29 December 2013

Carbon Canyon Historical Artifact #41: Carbon Canyon Road at La Vida Mineral Springs, ca. 1920s-30s

Here is another early real photo postcard from probably the late 1920s or perhaps the early 1930s titled "Road to La Vida Mineral Springs     Carbon Canyon, Cal.  2."  The number refers to the fact that the card was second in a series produced by the owner of La Vida Mineral Springs, probably William Newton Miller.

The view is a simple, but highly effective view evoking a bucolic rural environment.  The road does not appear to be paved with asphalt, though probably had some treatment to keep the dust down.  A nice composition was created with shade from oak trees just off the roadbed to the left contrasting with sunlight just around the graceful curve ahead.  Note, too, the lushness of the hillside at the right.  It certainly looks like the relaxing country drive it must have been seventy-five to eighty-five years ago.

The reverse of the postally unused card has an ink inscription:  "Will & I use to drive to this place / many times, some times go / on up through Carbon Canyon enroute / to Pomona California."  For folks heading inland from Orange County or southern Los Angeles County, Carbon Canyon Road, when it was fully completed through from Brea to Chino in the late 1920s, was a nice alternate to either Valley Boulevard through the eastern San Gabriel Valley or Brea Canyon Road north from Orange County.

The DOPS stamp box was used from 1925 to 1942, so, as noted above, this card would likely have been made during the years when Miller operated La Vida and had these cards made for souvenirs and marketing and before it was taken over by his children, as noted in the last post.

22 December 2013

Personal Recollections of La Vida Mineral Springs

Recently, correspondence with Roberta Wright, whose family operated the La Vida Mineral Springs resort on the Brea side of Carbon Canyon for nearly fifty years, included information that helps provide a fuller picture of the history of that facility.

Mrs. Wright's grandfather, William Newton Miller, was the owner of La Vida from about 1924, as first noted here from an Orange County Register history timeline.  The source, however, stated that Miller operated the resort from that date with an unnamed son-in-law.  What Mrs. Wright clarified was that the son-in-law was, in fact, her father Robert L. Dickenson, who, with his wife, Lois Miller, owned La Vida with the other Miller children and managed the site for some thirty years.  A post on this blog showing a 1960s postcard of one of the pools at La Vida included mention of a 1957 Los Angeles Times article that quoted "R.L. Dickenson" talking to the paper about the opening of the second pool at the resort.  At the same time, some online references to Brea city council meetings from 1963-1967 included material about Dickenson petitioning the council for hearings about issues like property tax valuation and costs for new water delivery systems at La Vida.

This 1951 photo provided by Roberta Wright looks from near the hotel at La Vida Mineral Springs westward across the pedestrian footbridge and towards the restaurant, in front of which are some parked cars.  Visible is the light snowfall that was remembered vividly by Mrs. Wright, whose grandfather became owner of the resort in the 1920s and whose parents managed the facility until it was sold in 1973 or 1974.
Mrs. Wright observed that, "in 1924 the property was owned by a boxer named Archie Rosenbaum.  Some time after that my grandfather came into the picture."  Earlier posts here discussed that Rosenbaum, a native of Russia, was a restaurant owner in Los Angeles and could be tracked as being at La Vida from 1926 until the early 1940s.  It turns out that this corresponds for the most part with William Newton Miller's tenure at the resort.  Perhaps Rosenbaum bought the resort and then Miller came in shortly afterward, because much of Rosenbaum's years specifically identified him with the café at La Vida, while Miller, then, managed the mineral springs and lodging side--the 1940 census showed Miller as "manager" of the springs.  Mrs. Wright stated that "we did not move there until 1944," to counter the misinformation in the timeline that her father, who was born in 1914, helped Miller open the site in 1924 (Dickenson was only 10 years old then!)

She also commented that "my grampa was in the oil business and lost a fortune when the crash hit.  The only thing he came away with was the springs, very sad time for the family."  She noted that Miller, who was listed in the 1930 census as an "oil operator" was a partner in the Pugh-Miller Drilling Company and was a trustee in the Bank of America, as well as being involved in other organizations.  Recent poking around found maps showing that the firm had oil wells near Topanga Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains and, more importantly, in Signal Hill near Long Beach, which was a hugely successful oil field in the 1920s and afterward.  The crash of the stock market in 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression is what Mrs. Wright referred to as affecting Miller's financial situation, leaving him with only La Vida.

Later, her account continued "my grandfather's shares were distributed evenly among the 4 siblings.  The older 3 had also purchased some shares but my mom and dad had the most after grampa died."  William Newton Miller, who was born in 1889, died in 1974, so those shares came some fifty years after he first became owner of La Vida. 

She went on to say that "there were also 3 cabins across the street from the parking lot many years before me, but when I was young there were still remnants of the cabins on the ground.  There also was a cabin on the hill across from the lower bath house which was below the restaurants about 20 yards of more.  I used to work at the old bath house."  As for this information, the first part seems to refer to structures, including one noted in several older (1920s or 1930s) real photo postcards of La Vida and one of these was lived in by the family of James Williams, who operated the resort from about 1915, a decade or more before Miller.  William's descendant, Nick, shared some of that history and some photos of the family house perched on the hill across Carbon Canyon Road from the facility.

As for the old bath house, this is another structure found on La Vida postcards from the 1920s through the 1940s or 1950s, of which several examples have been posted here.  Mrs. Wright recalled that "in the old bath house each tub had its own little room."  One of the posts quoted from a Los Angeles Times report in the late 1950s about a disastrous boiler explosion that destroyed the original bath house and seriously wounded several persons.  In the newer bath house, she remembered, "families would come in and go into the tub area and all of them would get in the tub together.  The tubs were Roman sunken and you went down a few steps to get fully in."  There is also a 1960s postcard, highlighted here in the past, that showed these tubs in the new bath house.

Mrs. Wright also stated that "there used to be a bottling plant down by where the old water tank sits on the hill and they bottled soda pop."  This location would be on the far west side of the property where the tank, still sporting the La Vida logo, is the last major physical reminder, aside from bridge support bases and sidewalk remnants, of the facility.  There was, however, also a La Vida plant in downtown Fullerton, as noted in some of the previous posts here.

She went on to say that, "around 1945-48 the soda pop company was sold to a man named Charley Shook (or Shuck)" who had once worked for Dr. Pepper.  The earliest indications of the existence of the La Vida bottling company is from the late 1920s, about the time Miller became identified with the site, and there was a considerable expansion of the business during that era and well into the 1930s, when La Vida products were also bottled in northern California.  Other posts here have featured La Vida bottles from such places as Sacramento and have spotlighted advertising efforts from the company in magazines and newspapers in the western states.  Mrs. Wright then said that, "after that [the mid to late 1940s] they only bottled the spring water for a time and then that was also abandoned."  Again, there are other posts here that feature La Vida bottles that appear to be from late 1940s to early 1950s era, when Shook (Shuck) appears to have expanded his efforts to market the soda.

Mrs, Wright  continued that, regarding the water, it "is not sulphur, but mineral.  There was a small sulphur stream that came out the canyon wall just down from the restaurant but it wa sclose to the water line of the creek.  The spring is in a sort of a cave and was not drilled out by oil seekers."  This is an interesting tidbit about the two types of volcanically-derived water found not just at La Vida but elsewhere in Carbon Canyon.  Paul Nolan Hyde, a longtime resident in Sleepy Hollow, shared some of his remembrances for this blog in its early days, and specifically remembered the sulphuric content of the water in Carbon [Canyon] Creek when he was a boy back in the 1940s.

Another remarkable photo of the unusual snowfall at La Vida Mineral Springs in the winter of 1951.  Roberta Wright, who supplied the image and her recollections of her family's long ownership of the resort, stands in the parking lot near the restaurant.  In the background, behind the cars, is the pedestrian footbridge to the hotel and bath house, which dated from the 1920s and was destroyed by a boiler explosion in the later 1950s.
There was another notable tidbit shared by Mrs. Wright, namely that "we had a heavy snow in 1951 that covered everything, very pretty, it was the only snow storm ever recorded at La Vida."  This was, indeed, a rare phenomenon, when snow, albeit in small amounts, got to so low an elevation.  Mrs. Wright provided the photograph shown here documenting the snowfall over sixty years ago.

She also had an important correction regarding the pools, mentioned briefly above.  She noted that "the pools are not described properly.  The one in front with the fountain is the wading pool.  It was the original pool and was at first deep in one end, but my dad had it filled to be a wading pool and installed the fountain when they built the big one behind it."  This can be seen in the postcard here, highlighted in a previous post.

There was one other interesting Carbon Canyon tidbit shared by Mrs. Wright, namely that "my parents were part owners in the El Circulo, which was the place where the skiing ramp is."  This was the "Club El Circulo," which Allen McCombs, publisher emeritus of the local Champion newspaper, stated was opened about 1963 where the old Camp Kinder Ring was operated from 1928 to 1958 by a Jewish organization in Los Angeles. 

This new resort, Mrs. Wright went on to relate, "probably would have done well" except that there were some management issues "and the whole thing fell apart."  She went to say that "even if the skiing ramp had not worked the rest of the project was a great idea and a lot of people came there to picnic and have dinner.  There was a nice bar and restaurant and they had very good food."  El Circulo later turned into the "Purple Haze," which had a colorful history in the late 1960s/early 1970s.  The site has been, for many years, a horse stable and cattle sales facility.

The skiing ramp was known as "Ski Villa" and one of the more popular posts on this blog is about the short history of this unusual all-weather ski ramp with white needles as the base surface and the cement remains of which still are on the hillside off Canyon Hills Road just north of Carbon Canyon Road.  With, however, indications that work on the long-gestating Canyon Hills subdivision of 76 houses is finally starting, the remains of the ramp are likely to removed in the very near future.

Here is a detail showing two iron chairs, which had the La Vida name imprinted on them, in the lawn near the hotel and bath house, with part of the pedestrian footbridge in the background.  This is again from the winter of 1951 when an unusual snow storm dropped powder on the resort.  Courtesy of Roberta Wright, whose grandfather William Newton Miller purchased La Vida in the 1920s and whose parents Robert and Lois Dickenson ran the facility until it was sold in 1974.
Mrs. Wright's offer to provide some memories and information about the Miller/Dickenson family's ownership and management of La Vida for over a half-century fills in many gaps in this blog about the history of Carbon Canyon's most notable site.  She ended by noting that it was about Noon on 4 December 1988 when the hotel, located on the eastern side of the resort, burned down.  By then, the facility had been sold about 1974 to Leo and June Hayashi, who continued to own the site until it was purchased by Tadayao Hata, who owned a large mineral springs spa in Japan. 

Hata still retains ownership of La Vida, though his late 1990s plans to reconstitute La Vida in a modern spa remains unrealized.  Leo Hayashi also retains ownership of land within Carbon Canyon, though some 400 acres of steep hill lands on the south side of Carbon Canyon Road just east of Hollydale Mobile Home Estates was purchases from him by the Orange County Transportation Authority and transferred to Chino Hills State Park in a deal involving transportation mitigation funds elsewhere in the county.

19 December 2013

Madrona Project Community Out(Over)reach

John Koos, who just happened to be one of the slim majority in the 3-2 City of Brea Planning Commission vote in 2008 to approve the Canyon Crest, now Madrona, housing project of 162 "executive" units on 367 acres on the Brea side of Carbon Canyon AND who just happened to land a job as the public relations guru for Madrona shortly after resigning from the commission this past summer, represented his bosses at a meeting of the homeowners' association for Olinda Village, the community in closest proximity and affect from the proposed development.

Notably, according to some of those present, Koos sought to limit final group participation by trying to break down (physically and otherwise) the attendees into smaller "breakout" factions.  Finding that this idea did not somehow resonate particularly well with the residents, Koos abandoned this plan.

In any case, the pitch was as expected, as was, for that matter, the response for Olinda Village residents, who might (and have been) easily labeled as NIMBYs for their decade and a half long opposition to Madrona and its Canyon Crest predecessor.  The problem is that this isn't just about not wanting something in Olinda Village's backyard. 

This is about a whole set of reasons why this project is a poor one--from wildfires scorching the site five times in the last several decades to a grade of "F" for Carbon Canyon Road during significant hours of commuting times in the morning and afternoon to the loss of rapidly-diminishing oak woodland habitat to the fact that the City of Brea would have to issue an unprecedented three "statements of overriding consideration" in answer to significant and unavoidable environmental impacts under California Environmental Quality Act criteria that cannot be mitigated.

"Information" presented by Koos at the Olinda Villa meeting included a number of creative interpretations of data.  Fpor example, it argued that, because Brea had an "allotment" of 785 "above moderate" income housing sites from a Southern California Association of Governments Regional Housing Needs Assessment, the 165 Madrona units would help meet the allotment and that "executive housing is needed in Brea."

What the "information" fails to acknowledge, however, as can be seen in this link to Brea's draft 2014-2021 housing element document (click here) is that the allotment has to do with zoning, not actual construction--which is why Chino Hills and Diamond Bar, for example, have "parked" affordable housing units via zoning changes in Tonner Canyon, which is not the same as having concrete plans for building these units.  These actions merely satisfy the demands of the allotment.

Besides, there are other areas now in which executive housing is being built and in the case of Blackstone, the project has nowhere the same issues as with Madrona, being a better location in terms of potential issues and problems (if not, absent of problems, as a wildfire in the hills above Blackstone will someday show.)

Moreover, the so-called "need" for executive housing was also based on the defunct older Brea General Plan, not the currently-operating one.  Conveniently for Madrona's backers, however, is that this project has been grandfathered in under the old Carbon Canyon specific plan, which makes no sense given that conditions in the city and elsewhere have changed dramatically since the old plan was abandoned and the current iteration adopted in 2004.

While backers argue that the revised Madrona plan is superior to the Planning Commission-approved Canyon Crest because of changes in grading impacts on slide-sensitive slopes and volume and fewer losses to oaks and walnuts, the reality is that these changes mean more homes on a smaller footprint and the overall impacts are still, as demonstrated by the city's need to issue the unprecedented three "SOCs," far too much.

While Madrona's promoters argue their project will be more "fire safe" than the houses destroyed in the Freeway Complex Fire in Yorba Linda and Anaheim Hills, comparisons to those areas are not as cut and dried as they would like everyone to believe.  Firstly, the site has burned four times in 30 years and the project would actually introduce more fuels and that fire history demonstrates that future blazes will take place where previous ones have occurred.  Moreover, vulnerability is most acute in sites at the top of ridgelines, as Madrona would be, because flames race rapidly uphill.  Finally, there is only one two-lane highway out of the canyon and the more homes that are built within the canyon, the more difficult it will be for residents to get out and firefighting personnel to get in.  This risk is just too great for the City of Brea to assume.

Madrona's backers explain away the immense loss of oak and walnut woodland habitat by offering that there will be a revegetation and habitat restoration plan that will have a so-called "success criterion" of five years.  How often have we seen plantings at new developments or along freeways and highways, in which a significant number, if not the majority, of plant materials die well before the five year threshold?

The claim is also made that there will be "impact fees" of over $14 million to the City of Brea from Madrona, except that almost of all this revenue will be manifested by the development's needs, not those for the city as a whole.  And, again, there will be impacts that cannot be so easily quantified, such as the fire risk, the increased traffic, and the loss of decreasing natural habitats.  And, frankly, one should also be skeptical of dollar amounts tossed out by developers.

Finally, the "information" included the claim that, by 2017 and then 2035, the so-called "horizon years" for traffic impacts, the intersection of Carbon Canyon Road at Olinda Drive, where the main entrance to Olinda Village is situated, would actually see a grade of "B" in the morning and "C" in the evening during peak commuting hours.  Inevitably, future projections (see the comment in the preceding paragraph about skepticism on dollars) of traffic are almost always low and often comically low. 

It bears remembering on this point and others, that two developments in Chino Hills, totaling 100 units, are already approved with the larger of 76 units just a mile or so east of Madrona ready to break ground at any time.  And, a new application of up to 200 units is looming just across Carbon Canyon Road from the 76-unit Canyon Hills project.

It's easy to accuse opponents of NIMBYism and, if those against Madrona were complaining about their loss of a view, that would be grounds for such a characterization.  But, Carbon Canyon has had continuing development since the 1960s and it has hit the wall.  Any further large-scale projects make a worsening situation that much worse.  The infrastructure concerning Carbon Canyon Road cannot be changed.  Fire risks are too obvious, given our better understanding of the Canyon's fire history.  Future uncertainties of regional water supplies given climate change should be more in the thinking of our local and regional planners when it comes to housing.  The list goes on.

As the City of Brea gears up for its final hearing of the appeal of the 2008 Planning Commission vote, of which Mr. Koos, now an advocate for a developer, was a crucial part, it is important to understand the broader implications. 

Truthfully, the bankrupt owner, Old Standard Life Insurance Company, which drove itself into the ground and is now under receivership, will not be building houses at Madrona.  It wants an approved tract map and an entitled property that will maximize value and return something to creditors who will not get dollar for dollar in the OSL debacle, which was covered here extensively in early 2009. 

But, if Brea denies the appeal and confirms the decision to approve the project, it sets a precedent that opens the door for more controversial projects in hillside areas that constitute the "last frontier" of major available land for development.

Ironically, Brea has protested vigorously the plans to develop the Shell-Aera property in unincorporated Los Angeles County near Rowland Heights and Diamond Bar and the City of Industry's vast holdings in Tonner Canyon, on the grounds that the impacts on Brea would be damaging.

And, yet, here is the city, poised to approve a project that isn't that far removed from Shell-Aera and Tonner Canyon, except that it would be fine, presumably, to have a bad project the city approves rather than ones some other agency or agencies allows.

Our region is truly overbuilt when accounting for all of the dynamics involved in the rampant development southern California has seen, especially since World War II.  Economic downturns can delay, but the relentless expansion of our region is pushing us to the brink in terms of the overall impacts, whether they be traffic, water, trash and waste management, pollution, schools, climate change and a host of other factors.  This is not just a Carbon Canyon issue or a Brea issue or a NIMBY issue, it is one of essential limits. 

Unfortunately, ideology or short-term thinking or uneasy connections between appointed and elected officials and housing developers (just within the last couple of weeks, a Chino Hills planner left for a job with a major developer) or other issues can lead to bad public policy decisions--Madrona could well wind up being a negative benchmark for Brea along these lines.  Let's hope not.

16 December 2013

Carbon [Canyon] Creek Cleanup Commences

With encouragement from local residents, planning and coordination led by the Carbon Canyon Fire Safe Council and the Chino Valley Fire District (especially inspector Jim Powderly), grant funding from Supervisor Gary Ovitt's office and other sources, and work conducted under the auspices of the Santa Ana Watershed Authority, a long-planned project to clean out the heavy growth of plant material and remove highly-flammable palm trees (which have already been killed by injection) in Carbon [Canyon] Creek in the Sleepy Hollow neighborhood in Chino Hills has begun.

This view shows a Bobcat working on clearing dense growths of plant material that have been clogging the Carbon [Canyon] Creek bed, bank and adjacent areas for years.  This project developed by the Carbon Canyon Fire Safe Council and the Chino Valley Fire District is being conducted by the Santa Ana Watershed Authority and funded by the office of Supervisor Gary Ovitt and other sources.  The photo is courtesy of Fire District inspector Jim Powderly, who has logged many hours working on this important cleanup project.
Years ago, regular maintenance of these areas flanking the creek was maintained, allowing for a smooth flow of water in the watercourse, but it has been many years since any of this was done.  Consequently, occasional heavy rains has meant that the accumulation of plant material contributed to a greater rise in the creek to the point where portions of Carbon Canyon Road have collapsed.  This was the case in the major rains in the winter of 2004-05 when the creek eroded the roadway between Canyon Hills Road and Canon Lane.  In Sleepy Hollow, there have been sections of the road that have nearly given way because of these conditions.

Hopefully, this work will go a long way towards avoiding similar situations should there be more heavy rains (though the last two winters have been dry and it is believed there will be another low-water winter this year) in the future.  It is also hoped that once the creek has been cleared, local authorities will see the importance and value of what has been done and be more attentive to following up on the maintenance of the creek. 

UPDATE: Tuesday, 17 December.  Here's another photo by Jim Powderly showing the continued work, which, in response to a comment about the specific location, is being conducted east of the former liquor store property and about where the dead palm trees are.  The funds available now are for this particular area, but if there are future monies available, the work might be extended to other areas within Sleepy Hollow.

The busy sounds of chain saws, a Bobcat and the loading of removed plant material into roll-off bins are yielding the results depicted in this photo by Jim Powderly of the Chino Valley Fire District of the Carbon [Canyon] Creek cleanup project, which completed its second day on Tuesday the 17th.

UPDATE: Wednesday, 18 December.  The documentation of the creek cleanup program continues with a photo of Sleepy Hollow resident Ron Nadeau, a prime mover to get this project going, and Chino Hills city council members Peter Rogers and Ray Marquez, both Carbon Canyon residents with Marquez also a member of the Carbon Canyon Fire Safe Council, amidst the clearing of plant material.  Kudos to the workers who are putting in a lot of effort and sweat to make this happen.

A shot of cleared area near the dead palm trees along Carbon [Canyon] Creek.  Pictured are Ron Nadeau of Sleepy Hollow, a key champion of the project, and Chino Hills city council members and Carbon Canyon residents Peter Rogers and Ray Marquez, the latter also a member of the Carbon Canyon Fire Safe Council.  Photo by Jim Powderly of the Chino Valley Fire District.

13 December 2013

The Brea-Olinda Oil Field in 1925

An interesting description of the oil belt described as the Brea-Olinda field appeared in the May 1925 issue of Union Oil Bulletin, the magazine of the Union Oil Company of California.  Union, as has been described here before, was founded in Santa Paula in Ventura County in 1890 by Senator Thomas Bard, Lyman Stewart and William L. Hardison by merging several smaller companies together.

In early 1894, Union acquired some 1,200 acres of land from the Stearns Ranch Company and inaugurated their exploration for oil in Orange County, which started at Olinda with Edward L. Doheny, discoverer of the first well in the Los Angeles field, bringing in the still-operating well at the Santa Fe lease in 1897.  Hardison's brother-in-law, William B. Scott, was a founder of the Columbia Oil Company, which had ties to Union as well as having its own property at Olinda and Scott later was one of the "three brothers" (along with former Los Angeles County sheriff and owner of the Puente Oil Company, William R. Rowland, and Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler) who bought much of Tonner Canyon for their "Tres Hermanos Ranch."

Union became such a major player in the Brea-Olinda area that they later established a large facility at the northeast corner of Imperial Highway and Valencia Avenue.  This was razed within the last decade or so and the land is now being developed as the La Floresta subdivision of homes and commercial space.

Before that, the company's property a short distance west at Imperial and Kraemer Avenue was developed into the Union Plaza shopping center.  Now, that active oil drilling is slowly disappearing from the field--in fact, wells are being dismantled and capped consistently these days--the visual reminders of the long history of oil prospecting in Olinda and its vicinity are yielding to residential and commercial development (after, of course, a considerable amount of cleanup and reclamation of the properties.)

In any case, the 1925 article, "The Brea-Olinda Field:  A Phenomenal Producer Reserve," by F. W. Lake and Robert W. Phelps gives an interesting overview of the then-thriving field, not long before that known commonly as the "Fullerton Oil Field," though several miles northeast of that town.  The article described the field as extending five miles long by one wide from Brea Canyon on the west to "the town of Olinda" on the east, though some have objected to referring to Olinda as a "town."

This map, drawn by M.E. Baird from geology work by Robert W. Phelps and F. W. Lake, appeared in an article by Lake and Phelps in the Union Oil Bulletin, May 1925.  Click on the map to see it in an enlarged view in a separate window. 
Courtesy, Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum, City of Industry.
The authors noted that the large asphalt seeps which lie in the field  have been known since the early explorers passed through the country and are mentioned in all their reports and diaries."  Presumably this means the Spanish explorers, who arrived in the area as early as 1769, but, of course, the true "explorers" were the native aboriginal Indians who had been here thousands of years before.

Regardless, Lake and Phelps also observed that "names of topographical features, such as Brea Canyon and Carbon Canyon, indicate that the existence of the asphalt deposits has long been known."  Moreover, they continued, "in early times the asphalt which slowly oozes down from the hills was used in roofing the houses in the vicinity and as fuel."  This was, indeed, the case, with the adobe houses of the Spanish, Mexican and early American periods, when the mainly flat roofs were coated in tar to protect the interiors from rain (though hot summers would cause the tar to liquefy and cause some problems with the furniture and furnishings!)  The world-famous La Brea tar pits served the same function.  Fuel was collected by digging the asphalt and, in some cases, "pits were dug from which the asphalt was collected and mixed with manure and used as fuel under the boilers in the small industries in the neighboring towns." 

The authors went on to report that, between 1880 and 1895, some shallow wells were drilled but produced nothing of substantive value until Doheny's strike and that "this first activity was centered around the town of Olinda in the east end of the field."  Later, these wells were attempted further to the west in Brea Canyon and then the intervening areas were explored and prospected.  According to Lake and Phelps, "the development has been and continues to be slow and conservative and this fact is probably one of the reasons why the area is so productive and has enjoyed such a long life."

Much of the article goes into technical detail about the geological forces that created the conditions for oil deposits within the field, specifically that production was mostly found in tar seeps on a monocline, where the layers of subsurface strata are inclined in the same direction and, in the case, of this field the dip is "overturned at the fault to about forty degrees along the southern limits."  Reverse, or thrust, faults are at right angles to the main "Puente fault" running through the district.

Drilling turned out to be difficult and expensive, requiring heavy tools and rigs, because of "the hardness of the conglomerate strata and the steep angle at which the strata are inclined," as noted above with that forty degree overturning.  In 1925, wells varied from a few hundred to over five thousand feet in depth, very shallow compared to some of today's wells, which, naturally, used highly-advanced technology (now further complicated by such methods as fracking and horizontal drilling.)  The nature of the field and its steep strata inclinations "make it extremely difficult to keep the hole straight," which, in turn, meant that "a number of the wells in the field had to be abandoned before completion because the hole was too crooked and the tools and casing were stuck and lost."

Still, the Brea-Olinda Field proved to be highly productive and lucrative.  The authors observed that "the proven acreage of the field amounts to about fourteen hundred acres of which eight hundred and fifty or sixty per cent are producing."  This is striking (!) because a sidebar at the front of the article  stated that Union owned or leased "approximately 8200 acres" with "the latest acquisition being the Olinda tract of 2795 acres."  In addition, "a remarkable feature of the field is that the bulk of production up to the present time has come from the upper sands, and that the lower zones with an estimated greater productivity have scarcely been scratched." 

This fact made the Brea-Olinda field "a valuable reserve" because on the untapped deeper sands--areas that were reached in subsequent decades as drill bits became improved (Shelley Stoody, discussed here recently relative to his ranch in the Chino Hills portion of Carbon Canyon at what is now the Western Hills golf course, patented a more durable bit that greatly assisted drilling in difficult areas like Olinda) and other elements of drilling at greater depths made more successful.

Lake and Phelps reckoned that total production to the beginning of 1925 at Brea-Olinda totaled 90,000,000 barrels of crude with 360 wells currently drilling on the 850 producing acres and yielding some 377,000 barrels per month.  In addition, another two dozen or so wells were "shut in," or closed, but still producing, to avoid dangerous blowouts, or gushers, of uncontrolled oil or gas.

As for the future, the authors were careful to explain that, while the field was remarkably consistent and still had a great deal of untapped crude because only the first two of four oil sand zones had been explored, estimates were to be very general.  Still, they concluded by observing that "a conservative estimate of the future production recoverable with the present means of production [italics added for emphasis] for the entire field would be about twice the production recovered in the past."  In other words, the estimate was that another 180 million barrels could have been available for future production, if technology was to remain constant, which, of course, it would not be.

The first page of the Lake and Phelps article, which has much technical data on the geological qualities of the field, but also material on its history, production to date, and conservative estimates of future production, which were, indeed, significantly eclipsed as technology allowed for deeper and more efficient drilling and extraction of crude oil and natural gas.
In fact, a 1963 industry report, stated that peak production at Brea-Olinda was in 1953 with the advent of greater drilling and recovery technological advancements and that, by 1957, the total number of barrels extracted from the field totaled 258,000,000 with another 79,000,000 in reserve, figures much higher than the 1925 report.  Additionally, the proven acreage jumped three times to 2,415 acres and the number of producing wells mushroomed to over 630.  In 1957, the total extraction was some 6,900,000 barrels.

The image above is a map included with the 1925 Union Oil Bulletin article and which was made in April from geology analysis by the authors.  The defining geological feature is the Puente Fault, the dark line running from the upper left to the right center.  Brea Canyon Road emerges from the town of Brea at the left and turns into the southern end of Brea Canyon, with substantial activity by Union, Brea Canyon Oil (another Doheny enterprise), Fullerton Oil, Columbia, General Petroleum and Birch Oil Company (A. Otis Birch, namesake of the company and of Birch Street in Brea, with his family having a street and park named for them in Santa Ana, made a fortune on his relatively small property. 

Union was the dominant firm extending eastward from Brea canyon to the southern end of Olinda, with that latter portion being land formerly held by the Olinda Land Company, created by William H. Bailey, the developer of the Olinda Ranch in the late 1880s.

At the north end of Olinda were other major players, including Shell; General Petroleum (which also controlled large, but not heavily producing, lands in lower Tonner Canyon; Fullerton, West Coast, and Chanslor-Canfield Midway Oil (CCMO), which ran its operations on the Santa Fe lease, owned by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway originally.  That is why the spur line of the ATSF comes up from the bottom right of the photo off the main line parallel to Orangethorpe Avenue in Placentia at Atwood and terminated at the CCMO lease to transport oil out by rail.

Also of note, toward the bottom, is the line of the Pacific Electric Railway streetcar, which terminated at Yorba Linda, and the right-of-way of which still exists (and, in Yorba Linda, is now a multi-use trail).  See also "Brea-Olinda Boulevard" which is now Birch Steet, as well as Carbon Canyon Road which then curved sharply as it headed westward and then south to what is now Valencia Avenue.  Unconnected to it then, but now its westward extension is what became Lambert Road, but which was, in 1925, a private oil field road. 

The dashed and dotted line running top to bottom through Carbon Canyon Road, as it angled south and which separates the Shell Oil land from the CCMO property in Olinda is the boundary line for the historic Rancho San Juan Cajon de Santa Ana, with the land to the right or east constituting "public land" available for common grazing by the neighboring ranch owners.  The San Juan Cajon de Santa Ana's north boundary turns at the north end of the Shell Oil Company holding and heads west before angling northwest into Brea Canyon and further west to meet the Rancho La Habra.

26 November 2013

Carbon Canyon Historical Artifact #40: La Vida Mineral Springs Cafe Interior, 1960s

There has been at least one other post on this blog of a color view of the inside of the café at La Vida Mineral Springs from the 1960s, but this one is something else, maybe even groovy, man.

Check out the brightly colored seats, the light fixtures, the window treatments, the cattle horns over the roaring fire in the fireplace, the carpeting, the pattern on the seating at the far right and towards the left and, behind the latter, what looks like a multi-colored and multi-paneled divider.  Far out!

Indeed, the short caption on the reverse of the card, another by Amescolor Publishers of Escondido near San Diego, reads "Colorful dining room at / LA VIDA MINERAL SPRINGS / Carbon Canyon Road / Brea California."  That it is--it's swingin'.

Coming up soon are some recollections and a couple of great snapshots from someone whose family owned La Vida for many years . . .  meantime, Happy Turkey Day.  Wouldn't it have been cool to eat a Thanksgiving meal at a place like this card shows?

22 November 2013

Second Weekend of Freeway Complex Fire Exhibit at Chino Hills State Park

Following on the heels of last weekend's opening of an exhibit, sponsored by Hills for Everyone, at the Chino Hills State Park Discovery Center commemorating the fifth anniversary of the Freeway Complex Fire of November 2008, the second and final weekend of the showing is this Saturday and Sunday the 23rd and 24th from 9:00 a.m. to Noon.

These .pdf files of exhibit boards shown at the Chino State Park Discovery Center exhibit to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the 2008 Freeway Complex Fire are courtesy of Hills for Everyone.  Click on a photo to see it and the others show here in a larger view in a separate window.
There is plenty of interesting and informative material to view, including photos, videos, articles and reports dealing specifically with the devastating conflagration, but also fire issues generally.  Exhibit boards showing what happened during and after the fire also provide good visual snapshots of the events of half a decade back.

As noted before, the spate of hillside housing projects like Madrona in Brea and two others in Yorba Linda, now that the economy has grown enough for developers to start selling their wares again in fire-sensitive areas, makes this exhibit timelier than ever. 

The Madrona project, calling for 162 upscale houses on 367 acres, has burned FIVE time in the last several decades.  Yorba Linda experienced devastating home losses in 2008 yet new projects continue to be pitched for areas that will burn again.

Exhibits like this give graphic and vivid testimony to the perils of continuing to build houses in wildfire-prone regions.  As the Madrona project inches closer to a final decision on the appeal of the Brea Planning Commission's narrow (3-2, one of the commissioners who voted for the project resigned this past August and now represents Madrona as a public relations consultant!) approval just weeks before the Freeway Complex Fire erupted. it becomes increasingly necessary for people to become more aware of the wildfire risk.

Thanks to Hills for Everyone for taking the time and effort to provide this important public service.

19 November 2013

New StopMadrona.Org Web Site Up and Running

Tonight's Brea City Council meeting featured a staff report on the updates and modifications to the Madrona project (formerly Canyon Crest), a proposed development project including 162 houses on 367 acres on the north side of Carbon Canyon between Olinda Village and Sleepy Hollow.

Many posts here have discussed the long, tortured history and the many issues at hand with this project, which would require an unprecedented three "statements of overriding consideration" by the city to claim that benefits accruing to Brea would outweigh the unmitigated negative environmental impacts Madrona would have, according to the criteria of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

While there will be more said here in coming weeks, as the city readies for three hearings at council meetings in late January and February, a new Web site has been launched to bring attention to the fight to defeat this project.

StopMadrona.org gives an overview of the project, its history, and the effects it would have if approved.  For anyone concerned about Carbon Canyon and development in Brea, generally, it is well worth a look at the site, the URL of which is here.

There will be the usual debates between those who advocate private property as paramount, those who are looking at the overall effect of the project on Carbon Canyon, those who see the dissenters as NIMBYs and those being called by that pejorative who claim otherwise. 

Of course, it comes down to the five elected officials charged with the responsibility of representing all of the citizens of Brea on projects that have to be looked at on balance for the long term.  Its vote on the appeal of the 2008 planning commission approval (just prior to the devastating Freeway Complex Fire--the fifth such conflagration to torch the project site in recent decades) might mirror that 3-2 decision.  Whether that split is for or against Madrona remains to be seen, but proponents and opponents have two months to ready their arguments within city hall and the council chambers and in the public forum.

Those on either side would do well to take a close look at all available sources, including StopMadrona.org.

17 November 2013

Freeway Complex Fire Exhibit at Chino Hills State Park

This image and several below are boards put together by Hills for Everyone for the events held this weekend and next at the Chino Hills State Park Discovery Center commemorating the 5th anniversary of the Freeway Complex Fire of 2008.  Click on any image here to see it in a larger view in a separate window.
This weekend marked the fifth anniversary of the Freeway Complex Fire of November 2008, an event that burned almost the entirety of Chino Hills State Park and the Brea side of Carbon Canyon, while threatening to overwhelm Sleepy Hollow and other areas of the Chino Hills portion of the canyon before the flames were suddenly diverted and headed elsewhere.

Hills for Everyone, the non-profit that was instrumental in the creation of the state park and which continues to work for the preservation of open space in the area, held this Saturday and Sunday the first of its two weekends of exhibits at the state park's Discovery Center.  Components of the event included display boards showing the fire, the results, and the recovery; newspaper articles covering the conflagration; reports dealing with the blaze and with wildfire issues generally; videos of the fire and of wildfire matters in the region; material from the Carbon Canyon Fire Safe Council and Hills for Everyone; and more.

It appears that visitation was strong over both days and it is hoped that it will continue to be so next weekend, the 23rd and 24th, when the event is held again.  For those who live in or near Carbon Canyon or in or near areas susceptible to wildfires and their effects, the event and its exhibits are essential.

Viewing the exhibits are also important to the further understanding of how the relentless push, mediated somewhat by economic downturns and then revitalized by recovery, for new housing developments in fire-sensitive areas continues to be of concern.

This is true at the moment with the ill-conceived, but still possible, Madrona (formerly Canyon Crest) project of 162 houses on 367 acres on the Brea side of Carbon Canyon between Olinda Village and Sleepy Hollow, a project that sits on a site that has burned several times in recent decades and that will again (and one which has a whole host of other problems, as has been discussed before and will be more).  Tuesday the 19th, in fact, is when a staff report on the status of the Madrona project will be presented to the Brea city council, preliminary to hearings in late January and into February that will lead to a vote by that body on the appeal to the narrow 3-2 Planning Commission decision to approve of the then-Canyon Crest project--a decision that came just before the disastrous Freeway Complex Fire.

There are also two approved projects totaling 100 houses on the Chino Hills side, an application for another there that would be involve more units than that, and other in-process projects in Yorba Linda, a city that experienced significant destruction of homes in hillside areas during the 2008 fires, yet which continues to be builder-friendly.

Further off in the future, there is also the Shell-Aera properties in unincorporated Orange and Los Angeles counties north and west of Brea, which will certainly be the location of more housing projects.  And, who knows what the future portends for Tonner Canyon, almost all held by the City of Industry and some of which is not far north of Carbon Canyon.

Huge wildfires continue to be a problem throughout the western United States, much less our area.  The effects of climate change almost certainly will continue to be brought to bear, including through long-term drought that creates conditions for larger and more devastating wildfires, less water supply, and other effects.  To discount this and to act as if housing projects in wildfire-prone areas can somehow be conducted under old models, standards and conditions is not just bad public policy, it is a dangerous folly.

A long weekend last week in Julian reiterated the problems.  In 2003, the massive Cedar fire consumed a staggering 15% of the land area of San Diego County (this blogger was just leaving San Diego when that conflagration broke out and drove out on I-15 as flames roared nearby.)  In Julian and surrounding areas, the devastation was significant.  A hike in the Santa Ysabel Land Preserve featured a couple of display panels chronicling the devastation of the fire and the fact that wildfires are to be expected in backcountry areas--except that the human presence continues to grow, as it has over the last several decades in Carbon Canyon and its environs.

This photo and the one below are from text panels at the Santa Ysabel Land Preserve near Julian in San Diego County and discuss the effects of the 2003 Cedar Fire on the local area.
Certainly, those of us living in existing dwellings in the Canyon accept the consequences, as do the folks in Julian, for residing in a wildfire zone.  This doesn't mean, though, the local officials are exempt from the responsibility of carefully considering consequences when deciding to approve housing projects.  Land owners and developers don't have to worry about those consequences.  They reap the short-term rewards and leave the long-term issues for the cities and counties to deal with (or not, in some cases.)

There is a tipping point--and it's not just fire risk.  It is also decreasing habitat, increasing traffic, growing and often wasteful water use, landslide of unstable slopes, and more.   But, fire becomes the preeminent health and safety hazard and government, whose primary responsibility is (or should be) the health and safety of their constituents, should be mindful of this before approving housing projects in dangerous locations.

Events like the one held by Hills for Everyone this weekend and next bring needed attention to the question.  Anyone concerned ought to go, see the exhibits, talk to those staffing the room and become better educated.  It's vital for the future of Carbon Canyon and nearby areas.

13 November 2013

Freeway Complex Fire Anniversary Events Coming Up

Courtesy of the good people at Hills For Everyone, there will be a special event commemorating the fifth anniversary of the Freeway Complex Fire of November 2008 at the Chino Hills State Park Discovery Center at 4500 Carbon Canyon Road in Brea.  The event will take place over the next two weekends, Saturday and Sunday 16 and 17 and 23 and 24 November from 9 a.m. to Noon with free parking for those visiting the center during the program.

Courtesy of Hills for Everyone.
There will be videos, photos, maps, news articles and other material documenting the effects of the massive fire, which broke out off the 91 Freeway in Anaheim Hills and quickly moved north, destroying many structures in Anaheim Hills and Yorba Linda before charring 95% of Chino Hills State Park, while another fire that erupted in the hills above Brea moved eastward. 

The two burned substantial portions of the Brea side of Carbon Canyon, destroying the Manely Friends stable complex and coming very close to Hollydale Mobile Home Estates and residences in Olinda Village and completely burning the site where the Madrona (formerly Canyon Crest) housing project has been proposed for many years and an appeal of which is to be heard by the Brea City Council in January and February--this site has actually been hit by wildfires five times in the last 46 years.

On the Chino Hills side of Carbon Canyon, the fire didn't have the impact that it did to the west, although flames got dangerously close to the community of Sleepy Hollow before suddenly and providentially taking a turn to the east.  Many residents of the canyon spent up to three nights under mandatory evacuation orders and greater preparation by residents, fire departments, city staff and other authorities helped make the response far superior than during the previous major fires including those in 1990, 1978, 1958 and 1929, as well as many lesser ones.

Fire season in our region is now year round and the threat of another massive blaze like that of 2008 is always present, especially with another low rainfall year and dry, windy conditions from the Santa Ana effect coming around this time of year (and, in fact, right now.)  For the existing residents of Carbon Canyon, it is vital to be as prepared and fire-wise as possible and for planners in Brea, Chino Hills, Orange and San Bernardino counties and the state, smart public policy in terms of future development, fire preparation, emergency access and other matters becomes more critical.

So, this event by Hills for Everyone is an important one to attend for all those who live in Carbon Canyon and/or are curious to know about the wildfire threat and history of the region.  For more on the organization, click here.

12 November 2013

Chino Hills State Park Native Plant Nursery Open

The new Chino Hills State Park Native Plant Nursery, largely a project completed by a single volunteer, and which was completed shortly before this photo was taken on 20 September.  Click on the image to see it in an enlarged view in a separate window.
This is truly old news now, given that the above photo was taken almost two months ago, on 20 September and the work was finished a bit before then, but the Chino Hills State Park Native Plant Nursery is up and running.

Located in the unpaved parking area just east of the Discovery Center near the park entrance along the south side of Carbon Canyon Road in Brea, the facility offers an excellent work space for propagating native plants that can be introduced into the park.  This is especially important because of the devastation caused by the Freeway Complex Fire of November 2008 (the fifth anniversary of which is this weekend), in which native plants were burned and the clearing of them allowed room for invasive non-native species.  This, in turn, could greatly change the nature of the park's plant palette and impact animal habitat, as well.

Supposedly, a great deal of the work done in the construction of the nursery was undertaken by one volunteer, who was sometimes observed laying the five courses of cement block, putting up the fencing and conducting other work.  Work tables, a storage shed, and a sign identifying the nursery are other main components of the facility.

This is a remarkable project, which provides an important place to do the work that will help keep native plants viable in the park and kudos to all who were involved in its concept, design, planning and construction and those rangers and volunteers who will be using the nursery for their good works.

07 November 2013

M . . .M . . .M . . . My Madrona: Carbon Canyon Housing Project Appeal Hearing Set

Couldn't resist the title, just have a knack for those kind of things (and that's not necessarily good.)

Anyway, a couple of weeks back the City of Brea sent a letter and CD with the "Response to Comments" for the updates final Environmental Impact Report for the Madrona (formerly Canyon Crest) housing project, proposing 162 houses on a few hundred acres of open land on the eastern end of Brea within Carbon Canyon, between Sleepy Hollow and Olinda Village.

In the missive, penned by City Planner/Community Development Deputy Director David Crabtree, it was also stated that "The City Council public appeal hearing for this project has been tentatively set for [Tuesday] November 19, 2013 at 7:00 p.m.."  The notice, however, was followed by the disclaimer that once that date had been confirmed a written notification would be sent within ten days.

Detail from a letter by the City of Brea's city planner concerning the revised final EIR and intended hearing for the appeal of the Madrona (formerly Canyon Crest) housing project, proposing 162 houses in Carbon Canyon between Olinda Village and Sleepy Hollow.  The city has since pushed back the appeal hearing to late January and February.  Click on the image to see an enlarged view in a separate window.
In fact, what it looked like was going to happen was that the City of Brea was going to try to rush through the hearing over three consecutive days in early January, which would have been slightly more than problematic for anyone concerned about the project to be able to clear time on their schedules to attend those days back-to-back, especially so soon after the holidays.  As importantly, it would have given little time for opponents of the project to prepare for the very important and final resort of the appeal.

After the predictable outcry, however, the City has wisely revised the timetable, so that a staff report, without response via public comment, is due on the 19th to the council.  Then, there will be the actual appeal hearing at the 21 January council meeting and for the two meetings that follow in February.  Now, there'll be plenty of time, actually, for everyone to become better acquainted and informed about the results of the updated EIR and to formulate their arguments for and against.

There has been much stated in this blog and elsewhere about why Madrona is such a terrible idea and it has nothing to do with being anti-development.  In fact, there are several major housing projects going on in Brea within just a few miles of the site--including the expansion of Blackstone in the Tonner Hills, the La Floresta project on the old Union Oil site at Imperial Highway and Valencia Avenue, and the development at the Birch Hills golf course property on Kraemer.  There has been relatively little backlash against those projects, likely because there isn't nearly the type of risk, damage and effect at those sites than would be involved if a project were to happen at Madrona.

Among the prime reasons why Madrona is a terrible site to build homes have to do with extreme wildfire risk and public safety issues inherent in that; increased traffic on an already overburdened Carbon Canyon Road and the risk of serious accidents at the project entry at a very curvy point on the highway; and the loss of increasingly scarce open land and oak woodland and other habitat.  And, there are others.  More will be discussed here as the appeal date moves closer.

04 November 2013

Sleepy Hollow, South Carolina Style

For a while there, so-called "redneck reality shows" with characters that seemed to hit all the Southern stereotypes were just about everywhere on cable television.  From "Duck Dynasty" to "Swamp People" to "Moonshiners" to "Redneck Island" and, of course, the adventures of Honey BooBoo, the explosion of these programs was a brief cultural phenomenon that has now appeared to have peaked and pulled back.

For a couple of months, though, it looked like Sleepy Hollow was going to be the setting for its own real-life version that might have appropriately been called "Sleepy Hollow, South Carolina Style."

It started in early August when a house in the neighborhood was vacant after a long-time renter moved out and a "For Sale" sign went up.  A check on Redfin.com found that the house was in escrow when some people showed up at the residence in a very heavily-used RV bearing South Carolina license plates.

When neighbors began to be concerned about the fact that there was a whole passel of kids and a lot of noise, some calls were made to the realtor whose name was on the "For Sale" sign and who turned out to be a part-owner of the property.  What transpired turns out to have met the cliché that this story was truly "stranger than fiction."

It turned out that the occupants of the weathered trailer consisted of a man, his girlfriend, and eleven children (yep, 11), only one of them his and the remainder from who knows.  A little later on, it was revealed that the woman was carrying number 12, too.  The baker's dozen had traveled across the country in a vehicle that barely made it here for the express purpose of seeking the more-liberal welfare benefits found in California.

So, while the group was panhandling at the Walmart in Brea, they happened to meet the owner/realtor of this house, who promptly invited the bunch to "clean up" at the home for "a day or two."  That turned out to be over two months.

It should be noted here that this was a realtor, who, presumably, is supposed to adhere to certain professional practices and ethical guidelines.  For instance, when you are in escrow, should you really be inviting complete strangers (especially in a situation described above) to a house that you are not about to own anymore?  Or, when you've agreed to let your last tenant leave personal belongings in a locked space in the house and said strangers decide to break the lock and take and destroy said property, isn't that something of a problem?  Or, wouldn't it be fair to at least think about what the neighbors might think given that the refugees were said to have been stealing items in the community?  Or, that there might be a potential health, safety and welfare hazard in allowing 13 people who drove across the country in a filthy, dilapidated vehicle to occupy a home (again, in escrow!) that quickly deteriorated?

Now, in fairness to the owner/realtor, there is every reason to believe that she did this because she really thought she was doing charitable work like a good Christian and that she had no idea what she was getting into when that "day or two" dragged on for weeks and that the people involved were not what she thought they were.

On the other hand, that's why there are plenty of other ways, handled, say, by professional charitable organizations, religious or otherwise, to help the indigent, the needy, the poor and the homeless.  Introducing complete strangers into a home that you have in escrow and subjecting the neighborhood to all of the uncertainty this entails  . . . well, that just had true naivete written all over it.

Within a few weeks, the majority of the kids were enrolled in school, which meant, of course, that welfare benefits would be on the way.   Five of the brood came down to the bus stop every day for the ride to Litel Elementary (a few more were enrolled in junior and high school.)  Quickly, the quintet were assigned to ride behind the bus driver for cute little demonstrations of Southern charm like flipping off other kids or cars on the route, for using choice profanities, and so on.  The kids quickly became known at school for their behavioral problems and lack of educational performance and attainment. 

Notably, though, the kids showed every indication of being close to each other and to their mother and her boyfriend.  There appeared to be no evidence of physical or verbal abuse at all when it came to the kids.  The saddest part of all of this, of course, is that these kids had no say in being brought into that environment.  Rough and undisciplined and underdeveloped as they were, they are still kids and they deserve better.

At one point, the mother apparently told someone that she loved being pregnant, which is why she's now on her twelfth one, regardless of whether she can actually give her progeny any decent quality of life--or, rather, to expect that others will provide for them through their donations and taxpayer dollars through welfare.

It looked better from a distance, but this RV driven from South Carolina to California by a family of thirteen itinerants was said to have been filled with trash, dirt, bodily matter and all sorts of material while it was left in several spots around Sleepy Hollow until it was finally hauled off yesterday.  This was from early September during about a week left in the city-owned parking area, while attempts were made to fix the unfixable.
Now, the boyfriend lasted a little under a month, though, and took off one day, never to return.  The RV eventually died and may have had an engine fire.  The boyfriend gave it a valiant effort when it came to seeking to revive the worn-out vehicle while it was parked in the city-owned parking area near the Sleepy Hollow Community Center for the better part of a week.  Soon after, the realtor/owner provided the mother a used car, so that she could get around.  It should be noted that some neighbors gave various kinds of assistance to the family.

At the outset, there were quite a few calls from concerned neighbors to the owner/realtor, who, for the most part, responded quite openly and continued to express her conviction that she was doing what needed to be done from a religious and personal point of view.  A little later on, as the concerns became more firmly expressed, though, the tone changed somewhat.  Evidently, at one point, the benefactor took to telling one of the locals something along the lines of, "Well, Sleepy Hollow has a bunch of pot smokers and drug users anyway."

It bears mentioning, by the way, that the object of this woman's good works has been seen, while pregnant with number 12, smoking cigarettes and drinking beer.  Pre-natal care has probably never been part of her long experience with child-bearing (it not, child-rearing.)

Which was probably very telling--sure would make it easier to send complete strangers to the rental you have (even if it was in escrow) when it is in a community with the reputation that Sleepy Hollow has for certain "outsiders."

Yet, eventually, the Christian charitable conviction began to wear out and the owner/realtor talked of an eviction notice and in finding the family somewhere else to live, specifically a trailer in the High Desert, like Hesperia.  The problems seem to have culminated in the break-in to the locked room containing the possessions of the previous renter.  For instance, a headboard was used as a "For Sale" sign for the crumbling RV, which was offered for $500, though, somehow, no one seemed attracted by that price (or, really, any price.)  When the renter came to get some of her items and found the mess that was made, a screaming match ensued which brought some neighbors over to mediate.  Strangely, the owner/realtor sat in her BMW with the doors locked and windows rolled up, probably too numbed by the spectacle of it all to take responsibility for her work and do something to end the fiasco.

Eventually, a mobile home was found for the family by their benefactor in Yucaipa and just in time because the property, which naturally fell out of escrow when the brood continued to hang on (or squat) at the residence, wound up being sold again.  This time, though, the sale price was a cool $70K less than the first sale--a true quantifiable measure of what can happen when good intentions go really, terribly, awfully wrong.  But, then again, you get what you deserve, perhaps.

Finally, about the 20th of last month, the woman and her eleven (soon-to-be an even dozen) kids moved out.  The RV stayed behind until just yesterday when it was finally hauled off to a certain final end at the wrecking yard, and almost certainly paid for by the owner/realtor.

She also employed a couple of local guys to clean out the house and that proved to be quite a clean-up job.  Talking with one of them, it was learned that the carpets were soiled with human urine and feces and cockroaches were seen crawling around the remnants when they were pulled out and temporarily kept in the driveway before disposal.  Boards from the fence were ripped off, chain link fence knocked down and lots of other damage done to a house that had a full-price offer the first time around, but got discounted from $340K to $270K on that second sale!

Now, the place is a lot cleaner and, hopefully, the new owners will make improvements to get it back at least to where it was a decade or so ago when it was a decent place that was well taken care of.  As to the owner-realtor who, it should be noted, didn't even tell her husband and brother-in-law, the other owners, about what she had done until quite some time after the Carolinians crashed the pad, maybe she's learned a lesson?

So, it was quite an experience those two months in Sleepy Hollow, one that won't soon be forgotten.  And, for all that went on, the one thing that lingers in the mind of this observer is what will be the fate of those poor kids, including the twelfth soon to be born?  A mother than appears to be delusional or mentally ill or whatever has brought a large number of unprepared children into a world that, in the best of circumstances, still requires mentoring, preparation and skill sets to navigate through.  But, in that situation, it just doesn't look like there's much hope, although maybe some of them will find a way to overcome.

Now that it's over, it seems like this is one of those stories you just couldn't make up and no "redneck reality show" on cable can likely compare with it.

31 October 2013

Sleepy Holloween Spirits On Display

As recounted previously on this blog, the Carbon Canyon community of Sleepy Hollow had a tradition from the mid-1960s for a couple of decades afterward of celebrating Halloween by having its own recreation of the nighttime ride of the headless horseman chasing after Ichabod Crane near the old community center and fire house.

Unfortunately, that event ceased quite a number of years ago, although more recently the Carbon Canyon Women's Club held annual Halloween parties in the new community center.  Even that, however, stopped a few Halloweens ago.

There are, though, some folks who are doing their best to keep up the spirit(s) of the season by decorating their homes and encouraging the few children who live in Sleepy Hollow to do their trick or treating here. 

In fact, at least in some parts of the community, there have been increasingly more elaborating decorations this year than in the recent past.

Here are just a few photographic examples of the ghosts, goblins, witches, zombies, tombstones, and other Halloween creatures and fixtures that are inhabiting the area this holiday.  While there isn't a picture of it here, there's even a headless horseman at the end of the community to keep that part of the local lore intact.

It sure would be cool if there could be a revival of the ride of the headless horseman, though that might be asking for too much, but at least there are some inventive and creative holiday decorations to enjoy during the Halloween season.  Note the Miley Cyrus tombstone at the lower left of the above photo.

So, thanks to everyone who takes part in enlivening Sleepy Hollow this time of year.  While it's certainly fun for the kids to enjoy, the adults seem to be as in to it as the younger ones, too.

Here are more examples of the awesome decorations that are out there right now:

Couldn't resist having this sincere shout-out to Elvis included.

Some of these take some work, but they really add a lot to the atmosphere when they're up.
All this one needs is a hand sticking up out of the ground--maybe next year.

28 October 2013

Carbon Canyon Historical Artifact #39: Badminton at La Vida Mineral Springs, 1948

This is an unusual view of La Vida Mineral Springs from the 1940s, with a "Genuine Hand Colored Photograph" from publisher Fred K.W. Martin of Pasadena showing a couple of dudes in white duds playing a spirited game of badminton.

The duo are in a dirt court set next to the two-story bath house, which existed for about three decades or so, from the 1920s to the late 1950s, when a devastating explosion destroyed most of the structure, which was then raised and replaced by a motel.

To the left is a small structure which may be the one seen in many views near both the bath house and the hotel and which may have been an office.

A few trees amidst a sitting area with an umbrella and some furniture are also of note.  At the lower left is the name of resort in black lettering, though notice how the letters "Vida Min" are distinct from the rest and are located on what looks like a small post at the border of the badminton court.  Not sure, though, if that means anything.

The postally used card has a one-cent stamp, a postmark from Placentia (La Vida had a rural route designation through that town's post office), an address to some folks from Quakertown, Pennsylvania (about the most appropriate name for a community in the state as could be) and a short message that the sender was readying to go to Santa Catalina Island but also noted that "we went hier [sic] for one week."

While there were other La Vida postcards issued during the 1940s, this one by Martin may be somewhat rare.  In any case, it is a nice little view of another aspect of the springs.  Clicking on the image opens it with a larger view in a separate window.

21 October 2013

La Vida Mineral Springs Water Tank's Good Samaritan Again!

Sometime over the last few days, presumably during the weekend, the recent spate of graffiti on the old La Vida Mineral Springs water tank was painted over.

It is assumed this good act was done by the same good samaritan who has covered previous tagging efforts, unless another person took it upon themselves to take on the good deed.

In any case, whoever stepped up, kudos to them.  There is still some graffiti on the side of the base, but who can complain when the worst of it was brushed away!

As noted before, the old tank, dating back many decades, was long hidden from view by the dense growth of plant material before the November 2008 fire, now approaching its fifth anniversary, burned away the cover and exposed the tank to endure several bouts of tagging.

Thanks again to whoever it was who came to its rescue yet again.

15 October 2013

Memorializing by Graffiti?

Well, however the previous posts were expressed regarding the death of driver Abel Preciado, who crashed into a power pole in front of the old La Vida Mineral Springs site, and the two roadside memorials that sprung up afterward, the sight yesterday afternoon of the defacing of the surviving La Vida water tank, which has the deceased's first name on it, is a clear indication that someone close to him just couldn't leave well enough alone.

It's one thing to ponder a snap decision that led to tragedy, but deliberation in defacing something that doesn't belong to you actually takes away a lot of the sympathy manifested in the aftermath of mid-September's accident.

Why the two memorials weren't sufficient to express what happened when a tagging seemed like a good idea isn't really worth asking.

Is it too much to ask the good samaritan(s) responsible for painting over previous bouts of graffiti on the old tank to help once again?

10 October 2013

A New Carbon Canyon Roadside Memorial

In recent days, a second roadside memorial has appeared for Abel Preciado, who died last month when a car he was driving crashed into a power pole in front of the old La Vida Mineral Springs property on the Brea side of Carbon Canyon.

This monument is on the pole replacing the one destroyed in the crash and is much more elaborate than the first memorial located a little further east.

As the photos here show, a great deal of attention was paid to the memory of the deceased, including handwritten notes, stickers, and a remarkable photograph of Preciado on a piece of the Camaro that he was driving when the accident occurred.

Clearly, this was a person who meant a great deal to his family and friends and this remarkable tribute is all the more lamentable because he was only twenty.