30 January 2013

On the Skids in Carbon Canyon #10741 and #10892

Two more examples of errancy along Carbon Canyon Road in recent days.

This first on the Chino Hills side took out a sign on the eastbound side of the highway just east of the intersection with Old Carbon Canyon Road at the bottom of the S-curve.

Clearly, the driver took that last curve a little too quickly and relieved said sign of its simple duty.

Meanwhile, across the Canyon in Brea on the westbound portion of the roadway east of Olinda Village and a hop, skip, and a bump from the recent collision that shredded the lower part of a power pole, there was a wreck that left some staining on the relatively new asphalt pavement and assorted debris on the shoulder.

These latter included a muffler.

And what looks like part of the suspension.

And pieces of reflector, parts of a fender and odd and sundry.

Meantime, further west closer to the Chino Hills State Park and off the eastbound lane, a left turn ahead sign ignominiously lies reclined against the backside of a guardrail, though it is not entirely clear how it wound up there.

28 January 2013

The Sad Story of the Death of Hobart T. Kennedy in Carbon Canyon, 1931

On 22 June 1931, the Los Angeles Times included an article titled "Musician Kills Self With Pistol," and went on the relate the terrible tale of a suicide that took place in Carbon Canyon that day.  The piece began:  "Death brought to an abrupt end today a week-end outing in Carbon Canyon near La Vida Hot Springs, when Hobart Kennedy, 29-year old musician of 72 Granada Street, Long Beach, killed himself with a .22 caliber automatic pistol with which a moment before he had been shooting at targets."

After noting that Orange County Sheriff Department deputies were not able to discern whether the shooting was an accident, the article went on to report that, "With his bride of a year, his sister Mrs. Josephine Powers, and five other persons, Kennedy was the guest of John Miles, Los Angeles attorney, at the latter's mountain cabin.  Shortly after noon the party began the target-shooting tournament.  Without explaining his departure, Kennedy suddenly separated himself from the group.  A moment later a shot was heard and Kennedy was found unconscious with a bullet wound in the temple.  He died en route to a physician's office at Brea."

After stating that his wife had no idea why her husband would want to take his life, the article concluded by noting that "Kennedy recently entered the employ of the Paramount Studios, Hollywood."

Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, it was learned that Kennedy had been a professional musician since his teens.  Born in Indianapolis in July 1902 to an automobile factory superintendent and a housewife, the youngster was living on his own at age 17 in the city and working as a theater musician, which could either be in an orchestra accompanying silent movies or with live drama.

In the late 1920s, he was reported to be playing in Salt Lake City and even was mentioned in a July 1929 issue of the Milwaukee Sentinel newspaper, which had a column titled "Men of the Hour," usually a mocking commentary on what it considered humorous foibles of men, including one titled "Milestone on the Path to Civilization."  In a snipped that followed the paper reported that "because his wife told people he 'worked the banjo racket,' Hobart T. Kennedy, an orchestra musician, became indignant and sued her for divorce."

Indeed, about nine months later, Kennedy was enumerated in the 1930 federal census as residing in the Hollywood Hills above the famed Chateau Marmont, where he roomed with a jeweler and a theater booking agent in the house of former actor and assistant director Charles Dorian (who acted in over two-dozen films and then was assistant director on two noted late 1920s films, Greta Garbo's Flesh and the Devil and The Trail of '98, both directed by Clarence Brown, and many other movies.)  With his vocation given as actor and musician in motion pictures, the 27-year old Kennedy was also noted as divorced (having married at the tender age of 18, presumably in his hometown.)

Not much more about Kennedy was located, aside from the fact that he did some recording on a radio music program on KFWB (still an operating station) in Los Angeles during 1930.  Obviously, if he had found work just before his demise with the powerful Paramount Studio, which produced a prodigious amount of films during the previous decade, his professional life appeared decent considering the Great Depression was on and worsening.

Incidentally, the mention of John Miles' mountain cabin suggests that this might have been in Sleepy Hollow or Mountain View Estates, the 1920s subdivision off Canon Lane just east, as there may not have been too many cabins, if any, on the more rugged Brea portion of Carbon Canyon.

23 January 2013

Carbon Canyon Historical Artifact #30: Hot Mineral Water Pool at La Vida Mineral Springs, ca. 1960s

Here is a cool ca. 1960s postcard of the "hot mineral water pool at La Vida Mineral Springs / Carbon Canyon / Brea, Californa," published by Escondido's Amescolor Publishers.  Click on the image to see a larger view in a new window.

Here is yet another ca. 1960s color postcard of La Vida Mineral Springs, this one showing the "Hot mineral water pool." 

Note that there are changing rooms in a long structure off to the right, while in the lawn area at the left and at the far end are "hip" yellow lawn chairs with tubular steel frames and multi-colored umbrellas scattered on the grass. 

The view looks east and it appears the photo was taken on a nice sunny dat in the Spring, but not long after some rain, as the hills sport a carpet of green.  A few people can be spotted in the pool enjoying what must have been a relaxing soak in the hot water.

It seems to this viewer that there might even be a path or roadway climbing the hill on the right, though it may just be a change in the topography.

Incidentally, a short notice in the Los Angeles Times from 17 February 1957 stated that "R. L. Dickenson, manager of La Vida Mineral Springs in Carbon Canyon, stated that a new swimming pool will be completed by April 1, supplementing the present pool open to the public.  The Fiesta Pool Co. is handling the construction."  It would appear that this is the pool shown in the card.

The reverse of the unused card.
As with many other postcards from the period that have appeared in this blog, this one, which was not used, was manufactured by Amescolor Publishers of Escondido.  There is some staining on the ridge of the hill at the upper left, on the grass at the lower left, and at the upper right towards the top of a hill, but otherwise the condition is pretty good.

22 January 2013

Madrona (a.k.a. Canyon Crest) EIR Comments Due Today

For those inclined to weigh in on the proposed Madrona Plan for 162 houses in the Brea portion of Carbon Canyon, the deadline for comments is the end of the business day today, addressed to City Planner David Crabtree at DavidC@cityofbrea.net.

YHB's letter:

Dear Mr. Crabtree,

                In response to the recirculated draft EIR for the Madrona Plan, I offer the following comments on why the project should be rejected by the Brea City Council.

·         Carbon Canyon has a distinctiveness of place that would be fundamentally and permanently altered by the siting of a very large housing development in a key location that would transform its rural nature and diminish already-disappearing open space.  Madrona’s frequent use of “refined country” to describe itself can only really be seen as an essential negative alteration of the basic character of the Canyon and the continued incompatible transplantation of suburban elements into it.  Developers have had far more than their share of space to build housing.  We lack sufficient landfill space, water supply, roadways, and the funds to build new and maintain existing infrastructure, and our pollution levels are still grossly excessive.  This project would only contribute to the further degradation of the Canyon and contribute to the mounting problems mentioned above affecting Brea and every other part of our region.  

·         Although the new owners have re-sited housing to avoid one of four hazardous landslide zones, there are still enormous amounts of grading and fill, and the attendant pollution exceeding air quality standards, that would have to be used.  Any unavoidable significant and unmitigated adverse impacts that violate CEQA should be reasons enough to deny the project.  A statement of overriding consideration on this can only provide an assumed benefit elsewhere in the city and not adequately address this deficiency in the plan nor the question of continuing to bypass air quality standards in a region with pollution levels that are still far too high.

·         The analysis of traffic similarly inadequately evaluates the fundamental problem of a two-lane winding road with almost no lighting, poor sight lines and a documented history of dangerous driving and serious accidents, much less the crowded conditions found during the several hours of peak commuter volume during the weekdays.  Moreover, the proposed entrance to the project is at a location that has proven to be highly susceptible to accident-prone behavior by drivers.

·         Despite modern advances in home construction and fire planning, the 2008 fire in Carbon Canyon and surrounding areas demonstrated once again that it is an unacceptable and dangerous level of risk building houses in wildfire-susceptible wildland areas.  The “shelter in place” philosophy, which predominated several years ago, would simply be playing the odds in a fashion that would be intolerable in an area as remote and relatively inaccessible as this.  With climate change causing extremes in weather conditions, the frequency and intensity of fires, already noticeable with recent major events, will continue to exacerbate.  Finally, the existing fire history of the Canyon, also well documented in print and visual media, will be rewritten in ways that make this project simply inconceivable given the new realities.

·         To reiterate, these last two points come to a basic question of public safety and liability issues.  The City of Brea would be assuming an unacceptable risk, especially in the matter of fire response and protection.

·         It is also to be noted that, as a project that has a grandfather clause with respect to current code and planning standards, Madrona could never be approved if it were brought as a new project to the Council now.  Yet, for all intents and purposes, this is a new project with a new owner, new name, and new, that is, amended, plan.  Consequently, it clearly fails to meet the basic standards of 2013, if not 1993 or 2003.

·         Finally, to address any concern about private property rights, there are two points to raise:

o   The first is that this is not an individual property owner or an owner that has a vested or expressed interest in working with and improving the quality of the community.  This is a bankrupt out-of-state corporation, whose unethical failings have been well documented, seeking to recover whatever asset valuations it can for the purposes of satisfying creditors.  In other words, this is a corporate investment, not a matter of a dedicated project for the betterment of Brea.

o   Secondly, private property rights, essential as they are, cannot and should not supersede the common welfare of the community in Brea.  This project would not only fail to provide enough benefit, in the form of overriding considerations elsewhere in the city, to Brea, but would put future residents of Madrona and nearby neighborhoods at risk, as noted above with respect to public safety and other considerations.

In 2008, the Planning Commission narrowly approved an earlier iteration of this project, before the devastation of the fire that fall that utterly consumed this area.  That conflagration and the other issues noted here and elsewhere should be enough reason to deny this project now and at any time in the future.  The site is too vulnerable and susceptible to fundamental public safety hazards, belies the nature of Carbon Canyon, and has several unacceptable significant adverse impacts in its EIR that cannot simply be satisfied by statements of overriding considerations.  Finally, as a corporate investment by a firm, which employed unethical tactics in its operations that led it to bankruptcy and receivership, traditional notions of private property rights do not apply.  Approval of this project would only benefit the distressed firm and its creditors and do nothing to improve the quality of life for the City of Brea and its residents.

For these reasons, the City Council should reject this application and keep Brea’s portion of Carbon Canyon protected from any such project that purports to improve it.  Instead, Madrona offers far too many risks than benefits.

18 January 2013

Sleepy Hollow's Canyon Market Closure in the News

In tomorrow's edition of The Champion, reporter Marianne Napoles has a short front-page feature on the shuttering of the Canyon Market, formerly Party House Liquor #2 (and before that Joe Tater's and Ichabod's, going back some decades.)

As noted in this blog in early June 2012, the store, which had only changed management and name the previous year, had closed its doors, though it was not known then if this was a permanent closure.  The boarding up of the windows and doors during the Fall, however, confirmed that it was a done deal.

The Champion article has a little bit of history and a reminiscence from a lifetime Sleepy Hollow resident, who also hoped that the site could be reopened as an artists' gallery or a coffee shop.  The piece also surmised that the opening the Circle K market up the road to the east had an impact and there's no reason to think otherwise.

The newspaper noted that the property has been owned by the same man for over thirty years and that Gus Fedail, who once owned the old Canyon Corral restaurant and bar that was an area landmark for many years and was razed when the shopping center that is anchored by CVS was constructed in recent years, still operates the Party House Liquor #1 store in the Big Lots/99 Cent Store shopping center at Pipeline and Chino Hills Parkway.

The future of the Canyon Market/Party House Liquor building and lot does not appear to be known currently and it will be interesting to see what happens to the property.

17 January 2013

On the Skids in Carbon Canyon #10628

This recent exercise in errancy on Carbon Canyon Road is west of the former Manely Friends stable and just east of the historic La Vida Mineral Springs property.

This was a westbound driver, whose mental calculus in taking a curve seemed to be slightly deficient and who skidded across the eastbound lane and went up a dirt embankment for what appears to have been a relatively soft landing.
Some debris, in the form of broken plastic reflector glass and sundry, was scattered in a fairly wide area in the western end of the deep turnout.
Incidentally, there are at least a couple of other late, lengthy and dark skid marks elsewhere along the highway, testament to some other close calls on the Orange County side of the road.

15 January 2013

Madrona (a.k.a. Canyon Crest) Recirculated EIR Comments Due in One Week

The recirculated Environmental Impact Report for the Madrona Residential Development Plan, formerly known as Canyon Crest, proposing 162 houses on 367 acres on the north side of Carbon Canyon between Olinda Village and the Orange/San Bernardino counties line, was released in mid-November.

The public comment period for this latest iteration of the EIR was extended two weeks to next Wednesday, oops, that would be TUESDAY, 22 January (thanks to commenter Canyon Native for pointing out the error.)

Though the project does scale back grading on a particularly problematic hillside slope, removes three houses that were situated by themselves close to the county line, and makes other changes, it is still one that would fundamentally transform Carbon Canyon, along with other projects approved on the Chino Hills side that total some 105 units and another application for over 107 more that is forthcoming.  There is also the nearly-completed Elements at Pine Valley Estates, which has 18 remaining of 98 units.

If Madrona were approved with the others mentioned above and if the houses were actually built, the results would be enormous, far-reaching and the Canyon would lose its singular qualities. 

The City of Brea is under no obligation, legal or otherwise, to approve the Madrona Plan, especially as this is not a matter of property rights as most people conceive it.  This was a corporate investment, engaged in by Old Standard Life Insurance Company, a Spokane, Washington firm with a long history (as detailed in this blog in multiple posts in Spring 2009) of poor decisions, like those of many companies like it in the reckless days of the early to mid 2000s, that left a great many people with financial losses.

Consequently, Old Standard is in liquidation and is under receivership by court order in Idaho.  What is proposed for Madrona (Canyon Crest) is an attempt at getting a tentative tract map approved, this document holding good for virtually time immemorial, so that the value of the property is enhanced for creditors of a disgraced company.

This is not an individual fighting for the right to develop property--it is a last-ditch effort by a dying, corrupt corporation.  Brea does not have to aid and abet this plan.

So, anyone interested in the future of the Canyon should register their concerns in comments to the City of Brea.

The entire 248-page Environmental Impact Report does not need to be read cover-to-cover.  A glance at key sections dealing with significant, unmitigatable environmental impacts would be a good place to review, as would be the section about the fire risk, in light of the 2008 Freeway Complex fire, one of four major devastating blazes over the last half-century.  And, with climate change occurring, it is very likely more will be coming in shorter intervals.

Of particular importance are sections 6.0 and 7.0 dealing with "Long-Term Implications" and "Alternatives."  These are pages 190-205.

To see the document, click here. 

At some point, perhaps within a few months, after the comment period closes next week, the Madrona Plan could come before the City Council for deliberation and a vote and more public comment will be part of that process.  But, the written comment phase is now and concludes on the 22nd.

Those who care about Carbon Canyon, preservation of open space, and protection of plant and animal habitats, among other important issues, should act now.

14 January 2013

Towers of Terror: No Hope for the [Chino] Hills?

In Saturday's edition of the Champion, the controversial TRTP renewable energy project with its nearly 200-foot tall towers has made headlines with the route through Carbon Canyon, rather than the more infamous portion that passes through houses along a corridor near Eucalyptus Avenue.

That is, there are five miles of the route through the City of Chino Hills, but the lion's share of the attention has come with the 3 1/2 miles that is through the most heavily populated portion at the eastern end.  The western 1 1/2 miles, which is through the Chino Hills to the north of Carbon Canyon, does not pass through as developed an area, except, notably, the gated community of large and expensive custom houses in Oak Tree Downs, the north end of which comes quite near to the route of the TRTP project.

As reported by Marianne Napoles, however, Edison, while presenting, on order of the California Public Utilities Commission, alternatives for placing the towers, some of which are already installed, underground in that eastern section, has not shown any plans to do so for three towers that are to be placed next to the high-end subdivision in the hillier, western portions.  The reason for this, not surprisingly, is all about the terrain and topography of the Chino Hills.

A week ago, however, an administrative judge for the CPUC, Jean Vieth, turned down SCE's request to resume work near Oak Tree Downs until it came back to her with a plan, in concert with the City of Chino Hills, to mitigate effects of the work on the residents there.  Then, Edison would need to file a motion for a project modification and receive approval on that before restarting efforts.

The utility, in mid-December petitioned to be allowed to go back to work in the hills, but the City of Chino Hills protested in light of the fact that a final determination for the remaining 3 1/2 miles is to come by July anyway.  Council member Ed Graham commented that the City was not aware until January 2012 that Edison was going to install above-ground towers in the hills, though one would think that ths would be obvious given the terrain.  In any case, Graham was quoted in the Napoles article as stating that any attempt to provide estimates for placing the lines underground in the hills would have driven the project cost to such an astronomical level as to lead to an easy CPUC rejection.

Not surprisingly, residents of Oak Tree Downs were quoted in the piece as being dismayed by the prospect of having above-ground towers and this would certainly be exacerbated if the CPUC were to force SCE to place lines underground at that eastern 3 1/2 mile section, despite the obvious conclusion that the project has no practical alternatives for the three towers aside from towering at 200 feet over that north end of the development.

One homeowner, in particular, made a point of referring to himself and neighbors as "guinea pigs" and "expendable" because of the oft-alleged link between electrical lines and cases of leukemia and cancer.  As mentioned recently in this blog, there has been no official correlation made, though there are plenty of groups out there who feel otherwise.  This same person also offered that the project could only alienate "the entire Chino Hills community," though, in truth, the folks in Butterfield Ranch or Los Serranos probably have nowhere near the anger, angst and anxiety as those closest to the project.

It does make sense for nothing further to continue with the work until the decision is made by the CPUC in July about the underground alternatives proposed, at very high cost, by SCE recently.  So, it stands to reason that Judge Vieth might reject Edison's attempts to resume work in the western 1 1/2 mile section in the hills until that time.  This, however, remains to be seen.

12 January 2013

Chino Hills Maternity Hotel Restraining Order

UPDATE, 18 January: Tomorrow's edition of the Champion reported that the court hearing held yesterday regarding the "Los Angeles Hermas Hotel" and requiring property owners Hai Yong Wu and Yi Wang to appear and explain why a temporary order closing the facility and prohibiting any further changes to the house ended without the owners making an appearance.  Wu was said to still be in China, so the new judge Keith Davis, granted a 30-day extension on the hearing, now scheduled for 19 February.

In last week's Champion, it was reported by reporter Marianne Napoles that a 27 December temporary restraining order, banning further construction and remodeling as well as operating of a hotel in violation of Chino Hills city codes, was issued by a county judge preventing the "maternity hotel" that has been operating on a hilltop house overlooking the east end of the Carbon Canyon corridor from continuing business.

Property owners Hai Yong Wu and Yi Wang were ordered to appear before the court this coming week, on 17 January, to contest the issuance of the injunction.  Meanwhile, Napoles noted that the residence in which the "Los Angeles Hermas Hotel" [it would be interesting, maybe, to know what "Hermas" refers to, given that its usual connotation is as a given name and there is an old Christian tale about a "Shepherd of Hermas"] had been operating has been vacant for several weeks.

A Frank Smith, Wu's representative was quoted by Napoles as saying that Wu was working with the City to address code violation issues and suggested that the house was actually in compliance with city codes because of its floor plan and that any work done did not require removal.  Rather, Smith claimed, he recommended vacating the structure because of the issue of inadequate septic system capacity. 

And, yet, if the maintenance of the fundamental floor plan alone is justifiable by Smith's interesting application of logic, then any alterations to the plan that overload the septic system's capacity is somehow logically disconnected even though the added bathrooms within the floor plan were connected to the overburdened septic tank?

For a 5 January Los Angeles Times article on this, click here.  Another Times piece on maternity hotels generally and referring to the Chino Hills example can be found here and there is a further link embedded in that article to a fuller version that appeared in the 3 January print edition.

02 January 2013

A New Year's Hike Above Carbon Canyon

The little-used portion of Chino Hills State Park north of Carbon Canyon Road and above Olinda Village doesn't have the attractiveness and isolated feeling of much of the older, larger portion of the park to the south and east, but it has its moments.

This view looks northeast towards Mount Baldy and its neighboring peaks, Ontario and Cucamonga.

For one, because it is far less traveled, a hiker can enjoy a generally greater level of solitude.  Second, there are some striking views from several vantage points, especially those of the San Gabriel Mountains to the north that can take in a vast portion of that main range of peaks and also those of the Puente Hills and San Gabriel Valley to the northwest that cannot be had in the other section of the park.

The visitor does have to contend with more of the surrounding and trappings (this can be taken literally) of the urban world around the park, though.  Power lines, communication towers and the relative nearness of houses at Olinda Village (which in various places, however, disappears from view) are more pronounced here. 

As the trail climbed further northwest, Olinda Village receded from view and the recently-added portion of the state park (midcenter) and the larger, older section of the park in the background came into prominence.

New Year's Day was a gorgeous one.  After a cold morning, the afternoon proved to be just under 60 degrees and it was clear inland with some overcast conditions on the coast.  Views in all directions were quite good and the lightly-dusted snow-capped peaks of Mt. Baldy, Ontario Peak, Cucamonga Peak, Mt. San Gorgonio, and Mt. San Jacinto, among others, were clearly visible.  Recent rain, though not substantial, provided a thin carpet of green on the surrouding Chino and Puente Hills, as well as on the smaller mountains in the Santa Ana Mountains range to the south.

A short, but decently ascending and descending, hike of four miles round trip led two adults and two elementary school-age kids up a utility easement road, with some narrow trails, usually used by horses as well as hikers, up from Olinda Village to a tall communications tower just behind the furthest reaches of the Olinda Alpha Landfill.  Passed, not far into the jaunt, was a new horse stable still in process of construction and which was not there a year or two back, when an earlier walk was made.  In fact, a couple of riders, leading a miniature horse, were taking the opportunity for a nice ride along the same route.

This shot to the southwest looks over the plains of Orange County looking toward the Pacific Ocean.  The top slopes of the hills of Santa Catalina Island were visible a little later.

Starting a 3:30, the leisurely walk took about two hours and darkness descended as the group did.  No wildlife, aside from birds, were seen, though a group of coyotes made themselves amply heard from some point off to the west.  But, the views, as noted above, were excellent, the air crisp and clean, and the almost-complete solitude welcomed.

Unfortunately, there were occasional glances to the east, past the water towers northeast of Olinda Village, where the specter of the 162-unit Madrona housing project casts somewhat of a pall on the New Year.  The fire-prone wildlands in this area, which burned nearly completely just over four years ago, has its beauty in the winter, but can be parched and wind-prone elsewhere in the year. 

Looking north from the stopping point at a communications tower, the eastern San Gabriel Valley, long stretches of the San Gabriel Mountains and the farthest reaches of the Olinda Alpha Landfill came into view.

The idea (whether it actually comes to fruition) of all those houses in the midst of the parkland and remaining privately-held open space will certainly make any hikes in the northern part of Chino Hills State Park a lot less desirable and meaningful.

In the meantime, there is much to enjoy about this sliver of the park embedded within a teeming
metropolitan region.

On the way back down, the clouds look alight with flame as the sun smoldered on the horizon.