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.


FancyFree said...

We were up there this morning. Do they have a permit to clear cut everything? In the back, out of sight of the road they are stripping the hills of everything. Dozens of Oaks have been pushed into piles, every living thing has been scraped off the hills and down to the bottom. Do they have a permit to remove THAT many oaks without having to box them to replant? Something just doesn't seem right here. Who do we contact to see if the city has indeed given their blessing to destroy every tree and shrub from top to bottom of the hills?

prs said...

Hello FancyFree, contact JoAnn Lombardo, Director of Community Development. E-mail to: communitydevelopment@chinohills.org or call (909) 364-2740.

FancyFree said...

Thanks PRS, I just sent a email to Joann and will see if she responds.

If they keep going the way they are, there are at least another 50 more Oaks that are within the survey markers that will meet the same fate.

I also asked her if the property has the building permits as with all those hills completely clear cut, what is going to happen if the property sits vacant for a year or more and it rains causing tons of mud to flow to the creek and clog it up? Then the state will get involved.

Its very sad.

prs said...

Hi FancyFree, it'll be interesting to see if you get a response and, if so, what it'll be. Please let us know what is said, if anything. Thanks.

FancyFree said...

No one has called me back and every time I call all I get is to leave a message.

Perhaps a few of us should go down there?

prs said...

Hello FancyFree, sorry, but not surprised, to hear messages are not being returned. Going down to City Hall will likely get as far as an administrative assistant or other staffer, rather than Ms. Lombardo, which isn't to say it shouldn't be tried. Perhaps try and leave an e-mail with a council member, which can be done via the Web site. Another option, maybe, is to go to the next council meeting, though the next one isn't until next Tuesday.

FancyFree said...

By the time that can happen, its done. My neighbor was just up there and they are working as fast as they can to finish the destruction. Although I have not seen it as yet, he told me that they have cleared both sides of the ski slope.

I will check it out this weekend but I believe there is no hope for this property.

prs said...

Hello FancyFree, they are proceeding quickly and the ski slope is gone, as are, probably, the remains of the Camp Kinder Ring structures, which were not deemed of enough interest to even do a cultural resources study, apparently. Another visit to record for this blog what has happened will take place this weekend, as well.

FancyFree said...

We were up there yesterday... Ski slope is gone, all the foundations are either gone or in piles. We went looking for the pillar with the handprint. Although we found the matching pillar, the one with the handprint is either completely destroyed, at the bottom of the pile or someone got it. I hope it was rescued.

prs said...

Hi FancyFree, it's sad to see the damage done up there and an interesting part of the canyon's history lost, as well as the oaks and other landscape. Coming soon to the city planning commission is the Hidden Oaks project across Carbon Canyon Road from Canyon Hills and that would be the opportunity to express concern about the further destruction of the canyon.

louie said...

So sad I have been seeing it torn down from my living room.

prs said...

Hello Louie, thanks for the comment and it is said to see another portion of our undeveloped canyon getting (de)graded. Hopefully, those concerned about Hidden Oaks, across Carbon Canyon Road, will be ready to express their views when that project comes before the Planning Commission later this year.

Anonymous said...

Standing in my back yard in Sleepy Hollow watching (and listening) to the tractors destroy the hill top. The huge dirt movers came through today on trucks. It gives me a heavy heart.

prs said...

Hello anonymous, it is a shock seeing, from several areas of Sleepy Hollow and nearby areas, the (de)grading of the Canyon Hills site. This, however, has been many years in the making. Now, Madrona has been approved just a short distance west in the Brea side of the canyon, though a lawsuit challenging that decision is pending. Finally, what is coming up across Carbon Canyon Road at Hidden Oaks is another story. Anyone concerned about what is happening at Canyon Hills ought to be just as worried about Hidden Oaks, when this project is being debated at the planning commission and then city council. Thanks for your comment.