926, which squares with some of the sources noted in this blog, was also grateful for a Los Angeles County Fire Department five-engine crew that preserved the cafe from the inferno.  Significantly, this crew worked from the cafe roof and Carbon [Canyon] Creek, which ran directly behind it and had to deal with "bamboo" that caught fire.  This is the notorious arundo donax, which has been under an intensive eradication program along the creek since the November 2008 blaze.

There were also concerns that the fire could consume portions of Olinda Village, though the community was spared major damage.  At any rate, a Los Angeles Times article on the 29th went into great detail concerning the fire's effects and quoted many canyon residents.

Moreover, hundreds of firefighters manned the lines on the fire and at least eight sustained minor injuries.  Other damage included the destruction of some four miles of phone lines, affecting service to nearly 1,000 customers, while Southern California Edison lost a few power poles and cell tower (how many of us had those massive things in '90?) and Southern California Gas shut down service in the area until the blaze was over.

A large number of the more than 200 residents of Sleepy Hollow had evacuated the scene and 30-plus year resident Don Briney, who still lives in the neighborhood, pronounced the fire "the worst one we've ever seen," eclipsing even the 1958 fire, which occurred when he was a fairly new resident.  Briney was able to save his home by using his garden house and wetting the structure overnight, but he and his wife expressed concern that fire crews were no adequate in their part of the fire zone.  An Orange County fire captain, Dan Young, countered that crews were there, but were focused on houses where brush clearance had taken place according to the department's recommendations, because these residences had "the most likelihood of being saved.  Indeed, with the thick growth of trees and brush, it was remarked that there was great surprise that there wasn't more damage.

The most notable loss in the fire was what has been called "the Doctor's house," a sprawling 8,000 square foot house that sat on top of the hill above Hillside Drive on the northern portion of Sleepy Hollow, where the lion's share of the damage in the fire occurred.  Another two-story residence was consumed completely, leaving 48 cinder block columns, a chimney, several blackened cars and an indoor pool with water blackened by burned wood from the house.

One reisident, Robin Overholser described the fire as "a tidal wave of flame, while Yvette Magliozzi, commented that "the smoke was so bad you couldn't sleep."  Overcome with emotion, Linda Wolverton exclaimed that she gave a firefighter "a big old hug" and credited crews with saving the community.

Still, a state forestry department captain, Bruce Brown, noted that the area, with its proximity of houses to open space with the density of plant material prone to extreme dryness, was "designed for disaster" and commented that "it could have been a bad, bad situation."

In the over 20 years since, more houses have been added to the Canyon and more will undoubtedly be built (with the Madrona/Canyon Crest project back in play again on the Brea side).  Even with improvements in prevention, firefighting tactics and communication, and other factors, the risk of catastrophic fire will not go away, especially if some predictions of the effects of climate change hold true. 

05 December 2012

On the Skids in Carbon Canyon #10444

Returning home from the Brea side of Carbon Canyon about fifteen minutes ago, a wreck that appeared to involve two cars was being dealt with by Fullerton/Brea Fire Department vehicles in front of the El Rodeo Stables across from Carbon Canyon Regional Park.

Perhaps there'll be some details forthcoming about this latest incident.