29 August 2013

A Working Ranch in Carbon Canyon

Earlier this year, the opportunity came up for a rare experience in Carbon Canyon these days: the chance to visit a working ranch.  Two visits allowed for the opportunity to see and explore the Chino Hills spread, which includes two houses dating, it is said, back to the early 1900s, barns, stables, other outbuildngs, grazing areas, and open space for the property, which is something around 80 acres in extent.

The first trip involved walking through part of the ranch, especially the barns and stables and walking around the two residences.  On the other excursion, while the owner was away, his father led a personal tour for this blogger by electric cart through the rolling hills, small canyons or gullies, and other portions of the ranch, where an old water collection point was seen, oxen found grazing on pastures and hillsides, and information about the work done so far by his son was given.  On both visits, some amazing views of nearby areas was to be had.

At the barns and stables, there were a variety of animals, as well, including horses, chickens, goats and more and it looked like most of the structures there had either been built or remodeled by the current owners, who also did a lot with the houses, roads, fencing and other elements of the property.

Not very much of the history was learned about the place, the owner having bought the ranch less than a decade ago, being a nearby resident before discovering that it is was for sale.  With all of the investments, though, it is clear that he wants to be there for the long haul and keep it operating as a working ranch.  The canyon had several of these at one time, but this is really the last of its kind.  The photos give a decent idea of the special place this ranch really is.

The property is also is one of the last glimpses into what the canyon looked like prior to the development that, from the 1960s onward with subdivisions at Olinda Village, Western Hills Oaks and the Western Hills Country Club, began to transform the place.  Even now, a major approved subdivision could be breaking ground in the near future adjacent to this ranch.
Still, it appears very likely that, barring an offer too good to refuse, this property could be kept intact for as long as someone is willing to, which would seem to be a way to maintain a slice of Carbon Canyon that can only really be done there.

Let's hope that will be the case because the two visits here were really an experience, one of those rare instances in which you can feel like you're away from it all while still being near the slowly-encompassing development that inches along decade by decade.

27 August 2013

Carbon Canyon Fire Safe Council Upcoming Events

The Rim Fire in Yosemite National Park and surrounding areas is moving quickly towards being one of the biggest, if not the largest, wildfires in California history.  Major conflagrations have occurred in the drought-stricken western states like Colorado and Arizona, as well as in other parts of California. 

Unfortunately, prolonged drought conditions and factors emanating from climate change do not portend a lessening of wildfire events and as development continues and is planned in and near wild-land areas, the problem likely will worsen--all the more reason (though certainly not the only) for the City of Brea to deny the Madrona housing project, should that matter come before the city council on appeal of the Planning Commission's narrow 3-2 approval of Madrona's predecessor, Canyon Crest.

As firefighting agencies put it these days, "fire season is all year long," instead of during the fall when Santa Ana winds blow or when hot late spring or summer weather dries out growth from the previous winter's rains.  Consequently, organizations like the local Carbon Canyon Fire Safe Council are working year round to do what they can to mitigate fire risks.

In September, then, the Council will be holding two major events dealing with fire suppression and awareness efforts, as shown on the flyer above.

On Saturday, 14 September from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Council hosts its annual "Wildfire Awareness Fair" at Western Hills Park, located at the corner of Carbon Canyon Road and Canon Lane.  The free fair includes fire protection product demos, information on landscaping appropriate to our region, exhibits and information provided by local agencies, vendors and associations; prize drawings; and more.

Two weeks after that, on Saturday, 28 September from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Council conducts the last of two "Brush Clearance Drop Off" days, in which residents of the Chino Hills portion of Carbon Canyon can bring brush removed from their property and, assisted by Council volunteers, unload them into roll-off bins provided by the City of Chino Hills through Chino Hills Disposal.

For more information on these upcoming events and on the Carbon Canyon Fire Safe Council, visit at www.CarbonCanyonFSC.com or call (909) 902-5280, x. 409.

22 August 2013

Madrona Housing Project Update

The Madrona development, resurrecting the Canyon Crest project that was approved by the City of Brea's Planning Commission just before the economic collapse of September 2008 and the Triangle Complex fire that took place that November and which subsequently flamed out (couldn't resist) after an appeal was launched by concerned citizens, and which was brought before the city for reconsideration of that appeal, now appears to be stalled for at least a while.

The concept of building 165 houses in the steep, rugged and fire-prone hills north of Carbon Canyon Road between Olinda Village and the Chino Hills boundary was reintroduced with somewhat less grading and other changes to make the project more palatable to the City Council, which is to hear and vote upon the appeal of the 2008 decision. 

However, the same fundamental issues remain, as the debate over private property rights is weighed against concerns over the potential for another catastrophic fire (the spate of major disasters in California and the entire drought-stricken western U.S. ought to, again, be a red flag for any projects proposed in wildfire-prone areas), traffic, access to the property from both Carbon Canyon Road and, potentially, Olinda Village, and others.

In any case, it appears that the new application is not fully complete and the City is awaiting certain items from the applicant--recall that the property owner is a bankrupt Washington state insurance company under receivership and that the desire for an approved tract map is almost certainly nothing more than a ploy to increase the value of the land for a new sale in an attempt to provide something to creditors.

Evidently, even if the application was finished in upcoming weeks, there would have to a staff review and then to try to schedule the hearing of the appeal during the holiday season could prove more than problematic.

So, at this stage, it is probably safe to assume that there may not be any real movement on Madrona (unless that 8.0 or greater earthquake we haven't had locally since 1857 strikes--no kidding, it's been over 150 years) until the new year.  But, you never know.

Meantime, do not forget that there is supposed to be a pending application for perhaps 200 or so houses on the Chino Hills side, south of Carbon Canyon Road and Canyon Hills Drive and across from the Circle K market.  Nothing new has been heard from on this lately, but it is something to keep an eye on, especially if the approved Canyon Hills project of 76 houses actually does break ground north of this where the old Ski Villa concrete ski slope property is located.

It's good to remind ourselves that, whatever recovery of the housing market does or does not take place, especially with recent rising interest rates, the spectre of potentially several hundred houses being built in Carbon Canyon someday is one that should give everyone who cares about this special place no small amount of pause and concern.

For now, matters are somewhat dormant, but who knows what lurks in an uncertain future?

08 August 2013

Carbon Canyon Historical Artifact #37: 1940s Postcard of La Vida Mineral Springs

Here is another ca. 1940s postcard of La Vida Mineral Springs, in which a photograph was rendered into a color image almost looking like a drawing or painting.

The view is from the parking area just west of Carbon [Canyon] Creek, with the footbridge partially visible at left, as well as the red-colored sidewalk, parts of which are still visible in the parking area where the photographer stood for this image.  Off to the left out of view the footbridge led to the café (seen in the last entry here), cottages, a picnic area, and other elements of the resort.

The building in the background is the 1920s-era bathhouse, which was largely destroyed in a late 1950s boiler explosion that badly wounded several people.  On that site, the two-story motel was built that lasted until a fire several decades later.

Today the site is filled with weeds, trees, and the like, giving no indication that something like this was ever there.

On the reverse of the card, published by the Adv. [presumed, Advertising] Pencil Company of Kansas City, Missouri, is a description that reads:
La Vida Mineral Springs Home of World famous Natural Mineral Water, Baths, Massage, Colonics, Hotel Rooms, Housekeeping Cottages, Excellent Café with Home cooked food.  In Beautiful Carbon Canyon just seven miles East of Brea, Calif.  For Health and Relaxation out of the Smog and Fog, visit this secluded, restful Resort.  Just thirty-three miles from Los Angeles.  For information write Rt.1, Box 176A, Placentia, Calif. or call Placentia 5150.
Note that the address was considered Placentia and that, as far back as the 1920s, people associated with La Vida (namely, its managers and employees) had this same rural route post office box address and telephone exchange.  Yet, the description located the site as "just seven miles East of Brea, Calif."  It was not until later, perhaps the 1960s, that this area, part of unincorporated Orange County, was annexed to Brea and became associated with it in address and telephone number listings.

As for those colonics . . .