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.