30 April 2013

Housing Market Recovery and Carbon Canyon Project Revivals

It has been reported that in some areas the housing market has seen increased activity indicating that the situation has improved markedly from the 2008 crash.  Consequently, it is not surprising to see that projects in Carbon Canyon are being revived.

The most notable of these is in Brea, where the 162-unit Madrona subdivision, formerly known as Canyon Crest, is coming to a city council vote, probably in June, after an appeal of a narrow 3-2 planning commission approval in 2008 was suspended after the economic free fall and the Triangle Complex Fire took place. 

While this project would require an unprecedented three "statements of overriding consideration" to unavoidable significant impacts under California Environmental Quality Act criteria (and we should take note that Governor Brown is looking to make CEQA less inhibiting to economic development), there is no way to know whether this project will be 3-2 for or against, which is what some are thinking will be the probabilities.

Meantime, it has been said that groundbreaking could begin soon on the Canyon Hills project by Foremost Communities, a 76-unit subdivision that will be built north of Carbon Canyon Road and west of Canyon Hills Road, between Sleepy Hollow and Oak Tree Estates.

It should be pointed out that the first iteration of Canyon Hills was approved by San Bernardino County in 1987 (yes, 25 years ago!)  A tentative tract map was issued two years later and a final map in 1997.  Now, matters have changed slightly in Carbon Canyon over that long span of time, much less in Chino Hills and elsewhere and the traffic counts, for example, on Carbon Canyon Road are just a little bit higher than they were then.

But, the beauty (facetiously expressed) of the process is that, once a tract map is on the books, the project can, for all intents and purposes, be built as approved at any time thereafter—even if the conditions in the area have completely changed.

Oh, and one other change--the Canyon Hills project is 141 acres and, as recently as 2008, when D. B. Horton owned the site, 100 acres of it was slated for "open space," which can mean manufactured slopes and landscaped areas, not necessarily "natural areas."  But now, that open space total has been slashed 30% to 70 acres!

As for Madrona/Canyon Crest, it gets even better.  Though new planning policies for the City of Brea and Carbon Canyon specifically have been created in recent years, this project gets grandfathered in under the older plans because it was first proposed eons (well, seemingly) ago. 

So, again, even though the conditions are totally different now, the projects don't have to be.  And, who says this is a tough climate for developers and builders to work with; if anything, trying to preserve communities for overdevelopment is by far the tougher slog—just look around and see who has been winning that contest over the decades!

Meantime, the smaller Fieldstone project of 28 units on 35 acres, just east of Western Hills Country Club across Fairway Drive and north (and west, at some points) of Carbon Canyon Road is also likely to be built some day.

And, now, another old proposal rises from the ashes:  as reported here previously and reiterated in the 19 April edition of The Champion, there is a project for 107 houses on 537 acres, with an application sent to the city in January, on the south side of Carbon Canyon Road across from Canyon Hills Road and between Sleepy Hollow and Mountain View Estates (the older tract on Canon Lane south of Route 142.)  This is in the early stages, but will be making its merry way through the development process with Chino Hills in coming months.

So, let's do a little math, shall we?

Canyon Hills = 76 houses
Stonefield = 28 houses

Approved = 104 houses

Madrona = 162 houses
New project = 107 houses

Proposed = 269 houses

Hmmmm . .  . this adds up to 373 dwellings.  Multiply that by, say, 4 persons per unit and you have almost 1,200 new residents. 

And, how many car trips would be added to a two-lane state highway that cannot be expanded and is already packed for several commuting hours? 

And, then there'll have to be additional traffic signals already sited for Fairway Drive and Canyon Hills Road at their intersections with Carbon Canyon Road.  While these will facilitate residents living near these roads getting onto an increasingly crowded state highway, it will also mean slower commute times on Carbon Canyon Road and more idling on it when the lights are red.

And, how much pollution is generated by the construction and by the presence of more houses and people and their cars?

And, will the property tax revenues be enough to counter the infrastructure maintenance (schools, road maintenance, etc.) for the two cities?

And, with water supplies being threatened by extensive, long-term drought not just locally and regionally but through the entire Western United States and conservation being urged, even though we're told by cities and developers that there's enough water for lots of new housing projects . . .

And, what about the quality of life in Carbon Canyon, which, presumably, draws its residence because of its contrast to suburban and city life and yet, with these new projects, will or threatens to become just like those areas and, thereby, losing its fundamental and essential character?

Is this the future of Carbon Canyon?

Well, for those who care, there is still the ability to speak up with concerns to the cities of Brea and Chino Hills about Madrona and the as-yet unnamed project of 107 units across from Canyon Hills. 

This can be done for the former at the upcoming city council meeting, which will be announced here where the final vote on the 2008 appeal will take place. 

For the Chino Hills project, as a new application, this can be done during the public comment period, the planning commission public hearing, and the city council public hearing.

Madrona already has three (actually four, with two bundled together) unavoidable adverse impacts that have to be subject to "statements of overriding consideration" to be approved—and this has never been done before in Brea.

The new Chino Hills project would almost certainly have at least two (traffic and project-generated pollution.)

In either case (or any case, for that matter), the existence of these unavoidable significant adverse impacts are, by the criteria of CEQA in and of themselves grounds for rejection of the projects.  The cities of Brea and Chino Hills have no legal (or other) responsibility or duty to approve them

Nothing that can be offered in statements of overriding consideration in terms of benefits furnished by developers to other parts of the city in exchange for these projects can mitigate the damage done. 

If these two projects are approved, the possibility/probability of nearly 400 houses in Carbon Canyon would damage it irrevocably and irreparably.

Now, the owners of Madrona, being a bankrupt firm under State of Idaho receivership, probably have no intention of building anything--getting that project approval and tract map filed, however, will raise the value of the land significantly and someone, someday could then build.

The same may not be true for the unnamed Chino Hills project—the owner may be raring to go whenever an approval and map are a done deal.

Even if one of these doesn't happen, 107 or 162 houses is still a game changer for the Canyon.

There is a point where enough is enough.  Anyone driving the road between 6 and 8 a.m. and 4 to 6:30 p.m., more or less, can tangibly see where we've had enough.  Those thinking about pollution, school funding, water supply, disappearing open and future passive recreational space and other issues know there is more to the picture.

And, it's a picture that could increasingly become more and more clouded.

27 April 2013

Carbon Canyon Brush Pickup a Success

Volunteers from the Carbon Canyon Fire Safe Council hard at work with brush brought by Canyon residents to the drop-off site on Canon Lane near Western Hills Park and Fire Station 64.
Today the Carbon Canyon Fire Safe Council held the first of its two brush pick-up days for Canyon residents next to Western Hills Park and Chino Valley Independent Fire District Station 64. 

From 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., teams of Fire Safe Council volunteers assisted residents in off-loading approximately 14,000 pounds of plant material onto two large roll-off bins provided by Chino Hills Disposal with assistance from the City of Chino Hills.

Working as a well-oiled and coordinated team, these dedicated volunteers helped fill two of these roll-off bins with about 14,000 pounds of plant materials brought in about two-dozen loads.
With a deadline of 15 May looming for Canyon residents to remove brush as directed by inspectors of the Fire District, this program goes a long way towards removing plant material as part of a larger fire suppression effort.  Work of this kind is especially important this year because we had another low yield of rainfall, only about five inches, which means that, though there is still some greenery out there, the hills are getting browner, drier, and more fire-prone as we edge closer to summer.

With the second roll-off bin full and ready for removal, Fire Safe Council volunteers head home after a busy day.
With the fall fire season being historically the time when the worse blazes occur, the Council will be having another brush pick-up day at the same location and time at a date to be determined soon, so keep an eye on this blog for more information by logging onto www.CarbonCanyonFSC.com or calling the fire district at (909) 902-5280, extension 409.

25 April 2013

Carbon Canyon Historical Artifact #33: Another 1940s La Vida Mineral Springs Real Photo Postcard

This ca. 1940s real photo postcard of the old hotel and bath house at La Vida Mineral Springs looks northeast from the parking area near the café and appears to be taken by a visitor rather than by a photographer hired by the resort.  Click on it to see a larger view in a separate window.
This is the second of three real photo postcards of the La Vida Mineral Springs, located on the Brea side of Carbon Canyon just a short distance east of Olinda Village on the north side of Carbon Canyon Road.

The view is an interesting one, the photographer standing near the parking lot and just behind a wood fence that paralleled Carbon [Canyon] Creek with the road behind and looking northeastward towards the "Hotel & Bath House."  This would be the older building that was rocked by an explosion in the late 1950s (and which event was discussed in a recent post here.)  Later, a new hotel structure was erected on the site and this was the one destroyed by fire in the late 1980s.

Meantime, there is a one-story structure in front of the hotel/bath house with a red clay tile roof, while a man stands looking at the camera and a woman is at the right turned the other way.  A bit of the hills to the north and easy peek out over the roof line of the two-story hotel/bath house.

This seems to indicate, along with the unusual view, that these cards were taken by a visitor and not by the Springs as an advertising, promotional and souvenir vehicle.  Besides, there is no publishing information on the back of the card, which is postally unused.  As noted in the previous post, the EKC (Eastman Kodak Company) stamp box found on this card is dated from 1930-1950.

Real photo cards were really just photos printed on postcards rather than photo paper and were heavily used by shutterbugs from the early 1900s onward, though by the 1940s, when these were presumably made, they were not in vogue any longer.

The third and final of this series of La Vida RPPCs will be posted next month.

24 April 2013

Towers of Terror Treading Towards Tumult?

The Champion's 19 April edition featured a front-page piece by Marianne Napoles about a two-hour teleconference held between California Public Utilities Commission administrative judge Jean Vieth, who will make a final ruling in July, and interested parties over the fate of the Section 8 portion of the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project (TRTP).  The project, which was approved by the CPUC in 2009, started by Edison shortly afterward, and which had several of its freakishly tall 198-foot towers installed before an outcry from local residents forming the Hope for the Hills grassroots organization and from the City of Chino Hills, has been halted by the CPUC pending a review.

Since the construction stopped in late 2011, the City, Edison and the CPUC have been engaged in various forms of dialogue leading to the anticipated summer decision by Vieth over the future direction of the project.  Namely, the question is whether rerouting the lines underground are feasible.  The City has argued that it is, Edison has put out figures that place the cost at hundreds of millions of dollars, and the CPUC will make its decision, it now looks, solely on the feasibility and cost questions of the underground rerouting.

Vieth, in fact, all but quashed any notion that the height of the towers, the alleged safety risks from their placement in a very narrow 40-foot easement, the supposed EMF effects that have been claimed, the aesthetics and presumed property value declines have anything to do with what her final decision will be.

She did open the door to testimony about whether completed portions of the project could serve the Inland Empire without the Section 8 part being finished.  That will be provided by engineer Charles Mee of the CPUC's Division of Ratepayer Advocates, though the judge denied a motion by that group to expand the scope of the hearings which began this week in San Francisco, stating that the focus will be on the time, cost, and feasibility of putting the lines below ground.

Vieth also disallowed testimony by Hope for the Hills advocates and Chino Hills City Manager Michael Fleager as immaterial to the fundamental questions because aesthetics and opinions about presumed effects of the project were and are not at play.  She did permit some Hope for the Hills photographs to be submitted into evidence, but remarked that they were quite similar to renderings that appeared in the Environmental Impact Report required by the California Environmental Quality Act (which, by the way, is the target of a dramatic overhaul by Governor Brown to streamline building projects!)

Meantime, renewable energy organizations and TURN (The Utility Reform Network) are calling upon the CPUC to carefully consider the effects that placing the lines underground would have with respect to higher costs, including ones not anticipated in Edison's figures, which are already massive, and to construction delays brought about by the highly complicated process, which would also provide invasive in different ways than the current soaring towers jutting 20 stories towards the sky.

Again, it is hard to say what this all means with regards to a final adjudication in July, but Vieth's pointed comments about focusing on money, time, and practicability and her flat rejection of questions of aesthetics or neighborhood impacts are potentially very telling.  As stated here before, the public pressure effectively spearheaded by Hope for the Hills and accompanied by $3.5 million dollars expended by the City of Chino Hills to fight the towers may ultimately be blunted by a drawn-out process as orchestrated by the CPUC with negotiations, conferences, hearings and other administrative and bureaucratic mechanisms.

Why the CPUC would approve this project in 2009, face a barrage of open, public criticism stemming from grass-roots organizing and city rebuttals, and then undergo a 2-year cycle of reexamination only to fundamentally alter a project well into the later stages, in which construction contractors, renewable energy companies and other vendors could lose bundles of money and time (which, naturally, is $), would be truly stunning.

This may not be comparable, but the notorious California bullet train project might be illustrative.  After all of the approvals and the onset of early construction, an outcry about the cost and invasiveness of the project led to reconsideration, rehearings and etc.  Yet, the project, whether merited or not, is continuing on with some quite minor modifications.

How different will the TRTP through Chino Hills be?  If, as is very possible, the costs are deemed too high, the time lag too damaging, and the feasilbility too suspect, then the CPUC will allow the project to continue, behemoth towers looming over a benighted city and all.  All the time and money, evidence and exhibits, talk and more talk, will have yielded nothing fundamentally changed.

But, at least the CPUC could say that it gave the project a careful and considered reexamination.  At least Hope for the Hills could say, rightfully, that it gave a truly spirited and surprisingly effective effort to stop the towers.  At least the City of Chino Hills could say that it marshaled millions of dollars of taxpayer money for a presumed just cause.  No one need assume blame but can pass it on to someone else.

Then again, maybe the project will be ordered under ground, after all.   All we can do is stay tuned.

23 April 2013

Carbon Canyon Brush Drop-off Day This Saturday!

The Carbon Canyon Fire Safe Council will be presenting its Spring brush drop off day this Saturday, 27 April from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. as part of its program for fuel reduction to mitigate fire hazards in the Canyon.  The location is next to Western Hills Park and Fire Station 64 on Canon Lane, just off Carbon Canyon Road, in Chino Hills.

With the support of the City of Chino Hills absorbing the cost of providing roll-off bins from Chino Hills Disposal, Fire Safe Council volunteers will be on hand to help those with special needs to offload brush and green waste from their vehicles into the bins, though others should be ready to unload their own brush.  In all cases, the waste has to be bundled to be accepted.

This service is provided free to residents only, who are asked to bring their identification, utility bill or canyon resident emergency access pass to prove Canyon residency.

With fire inspections by the Chino Valley Independent Fire District beginning on 15 May, it is to the advantage of Canyon residents to take the opportunity to clear brush on their properties and take it down to the site for free removal.  Those who don't have their lots clear by the inspections face the prospect of fines.

There will be a second drop off day in the late summer/early fall and residents can learn more by logging onto www.CarbonCanyonFSC.com or calling the fire district at (909) 902-5280, extension 409.

22 April 2013

The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad Spur Line to Olinda

As has been detailed in this blog previously, the discovery of oil by Edward Doheny in the late 1890s in partnership with the railroad giant, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, on what became known as the Olinda field, inaugurated the oil industry in Orange County.

In 1896, just before Doheny's first Olinda well came in, he signed a five-year agreement with the Santa Fe, through its subsidiary the Southern California Railway Company, which completed a line from the east through Santa Ana Canyon and to Los Angeles in 1887, to provide the railroad fuel from his oil endeavors, including that in Olinda, which was usually known as the Fullerton Oil Field.  Light crude oil, such as that extracted from Olinda, proved to be a new way to fuel locomotives, and, just as importantly, it could do so without refining.  Consequently, when producing wells started to come in after 1897, efforts to ship the crude were quickly engaged in. 

The July 17, 1898 issue of the Los Angeles Times, for example, reported on new wells put down on the Olinda Ranch and that, "if expectations are realized, plans made for an extensive pipe-line system will be put in effect at once."  This line was to "extend from the ranch to Richfield station on the Santa Fe, which will be the shipping point" to Los Angeles and, strangely, south to Los Alamitos, "where, it is said, the sugar factory will be supplied with oil for fuel," a contract with the sugar firm having been nearly completed.  Richfield, by the way, was an area now in the city of Placentia named by the Richfield Oil Company, later Atlantic Richfield or ARCO, and which became a major oil producing area a little later than Olinda.

This mention of sugar, in fact, has an interesting sidelight, as the expansion of sugar beet farming, introduced in southern California by Richard Gird, owner of the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino, the western boundary of which was just slightly east of Sleepy Hollow within Carbon Canyon, and developer of the town of Chino.  Gird enticed the Oxnard brothers to come out from the midwest to work at Chino before they went on their own in Ventura County, where the city that bears their name is today.  Meantime, sugar beet production also developed in other regional locales, such as southeastern Los Angeles County, including at Hynes, now Paramount, and southwestern Orange County, including the aforementioned Los Alamitos, where Montana copper mining magnate William Andrews Clark opened, in 1897, his factory, which continued to operate until 1926.

Returning to Olinda, the Times reported on 13 August 1898, that the Santa Fe's chief engineer Fred T. Perris, for whom the city in Riverside County is named, and chief clerk F. B. Henderson from the railroad's Santa Ana office, visited Olinda to check on the progress of the wells in which the company had its interests.

By August 1899, the paper sent a reporter out to Olinda to describe the scene.  This person stated that "the Santa Fe group of wells . . . are named from the fact that the Santa Fe Railroad Company controls the major part of them, E. L. Doheny being a partner in their ownership."  With respect to what was done with the crude once it was extracted, the reporter stated that, "the entire output is hauled to Richfield Station, four miles distant, where the company takes it for fuel for their locomotives."  The piece went on to note that Santa Fe had ten operating wells and four more were drilling.  Also noted was the fact that there were several competitors, including Columbia Oil Company, Graham-Loftus Company, Charles Victor Hall, Easton-Eldridge and Company [who were involved also in Chino, as noted in this blog elsewhere], and the Olinda Oil Company. 

In its 8 November 1899 issue, the Times reported that
The Southern California Railway Company has petitioned the Board of Supervisors of this county [Orange] for a right-of-way across certain public highways running from Richfield in a northerly direction—a distance of about four and one-half miles.  It is the intention of the railroad ro construct a branch from the Santa Ana Cañon to the location of the company's oil wells in the vicinity of Olinda.
It might be of interest to observe here that during the famed boom of the late 1880s that spawned William H. Bailey's Olinda Ranch and the failed townsite of Carlton nearby,  there was also a proposed railroad, that never got past the idea stage, called the Anaheim, Olinda and Pomona Railway, that would have gone from the first-named city to the last through, presumably Brea Canyon or, perhaps, Tonner Canyon.

This 1920s map detail shows the spur rail line of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad coming up through the failed townsite of Carlton, passing the Pacific Electric Railroad streetcar line moving from La Habra off to the left down to Yorba Linda at center right and then turning slightly before entering the Olinda Oil Field where Carbon Canyon Dam and Carbon Canyon Regional Park are now located.  The short spur to the right led to the tank car  loading area and the one to the left went to the depot and freight facility.  From a map in the collection of the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum, City of Industry, California.  Click on the map to see an enlarged view in a separate window.

As detailed in an information-packed article by Dennis White (with assistance from Bryan Hunnell and Donald Cole) in the Hot Rail! Newsletter's Fall 2004 issue, the 4.2 mile spur line ran up a grade from Richfield to Olinda, where several spur tracks branched out from the main spur (this is shown in the image provided here from an early map.)

White explinaed that, "at Olinda, a 10x20 wooden depot with platform was ready for business when the line opened, but the volume of freight required an expansion to 20 x 20 within the first year.  The first freight agent at Olinda was Mr. F. S. Weber."

He also pointed out that, while the elevation change seemed minor, going from about 250 feet above sea level at Richfield, which was renamed Atwood in 1920, to 440 at Olinda, the terrain was somewhat rugged and the grade not insignificant.

In early 1906, the Santa Fe decided to retire the Southern California Railway Company and the line through northern Orange County and the Olinda spur were officially known as Santa Fe ones.  White's article included some interesting technical information concerning the operation of the line, especially at the crossing with the Pacific Electric Railway Company's streetcar line that came from La Habra to Yorba Linda and ran from 1911 to 1938 (portions of the old PE line are now a multi-use trail in Yorba Linda, while the portion in Brea exists as a right-of-way with the tracks removed in recent years.)

This detail from a ca. 1920s Auto Club of Southern California road map also shows the Santa Fe spur line, noted as A.T. & S.F. R. R., just east of Rose Avenue (now Rose Drive), but note that the spur and Rose Avenue went together into Olinda through what is now Carbon Canyon Dam and Carbon Canyon Regional Park.  The entirety of the spur is also shown from the main line of the Santa Fe at Atwood in Placentia to its Olinda terminus.  From a map in the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum collection.  Click on the map to see an enlarged view in a separate window.

As noted by White, the Olinda field began to decline in the 1940s, so the Santa Fe shuttered its spur line in 1945 as piplines replaced rail service for the shipment of oil (recall above that a pipeline had been discussed in 1898.)  Then, the construction of the Carobn Canyon Dam in the late 1950s and early 1960s took place on some of the old spur line and some of the rail material remaining was used as fill for the dam.  In 1975, Carbon Canyon Regional Park opened on the canyon (or north) side of the dam and further park development altered the landscape where the line once ran.

The path of the rail spur south of the dam also disappeared over time as suburban development took hold in the post-World War II years.  As noted by White, the wye at Atwood that marked the junction of the spur and the mainline was gone by the late 1980s.

Still, White identified in his piece seven areas where the track once ran using modern GPS coordinates, streets, and other landmarks.  For example, he noted that the Olinda spur and the PR line met between Prospect and Rose Drive at Imperial Highway, the PE running along the south side of that latter thoroughfare.  He even specifies a Mobil Oil pipeline sign, stating that the pipeline ran just to the east, but parallel to the spur.  From Imperial, the sput moved northwest for a half mile or so before turning north toward the center of Carbon Canyon Dam.

Finally, he observed that the Olinda depot and freight dock were located at where the East Gate ranger office for the regional park sits and that the tank car loading area was a half-mile east and south of Carbon Canyon Road.

Notably, directly across from the newer entrance to the regional park, installed several years ago, is a signalized main artery, intersecting with Carbon Canyon Road, in the Olinda Ranch subdivision called Santa Fe Drive.  Take that road north from Carbon Canyon and take a right turn after curving to the west and you come to the Olinda Oil Museum and the still-operating well #1 drilled by Edward Doheny in 1897.

Much has changed and the physical evidence of the Santa Fe's Olinda spur rail line are all but disappeared, but there are still some tangible pieces of the history that made Olinda a famed place name for its oil industry for decades.

21 April 2013

The "Moving Mountain" on Carbon Canyon Road in 1938

The Brea portion of Carbon Canyon is much steeper and hillier than that on the Chino Hills side.  The engineering of Carbon Canyon Road has been presented problems over the years, especially when heavy winter rains (hardly an issue this winter, as rainfall barely reached a paltry 5 inches--meaning get ready for potential fire hazards) pummel the area.

In the winter of 1937-38, some of the worst flooding ever recorded in the southern California area took place.  Along the Santa Ana River, many lives were lost and houses destroyed, especially in the Atwood community, now part of Placentia.  In La Cañada-Flintridge, at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains, flooding and mudslides took a heavy toll.  Damage and destruction were found throughout the region.  Higher than usual precipitation continued into the spring, moreover.

The 27 June 1938 issue of the Los Angeles Times featured an article titled "New 'Moving Mountain' Perils Orange County Road."  This was the second county highway to have the problem of major sliding of earth, though the other was not specified.  In any case, Carbon Canyon Road was the threatened roadway receiving attention in this piece, which reported that the problem "was asuming major proportions, as ahuge mass of each apparently is ready to move across the Carbon Canyon highway near here."

The paper went on to note that "the moving hill first started some distance from the highway above the Ed Gaines ranch."  For those who've read other posts on this blog about Canyon history, the name Ed Gaines will be recalled as being the owner of a large stock ranch in what is now Olinda Village.  The article contined that the problem "was not viewed with alarm by engineers. but since the movement started the hill has plowed up more than forty acres of ground and seems to be preparing to wipe out a small hill and possibly move across the highway."

While observing that the road was not yet affected by the sliding mass, the Times stated that, "at times tons of earth have blocked about half of the right of way and have been removed."  In addition to this, "the earth slide has opened many huge fissures and has wiped out a small plateau of about five acres in its downward course."  Engineers studying the situaton estimated that the ground, soaked by the heavy rains, would continue their slide.

In hilly, steep terrain, the composition of the soil is such that landslides occur with some frequency.  In the winter of 2004-05, one of the wettest in recent history, some significant landslides occurred at various points along Carbon Canyon Road, especially in Brea.  There is a major steep cut in the hills just west of Olinda Village that, a few years back, was the subject of stabilization attempts.  The failure of certain slopes is always a real danger.

In fact, this question is now pertinent with the proposed Madrona housing development (formerly known as Canyon Crest) of 162 residences on the north side of Carbon Canyon Road in the hills east of Olinda Village and west of Sleepy Hollow.

The propensity for land slides have been pointed out frequent as an ongoing concern as the Canyon Crest/Madrona saga, senselesly grandfathered in its present state from outdated, outmoded and obsolete general and specific plans for the Canyon, plods along.  Several areas of the proposed project site have been determined to be potentially subject to slope failure, with cutting and filling being a major part of the project, even as the newest iteration seeks to slightly reduce the number of affected areas.

Now, of course, engineering technology is light years better now than it was 75 years ago, but we know from recent experience that building in some hilly terrain still leads to slides and failures and, as the Madrona project, moves to a council decision on the 2008 appeal of the then-Canyon Crest project, which was narrowly approved 3-2 by the Planning Commission, this is one of several areas of concern that will be focused on as the council vote, probably in June, nears.

09 April 2013

Left Turns Do Happen on Carbon Canyon Road

For maybe the sixth or seventh time in the nine years residing in Carbon Canyon, an emergency action had to be implemented this afternoon to avoid being plowed into by a driver on Carbon Canyon Road who was not prepared for someone wanting to make a left turn.

Now, much of the left turn actions along the state highway are assisted by dedicated turn lanes, such as those entering the various subdivisions (Summit Ranch, Carriage Hills, Western Hills Oaks, Oak Tree Downs and Estates, Olinda Village and Olinda Ranch) and those accessing Western Hills Country Club and the mobile home tract behind it.  Even the 1920s neighborhood of Mountain View Estates has a turn lane onto Canon Lane, south of the roadway.

Well, most of it, as a few houses have direct access onto Carbon Canyon Road and left turns westbound are made directly from the road.  This is also the case for the several residents of Red Apple Lane, which is a little to the west and for the two residences in Brea just east of the old La Vida Mineral Springs property.

And, it is the case for Sleepy Hollow, where there are 130 houses and people need to turn directly from the road westbound onto the two entrances off Rosemary Lane on the south side of the neighborhood, as well as from the eastbound side onto Hillside Drive and Oak Way Lane to the north.

The problem, especially for the Rosemary Lane intersection at the east end of the neighborhood, is that westbound left turns come after some pretty sharp curves.  If someone is directly behind a driver preparing to turn, an advance notice with a turn signal and some brake-tapping generally (though not always) lets said follower know that, indeed, left turns are sometimes made on the highway.

When, however, a driver (as in today's example) is already stopped and waiting to make the turn onto Rosemary, especially when it is "rush hour" and eastbound traffic is heavy, then it is essential that said driver keep their eyes fixed on the rear view mirror and watching carefully for anyone hitting those curves behind at a speed that indicates that there is no thought of someone ahead waiting (and, often, for a loooong time) to make that turn.

So, earlier, this driver kept eyes glued to the mirror and saw an old tan half-ton pickup racing along and showing no sign of slowing down.  Already the foot had shifted from the brake to the accelerator, courtesy of memory and experience, before the squealing of tires and the fishtailing commenced.

Consequently, this driver was already moving forward when the pickup driver made the late effort to stop--it would have been a collision (into a car whose rear bumper had just, within the month, been repaired from a self-inflicted injury of a few years back.)  Caution, care and defensive driving saved the moment!

Now, racing through the curves on Carbon Canyon Road in Sleepy Hollow is a time-honored tradition of decades--there isn't a day (or, often, late at night) where the tire squealing and muffler roaring isn't heard.  And, usually, no one is stopped waiting to turn left when this happens.

That's called "playing the odds."  Until someone does get hit.  For this driver, this has almost happened the aforementioned six or seven times.  Not a lot over nine years, but any one of those could have proved disastrous or, at the very least, extraordinarily inconvenient.

Something could actually be done, though. 

For example, rumble strips could be placed in a few spots along the roadway in Sleepy Hollow, such as in the first little downturn westbound as drivers approach one of the world's largest street signs, warning of curves and recommending a 25 mph pace (cheerfully ignored by too many, in any event.)

And, then again, before the turn onto Rosemary, where today's near-collision almost took place.

Eastbound, probably just over the county line or anywhere approaching the Hillside/Rosemary intersection.  And, maybe again in the sharp curves approaching the second Rosemary intersection.  And, maybe even again in the further sharp curves heading towards the east end of Sleeph Hollow.

CalTrans invested a lot of money in its recent improvements to Carbon Canyon Road in Brea.  New and replaced guardrails, new centerline striping with ruts to warn wandering wayfarers, etc. etc.  All great stuff.

But, that's Division 12 from the Orange County side.  Maybe the folks at Division 8 on the San Bernardino County side, who usually are quick to respond, repair and replace on their portion of the state highway, might consider rumble strips in Sleepy Hollow, where the turns are among the tightest and dangerous in the canyon (excepting, of course, the S-curve at Carriage Hills/Summit Ranch, which might call for their own remedies, as well.)

It would cost money, sure, and times are tough, certainly, for these kinds of improvements. 

Then, there's the idea of more frequent patrols.  There used to be more a few years back, usually in the morning at Canon Lane or the shuttered Canyon Market, maybe in the afternoon, too.

Even those infrequent and strangely timed visits have pretty much gone the way of the dodo, though?

But, if it comes to public safety, wouldn't it be worth it to consider both and whatever else might be feasible?

Maybe our city and state reps, including two council members (of five) who live in the Canyon, and an assembly member from Chino Hills, could make the suggestion?

Or, we just keep "playing the odds."

And, keep our eyes carefully peeled to our rear view mirrors, for those who have to make those left turns.