30 June 2014

Two Carbon Canyon Parcels for Sale

Signs have recently sprung up on the Brea side of Carbon Canyon for two undeveloped parcels.

One sign indicated a 36-acre property at a gate for a dirt road that leads from Carbon Canyon Road to Carbon Ridge, which separates Carbon Canyon from Soquel Canyon.  This parcel has been listed for sale on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) for a few years now, though specified there as just under 28 acres and with a sale price of $336,000.  The site lacks utilities, survey or other preliminary work, though the site is zoned hillside residential under Brea's Carbon Canyon Specific Plan and Hillside Management Ordinance.

The other parcel is just under an acre and is off Carbon Canyon Road near and opposite the La Vida Mineral Springs site.  A short dirt access road leads up to a flat lot just above the road, though the total parcel appears to include some of the steep hillside around the site.  It is not clear if there has been an existing MLS listing for this property, which may well have the same raw land status as the bigger parcel.

27 June 2014

Sleepy Hollow Geodisic Home For Sale

One of the more unique houses in a unique neighborhood is up for sale.  A geodisic dome on Oakway Lane near the shuttered Canyon Market in Sleepy Hollow was listed for sale two days ago.

The 2,200 square foot home on a lot slightly smaller than 10,000 square feet (that's a lot of space for the community, which was subdivided in 1923 with small cabin lots being the norm) was built in 1988.  The current owners, who have been there nine years, have extensively remodeled the interior and put in a ton of improvements on the grounds, including, for Sleepy Hollow, a rare and expansive/expensive in-ground pool.

Geodisic domes have been touted for their ability to withstand strong earthquakes (not having walls at right angles that would pull away under the stress of the shaking and there is at least one other within the canyon, one being in the Mountain View tract off Canon Lane a little east of this one.

For more info, including about twenty photos of the house and property, click here.

25 June 2014

Carbon Canyon Historical Artifact #45: La Vida Mineral Springs Bottle Opener

This is another great artifact and is the second bottle opener featured on this blog that comes from the La Vida Mineral Springs resort and its mineral water bottling operation.

Where the other opener was the kind you'd punch into a cap and then pry it off, our example here fits over a cap and lifts it off, indicating a later generation than the first, perhaps from the 1940s or 1950s.

As can be seen in the above photo, the La Vida name is subscribed by the motto "Distinctive Beverages."

Then, on the reverse, another motto following from the first is found and reads, "They're Naturally Better," meaning, of course, that the water flows "naturally" from the springs.

In contrast to the first opener, this one is in generally excellent shape, with some minor rust, pitting, scratching and other surface wear, but nowhere near as rusty as its predecessor.  In fact, it would look good displayed next to a beautiful green La Vida soda bottle sitting atop the dining room buffet.

16 June 2014

Tonight's Carbon Canyon History Presentation

Just returned from the new Chino Hills Community Center (still has that new community center smell) after a highly-enjoyable presentation on the history of Carbon Canyon before an audience that might have been close to 150 persons.  That's a pretty amazing number for a local history talk and testament to the excellent publicity given to the event by the members of the Chino Hills Historical Society.

Some of the audience at tonight's Carbon Canyon history presentation at the new Chino Hills Community Center who were either hungry for history or desperate for anything to do on a Monday night.
Clocking in, timed on a sometimes-intelligent phone, at a brisk 30:52.88, the PowerPoint illustrated talk covered the geological origins of the canyon; the native peoples; the Spanish and Mexican periods, including the creation of Rancho Santa Ana del Chino (the borders of which extended nearly to Sleepy Hollow); the subdivision of the Sleepy Hollow and Mountain View tracts in the 1920s; the thirty-year history of the Jewish camp Camp Kinder Ring and its successor, including the short-lived and bizarre Ski Villa and to modern days with its further subdivisions, the creation of Western Hills Country Club, and the issue of upcoming housing projects and so on.

The central quadrant of the surprisingly-substantial crowd enjoying themselves before the event had really gotten rolling.
The question-and-answer session was fantastic, as many in the audience, including past and current residents of the canyon, shared remembrances and stories--maybe the historical society can find ways to get information from some of those folks to document the city's history.

A few artifacts (mainly photos and maps, as well as some copies from early news articles) were on display and it was great to talk further with people about their connection to this canyon and all of its unique features, attributes, and history.

Those on the east end were a little further removed but seemed no less enthusiastic.
The photos show much of the audience and, hopefully, future historical society talks will draw similar or higher numbers.  The next presentation is September 15 and features publisher emeritus Allen McCombs of the Champion.  Mr. McCombs has amassed a great knowledge of the local area, much of it appearing in his weekly column, "Rolltop Roundup" and he will cover the history of the Chino Valley. 

As for tonight, it was a great evening and its heartening to see such interest in our local canyon and city history.

13 June 2014

Carbon Canyon History Presentation This Monday

A PowerPoint-illustrated presentation on the history of Carbon Canyon, focusing mainly on the Chino Hills/San Bernardino County side, will be given this Monday, 16 June @ 7 p.m. at the Chino Hills Community Center, 14250 Peyton Drive, across from Ayala High School and between Grand and Eucalyptus avenues.

Main topics will include Sleepy Hollow, Camp Kinder Ring and Ski Villa, Carbon Canyon Road, and the Carbon Canyon/Hiltscher Mineral Springs resort, as well as other little tidbits of the area's history.

The meeting is sponsored by the Chino Hills Historical Society and is the first of two presentations scheduled for the year--the next, in September, will be given by publisher emeritus Allen McCombs of the Champion, who will talk on the history of the Chino Valley.

Click here for a short news article on the Monday presentation.

11 June 2014

The La Vida Landfill, West Annex

The Brea portion of Carbon Canyon, being so far little developed (though, theoretically, the approval last week of the 162-unit Madrona tract could mightily change that, if built) proves to be inviting to fast drivers and, on occasion, to people who'd rather dump their debris and waste there than pay to take them to the nearby Olinda Alpha Landfill.

So, let's dub this latest example the "La Vida Landfill, West Annex," because there were two other occasions at the old La Vida Mineral Springs site and just east of that in recent years.  This is a turnoff just west of La Vida and east of Olinda Village off the westbound side of Carbon Canyon Road.

There have been at least two separate piles deposited alongside the highway, on consecutive days, and who knows, there might be more.

Thank you to whoever decided to leave their mess for someone else to clean up and for their contribution to the further beautification of Carbon Canyon.

10 June 2014

Another Carbon Canyon Road Crash

While talking to a contractor outside, we heard a car roaring through Sleepy Hollow westbound on Carbon Canyon Road, screeching through the curves and then a crash as the vehicle skidded off the road.

After a call to 9-1-1, a walk down to the highway found an older Japanese (Toyota, Honda or something similar) car turned the other way and resting off the side of the highway just across from the old Party House/Canyon Market store.

The latest traffic accident along Carbon Canyon Road (the third in a week) took place this morning westbound across from the shuttered Canyon Market/Party House store (at left) in Sleepy Hollow.  The driver is at the left just behind the red pickup and his vehicle is partially obscured at the right--the car narrowly missed sliding into Carbon [Canyon] Creek.
The driver, a young dude, was standing in the parking lot of the old store looking perfectly fine.  Luckily, as he tore through the area going far faster than he should of he didn't take someone out coming eastbound.

Yet another example of dangerous driving and also another that could have been far worse, but circumstance or chance or luck or something was at play.

At the moment, traffic is still moving through, but they'll have to tow the errant driver's car out and haul it away, so there will be a brief road closure later.

07 June 2014

Traffic Accident Closes Carbon Canyon Road

An eastbound vehicle crossed lanes and went off Carbon Canyon Road into the creek just east of Summit Ranch on this 7 June accident--the third on the state highway within the space of a week.
It turned out this was a single-car accident, in which the vehicle was going east on Carbon Canyon Road, crossed over the westbound lane, and went over the shoulder and down the embankment towards the creek.

UPDATE, 9:20 a.m.:  Carbon Canyon Road was reopened as of about 8:45 a.m.

UPDATE, 8:15 a.m.:  Evidently just moments after the initial search on the Chino Hills Web site alert page, this was posted a few minutes before 8:

7:45 am - Saturday, June 7th - Carbon Canyon Road is closed at Feldspar (Summit Ranch) for a major traffic investigation. No access at all from Chino Hills Parkway. Carbon Canyon residents have access from Brea side. Closure estimated to continue for approximately 3 hours.

The three hours may wind up being much shorter if the info given on scene below is correct.

Carbon Canyon Road was again completely closed as a traffic accident occurred and an investigation conducted early Saturday morning east of Summit Ranch (Feldspar Drive) and west of Chino Hills Parkway.
Just east of Summit Ranch on Carbon Canyon Road in Chino Hills, the state highway is closed because of a crime scene investigation.

No information being found on the city Web site or by e-mail notification, a drive out to the vicinity found Chino Hills Police Department volunteers with vehicles and cones letting drivers heading over from the Brea side know about the closure.  No specifics were provided about the nature of the incident.

Evidently, the investigation is now wrapping up and the road should be opened within the hour.

05 June 2014

Accident Tonight on Carbon Canyon Road in Brea

UPDATE:  A commenter left a note recently that this accident did not involve a fatality, according, it was said, to info received from the Brea Police Department.

While at the Chino Hills Community Park for a baseball game, news came in that a fatal accident occurred somewhere on the Brea side of Carbon Canyon along Carbon Canyon Road.

The highway is closed at the county line for those looking to go west from Chino Hills into Orange County and is also closed on the Brea side, though at what point is not yet known to this blogger.

The City of Chino Hills Web site only states that the road is expected to be closed for several hours because of the ongoing investigation--with fatalities, these can take many hours.

More info to be posted as available.

For the Chino Hills emergency alert page, please click here.

UPDATE, 9:51 p.m.:  According to a City of Chino Hills update, Carbon Canyon Road was opened to all traffic about an hour ago .

03 June 2014

Madrona Approved by Brea City Council, 4-1

Well, after fifteen years, the housing project first called Canyon Crest and now known as Madrona for what is now described as 152 (down from 162) units on 367 acres on the north side of Carbon Canyon in Brea has finally been approved.

At tonight's city council meeting, the vote was 4-1 to approve a resolution denying the appeal of the 2008 planning commission approval of Canyon Crest and to entitle the project with a map.  This now leads to an increase in the value of the property, which its bankrupt owner, Old Standard Life Insurance Company, under receivership with the State of Idaho can now sell to try and realize some profit for its creditors.

As for new standards, the city has, for the first time, approved a housing project that had three statements of overriding consideration from significant adverse unavoidable impacts as identified in the environmental impact report.  This sets a precedent that could make it hard for this or future councils to deny other projects in sensitive areas (which is mainly what is left in terms of little undeveloped space in the city.)

Notably, though, the council hardly gave a second thought to the statements--which were really supposed to support the decision to approve--in favor of the dozen conditions of approval drafted by Mayor Brett Murdock and Mayor pro-term Christine Marick, all of which, in final form, were agreed to by the applicant. 

Old Standard obviously knew that these two were the swing votes (with Marty Simonoff always being against the project and Ron Garcia and Roy Moore always in favor.) 

It was telling that Moore was the one, just moments before casting his "yea" vote, who expressed surprise that the council did not address the statements of overriding consideration, instead hanging their collective hats (while many in the audience hung their heads) on the conditions of approval.

Unabashedly, Murdock, who was, oddly, speaking for Marick this evening, excepting a minor comment on correcting a statement that she did make, stated that their goal was to "tip the scales" to make the project favorable to them, based on what the mayor opined was finding a balance for the concerns of both sides. 

Murdock also tried to claim that he and Marick were against the project as presented before their conditions of approval were offered (that being so, why did they feel the need, as staff obviously did, to go the extra mile [or dollar] to make the development palatable?) 

Oh, yes, balance.

Truly, however, he and Marick weren't looking for balance--they were seeking a way to get the project approved for the applicant by squeezing concessions (some not well received by Old Standard), give the appearance of equal consideration to both sides, look to blunt the force of a lawsuit by Old Standard and who knows what else.

This observer walked in just prior to the council getting ready to offer comments before a vote.  Simonoff spent some time addressing why he thought the project should be rejected, beseeching his colleagues to explain to those who elected them and those whom they represented just why they felt the project's benefits outweighed the concerns, offering "substantive evidence." 

Again, Simonoff took the public safety issue as his linchpin for voting no and was also unhappy with much of the money offered as being "one-time" payments that would not help in the long run with the financial costs of the project.  He also noted this was the first development project he'd ever opposed in years of being on the council. 

Simonoff then offered a motion to vote on approving the appeal, which was conspicuously ignored by Mayor Murdock and the remainder of the council.

Moore responded that he'd made all of his relevant comments in earlier meetings and didn't see the need to elaborate on them, though he offered to reiterate them--to which some audience members vociferously said "no."  He did say that he felt that most comments by the appellant team and audience in opposition were fair and he thanked those persons for offering them.  Later, as noted above, Moore expressed some unease about the lack of attention paid to the statements of overriding consideration--but, then again, his vote was always known to be pro-Madrona anyway.

Garcia similarly stated that his position had been previously given and that Moore's comments covered most of his concerns.  After averring how difficult the process was, he offered some remarkable statements. 

One was that the council relied upon professional city staff, contractors and vendors, while he was quick to then say that the council had to make its own determination, though more in the vein of seeking verification of trust in what these professionals were stating. 

More telling, however, in response to Simonoff's request for public statements of why they were approving the project and its conditions of approval, was Garcia's claim that his offer of meeting with concerned residents one-on-one in his office was not taken up by opponents.

Why might that be?

Well, it could be that talking with an elected official privately in their office without witness or documentation might not be the best way for concerned citizens to express themselves, nor would it be the most desirable way for the citizenry of Brea to know what their elected officials think.  Privatizing a public issue seems highly questionable, at best. 

Then again, Garcia made a special point of noting that there were people who were in favor of Madrona.  What he didn't say (and this is on record in council meeting minutes) is that the vast majority of these pro-Madrona folks were chamber of commerce allies of John Koos, the former planning commissioner who voted to approve the project, as Canyon Crest, in 2008 and then resigned a few years later to be the P.R. front person for Madrona.

Murdock, speaking essentially for Marick, then said a few words about not liking the project as presented and then discussing the importance of offering the conditions of approval.  Remarkably, he then invited applicant attorney John Erskine to address the council under a flimsy guise of a question.  Even more notable was that Erskine had prepared remarks--hardly indicative of a spur-of-the-moment question as the situation called for.

Erskine has had a penchant for offering mildly honeyed praise for the appellants milliseconds before throwing a jab.  First, he, again, set the table for a legal response in court by reminiscing about a time when he was a mayor and council member (this being in Huntington Beach) and how a lawsuit was handled by his city. 

Then, he employed a fancy bit of alliteration in noting that the suit referred to "hypercritical hypertechnical hyperbole," a term he used in modified form to describe the Madrona appellants--while assuring all in the room that the jousting between the two factions was respectful. 

It was also during his remarks that he mentioned 152 units, not the 162 that have been part of the plan for the last five years of so.  He also went on to remark that the eleven conditions were an extraordinary concession for Old Standard to make (but not, presumably, too much to get those
Murdock/Marick swing votes) and spent some time cataloging the most significant and the financial windfall that would result for the city.

Turning Simonoff's "substantive evidence" phrase against him, Erskine coolly pointed to sections in the staff report that showed the Old Standard's offerings were just that and dismissed the appellant's "hypercritical hyperbole" as anything but such evidence.

Murdock invited the applicants to make further statements (again, as thinly veiled questioning) about certain features, like reclaiming water and the nature of a minimum of sixteen custom lots of a half-acre that would be major concessions.

Around this time, appellant head Bev Perry, a former council member and mayor, fairly bounded down the stairs to city attorney Jim Markman, who then approached city planner David Crabtree.  It turned out that Perry was more than upset about a lack of disclosure and notification about some of the changes brought out verbally at the meeting.

Specifically, there was an applicant letter received from the city and not forwarded to the appellants, as well as the statements made about the so-called "Madrona Heights" and its sixteen half-acre custom lots and other modifications that would clearly require a revised map.

Procedurally, this was unfair to the appellants, who were not given the opportunity to be notified of these adjustments and then given adequate time to address them.  This oversight, however, might be useful in a lawsuit.

In fact, Simonoff then took the opportunity to protest that, with the applicant getting a platform to make what were, in essence, further arguments despite the closure of the public hearing (again, behind a tissue of vague questions offered by Murdock), some opportunity should be afforded the appellant to address particular issues.  His question was basically about some statements made by the applicant and staff about "green code" issues relating to how close some of the concessions would get the project to an unprecedented level of certification for energy efficiency and the like.

Appellant team member Eric Johnson had protested from his seat about a statement made by planning director Crabtree about this issue and, on Simonoff's question on that point, came down and forcefully stated that the planner's interpretation was plainly false.

From the baffling to the bizarre, the proceedings lurched toward the inevitable.  Marick made her mild and somewhat unnecessary qualification about some factual aspect to the conditions of approval and expressed her view that the process was heard with great concern for both sides, with fairness and balance and so forth and so on.

After some further commentary by a few members of the council with replies from staff on some questions, principally about projected revenues from property taxes, fire protection, sales taxes and other matters which, in the scheme of things, seemed somewhat incidental, Murdock called for a motion, which was quickly offered and seconded. 

The mayor then asked for a roll call vote and, when Moore was first invited to offer his, he stopped and inquired about the wording--was a "yes" vote for or against the appeal.  After attorney Markman clarified that an affirmative was for the resolution denying the appeal, Moore offered his "yes," followed in short order by Marick, Murdock and Garcia, with Simonoff emphatically stating his opposition.

So, it was done.  Except for occasional guffaws; sighs; exclamations of surprise, frustration and incredulity; and a pointed statements about the upcoming November elections (Moore, Garcia and Murdock being up for reelection then), the proceedings were fairly sedate and ended generally quietly. 

The two-dozen or so opponents of Madrona (who knows how many supporters of the project were there from the community) filed out and made their way to their cars, marveling at many aspects of the process and the fact that, after a decade and a half, the vote finally had happened.

Perhaps, it was inevitable, though a few (present company included) harbored hopes for a 3-2 vote for the appeal and against the project.

There were almost certainly be a lawsuit and some of the irregular, if not downright unlawful, actions at this meeting will be central.  Changes to the project scope and map without proper notification for the appellant, for example, might lead a judge to order another recirculated environmental impact report.

In any case, any prospect of building at Madrona is years away and economic considerations, the next major fire or earthquake and other conditions could change matters. 

Meanwhile, Old Standard will be looking to sell the property as soon as possible.  The rising value of the land will make it hard, though not impossible, for a purchase to preserve the property as open space and, perhaps, a future addition to Chino Hills State Park.  Or, another developer with a better portfolio than the last two owners could acquire it and seek the permits to get Madrona or whatever it would be called down the road built.

At a February speaking engagement, this blogger was talking to a group of audience members afterward.  One of them was a former city staffer who told another individual that Madrona wasn't going to be financially feasible because of the nature of the land and the difficulties inherent in building there.  This is someone who had years of experience with the city and its planning apparatus.

Who knows what is feasible, realistic and achievable with Madrona?

Theoretically, however, the city has probably opened a veritable Pandora's box, giving the green light to a project with an unprecedented three statements of overriding consideration and a dozen conditions of approval; in a "hazardous fire area" as noted on new CalTrans signs along Carbon Canyon Road; next to a road with growing traffic volume and slowing commuter times; in an era and an area of decreasing water supplies, growing fire risk and increasing drought; and concerning in other ways, including the loss of diminishing oak and walnut woodland habitat.

If the city can go this far to give a developer like Old Standard a theoretically or practically developable project, what are the new standards?  What will be the basis of denial for any project in sensitive areas in the city that remain the main locations of future development?  How can the city continue to argue against Shell-Aera's massive proposal for housing in the Puente Hills northwest of Brea given what they've done with Madrona?

Let's not forget, meanwhile, that the City of Chino Hills has already approved 100 houses on its side of Carbon Canyon, with another 102 in the early application stage, but which appear to be entitled.  Those 202 potential units with the 152 (or 162 or whatever Madrona is at the moment), puts the possible total of over 350 houses and some 1,500 or more persons and many more cars.  What will Carbon Canyon become if most or all of these are actually built--though it could be a decade away?

The Madrona saga is not over, but the Rubicon has been crossed.  Will this decision come back to haunt the City of Brea in future years or not?

A short Orange County Register article on last night's proceedings can be found here.