31 December 2014

La Vida Mineral Springs Tank: Vandalism or Deterioration?

As noted here several times, the old water tank and associated surviving elements from the historic La Vida Mineral Springs resort on the Brea side of Carbon Canyon managed to remain hidden by overgrown bushes and weeds for many years until the Freeway Complex Fire of November 2008 scorched the area and exposed the tank to view . . . and defacing.

While some good samaritan(s) out there has/have been commendably covering up the many instances of graffiti applied to the tanks and concrete bases over the last six years, it now looks as if there has either been vandalism or creeping deterioration leading to the collapse of a good part of one of the bases.

To some people, this is probably much ado about nothing.  The tank and bases are old and have served no practical purpose for decades.  For others (this blogger included), though, these are the only real visual reminders of La Vida, which had a long and interesting history that still resonates with a good many folks.

In any case, it's sad to see what is, of course, inevitable, if this is a matter of deterioration and sad for other reasons if deliberate.

27 December 2014

The (De)Grading of Canyon Hills Begins

With its long-standing problem of bacteria-infected water lines resolved after a few months of effort, the 76-unit Canyon Hills housing project's developer, Forestar, has now initiated the (de)grading of the property, located north of Carbon Canyon Road at Canyon Hills Road between Sleepy Hollow and Oak Tree Downs.

The work involves bulldozers, watering trucks and other equipment busily engaged in plowing through the oak-studded landscape that was featured here not long ago.  The initiation of (de)grading was pointed out a week ago on a comment on this blog by a longtime resident of Sleepy Hollow who expressed dismay at the sight of the clearing of sections of the property.

As stated here before, it appears that Forestar is engaged in the work solely in preparation for sale to another developer.  This seems to mean that the company will carve streets and other basic infrastructure and then halt work to put the land on the market.  Which developer comes in and how long it would take to get the project to the stage of building structures remains to be seen.

Meantime, what is left of the diminishing oak and walnut woodland habitat that is in Carbon Canyon takes another hit--especially a section left relatively undisturbed by cattle grazing and other uses that have reduced that habitat elsewhere within the canyon.

It is perhaps worth noting that 2015 will bring another large housing project of just over 100 units to the City of Chino Hills for processing--this being the curiously named "Hidden Oaks" just across Carbon Canyon Road to the south and which will involve the further degradation of the canyon's landscape and the destruction of more oak trees (of which some 2,000 were razed in an aborted project on the site years ago.)

How it is expected that these projects can be accommodated in a canyon already heavily impacted by traffic, during a severe drought, and with other environmental and infrastructure concerns in mind, should be a concern for anyone except for developers and some local officials who don't share these sentiments.

In his regular column, for example, in the December issue of a local publication, The Butterfield Stage, Chino Hills council member Ed Graham wrote that, when it comes to land use issues,
several residents continue to talk about the open space, and the animals, and change . . . but they do not want to discuss the ownership of that land.  Nor do they want to discuss the fact that they [his emphasis] also live in a home that was once in open space and built by a developer.  That to me is the biggest hypocrisy.  The only way to insure [ensure] open space is to buy it and let it remain vacant.
If only Mr. Graham's views, which are widely held in our region, were applicable to a simplified world.

In fact, not all property is viewed on an equal plane.  Carbon Canyon is an illustrative example.

Conditions for development in the canyon in the 1970s, when Summit Ranch was built, or even the early 1990s, when Carriage Hills was created, is not the same as that of the late 2010s.  Traffic is far greater and water is in lesser supply and our fire risk is more severe.

Carbon Canyon Road simply cannot be widened and traffic signals at Fairway Drive and Canyon Hills Road will do nothing for users of the state highway, though they might assist residents living off these side streets in accessing the roadway.

If we are in a long-term drought cycle, as many climatologists suggest, building more homes, especially of the bigger variety on larger lots planned for Canyon Hills and Hidden Oaks, isn't going to help with conservation.

Fires, which race up steep canyons and spread more quickly on windy ridge and hill tops, are becoming a greater threat to precisely those areas left for new development--places like Carbon Canyon.

Regarding the insinuation of NIMBYism implicit in Mr. Graham's comment about "the biggest hypocrisy" regarding those who live in older communities who are fighting newer developments, there is some truth to this.  As noted here before, this blogger well recalls the lecture planning commissioner Karen Bristow gave to a Carriage Hills resident who was complaining about the loss of view that he would suffer from a 24-unit development that was subsequently approved for the property northeast of Fairway Drive and Carbon Canyon Road.  That was fair--the argument was personal and self-serving and the guy needed to be called out.

However, the analogy of the filling glass does apply.  If you keep adding water to the glass, eventually it will overflow, and that's not what the glass was intended for.  In other words, there are limits.  Just like there's a limit to what a glass will hold, so, too, is there a limit to what Carbon Canyon can reasonably (emphasis here on "reasonably") can accommodate, so that it retains its character and remains livable to a standard that most people would accept.

Brea has approved Madrona, consisting of 162 houses, just west of Sleepy Hollow.  Canyon Hills is approved for 76.  The development mentioned above near Western Hills Golf Course is 24.  That is 262 houses and about 1,000 more people and all the water use, car trips and traffic, and complexity in fire management and evacuation that goes along with that.  If Hidden Oaks is approved and it appears that Mr. Graham will be a certain "aye" there, then add over 100 more units and about 400 more people (and the water, car trips and traffic, etc.)

Is that sustainable, reasonable, livable development for the Canyon?  This would be an excellent question of Mr. Graham and his colleagues when the public hearings for Hidden Oaks begin.

The photos here were taken this morning from Canyon Hills Road and only give a very limited view of the work underway.

26 December 2014

Carbon Canyon's Newest Business

Well, there had been chatter about a new restaurant opening in the Olinda Village shopping center where Sol de México closed earlier this year, but in the last month or so a new business has hung up its shingle there.

Canyon Cleaners has opened its doors, occupying suite 170 where Station 4 of the Fullerton/Brea Fire Department was housed until a new station was built and opened in the lot at the east end of the center.

Whether there is enough of a market for a cleaners in the Olinda Village area is debatable, although lettering on the window indicates that there is also a scrapbooking component to the business, which does seem to be a strange pairing.

Moreover, the Olinda Village shopping center is more than outdated--not only is it fifty years old and does not give much of an impression of being well-maintained, but it was built under the premise that it could successfully serve a small residential community.  It doesn't help, probably, that the building has its "back" turned to Carbon Canyon Road and is up on a slope, affecting its visibility.

In any case, we'll see in coming months whether the business has the customer base to stay viable.

22 December 2014

A Little Early History of the Mountain View Park Tract

In the first half of the 1920s, there was a population boom and major economic expansion in the Los Angeles region and the real estate market was red hot.  While much of that growth consisted of spreading suburbanization away from the central core of downtown Los Angeles and into the outlying sections of the San Gabriel and San Fernando Valley, there was also a great deal of "resort" development.  This occurred in the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains, the region's beach communities, and canyons in the lower-lying hills and mountains.  Whether it was small coastal bungalows or cabins in the canyons and mountains, a growing number of the region's residents were buying and using weekend residences to escape the growing urban environment.

It's hard to believe now, but Carbon Canyon's first subdivisions were developed to meet the wants of Los Angeles-area citizens looking for that weekend get-away, as well as a chance to speculate and make a quick buck on rising real estate prices, and the canyon, being 35 miles from downtown Los Angeles was seen as a vacationer's retreat.  The clientele was definitely working and middle class, as evidenced by the moderate means of the subdivisions' developers and as indicated by what censuses tell us about the occupations and home values of early buyers and residents.

As noted here before, Sleepy Hollow was the first Carbon Canyon subdivision, created in 1923 by Cleve Purington and associates, mainly people associated with the Long Beach area.  The lot sizes were small and were known as "cabin lots" so that buyers could build small cabins for those weekend and holiday visits.   Very shortly afterward, another subdivision was created just a short distance to the east along Carbon Canyon Road.  This new tract was dubbed "Mountain View Park."

The name was actually apt, especially for those lots that were plotted out higher up on the steep slopes to the south of the roadway, as these had views of Mount San Antonio (Baldy) and other peaks in the majestic San Gabriel chain.  The four street names are mostly obvious:  Canon Lane (the Spanish spelling, missing its tilde or ñ, for "canyon"), Low Lane, this being the one closest to Carbon Canyon and the lowest in the tract, and Observation Lane, because of the fine views found there.  One street, however, has an unusual moniker:  Chernus Lane.  That leads to the founder of the community.

The 1940 census showing Morris and Rose Chernus at their South Los Angeles address.  From Ancestry.com.  Click on any image to see them in enlarged views in a separate window.
Morris (or Maurice) Chernus was a native of the Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire, born 25 March 1881 in the village of Tashan, southeast of Kiev, now the capital of the embattled republic.  His parents were Herschel (Harry) Chernus and Rachel Dienstein and there were four other children, brother John and sisters Anna, Rose and Dora, and the family name was probably Chernuskin.  After Harry Chernus died in 1898, and perhaps because the lives of Jews in Russia and the Ukraine were always precarious due to vicious pogroms launched against them, the family uprooted and moved to America.

Rachel Chernus and her four children, ranging from a year to Morris's eighteen years, took a ship from Bremen, Germany to Baltimore, arriving in the United States on Christmas Day 1899.  From there, it appears the family migrated to Chicago, perhaps because of other relatives or neighbors living there (which has always been a typical "pathway" for migrants needing familiarity.)

Sometime in the first years of the twentieth century, Morris married Rose Wishnak, another Russian-born immigrant and the couple had two children born in Franklin Park, a Chicago suburb, these being Rose (1909-1990) and Leon (1911-1960).  By about 1915, the Chernus family migrated to Los Angeles and their third child, Joseph (1917-1964) was born there.

It appears that Morris worked for some fifteen years as a contractor, mainly building apartments, which serviced that demand for housing mentioned above.  Presumably, he made decent money doing this, because in 1924 he and others swung a deal to buy some property in Carbon Canyon.

Real estate listings showing the purchase of the Mountain View Park tract by Morris Chernus and his promissory note agreement with the Chino Land and Water Company, 19 June 1924, from the San Bernardino County Sun.
The arrangement, finalized on 19 June, included a purchase of land from the Chino Land and Water Company, the firm that bought the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino in the first years of the century.  The rancho's western boundary passed on the western fringe of the Chernus purchase as it runs southeastward from near Tonner Canyon through where the Circle K convenience store is located and in the hills immediately adjoining the tract before moving into Chino Hills State Park and points south.

There had evidently been some kind of agreement by Chino Land and Water with a firm called the Chino Oil Company, because the latter had to issue a quit claim (essentially disavowing any rights to the property) to the former before the Chernus deal could be consummated.  Then, came the sale to Chernus, who then turned around and arranged for five promissory notes, four for $400 and one for $776, with the notes due year-after year, so that the last was due in 1929.  This made the total price for the land, dubbed the Mountain View Park Cabin Site subdivision, $2376.

Sales of lots began not long afterward and there were regular reports in newspapers like the San Bernardino County Sun of sales of lots, though whether these were for investment and speculation or for building of cabins or permanent homes is not known.  One couple, Bert and Mary Bell, bought a significant amount of property in Mountain View Park.  The pair lived in South Los Angeles, where Bert was a grocer and then a plumbing company worker.

A number of purchasers were Jews, including musician Moses Mayer, a native of Russia; house carpenter Israel Friend, born in Poland; and Isaac Gorin, a Russian-born owner of an iron working firm.  Though it may be incidental, the fact that, within a few years, just a bit cater-corner from the Mountain View Park tract was Camp Kinder Ring, the Workmen's Circle youth (and, later, all ages) camp founded by Jews.  And, of course, a couple miles west down Carbon Canyon Road in Brea was La Vida Mineral Springs, where the cafe was owned by Russian-born Jew Archie Rosenbaum, who also ran a restaurant in the late 1930s and early 1940s associated with the Carbon Canyon Mineral Springs resort at the west end of Sleepy Hollow near the county line.

Short article in the Sun for the incorporation of the Mountain View Park Mutual Water Company, 25 November 1926
As was the case with Sleepy Hollow, water had to come for purely local sources, so Chernus, his wife Rose, Los Angeles attorney Lester Roth, G.G. Hetherington, and B.M. Melton created the Mountain View Park Mutual Water Company, which incorporated in November 1926.  This was a "small potatoes" endeavor, as the capital stock of the little firm was only $200 and the project consisted of a single well and the equipment to pump the water--presumably from Carbon [Canyon] Creek across the road, though the well could have been elsewhere.

It appears that, despite the low purchase cost, spread out over five years due to the promissory note arrangement with Chino Land and Water, and the minuscule capitalization of the little water company, the success of Mountain View Park was limited.  Likely there were few cabins built compared to the number of lots purchased for speculation.  Moreover, the real estate market in the region peaked in 1923, the year prior to the founding of the tract, and a gradual decline ensued, heightening by the end of the decade.

Finally, the American economy, largely driven by manic speculation in the stock market, in which many investors were "buying on margin," or borrowing off future earnings, was expanding into a gigantic bubble.  In October 1929, the famed crash of the stock market took place and the bubble burst.  It took a few years for the Great Depression to really take effect, as bank closures in the thousands took place by 1932.

Not surprisingly, then, slews of tax defaults appeared in the public notices section of local papers, including the San Bernardino County Sun, for places like Mountain View Park.  Bert and Mary Bell and Morris and Rose Chernus were the biggest property owners in the tract and, consequently, the ones that had the greatest amount in arrears.  Eventually, both lost their properties and these were either assumed by banks or picked up at tax foreclosure sales.  With the Depression followed by World War II, it is unlikely that activity picked up much at the tract, though there was probably some improvement after 1945, especially as a gradual increase in full-time residents supplanted the weekend cabin use.  In many ways, the trajectory of Mountain View Park probably mirrored that of nearby Sleepy Hollow.

A 24 May 1930 Sun article requesting that the county take control of the Mountain View Park water system, indicating that financial problems for founder Morris Chernus and other investors were growing serious.
As for Chernus, he remained in Los Angeles until his death in April 1966, with his wife passing away in July of the following year.  As a little sidenote, their daughter Sonia had an interesting career.

Sonia Chernus, born in 1909, graduated from UCLA and went into civilian service with the United States Navy during World War II.  Her secretarial and editorial skills were such that she became a secretary at Warner Brothers in the early Forties.  She then went to work for producer Arthur Lubin.

One day, Sonia, who was an avid reader, came across a series of short stories that she felt might make a good television program and pitched the idea to Lubin.  From this came one of the more popular (and goofy) sitcoms of its day, Mister Ed, a show about a talking horse.  The credits included one for Sonia as the developer of the format for the show.

In the later 1950s, while at Universal Studios, Sonia met a tall, handsome actor whose career was stalling to the extent that he was considering quitting acting.  So taken with him that Lubin later said that "Chernus had a lifelong crush" on the actor "and would have gone to the ends of the earth for him," she arranged for the struggling thespian to meet Lubin about a new show being developed by the producer.

Lubin liked the young man's look and was able to get him a starring role as Rowdy Yates on the western series Rawhide, which ran for several seasons.  The actor was Clint Eastwood and Chernus was so loyal to him and he so thankful for her pivotal role in his big break that, when the rising star created his own production company, Malpaso, by 1970, Chernus was hired as a story editor.  It was said, though, that her job wasn't so much as a necessity as a show of thanks by the actor.  In fact, one Eastwood biographer stated that, "Chernus dutifully pulled up, sifted through, incoming scripts.  Her position was considered, in-house, almost a gratuity; in general, people though Clint didn't value her strong opinions."

Chernus was also a close friend of the actor's first wife, Maggie, and considered like an aunt to their two young children, so that also was a factor, even as Sonia's often forceful personality created some conflict.  In one case, when Eastwood developed Play Misty for Me, an early film where he received some critical acclaim, it was Chernus who suggested a storyline involving the star's character and a girlfriend.

In 1976, Eastwood filmed The Outlaw Josey Wales, which received more critical praise, and Chernus, after aggressive lobbying, was assigned the task of sketching out a storyline from a novel and generating a first draft.  Although the script was completed by the film's director, Philip Kaufman, Chernus requested a co-writing credit, to which the star demurred.  Going over his head, Sonia appealed to the Writer's Guild, looking for membership and, more importantly, a pension, and was successful in securing the credit.  Eastwood, riled by the show of disloyalty, asked Chernus to vacate her office at Malpaso and ordered her to work at home with less assigned work.

Occasionally, though, she was allowed to offer more opinions.  For example, when Eastwood was looking to film a final western to close the book on the genre that largely defined him and had a source in mind, Chernus warned that "I can't think of one good thing to say about it, except maybe get rid of it FAST."  The star ignored her and went on to use the story for one of his best-known films, Unforgiven.

That film came out in 1990 and, while Chernus was kept on salary, she hadn't seen the actor for almost fifteen years and barely had contact by phone or otherwise.  It was said that Eastwood referred to her as a "bottom feeder," though her closeness to the actor's first wife probably kept her on the fringes of his orbit.  Yet, as she was dying in 1990, Eastwood, who a biographer said had one of his few female friendships (as opposed to other relationships) with Chernus, visited Sonia in the hospital and held her hand as she lay in her deathbed.

It's a small community nestled on the steep slopes of Carbon Canyon, but, like all places, Mountain View Park does have a history and one that has some interest.

16 December 2014

Gold Spotted Oak Borer Spotted in Anaheim Hills

The Gold Spotted Oak Borer, a pest which has been doing significant damage to oak trees in southern California over the past decade, has now been detected in trees in Weir Canyon in Anaheim Hills, evidently at Santiago Oaks Regional Park.

This is very significant and highly concerning because this discovery represents the first documented incursion of the insect in this vicinity and could spell trouble for the oak tree woodland areas of this region, including those in and around Carbon Canyon.

According to the Center for Invasive Species Research at the University of California, Riverside, a leading agency dealing with the pest, the GSOB is native to southeastern Arizona (and a cousin coming from Mexico and Guatemala), where trees have developed a resistance.

In 2004, however, the pest was found in San Diego County and has been moving north, wreaking havoc on oak groves in its path.  The fact that an infestation has been located near here is an ominous sign for Carbon Canyon and nearby locales.

Treatment options have been very limited, mainly in seeking to keep firewood in the area, in which it was cut, and in exposing infected trees to sunlight or wrapping them in plastic.  These latter methods increase the temperature within the infected areas killing the adults, pupae, and larvae, but, obviously, this involves trees that are doomed to die and is more about preventing further infestations.

The cost of dealing with dead or dying oak trees can be very high for public agencies and private property owners and, until a natural predator can be identified that might be able to check the advance of the borer, the situation could prove devastating for our local oak trees.

To see more from the CISR, please click here.

15 December 2014

On the Skids in Carbon Canyon #16852

Follow the tire tracks as they veer off the wide paved shoulder (a rarity along the highway) and onto the dirt where a poor, innocuous sign was just doing its duty before it was flattened.
Not an earth-shattering incident.  Sign-battering, yes.

All it was trying to say was that a school bus stop was 400 feet ahead.   Well, used to be--the bus hasn't stopped at Ginseng Lane/Fairway Drive for at least a few years.  Still, it's the principle of the thing.
This was either the work of an errant eastbound driver or a kid who really, really didn't want to go to school that day.

Actually, the sign, which once stood a little east of Valley Springs Road, is for a bus stop at Fairway Drive/Ginseng Lane, where no bus has stopped for who knows how long.  So, maybe CalTrans should send the poor little thing to that great sign storage building in the sky.

12 December 2014

Rain! Rain!! Rain!!!

UPDATE, 2 P.M.: Just drove through Carbon Canyon from the Brea side and there is a lot of material washing down from the steep, fire-degraded and waterlogged slopes west of Olinda Village along Carbon Canyon Road.

Significant mud and other debris is washing onto Carbon Canyon Road west of Olinda Village as shown in this photo from just fifteen minutes ago.  We'll see if there'll be any closures upcoming this afternoon and evening.
A CalTrans truck has been scraping the bottom of the hillside and a Brea Police Department truck is along the road, too.  At the moment, the sun is shining through and there are intermittent bursts of rain, but if another round of precipitation is coming, there could potentially be problems, as a commenter to this post asked about a couple of hours ago.

We'll see how the afternoon and evening go.

A detail of exposed hillsides ravaged by fire and scoured by recent heavy rains, providing many paths for mud and debris to wash down onto Carbon Canyon Road this afternoon.
The title of this post comes from an 1860s headline in the Los Angeles Star newspaper reflecting the joy and relief when a major rain storm descended upon a parched and drought-stricken Los Angeles which slaked its thirst on the drops denied the region for almost all of two years in 1863 and 1864.

In fact, the recent drought is the worst since that time--150 years ago--but we are getting the opportunity to receive some major rainfall here with the latest storm hitting our area today.

Walking up from the bus stop at the corner of Carbon Canyon Road and Rosemary Lane and looking behind the Sleepy Hollow Community Center, it was great to see some activity in one of the prettier spots in Carbon Canyon, a rock-lined waterfall spilling down from the upper reaches of the community down to the bottom.

A decent little flow of water descends a pretty waterfall right in Sleepy Hollow behind the community center in a photo taken about a half-hour ago.
Whereas in pre-Sleepy Hollow days, this fall emptied naturally into Carbon [Canyon] Creek, the water now runs down a concrete channel to one side of the community building, goes under Rosemary Lane, follows another channel under Carbon Canyon Road, goes through the former home of Sleepy Hollow's founders, Cleve and Elizabeth Purington, and then flows into the creek.

In fact, looking out the window at the creek right now, a nice little flow is observed as the water makes it way southwestward.

That little glimpse at the beautiful natural feature of the waterfall, hidden as it is by the community center, and the enjoyment of what is, at the moment, a steady rain, is another reminder of what is so great about living in Carbon Canyon.

Another view of the Sleepy Hollow waterfall.
The drought is, obviously, not going to be erased because of these storms--one source stated it would have to rain steadily every other day for three years for that to happen--but every little bit of rain makes it that much easier to deal with the historically dry conditions we're experiencing.

06 December 2014

Carbon Canyon Road Truck Advisory Posted

A new sign on the eastbound side of Carbon Canyon Road (State Route 142) just past Sleepy Hollow warning drivers of vehicles over 50 feet in length that it is "not advised" to travel beyond Fairway Drive [and Ginseng Lane].
Early this week, CalTrans District 8, which is responsible for the maintenance of the Chino Hills portion of Carbon Canyon Road (State Route 142), placed a quartet of signs on both sides of the state highway warning that trucks over 50 feet in length were not advised to proceed up the S-curve between Fairway Drive/Ginseng Lane and Old Carbon Canyon Road.

There has been a committee of concerned citizens that has met several times in recent months to express opposition to the use of Carbon Canyon Road by large vehicles.  Whether this effort has led to the posting of these signs is not known.

In any event, it remains to be seen whether there will be any change in how bigger vehicles use the state highway.

A second warning piece of advise found just past Valley Springs Road at the Western Hills Oaks subdivision.
What is striking, first, though, is that there are no warning signs prior to trucks turning onto Carbon Canyon Road as they turn westward from Chino Hills Parkway [added 8 Dec:  There is an old sign on westbound Chino Hills Parkway way back near Pipeline Avenue advising against vehicles over 30 feet in length using the state highway, but this obviously contrasts with new 50-foot vehicle advisory].  This matters because there is no apparently convenient location for trucks to turn around once they are on Carbon Canyon and approaching the designated "point of no return," that is, Old Carbon Canyon Road.

Note, however, that the signs stationed along the westbound side of the highway read "Old Canyon Road."  A truck driver unfamiliar with the canyon could well think that there is no "Old Canyon Road" and continue on through.

Now, for the signs on the westbound side of Carbon Canyon--this one being a hop, skip and a few jumps from the intersection of Carbon Canyon Road and Chino Hills Parkway.  Notice that vehicles over 50 feet in length are "not advised beyond Old Canyon Rd."  The only problem is that there is no "Old Canyon Rd," though there is an "Old Carbon Canyon Road"!
The situation is basically the same for the eastbound portion.  The first sign appears just east of Sleepy Hollow and the second at Valley Springs Road.  A decent turnaround spot for trucks just doesn't exist in that area.

The second issue, however, is simply that the signs are advisory and not compulsory.  Truck drivers are merely warned.  Clearly, that's all that CalTrans feels it can do with a state highway paid for by public taxes collected throughout California and allocated in San Bernardino County where Carbon Canyon Road may still be perceived as an important arterial highway connecting the inland and coastal areas.

As raised here before, though, there are precedents for changing the status of a roadway so that local control can be exercised.  The most obvious nearby example is Hacienda Road through La Habra Heights.

For many years, State Highway 39 extended north from Huntington Beach along Beach Boulevard to La Habra, at which point the route briefly followed Whittier Boulevard east to Hacienda Road and then north through the Puente Hills--along a pathway with many similarities to Carbon Canyon Road, including steep elevations, tight curves and so forth.  Highway 39 then continued north through the eastern San Gabriel Valley and into the San Gabriel Mountains.

Some time back, however, the Highway 39 designation was removed from Whittier Boulevard northward in La Habra Heights and points beyond.  Moreover, portions of the old 39 route through Covina and Azusa have also been deleted from 2005 onward as a designated state highway.  The same is true for a section of Beach Boulevard in Buena Park, in which the city has, as of 2013, assumed control of the roadway.

And, finally, the second of the westbound signs just after Feldspar Drive at the Summit Ranch tract.   Drivers have 850 feet to figure out whether "Old Canyon Rd" means "Old Carbon Canyon Rd."
What this means is that it is possible for the same to be done to Carbon Canyon Road.  As with Route 39, Route 142 could be fully or partially returned to local control in Chino Hills and/or Brea.  Not that these cities are itching to take responsibility for the roadway and all that is entailed in keeping the road in good repair as it moves through areas prone to rock and mudslides, fire and so on.

However, if there is a major shared concern about the impacts of truck traffic along Carbon Canyon Road, it seems obvious that, at this juncture, CalTrans is not disposed towards banning vehicles longer than 50 feet.  If what was done with Route 39 was done with Route 142, it is far more likely that ban, rather than just an advisory, could be implemented.  Again, Brea and Chino Hills are not probably clamoring for control.

One last point:  while it is annoying when the driver of a larger truck does not know how to navigate the S-curve and gets stuck or crosses into the opposing lane to get through a tight curve, there have been very few accidents involving these vehicles.

The much bigger problem is the reckless and dangerous driving of the far greater number of smaller vehicles (cars and motorcycles) which cause the vast majority of the accidents along Carbon Canyon Road.  It seems reasonable to devote more attention to this significant threat to life and property, rather than the lesser one of larger trucks struggling to get through the S-curve.

Anyway, let's see whether the advisory signs have any real effect.

04 December 2014

Yet Another Carbon Canyon Road Closure

It's deja vu all over again, it's deja vu all over again, it's deja vu all over again . . .

Carbon Canyon Road was fully closed again this afternoon, albeit for a lot shorter period than the recent 26 hour debacle, because a car downed power lines once more on the Chino Hills side, this time near Canon Lane.

The mid-afternoon accident, however, appears to have been far less complicated than the accident earlier this week, as a closure alert went out at 2:42 p.m., stating the state highway was closed from Carbon Canyon Regional Park on the Brea side and from Canon Lane on the Chino Hills side.

Seven minutes later, though, a follow-up reported that, only three minutes after the previous alert, SCE was able to secure the site and reestablish power on the line, so the road was open once more.

02 December 2014

A Little English History in Chino Hills

This is not a post about the history of the British in Chino Hills (though that would probably be smashing), but, instead, a sketch of another interesting person associated with this area long before there was a Chino Hills.

One of the city's more picturesque parks is English Springs Park at the southeast corner of Grand Avenue and Chino Hills Parkway, with its pond and rolling hills tucked below the busy suburban activity around it.

A bit to the southeast is one of the few equestrian zones in Chino Hills, with its sole entry point off Peyton Drive being English Road.

In both cases, their namesake is a horse breeder of some renown in the years between 1910 and 1950 named Revel Lindsay English.  He epitomizes what made the Chino/Diamond Bar area a well-known center of horse (and other stock) breeding during the first few decades of the 20th century, the image of which is still maintained in the region.

The listing of the English family, including young Revel, at Kane, Illinois in the 1880 census.  From Ancestry.com.  Click on this or any image to see them in a separate window in an enlarged view.
English hailed from Kane, Illinois, a rural town north of St. Louis, and was born there in February 1877 to Wharton Kane, a farmer and auctioneer, and his second wife, Deborah Lindsay.  Despite his country upbringing, Revel turned out to be a fine musician and baritone singer and worked for a time as a baritone in  the Castle Square Opera Company, based in St. Louis.  In 1898, he was a member of the Illinois Lyric Quartette, which toured the United States.

In the 1900 census, English lived in Jerseyville, a town just south of Kane, and his occupation was listed as "Singer, Opera."  Soon after, he moved to New York to further his career in the competitive world of professional operatics.  However, in early 1904, he migrated west and landed in Pasadena, where he took up the business of teaching vocal music.  He worked for a time with the Fillmore School of Music and lived where the Pasadena Convention Center is now located.

Revel English's listing as "teacher vocal music" in the 1905 Pasadena city directory.  From Ancestry.com
English also became a popular performer at local parties, community functions and other events, singing to piano accompaniment of a young woman named Edith Ames, who Revel married in 1907.  At the same time, he began to become a fixture in Pasadena's equestrian community, which had strong ties to the Crown City's society crowd.  Moreover, in 1909 and 1910, English was a competitor in chariot races that constituted the actual "tournament" in the famed Tournament of Roses festivities that began in the 1890s before gladiators in another sport--that is, football--took the spotlight!

By 1910, English and his wife settled into a residence on Palmetto Street, just east of Orange Grove Avenue, the famed thoroughfare littered with the mansions of wealthy Eastern capitalists and local power brokers, though site of the English house sits in the path of the incomplete 710 Freeway.

Around this time, he also opened the Kentucky Riding Academy, which may have been named for the home state of his paternal grandparents and perhaps where the English family developed its interests in horse breeding, located near Fair Oaks and Del Mar in Pasadena, where there are now industrial and commercial buildings.  He appears to have operated the Academy until about the 1920s.

Meantime, his widowed father followed Revel to California and, by 1908, the two of them invested in some land in Chino (as well as in Victorville), where they created the 560-acre Sierra Vista Stock Farm, which was devoted to raising purebred saddle horses, draft and harness horses, poultry, cattle and hay farming, and a 1,240-acre tract in what is now Chino Hills and where the English Road area is located.  This may have been something they knew from Illinois, but, in any case, Revel devoted himself increasingly to horse breeding and left music as an avocation.

Ad for Revel English's Sierra Vista Stock Farm in Chino from the 1 May 1913 issue of The Breeder and Sportsman.
Sierra Vista was at the southwest corner of Chino Avenue and Pipeline Avenue, where today's Don Lugo High School is situated.  After a few years, however, Wharton English's declining health led him, as a veteran of the Civil War (he was discharged in 1863 because of battle wounds) to be hospitalized at the Soldiers' Home at Sawtelle, at what is now the Veterans Administration compound at West Los Angeles, and where he died in July 1915.

Perhaps because Pasadena was growing rapidly in the 1920s as the southern California real estate market mushroomed or because he simply wanted to devote more time to his operations in Chino, he moved out to the Sierra Vista Stock Farm.  As English developed his horse breeding operation, he became nationally known both for that and for his competition as an amateur in saddle horse events.

On the horse breeding side, he was widely known for the quality and pedigree of many animals, including one named for his wife, Edith Ames, and his horses were highly successful at events and shows throughout the country.  One prize-winning horse, Coquette, was purchased by film star Gloria Swanson in the early 1920s.  In addition, English became a very sought-after judge at equestrian events.  In the late 1910s, he was vice-president of the Pacific Coast Saddle Horse Association.

A San Bernardino Sun article on Revel English's 19 September 1926 triumph at Louisville, when his champion horse, Edna May's King, was the winner at the Kentucky State Fair, marking the first time an amateur owner won the event.
With regards to his participation in events, English, in 1926, took the saddle horse world by storm by becoming the first amateur to win the Watterson division of the Grand Championship stake for the five-gaited saddle-horses at the Kentucky State Fair  at Louisville, in the fabled center of horse breeding based in Kentucky.  This was a feat that was not repeated for over six decades until an amateur captured the prize again in 1988.  The 1926 victory was the second title for Edna May's King in three years, as she won the championship in 1924, as well..

The horse that won that competition, Edna May's King, was bought by English from a Kentucky breeder in 1923 for a then-record $12,000.  In 1930, as the Great Depression began to worsen, he commanded a new record when he sold her to a Beverly Hills businessman for $40,000.  In 1931, English sold, for an undisclosed amount, a string of 14 horses to F. C. Mars of the famed candy firm and announced that he was cutting his inventory of fine horses to just a few while continuing general management of his ranches.

In August 1940, English's Sierra Vista operation took a major turn for the worse when a fire erupted in the laundry room of his home and and burned down the two-story structure, destroying many of English's horse-breeding and competition trophies and honors and causing $10,000 in damage.  This was the third major fire at Sierra Vista in the space of five years.  In 1935, a large hay barn was burned and the following year its replacement was consumed by a conflagration destroying $10,000 worth of hay.

Although he rebuilt, the 63-year old English was never quite as active in the industry after the disaster as he was before.  In fact, in June 1941, English held an auction to sell sixty work horses, a dozen purebred colts, a few other animals, farm implements and tools.  This wasn't the first time he'd had a major auction of materials at the ranch, there was one in June 1927, but it seems clear that the fire's aftermath led English to scale down his activity and "downsized."  It appears that he mainly served as judges at shows and events and disassociated significantly, if not completely, from horse breeding.

Among his community activities was service on the Chino Rural Fire District, for which he was a founding trustee when the district was formed in 1935 and he also served as president of the organization for a time in the early 1940s.

As for his Chino Hills ranch, which terminated with the westerly line of the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino and was, therefore, the eastern neighbor of the Tres Hermanos Ranch owned by Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler; Rancho La Puente scion, oilman and former Los Angeles County Sheriff William R. Rowland; and Olinda oil magnate Thomas B. Scott, English not only raised animals there but also, from about 1910, he leased the land out for prospective oil drilling.

A 3 September 1932 article from The San Bernardino Sun detailed plans to drill an oil well on land leased from Revel English on his 1,240-acre ranch in Chino Hills.  
In 1920, the International Petroleum Company drilled down 950 feet on a portion of the English ranch and it was said that there was some showing of oil about half way down the well, though the effort proved to be fruitless.

In 1932, a second well was drilled by the Great American Petroleum Company, subleasing from Si Rubens, who held the lease from English.  Rubens had acquired some 2,000 acres, including smaller leases from two owners adjacent to English and had permits from the state of California to drill three wells in a concentrated area.  Notably, this was a spot that had been the location of the first oil drilling effort in the Chino Hills, undertaken by a man named MacRae in the early 1890s--that attempt was curtailed because of excess water that filled the well and doomed the project.

Meantime, a portion of the Chino Hills ranch was dedicated to breeding horses and grazing stock, this being the area off today's English Road (known for years as English Ranch Road, which intersected with what was called Peyton Ranch Road.)

A San Bernardino Sun article from 13 April 1941 covering the sale of Revel English's Chino Hills ranch, comprising 1,240 acres, to Pasadena capitalist James N. Clapp and his wife.
In April 1941, however, English decided to sell his Chino Hills spread and found a buyer in Pasadena capitalist James N. Clapp and his wife.  While English continued to manage his reduced operation at Sierra Vista, the Clapps began an extensive renovation of the Chino Hills property.  They had only been owners of the property for a few years, however, when Clapp was killed while working with a tractor on the ranch.  His wife quickly sold the property, which was subdivided.  Among the later owners of a portion of the English Ranch were the Paynes, for whom the upscale Payne Ranch housing subdivision and adjacent shopping center are named--more on them later.

One other historical tidbit--in 1976, the San Bernardino County supervisors approved, after a long period of planning and deliberation, the extension of Grand Avenue from Diamond Bar eastward into the county.  Several routes were proposed, including two that would link Grand to Schaefer Avenue in Chino.  Another, however, was to extend Grand southeastward and connect it with English Road.  This latter route, however, was deemed to be too prejudicial to existing landowners, including the Payne family, and the current, more northerly route was selected.

Revel L. English, second from left, with other judges at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show in a newspaper photo from 1948.
Meanwhile, within several years after the 1940 fire and subsequent auction, English relocated to San Marino and then Tujunga, between Pasadena and San Fernando, where he lived the last decade or so of his life, dying there in June 1953, at the age of 76.