28 January 2014

On the Skids in Carbon Canyon #12347-49

As the debate via an appeal of a planning commission vote (a narrow 3-2) about the Madrona housing project, proposing 162 houses on 367 acres on the north side of Carbon Canyon between Olinda Village and the county line in Brea, continues, discussion on traffic has centered mainly, from the applicant's standpoint, on cold numbers from measurements of traffic volume at given intersections.

What the appellant's argued in last week's opening hearing before the city council, however, was also that dangerous driving behavior on the curvy state highway is a risk, given that the sole entrance to the project is in a particularly knotty area just east of the Manely Friends stable.  Even with turn, deceleration and acceleration lanes and so on, there are just too many times people drive at too great a speed and/or with too great a stimulants level.

Two more recent examples of errant navigation of Carbon Canyon Road have arisen.

The first is westbound just west of the historic La Vida Mineral Springs resort site and east of Olinda Village.  A vehicle clearly came too fast around a curve and clipped the hillside and some reflectors, leaving some visible debris behind.

The second and third were on the highway at the S-curve in Chino Hills, at its bottom portion between Old Carbon Canyon Road and Azurite Drive near Summit Ranch.  In these cases, it is likely both were eastbound because the road descends there, though it is possible one of them was from a westbound car climbing at high speed.  This latter involved the denting of the guardrail with minimal debris.  The former, however, was a greater impact collision, leaving some undercarriage from the car and bending the support post for the crumpled rail back towards the ground.  Importantly, the offending vehicle had to cross lanes to achieve this.  Photos are a bit hard to get in this area, given the lack of shoulder area for safe stopping.

But, as a consolation prize, here is a photo of a higher portion at the S-curve, at the middle curve, where several attempts to dislodge a concrete bollard have so far failed, but not for lack of trying.  A massive tree stump has been placed there in recent years, as well, the combo sited to protect a power pole.  These are eastbound drivers as well, racing downhill from the summit and plowing straight into the bollard, while the road heads off to the left.

With the Forestar Canyon Hills project of 76 houses now in preliminary construction and the threat of Madrona still looming, there will be more cars in Carbon Canyon and more opportunities for reckless driving to injure or kill innocent people.  If having more cars (and people) in the canyon isn't an incentive for officialdom to provide at least a modicum of protection through patrolling, casualties would be the only likelihood and waiting for such an incident to act is simply poor public policy.

27 January 2014

Carbon Canyon Historical Artifact #42: La Vida Mineral Water Bottle Opener

It's a little worse for wear, but there probably aren't a whole lot of these out there.

Here is a circa 1930s bottle opener for La Vida Mineral Water, the name of which is on the flat panel.  Click on any photo to see them in a separate window in an enlarged view.
This is a bottle opener for La Vida Mineral Water, bottled from the hot springs at the La Vida Mineral Springs resort in the Brea portion of Carbon Canyon.

The reverse of a La Vida Mineral Water bottle opener, ca. 1930s, with the phrase "Internationally Indorsed" on the flat middle panel.
The water was bottled for a period in Placentia and also in Fullerton and branch plants were in northern California, as well.

A detail of one of the flat panels on the bottle opener with the wording "La Vida Mineral Water."
As noted here previously, the water was sold from the late 1920s and several examples of bottles from 7.5 ounces up have been shown here in other posts.

A detail of the "Internationally Indorsed" flat panel.
The opener is pretty rusty, but the lettering can be made out pretty well.  The opener could date to the early days of the selling of the mineral water, perhaps the 1930s.  Someone who knows bottle openers can probably give a date, so if you have one to provide, please leave a comment.

25 January 2014

Tonner Canyon's Future and Past, Part Two

With December's reporting in the Champion that the City of Industry was looking to buy outright the vast majority of Tonner Canyon, which its redevelopment agency had purchased over a period of years, but had to surrender due to the state's abolishing of those agencies, it seemed a good time to discuss more of the history of that canyon and its surrounding areas.

The last entry concluded with the end of a small growth boom in the Los Angeles area that collapsed in 1875-76, after which George R. Butler, who with his livery stable partner, Wilson Beach, had acquired the Rancho Los Nogales and adjacent public lands from the Vejar family, which had held those properties since the late 1840s.

Butler sold one-third interests to Beach, Spencer H. Wilson, and Charles M. Wright in June 1876.  Wilson, a native of Ontario, Canada, emigrated to Lewiston, New York, just over the border with Canada and immediately north of Niagra Falls and worked as a wheelwright.  Likely the California Gold Rush led him to migrate west, though he wound up in Los Angeles by the mid-1850s. 

He met another recent arrival, a Delaware native named Phineas Banning, who became a stage driver and then gradually acquired property near San Pedro.  Banning and Wilson, in 1856, founded a forwarding and commission business dealing with imported goods arriving by ship at the fledgling harbor and then being sent by stage to Los Angeles--Banning was a noted driver in his earliest years in the area.

Wilson then formed a partnership with Edward N. McDonald raising sheep on Santa Catalina Island, but with floods and then droughts wreaking havoc in the region during the first part of the 1860s, the business floundered.  Ironically, Catalina Island later become a possession of the Banning family, who turned it into a tourist haven that was expanded by chewing gum magnate William Wrigley, Jr.

Purchasing a part of Rancho Los Feliz, just northwest of the town of Los Angeles, Wilson became a stock raiser, perhaps sheep, and raised a family.  Aside from being a captain in a local militia called the Southern Rifles in the early 1860s, he lived a generally quiet life and then purchased his interest in the Los Nogales and nearby areas for $20,000 from Butler.  Only eight months later, though, in early February 1877, the 50-something Wilson died suddenly. 

When Wilson's estate, valued at $30,000, went into probate, his executor was John M. Griffith, a prominent lumber dealer in Los Angeles.  At the end of May 1879, Griffith engineered the sale of Wilson's one-third interest in Los Nogales and the public lands for just under $7,000 to Sedgwick J. Lynch of Santa Cruz, who just happened to be a former partner with Griffith in a Los Angeles lumber business that was highly successful during those boom years of the early to mid-Seventies.  Land values had clearly declined in the previous three years as the boom collapsed and the economy stayed sour until well into the following decade.

Lynch, a native of Sandy Lake, Pennsylvania, which was near the famed oil and coal regions in that state, was born in 1822 and apprenticed to a carpenter in his teens and then migrated to Cincinnati as a young man, working for a building contractor.  That firm sent him to Nashville to work on construction projects, but with the news of the Gold Rush reaching him, Lynch left and joined the migrating hordes to the west coast, where he arrived in October 1849.  He worked as a ship repairman on the Sacramento River and mail carrier between Sacramento and San Francisco and also built structures in the growing city by the bay.  Trying his hand in the gold mines, he made a small fortune and returned to San Francisco by summer 1850 and became a contractor.  He was a member of the notorious Vigilance Committee that took over San Francisco amidst rising crime, but then left the city.

In 1851, he relocated to Santa Cruz and opened up a carpenter shop, staying in the coastal town for a short period before running a wood planing mill in Oakland and serving on a state-sponsored surveying team that worked throughout California in 1854.  Returning to Santa Cruz, when that project was completed, Lynch returned to contracting and then formed a lumber mill, a lumber yard and a wholesale and retail store for selling the wood products.  He had a partner for many years, George Gregg, and the business prospered, to the point that branch locations in the southern part of the state were established at Los Angeles, Wilmington and the new town of Compton.

After Lynch and Gregg ended their partnership in 1870, Lynch started a new enterprise with the well-established John M. Griffith, who'd had a stage company serving passengers and freight with his brother-in-law, John Tomlinson.  They were the main competitors of the same Phineas Banning mentioned above until Tomlinson's death in 1868.  Griffith then turned to the lumber business just as the local boom was starting by the 1870s.  When Lynch joined forces with Griffith, the two rode the wave of economic growth, building a factory making sashes, doors, blinds and other general milling.

Lynch decided to retire by 1876, just in time for the bust that drove the economy into the doldrums and returned to Santa Cruz, where he continued with banking and other businesses before his death in May 1881, not quite sixty years of age.

In 1878, however, Lynch filed a foreclosure action against George Butler, Wilson Beach and local banker Isaias W. Hellman, of the famed Farmers and Merchants Bank, to the lands at Rancho Los Nogales and public lands Butler and Beach had purchased from the Vejars during the earlier part of the decade.  In early March, a mortgage sale was held and Lynch took over everything Beach and Butler once owned, except the interests of Spencer Wilson and Charles Wright sold to them by Butler two years before.  As noted above, Lynch then went through his former partner Griffith to acquire the Wilson portion.

As for Charles Wright, he kept his share of the Los Nogales property and, after Lynch's 1881 death, teamed up with the latter's widow, Jane, and former a partnership that ran the large Rancho Los Nogales (including the former public land), totaling near 10,000 acres for over a quarter-century.  More on that next time.

21 January 2014

Tonight's Madrona Public Hearing

It was a packed council chamber this evening as the appeal of the Madrona (formerly Canyon Crest) housing development was heard by the Brea City Council.

The appellant team, led by former council member and mayor Bev Perry and consisting of several Brea and Carbon Canyon residents, including another former council member, assisted by an excellent PowerPoint presentation handled by Melanie Schlotterbeck, did an fantastic job of letting the council and others present know what the real issues are with this project--from water issues to wildfire risk to traffic and others.

Conversely, the ponderous, overly-technical and insubstantial presentation that followed by the applicants was given to a room that was largely emptied.  The electricity and enthusiasm that existed during the appellant's presentation was basically sucked out of the room.  The contrast could not have been more striking.

This is not to say that an outcome is easily predictable.  The next council meeting, on Tuesday, 4 February at 7:00 p.m. will include public comment, followed by rebuttals by both sides.  Beyond that, the council will likely ask staff for findings to guide their decision, which will come subsequent to that upcoming meeting.

Key, however, is for those who are opposed to Madrona and concerned for the future of Carbon Canyon to show up in two weeks.  No one should assume that, because the two parties have given their initial presentations and then offer rebuttals that public comment is not as important.  It may well be far more useful--elected officials need (and usually want) to hear from their constituents.

If all that was said was a plea for the council to uphold the appeal and reject Madrona, that would be plenty.  Meantime, log on to stopmadrona.org (click here for the link) and learn more about the project.

16 January 2014

Wildfires, Drought and Madrona: A Recipe for Disaster?

UPDATE: 19 January 2014:  Today's Los Angeles Times has an article on the fact that fire crews are usually de-mobilized this time of year because of winter conditions, but that the extreme drought that has stricken the state has led to an increased activation by these personnel because of wildfires that have broken out throughout California.  This doesn't just include the local Colby Fire in Glendora that destroyed five houses and blackened nearly 2,000 acres, but others, including one in normally wet and green Humboldt County that surprised officials in that northwestern coastal county.  Meantime, what did shock firefighters at the Colby blaze was just how quickly the fire spread, mainly because fuels were so heavy there and the terrain was amenable to increasing the speed of the flames.

Further, amidst the "Pacific Decadal Oscillation" condition that is affecting weather in the western U.S., there is this article (click here) that discusses the likelihood of the doubling of extreme El Niño conditions due to climate change.  Climatologists are careful about linking specific weather occurrences to climate change, but it is also worth noting that the type of scenario experienced in our region of the world does correlate with much of what is being stated as part of what can be expected.

With a new Caltrans sign stating that Carbon Canyon is a "hazardous fire area," and the state declaring an extreme drought emergency and the federal Department of Agriculture declaring much of the western states as a disaster area because of drought, the idea of Brea approving 162 water-guzzling houses in a dangerous ridge-top setting with steep canyon surroundings, a prime wildfire location, is just pure folly.

UPDATE:  17 January 2014:  Today, Governor Jerry Brown declared the state of California to be in a water emergency, finally recognizing what has been obvious from all the data regarding Sierra Nevada snowpack, low reservoir levels, and so forth.  Given this official declaration, as well as CalTrans' official declaration, via the sign pictured below, that Carbon Canyon is a "Hazardous Fire Area," it is even more imperative for the City of Brea to recognize the reality before it and uphold the appeal of its Planning Commission's 2008 decision (that being before the massive Freeway Complex Fire and our worsening drought conditions) to end this project and put aside any idea of approving large-scale new housing projects in the Canyon.

Today's Colby Fire in Glendora erupted the same day the Los Angeles Times had a feature article on the front page titled "Cutting Back as Levels Fall" regarding the "concern" that California "is headed for major drought."  While a few reservoirs, like Pyramid Lake and Castaic Lake are at 98% and 87% capacity, respectively, northern ones from Trinity County to Kern County are showing from 18% to 51%, far below so-called "historical averages."  The Sierra Nevada Mountain snowpack is a meager 20% of "normal."  The northern California town of Willits has 100 days of water in reserve.  Admittedly, it's much better down here--the MWD says it has stable water supply to get through 2014 and part of 2015.  But, what about beyond the that should the drought continue?  Sacramento's city manager John Shirey was quoted as saying, "with climate change occurring we have to assume that we could see long-term shortages of water in California.  We just have to change, I think, the mindset here and everywhere--we're going to have less water to rely on."

Today's U.S.A. Today reports that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has placed portions of eleven western and central states under the status of "primary natural disaster areas and the subheading of the article notes that almost two-thirds of California is under an extreme drought condition, but, then, "extreme drought" is the second worst form of drought--the National Weather Service calls the worst level "exceptional" and the state isn't quite there yet.

Today's local Star-Progress newspaper has a letter to the editor pointing out just how wasteful the water use of the proposed Madrona housing project at the far eastern end of Brea within Carbon Canyon will be--as in 2.5 million gallons of water every ten days, enough to flood the entire Brea Mall site including parking, a total of 76 acres, to a depth of 4 feet.

With this new sign up along eastbound Carbon Canyon Road near Valencia Avenue on the way in to Carbon Canyon, does the idea of building 162 houses on a ridgetop among steep canyon settings have any merit or make any sense?
And, this is all two days after Caltrans placed a new sign on Carbon Canyon Road eastbound and just east of Valencia Avenue, as motorists head for the bottleneck towards the canyon.

The sign reads, "Entering Hazardous Fire Area."  Hazardous.

The idea that the Madrona project, piggybacking on an old, outdated and outmoded Canyon Crest project, thanks to a poorly-crafted legal agreement that the City of Brea signed on to, has any merit, given today's drought conditions, uncertain future water supplies, growing wildfire risks, and other concerns related to traffic, loss of diminishing oak and walnut woodland habitat, is just a delusion.

Next Tuesday, the City of Brea begins hearings on the appeal to the 2008 planning commission approval of Canyon Crest.  Canyon Crest came in to the process under, literally, 20th-century standards and conditions. 

Well, we are well into the 21st-century and with very different standards and changing and volatile conditions.

Why anyone would think building large numbers of homes makes sense in a steep canyon ridgetop with "hazardous fire area" status, guzzling absurd amounts of water, and having only a two-lane highway and an emergency exit through an established neighborhood that also empties onto the same highway--which is often gridlocked with traffic in the mornings and afternoons/evenings--is beyond reasonable understanding.

Will the Brea City Council understand?  Come to the council meeting next Tuesday at 7 p.m. and subsequent meetings that will continue the hearing and see.

12 January 2014

Carbon Canyon Vegetation Reduction Program

The Chino Valley Fire District, with funds provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), has been engaged in a long-term project to reduce vegetation that provide fuels for fires near residential areas with Carbon Canyon.  Removing this vegetation through wide fire breaks is an important component of a comprehensive fire protection program engaged in by the district.  It also represents a continuing evolution in fire prevention and fire fighting planning over the years.

The accompanying aerial map, developed by department inspector Kevin Smith, identifies the work zone starting on the east at Vellano and moving its way behind the Western Hills Oaks and Mountain View Estates subdivisions on the southern side of Carbon Canyon Road and then southwestward towards Sleepy Hollow. 

This Chino Valley Fire District aerial map, created by department inspector Kevin Smith, shows the Carbon Canyon Vegetation Reduction Program work zone in yellow, blue and green (these colors indicating work completed and in progress), as well as a thin red line snaking largely horizontally across the map that represents the reach of the November 2008 Freeway Complex Fire, which encircled Sleepy Hollow yet suddenly shifted before the community was consumed.
The zone then crosses to the north side of the state highway at the county line and moving northward from Sleepy Hollow to the west end of what will be the Forestar Canyon Hills development, a 76-unit housing project just started off Canyon Hills Road, and then up and around the eastern flank of the St. Joseph's Hill of Hope religious institution and the western edge of the Oak Tree Downs subdivision.

Those areas in yellow represent locations in which work has been completed, including those sections near Vellano and above Western Hills Oaks, along Carbon Canyon Road between Mountain View Estates and Sleepy Hollow and most of the southern boundary of the latter and, on the north side of the Canyon, a section next to Sleepy Hollow, as well as the areas around Oak Tree Downs.

There are still areas to be completed, specifically the southwest corner of Sleepy Hollow, where the terrain is steep and difficult to access and some of the territory between St. Joseph's Hill of Hope and Forestar Canyon Hills, where the folks at the Hill of Hope have done their own intensive fire break work.

Also of note is the thin red line snaking through the map:  this is the extent to which the Freeway Complex Fire of November 2008 made its advances into this portion of Carbon Canyon.  Obviously, the fire came extremely close to portions of Western Hills Parks, the Mountain View Estates tract, all of Sleepy Hollow, and came quite close to the Hill of Hope's compound, which is along the San Bernardino/Los Angeles county line.  The San Bernardino County line is the thick dark one at the edge of this detail.

While this presence of the red line showing the incursion of that massive fire demonstrates the need for this vegetation reduction project, and all manner of other means to reduce fuel, it should also be remembered that the fire abruptly changed course just as it bore down on the upper reaches of Sleepy Hollow.  Residents remembered fire fighting personnel getting ready to either leave the area, because the fire was not defendable, or looking to defend to the extent possible before pulling back, when there was a sudden change in winds that pushed the flames in a different direction.

Moreover, sparks can travel a mile or more and create other fires, especially in high wind episodes like that found in the Santa Ana wind-aided conflagration of November 2008.  This means that the best fire breaks possible may not protect communities in the canyon from being consumed by fire.  That said, this project is a worthy effort to do what can be done to provide a line of defense against wildfires.

Given 2013's infamy as having, at 3.89 inches of rain in Los Angeles, the lowest rainfall year since official records were begun in 1877, and the fact that we've been ensnared in a long-term drought pattern, continued efforts at fire protection are essential.  Because, a fire like that of 2008 and 1990 and 1978 and 1958 and 1929 (and others) will occur again within Carbon Canyon.

Adding more houses, like the 76-unit Forestar Canyon Hills and the last phases of Elements on the north side of Western Hills Golf Course, as well as future projects like the 24-unit tract that has been approved east of Western Hills below Carbon Canyon Road and possible approvals for the 162-unit Madrona project and the unsubmitted tract south of Carbon Canyon Road between Sleepy Hollow and Mountain View Estates, all raise further issues.

These include more people to evacuate, more area to cover for firefighting personnel, more water to use for fire suppression, and more buildings that could burn.  This is why further large-scale development in Carbon Canyon, along with traffic impacts, loss of rapidly disappearing native habitat, pollution, and others, is simply not good public policy.  Carbon Canyon is an extreme fire zone and adding potentially 350-400 more units will be, for that and the other reasons given, does not improve the quality of life here, it diminishes it.

11 January 2014

Tonner Canyon's Future and Past, Part One

In the last month or so, the Champion newspaper has reported that the City of Industry, which acquired the majority of Tonner Canyon north of Carbon Canyon from 1978 onwards through its redevelopment agency, is looking to repurchase the several properties within the canyon from the successor agency to the redevelopment agency, which was abolished along with all others in the state a few years ago. 

According to the city, it still has plans for a reservoir for future water supply, a proposal that has met with opposition from environmental groups, as well as the City of Brea, which lies below the project site.  Meantime, the cities of Diamond Bar (which has its city limits within the smaller section at the north end of the Canyon, essentially north of Grand Avenue) and Chino Hills (with its boundaries basically south of Grand and taking up a larger portion of Tonner) have zoned smaller areas within Tonner Canyon to meet state mandates for affordable housing.  These "place-marker" actions are not indicative of concrete plans to allow for construction of these units, but merely comply with the law requiring zoning for them.

As our region continued to develop, pressures are increasing for housing and other forms of development in those last bastions of open space--namely the canyons and steeper hill areas that constitute the last remaining native animal and plant habitats, but also provide some of the greatest risks for natural disasters including fire, flood, landslides and so forth.

Carbon Canyon has clearly been discussed frequently on this blog regarding the threats to its future through continued attempts to develop housing projects within it and the recent inauguration of sewer line work for the 76-unit Forestar Canyon Hills project, started within the last several weeks, is an indication that the improved (even if modestly) economy and housing market are going to bring further pressures for developments.  Starting 21 January, the Brea City Council will be holding hearings on an appeal for the 162-unit Madrona project on the Brea side of the Canyon.  Approval of this project would further constitute greater demands on fire protection and traffic flow in the area in addition to losing a significant swath of oak and walnut woodlands, which are rapidly vanishing from our region.

Tonner Canyon doesn't get as much attention because it remains largely hidden from view and scrutiny and has remained almost completely undeveloped (there are scout camps and oil wells at the southern end closer to Brea), but that will certainly change in coming years and, perhaps, decades.  It is, actually, astonishing that Tonner has remained in this state and, frankly, if Industry had not acquired its holdings over a quarter century period, there would almost have certainly been some development, especially at the northern end, by now.  Forecasting the future is not the aim here, but it stands to reason that there will be many vested interests (cities, environmental organizations, developers, and others) contesting what is really some of the last large-scale open space in the area.

As to its past, new rummaging around has revealed some interesting history.  Much of this goes back to the Mexican era of California, when the local area was divided into large cattle ranches, interspersed with public lands, set aside to allow ranch owners to graze their herds in common areas to avoid overgrazing on those ranches.  A good deal of the local hill lands, from the Puente Hills in Whittier to the Chino Hills in this area, were set aside as public lands.

With the seizure of Mexican California by the United States in 1847, subsequent years brought about the conversion of these public lands to properties sold to private individuals.  With respect to Tonner Canyon, there was a mixture of ranch and public land properties that created what was eventually a 10,000 or so acre holding known commonly as Los Nogales Ranch.

The ranch's origins came in 1840 with the grant of Rancho Los Nogales, amounting to slightly over 1,000 acres, by Mexican California's governor Juan B. Alvarado to Jose de la Luz Linares.  Linares died within a few years, however, and his widow María de Jesús Garcia, decided, in 1847, to sell the property to Ricardo Vejar.  Vejar had been, for the previous decade, co-owner of the Rancho San José, a large property to the north and east that he received with Ignacio Palomares.  While the latter built his home and raised cattle on the north part of San José, Vejar settled on the south side at the base of what is now called Elephant Hill in Pomona.

After acquiring the Los Nogales property, Vejar probably ran his cattle on it without much in the way of improvement and then came the Gold Rush, which burst forth in 1848-49 and continued full steam through the mid-1850s, allowing ranchers like Vejar to make fortunes supplying fresh meat to miners and other residents of the burgeoning new state.  Flush with cash, Vejar built two substantial two-story homes, one on San José and the other, for his son Ramon, on Los Nogales.  While they probably did some farming for personal and local use, they almost certainly relied on cattle raising for their living.

The glory days of the Gold Rush petered out, however, after about 1855, as placer production dropped and cattle ranchers faced not only declining demand for beef, but competition from imported longhorn cattle, a superior breed, from Texas.   A national economic downturn in 1857 made matters worse, but nothing could compare the dual disaster that came in the early 1860s. 

First, over a month of solid rain in December 1861 and January 1862, estimated to be up to 50 inches in some places, caused massive flooding throughout the state.  This was followed by two consecutive years, in 1863 and 1864, of almost no precipitation--estimates being about four inches per year locally (we should note here that 2013 had an official reading of 3.89 inches, the lowest since official records were started in 1877 and comparable to the 1860s drought--the difference being that we import huge amounts of water now.)

The Vejars, along with many ranchers, were wiped out by these conditions and borrowed from merchants in Los Angeles to keep afloat, but were unable to pay these loans with the drought proved to be the proverbial last straw.  Foreclosure took the family's portion of San José, which soon became the property of Louis Phillips, an eastern European-born Jew, whose name is reflected in today's Phillips Ranch subdivision in southwestern Pomona.  Phillips lived in the Ricardo Vejar adobe below Elephant Hill until he razed it and built a French Second Empire house in 1875, a structure that survives today and is a Pomona city historical landmark and under the management of the Historical Society of the Pomona Valley.

As to Los Nogales, the family held on to it for several more years, but began selling it off in sections during the early to mid 1870s.  It seems probably that they did so because the economy improved dramatically in the late 1860s and a small rush of settlers, many leaving the southern states devastated by the Civil War, came to Los Angeles, which experienced its first development boom.  Railroads, banks, harbor improvements, new towns, and the subdivision of the old Spanish and Mexican ranchos to farms were among the features of this boom, which lasted through 1875.

The Vejars sold Los Nogales to two livery stable proprietors from Los Angeles, Wilson Beach and George R. Butler--perhaps they had been customers or were friends, there's no way to tell. It is also assumed that the Vejars acquired the hillside public land to the east that had been the former common grazing lands mentioned above, though Butler and Beach may have done this, as well.  Ramon Vejar moved to what is now La Verne and Ricardo remained in an adobe house he constructed in what is now Walnut and died there in 1881.  Members of the Vejar family still live in the area today.

Wilson Beach was born about 1823 in Ohio and came to Los Angeles sometime in the 1850s, where he was listed in the 1860 census as a stock raiser with Pennsylvania native Jacob Metzker.  The two self-reported a combined $12,000 value of their personal property, presumably the bulk of this reflected in the cattle herds.  As noted earlier, though, the floods and droughts were on the horizon, and, in an 1867 voter registration list, Beach's occupation was given as farmer.  By the early 1870s, though, he decided to become a livery (horse) stable keeper and partnered with George R. Butler.

Butler, was born in New York, about 1836 and seems to have come to Los Angeles during the 1860s.  In the 1870 census, he is listed as owner of a livery stable on Main Street in Los Angeles, and took on Beach as a partner.  Butler was also the city treasurer of the town during the early part of decade.  In July 1874, the Los Angeles Herald ran a short article noting that the two were selling their stable to Macy and Wilson for $14,000, so that the paid could "devote their time and attention to sheep-raising upon their extensive ranch." 

Sheep ranching, in fact, became a growing part of the local economy from the mid-1860s onward (though it existed before that), as such transplants from central and northern California as James Irvine and the Bixby brothers bought cheap ranch land during the droughts of 1863-64 and stocked them with sheep.  With the economy growing by leaps and bounds, it made sense for Beach and Butler to quit the livery stable business and head out to Los Nogales, where they almost certainly occupied the Ramon Vejar Adobe as their headquarters.

Unfortunately for them, the economy soon crashed.  San Francisco speculators with stock from silver mines at Virginia City, Nevada created a massive bubble that burst in late August 1875 causing the suspension of the Bank of California, whose president was found the day after floating in San Francisco Bay.  The telegraph brought the news to Los Angeles, where the town's two commercial banks, Farmers and Merchants and Temple and Workman suspended operations for a month after a panic led depositors to swarm the banks demanding their deposits.  While the former reopened with no damage to its operations, Temple and Workman remained closed until a loan could be made, but that, too, failed to stem the tide, and the bank succumbed in early 1876.  Los Angeles fell into a lengthy downturn that lasted well into the 1880s and led to a population decline, a phenomenon not witnessed since.

Not surprisingly, Butler decided to sell out at Los Nogales.  In June 1876, he sold off 1/3 shares of his holdings to his former partner Beach and to Charles M. Wright and Spencer H. Wilson--for a total of $64,000.  He then returned to his old profession, opening the Fashion Livery Stable in Los Angeles, which he operated for years afterward.  In May 1893, however, while riding his horse-drawn wagon in the city, he was bucked off the vehicle and was mortally wounded, dying a few days later.

As for Los Nogales, a new phase of its ownership will come with the next phase of this post . . .

08 January 2014

On the Skids in Carbon Canyon #s13131-?

Last Sunday morning, at between 12:15 and 12:45 a.m., two packs of vehicles, one of three and the other of six, came roaring through Carbon Canyon to make runs up and back with high speed and concomitant noise.  Though nearly a nightly occurrence by one or more cars, this was a particularly loud reminder of just how often dangerous driving is to be found on Carbon Canyon Road by people who act this way because there is no one to keep them from doing it.

Allegedly, a Chino Hills sheriff's department traffic sergeant told a local resident that patrols are not done at night, when these instances of unsafe driving mainly occur, because the department didn't want to have to deal with the dangers of car chases within the canyon. 

If true, this is a particularly stunning display of misplaced logic--why, then, would any law enforcement agency , the argument implies, do any patrolling because car chases are going to happen in some instances.  The flip side of the tortured application of logic, though, is the assumption that, somehow, patrolling automatically = car chases. 

Meanwhile, crashes still take place.  A couple of weeks ago, a neighbor related, a car going eastbound on Carbon Canyon Road decided to continue straight despite the double yellow lines in the center and the white lines on the edges of the state highway suggesting otherwise and crashed into Carbon Creek in Sleepy Hollow near the former liquor store property.

A recent crash along Carbon Canyon Road across from the old La Vida Mineral Springs property left residue from fluids from the single car incident and some debris very visible on the shoulder.  The damaged utility box in the foreground is from a previous wreck.  This is a particularly common area for collisions on both side of the state highway.
A few days ago, a single car mishap took place very close to the scene of September's fatal accident, at a spot where many a collision has happened over the years, this being right across the street from the entrance to the old La Vida motel and baths complex in Brea.

Another common problem spot is the multi-leveled S-curve on the Chino Hills side near the Carriage Hills and Summit Ranch subdivisions.  Efforts to protect power lines there include two concrete barriers and a very large tree stump.  At least two or more efforts in recent weeks and months to break through this protection have yielded the near-removal of one of the barriers.

Finally, on that Sunday when the two groups of racing cars made their runs through the Canyon, a westbound vehicle slammed into a berm across from the entrance to Chino Hills State Park, leaving scattered dirt, rocks, bits of the car and damage to reflectors, as well as deep skid marks.

As the Madrona project makes its way to a final hearing on an appeal to the Brea City Council, traffic has been one of the main unavoidable significant impacts, this being measured, of course, in terms of volume during busy commuting hours on weekdays. 

There are, however, avoidable and quite significant impacts of another kind that loom should this project be approved and someday built, especially as the sole entrance to the proposed 162- unit ridge-top development would be on a curvy section of Carbon Canyon Road just east of the former Manely Friends stable, where sight lines, not good for almost the entire Brea portion of the Canyon, are particularly bad, especially westbound.

It would seem there have been enough documented collisions and crashes, not just here by elsewhere, to warrant at least a modicum of patrolling on both the Brea and Chino Hills sides to discourage dangerous driving.  With more development happening in the Canyon, including the recent work begun on the 76-unit Canyon Hills development just east of Sleepy Hollow in Chino Hills, the likelihood of more destruction might stir someone into action.

Or, will playing the percentages as public policy predominate?

07 January 2014

Madrona Appeal Public Hearing in 2 Weeks!

It has been oft-discussed on this blog (and will be subsequently), either as its previous iteration as Canyon Crest or in its present form as Madrona, but the proposed 162-unit housing development on 367 acres in the Brea portion Carbon Canyon between Olinda Village and Sleepy Hollow will be the subject of a public hearing by the Brea City Council, starting two weeks from tonight, on Tuesday, 21 January, on an appeal of a 3-2 Planning Commission approval over five years ago of the Canyon Crest version of the project.

That Planning Commission decision (with one of the narrow majority resigning his seat this past August to become  . . .  wait for it . . . a P.R. consultant for . . .  you guessed it . . .  Madrona) came around the time of the onset of The Great Recession, but just before the conflagration of the Freeway Complex Fire in November 2008 and then the bankruptcy of Canyon Crest's owner, The Shopoff Group.   The site then reverted to a Shopoff creditor, Old Standard Life Insurance Company of Spokane, Washington, which, in turn, became, you got it, bankrupt, via questionable business practices and is now under a court-supervised receivership.

Retooled and very, very slightly scaled back, Madrona emerged as the latest version of a plan that goes back to the late 1990s.  This was when there was a general plan and development standards that allowed for a project of this scale to be proposed for Carbon Canyon.  Even though these conditions changed dramatically in the mid-2000s, an ill-advised legal agreement allowed the developers of Canyon Crest to continue their plans under the old system.  This does not mean, however, that the city council has to approve the project with those antiquated standards in mind. 

Quite the contrary, as the city attorney will no doubt do at the hearings, the city has every legal right, power and ground to approve the appeal and deny the Madrona project because of several unavoidable significant adverse impacts identified in the Environmental Impact Report as mandated by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  Certainly, the developer can (and will, if denied by appeal) threaten to sue, but the fact that those impacts are identified gives the city all the reasons necessary to turn Madrona down.

Yet, staff has identified three (really, four, but two were bundled together) "statements of overriding consideration" that can be used to approve Madrona on the basis that any so-called "overriding consideration" leads to benefits to the city that offset those pesky unavoidable significant adverse impacts identified in the EIR.  This massive loophole in CEQA provides the quintessential "out" for any governmental body looking to approve a project despite the environmental hazards that are specified in the EIR.

The hearing on the 21st, almost certainly to be continued into February and, perhaps, March will give the Madrona applicants and opponents opportunity to state their respective cases, as well as allow for public comment.  The council will then deliberate on the argued merits and demerits offered by the two sides and either deny or approve of the appeal.

Over the next two weeks, arguments against Madrona will be restated here, with special attention paid to the real, everyday effects that will be visited upon the citizens of Brea, but also by those who live or work or commute in and around that city and Carbon Canyon. 

Because, this is an issue that has wider-ranging effects than might appear at face value.  It is one far beyond the polarizing extremes of NIMBYism on one side and the inviolable sanctity of private property rights and the free [real estate] market on the other.

Meantime, for those interested and concerned, keep Tuesday, 21 January @ 7:00 p.m. in the Brea City Hall Council Chambers in mind as the date for that appeal hearing approacheth!