30 December 2015

Another Short Jaunt Through Chino Hills State Park

From the Lilac Trail in the northwest corner of Chino Hills State Park behind Olinda Village in Brea looking across Sonome Canyon.  The water tank at the left was where the main stop was made on the trek.
Yesterday's trek through the heart of Chino Hills State Park was such a great experience that it felt like it was time for an encore.  So, this morning a similar distance was hiked and it took about the same time--in this instance, the walk went through the little-utilized section of the park on the north side of Carbon Canyon above the Olinda Village community in Brea.

A nice little view of part of Sonome Canyon as framed by a couple of native oaks along the La Vida Trail.
Starting at about 11:30, the excursion used the Lilac Trail and headed up a pretty good incline along a wide road, until about a mile up or so.  This blogger has hiked that trail up to some transmission towers at the northwest corner of the state park property, behind the Olinda Alpha Landfill, a few times, but this time a right turn was made onto the La Vida Trail.

This route heads eastward and descends down into Sonome Canyon, which is at to the north behind Olinda Village.  The descent is generally nice and gradual and wends down to the canyon bottom where there are what appear to be two branches of the canyon--one northwest and the other northeast.

The northwest branch of Sonome Canyon from the La Vida Trail.
Creeks or washes come from both drainages and it can only be imagined, given the parched conditions of the last four years, what extensive rainfall, such as that expected in the next few months, will bring to these secluded and pretty areas.

In the northwest branch, the trail crosses where the creek drops down and there is a spot there where  drop of several feet must provide for a nice little waterfall when there is actually a flow there.

The La Vida Trail is at the left as it descends down into Sonome Canyon with its main branch dead ahead.
Over in the northeast or main canyon, just before the trail turns to head up the east slope, a little side path led about fifteen feet off the trail to the dry creek, but with shade from trees, this could be a great little spot to rest and enjoy the quiet, solitude, and, if available, the water flow in the creek.

Perhaps a visit in the spring is in order to see what these locales are like after the rains we expect to have--provided that there aren't trail washouts, that is!

Having ascended the eastern slope of Sonome Canyon, this is looking back at the main branch.
The climb up the eastern slope of Sonome Canyon was a decent one and comes out to the paved road that leads to the dual water tanks and the cell tower that serve the Olinda Village area.

A little walk around the tanks and tower and a short descent to the southeast provided a very nice spot to rest in the shade of an oak tree and enjoy the panoramic views and the general quiet (although traffic from Carbon Canyon Road to the south could be heard.)

From the water tanks and cell tower, this image looks over where the Madrona project entrance was slated to be next to the former Manely Friends stable along Carbon Canyon Road.  Two ridgelines back is the main portion of Chino Hills State Park.
The descent back towards the village included a side trail that skirted the winding paved road.  Shortly after rejoining the road, though, there was a broad flat bench with a narrow trail leading out towards a sort of promontory.

A road drops down from this point along the shadowed area at the right of center to the historic La Vida Mineral Springs property.  Carbon Canyon is at the center and the north ridge of the main section of the state park in the distance.
From that area there were excellent views of Olinda Village to the west, but especially striking ones of Carbon Canyon to the east, especially the narrowing of the steep canyon walls on the Brea side and then the fanning out of the back of the canyon over on the Chino Hills side.

This was a nice way to finish out a short, but rewarding, hike through a seldom-visited area.  After heading through the well-manicured village neighborhood, the walk concluded with another great experience and a reminder of why living in Carbon Canyon has so many benefits.

From a flat bench or promontory above Olinda Village was this excellent view of Carbon Canyon as the narrow defiles in the Brea portion open to the fanned-out back of the canyon in Chino Hills.
Seeing the graded top of the Canyon Hills housing tract and looking at what could have been the massive Madrona project and the pending Hidden Oaks development is another kind of reminder, though.  As flatter lands below are taken by development, the fight for hillsides and hilltops will only intensify, despite the traffic issues, fire risks, water supply questions, habitat loss and other issues.

Those of us who walk these hills need to be more appreciative of what we have and what can be lost if our local governments approve more housing in the canyon.

29 December 2015

A Short Jaunt Through Chino Hills State Park

Along the South Ridge Trail, this view takes in the overlap of gently rolling hills of a section of Chino Hills State Park, looking towards the Santa Ana Mountains in the Cleveland National Forest.
Today was a great day to get out on a hike through our local crown jewel of the outdoors: Chino Hills State Park.  The weather was cool, but the sun was out in a cloudless sky, and there was hardly a soul to be seen in the few hours out on the trails-only one biker was encountered from 11:30 to 2.

After the 3-mile drive in via the new Bane Canyon Road entrance, the walk started at the Rolling M Ranch, the headquarters during the years when much of the northeastern portion of the park was privately owned--first as part of Rancho Santa Ana del Chino, then by the Chino Land and Water Company, then from 1921 by the Pellissier family of Whittier and, finally, from 1948 by Christopher Hendra's Mollin Investment Company until 1720 acres were sold for the park.

Along the lower portions of the South Ridge Trail, what appears to be a discarded metal water tank from the private ranching years sits among the slopes with Mount Baldy, Ontario Peak and Cucamonga Peak rising from the San Gabriel Mountains in the distance.
Two main trails head west from the ranch site and the walk started with the South Ridge Trail, which eventually, as its name cleverly indicates, follows the southern boundary of the park over on the Yorba Linda side.  The hike took in the first 2.5 miles of the trail, which include some lung-bursting and quad-burning climbs up steep sections, but there is a payoff.

Towards the top (there is more climbing to the highest elevations on the trail) there are a pair of Edison transmission towers where excellent views can be had, mainly of the areas looking out toward Ontario, San Bernardino, Norco, Corona, Riverside, the Santa Ana Mountains, and, on clear days (and today was pretty good), beyond to the Big Bear/Lake Arrowhead area, Mount San Gorgonio, and Mount San Jacinto.  Discerning eyes can even, on occasion, pick out Mount Palomar, way off in San Diego County.

On a level area near two Edison transmission towers after a steep ascent on the South Ridge Trail are panoramic views like this from Ontario at the far left to Temescal Canyon at the far right.  At the center in the distance is San Gorgonio Pass flanked by Mount San Gorgonio at its left and Mount San Jacinto on its right. Note, too, how the gently rolling hills in the foreground contrast with the steeper, wrinkled hills at the eastern edge of the park along the 71 Freeway/Expressway.
Today's trek was limited by time, so the walk headed back down the steep trail to take a side trail that meets up with the Telegraph Canyon Trail, the other of the two main trails noted before.  Telegraph Canyon is, by far, the longest of the trails in the park, spanning a good 9 miles one way.  A few miles in is Four Corners, a meeting point of several trails, which, these days, boasts a covered picnic table and a porta-pottie--in the 90s when this blogger did a lot of trekking through the park, there was just an exposed table.

Time did not permit heading out to Four Corners, though, so the final 2 miles of the walk consisted of heading back, mainly downslope, on the Telegraph Canyon trail back to the ranch.  On the way, though, was passed the trailhead for what was once the most beautiful part of the park--the Hills for Everyone Trail.

Just right of center is the fairly-new state park campground and the equestrian area just to the right.  In the background is south Chino, Eastvale and Norco, Riverside and out to Mount San Gorgonio in the distance.
From the mid-90s and into the early 2000s, this blogger enjoyed several walks along this gorgeous route, which wound through a heavily wooded (oaks, sycamores and black walnuts) area with a creek that had water a good part of the year.  After 10-12 mile hikes via the steep climbs on the South Ridge or the Raptor Ridge Trail leading to the North Ridge and then a return by Telegraph Canyon, a great way to finish the day was to stroll through the cool shade and pause to dip a toe in the creek along the Hills for Everyone route.

Unfortunately, the trail was not maintained when the state went through the worst of its economic crises and the park barely had any staffing or services and erosion and other problems caused the closure of the route.  Someday, perhaps, the work will be done to bring the Hills for Everyone back to life, because it was the highlight of a visit and it is sad to see it in its decrepit state.

The views west aren't quite as panoramic and steeper hills to the southwest are there, as well, but here is a nice look out on the Telegraph Canyon Trail to Four Corners, about dead center, and the hills along the North Ridge Trail looking out towards Brea.
After about 2.5 hours and 5 miles, the walk concluded.  It would have been better if twice the time and distance could have been invested and covered, but that will have to be for another day.

23 December 2015

A Sleepy Hollow Holiday Wish

Best wishes for the Christmas holiday and here's to a great 2016!

18 December 2015

The Sage of Sleepy Hollow: James McGregor Beatty

A half-century before the St. Joseph's Hill of Hope religious organization established its campus in Carbon Canyon, adjacent to Sleepy Hollow, the canyon welcomed what was almost certainly its first alternative religious figure:  James McGregor Beatty, known locally as the "Sage of Sleepy Hollow."

Beatty was one of the community's first residents, moving to what he called "Oak Lodge" in 1924, within a year of the creation of the neighborhood by Cleve Purington and his associates.  He was known to locals as a former vaudeville performer, songwriter, and author, though his accomplishments may have been slightly inflated by Beatty himself.

He was born near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in November 1881 as the only surviving child of Pennsylvania native Sherrard Beatty, who appears to have died young of the effects of yellow fever contracted while working on barges in the Gulf of Mexico, and British-born Elizabeth McGregor.

Sometime after 1900, Beatty and his mother migrated west and settled in Los Angeles, where the young man took up employment as a "card writer" or a "show-card writer," an occupation he had for about fifteen years.  An off-shoot of commercial writing, the show-card writer utilized concise writing and artistic technique in decorating cards that were placed in department store window displays.  Beatty worked for a time at the 5th Street department store in downtown Los Angeles, though later he utilized his skills for the American Photo-Slide Company, which manufactured magic lantern or glass slides that were used in early versions of slide projectors.  In 1918, he married Clara Victoria Henry in Los Angeles, but the marriage seems to have been short-lived.  Although he is listed as married in the 1920 census, the only other resident of his household was his mother.  The next census merely listed Beatty as single.

On the side, though, Beatty had bigger aspirations of two types.  The first was entertainment.  After all, Los Angeles and its environs, from about 1910 onward, became the motion picture capital of the world, but there were also live forms of entertainment that were highly popular, including vaudeville.

Beatty and his partner Joe F. Haberstock performed as "The Happy Hikers" and were described as "walking songwriters," whatever that meant.  In 1914, Beatty copyrighted two songs he composed for the act, including "Gee, But I Like to Hike" and "I Want a Ride on the Ocean of Love," both of which seemed to have looked to capitalize on two current crazes:  hiking and cruise ships.

In 1919, Beatty and Haberstock took their "Happy Hikers" act on the road, but not in the usual sense.  They decided to walk the 500-mile trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco, performing their routine along the way.  There isn't any known record of how successful their tour was, but a bee-keeping journal did publish a photo they took of a bee swarm outside of a San Jose theater, at which the duo was performing.  Funny what you can find in the way of obscurities on the Internet!

The other ambition, however, was philosophical.  By the late 1910s, Beatty, who was raised in the Methodist Episcopal Church, met an English-born spiritualist and psychic named George Francis, who had come to Los Angeles and worked as a department store detective, perhaps at one of the retail outlets where Beatty did his card writing.

A portrait of James McGregor Beatty, the "Sage of Sleepy Hollow," from his obituary in the Chino Champion, 4 August 1939.
Francis reinvented himself as the "Rev. George Francis" of the "Spiritualist Church of Truth" or "Francis Church of Truth," which had a space on the eighth flood of the Hamburger Building (Hamburger's was a major department store in those days and it may be that the two men were working there at some point) at 8th Street and Broadway.

Los Angeles was filled with all manner of alternative religions, spiritual organizations, cults and what have you during these early years of the 20th century.  This was so well-known so that, given the region's fame as an agricultural empire featuring oranges, lemons and walnuts, among other crops, the area became known as the "land of fruit and nuts," the latter referring, of course, to the wide range of religious entities that existed at the time.

For example, there were such organizations as the "Spiritualist Church of Revelation;" "Church of Ancient Mystery;" "Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society;" "Rosicrucian Church;" "Home of Truth;" "Universal New Thought Studio;" and the "Kingdom of Light New-Era Church," among many others.  It was also the era of some very popular preachers (and, in many cases, con artists), including Aimee Semple McPherson, "Fighting" Bob Shuler, and many more.

A devotee of the church, Beatty penned two books that attempted to provide legitimacy for spiritualism.  In 1919, he self-published Illustrious Madmen of the Ages about well-known persons who possessed spiritual and psychic powers.  Two years later, the Torch Press of New York issued the highly-alliterative Pesky Problems for Positive Preachers, which can actually be purchased in new digital editions.

This work sought to prove that "there is no death," in that the spirits of people live on and can be commnunicated with.  Beatty published letters sent and, in a few cases, even answered to and by pastors of mainstream churches concerning the legitimacy of spiritualism.   He peppered the text with references to ancient pagan religions, Buddhism, Christian scripture and the work of spiritualists and other alternate points of view.

The last chapter, Beatty claimed, was a late addition to the already completed work when he was at a "circle," a Tuesday night gathering conducted by George Francis, and "a message came through automatic writing . . . during two sittings, and is printed exactly as it was given, from spirit realms, word for word."

Notably, in his brief dedication, he claimed his father was a "positive preacher" and thanked his mother for being "my helper and co-worker in the cause of Truth."  Beatty also wrote that, years before, he had been in a "Psychical Research Society," though whether this was in Los Angeles or his native Pennsylvania was not stated.

Finally, Beatty penned a few poems touching upon his devotion to spiritualism, including this briefer example"

Give us Love and give us Laughter,
and a hand-clasp firm and true.
Give us Help and lend us Courage,
For the task 'tis ours to do.
Give us Facts instead of Fancy,
Show us Truth instead of Creed,
Give us Love and Light and Kindness;
SERVICE, is the world's great need.

In 1923, he published a long-form poem called 'Tis Dawn which he stated was also through "directed writing" and which was presented to famed magician Harry Houdini, an avowed anti-spiritualist.  A decade later, he copyrighted a musical version of the poem.  In 1928, while he was living in Sleepy Hollow, Beatty issued, through a printer in nearby Placentia his Stepping Stones, and Other Thoughts in Verse and Prose.

Beatty and his mother, who had been renting rooms in downtown Los Angeles since they arrived in the area, purchased their Sleepy Hollow property and built their home by 1924, because, it was said, "invalidism" caused by rheumatism in his legs led to his retirement "from the stage," or, at least, from card writing.

Beatty's way with words led him to be appointed secretary of the Sleepy Hollow Water and Improvement Company, which developed the subdivision, and then San Bernardino County Waterworks  District, No. 8, embracing Sleepy Hollow.

The Chino Champion of 21 August 1931 published this article about plans to broadcast songs of James M. Beatty on Los Angeles' KFWB radio station.
In 1931, the Chino Champion reported that Los Angeles radio station KFWB, then run by the Warner Brothers film studio, was planning to broadcast songs written by Beatty, some of which evidently were unpublished along with others that were.  Interestingly, the article stated that Beatty not only came from a family of musicians and "at an early age improvised music on an organ," but that he "toured the world" as part of his vaudeville career.

Also of note was that his residence "Oak Lodge" was described as being "beside the main highway through the canyon just a short distance north of Tidwell Oaks store."  The Tidwell store and home still stand and are part of the apartment complex at the east end of Sleepy Hollow, south of Carbon Canyon Road.  It may be that Beatty's home was across the highway closer to Canyon Hills Road, where the rusted remains of an incinerator stand below the new Hillcrest development.

In late July 1939, at the age of fifty-seven, Beatty died from complications of bronchial pneumonia at the San Bernardino County Hospital and was buried in Fullerton.

03 December 2015

Carbon Canyon Historic Artifact #48: Groovy La Vida Dressing Room, 1960s

Here is another Amescolor postcard of La Vida Mineral Springs during the Swinging Sixties, showing the dressing room used before and after guests took to the hot mineral baths.

For its time, the resort was definitely modern and up-to-date.  Note the acoustic ceiling tiles, flourescent lighting fixtures, formica counters, plastic chairs and so on.  While some might cringe at the decor, there are plenty of fans that love this era and its space-age styles.

Walking through part of this site now, it is really hard to imagine the facility being there with its motel, cafe, bath house, swimming pools, landscaping and other elements.

It is pretty difficult to picture a comeback, despite statements that the Japanese owner of the property has contemplated investing $35 million in a new mineral springs resort.

27 November 2015

A Ramble in the Hills Above Carbon Canyon: Black Friday Edition

One the many trails and access roads along the route of today's trek--this one close to Olinda Village.
While eager shoppers swarmed stores this morning, this blogger and a longtime Carbon Canyon resident swarmed the hills above Carbon Canyon enjoying the gorgeous weather, staggering views, and natural beauty found in this remarkable, but threatened, oasis amid the urban sprawl.

A glance towards Orange County, where shoppers were thronging malls and stores in search of great bargains.  Others, meantime, were in search of the exact opposite.
The three-plus hour walk was in the regions north of the canyon from Brea to Chino Hills and included a concluding climb up to see the hot springs that, for decades, fed the historic La Vida Mineral Springs resort.

Looking northeast towards the San Gabriel Mountains and the triple peaks of San Antonio (Baldy), Ontario and Cucamonga on a gorgeous, clear day.
Beginning from Olinda Village at about 9:15, the scramble ascended the top of the hills at the northeast of that community and past the water tanks that service that area.

A beautiful and quite old oak spreading its limbs for ample shade along the route.
Portions of the hike took in areas that have been slated for the Madrona development, 162 houses proposed on 367 acres, but which have been granted a reprieve, thanks to a recent Orange County Superior Court ruling that overturned the City of Brea's approval of the project.

This action shot captured a doe scampering across a road in the Firestone Boy Scouts Reservation.
More than likely, the property owner, the State of Idaho, as conservator of the failed Old Standard Life Insurance Company, a Spokane, Washington firm that took possession of the land after a 2009 bankruptcy involving the Shopoff Group, will appeal the case to the state appellate court.

The aforementioned deer and her friend heading up the slope for foraging away from strange, prying eyes.
Heading north and east from there, the walk skirted the western edge of the St. Joseph's Hill of Hope property, which is well-fenced and signed, and then descended down into a portion of the Firestone Boy Scouts Reservation at the lower end of Tonner Canyon.

One of many excellent views of Tres Hermanos Ranch in Tonner Canyon, which has been the site of much speculation regarding its future.
A brief bypass through a couple of campgrounds, including a shooting range, also led to the easement and access road for the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project (TRTP).

A view south towards the widespread hinterlands of Lion's Canyon.
Segments of this project lead eastward from Diamond Bar through Chino Hills to points east.  The 200-foot towers that span the hills then terminate to the portal leading the route underground just beyond Oak Tree Downs near Eucalyptus Avenue.

 A remarkable natural feature found on the jaunt was this oak tree growing out of an outcropping of sandstone along a ridge.
This portion of the project was the subject of great controversy and a stunning reversal by the California Public Utilities Commission, which ordered the 500 KV lines placed below ground--the first such system attempted in the United States.

It's hard to comprehend the massiveness of these 200-foot tall towers installed for the TRTP project unless you have a view like this.
The route then proceeded down into Oak Tree Downs and from there included the additional scramble up to the source of La Vida's hot springs.

Eyed by this blogger's fellow traveler, this monkey flower doesn't normally (whatever that means these days) bloom until the Spring. 
At this location, not far from Carbon Canyon Road, a chain-link enclosure with razor wire on it was constructed fairly recently around the well and pipe that still emits a decent flow of hot water from the springs--though the door is open to the enclosure.

Here are the last two above-ground 200' TRTP towers before the segment moves to an underground route at a 12-acre transfer station being carved into a hill near the western end of Eucalyptus Avenue in Chino Hills.
A few feet away, another pipe emerges from the ground and a smaller, cooler flow emanates from there.  The water then descends the steep gully down to where the remains of the old La Vida tanks sit at the base of the hill.

Another example of an early flowering plant, this California Fuchsia would, like the Monkey Flower shown above, not usally be in flower at this time of the year.
It is certainly strange to see water emerging from the springs and then flow down hill.  On the ascent and descent, the gurgling of water through the narrow defile is especially odd, given the horrific drought our region has experienced for several years.

A beautification project underway at the historic La Vida Mineral Springs property in Brea, where a highly-invasive stand of tamarisk plants provides useful cover for the illegal dumping of trash.
Unfortunately, trash and debris are piled near the pipes at the springs, indications of what may have been a homeless encampment or perhaps some "farming" activity.  At the bottom, near the path that leads from the state highway to the tanks, people have taken advantange of the easy access to dump all kinds of trash near a stand of highly-invasive tamarisk plants.

The source of the hot mineral water that fed, from the 1910s to the 1980s, the La Vida Mineral Springs resort.
The property owner, who lives in Japan and has local representatives, is either unaware of or is uninterested in what has been going on, though it has been stated to this blogger that a local Japanese-language newspaper article back in the Spring reported that the owner has talked of spending $35 million to reestablish a hot springs resort at the site.

Another pipe emitting mineral water as it flows into a narrow channel heading down a steep defile towards the La Vida property.  Unfortunately, trash has piled up in this area, as well.
About 12:30, the day's adventure ended with tremendous regret that the time wasn't better spent at the mall instead of in the outdoors enjoying the fabulous weather, million-dollar views, the spotting of a couple of deer, and the enjoyment of solitude and the canyon's natural beauty.

Despite the crumbling portion at the foreground right, this historic tank structure, dating to the 1920s, is still perched on the hill at the western end of the La Vida Mineral Springs property.
Hikes like this are a true cause for thanksgiving.

25 November 2015

Stonefield Site for Sale

It's so new as a listing that it hasn't even appeared on the Web site of the broker, but the 28-unit Stonefield property, approved for development by the City of Chino Hills in 2009, is up for sale.

The 35-acre site is north and west of Carbon Canyon Road and east of Fairway Drive, across the street from Western Hills Country Club and Carriage Hills.

The sign appears to have just gone up today and the Irvine office of Land Advisers Organization, which is a multi-state brokerage, is handling the sale.

For those who might want to check later for a listing, click here for the Web site.

23 November 2015

On the Skids in Carbon Canyon #18274

This guardrail on the westbound side of Carbon Canyon Road along the historic La Vida Mineral Springs property has been damaged or destroyed several times in recent years.

And, so it has been again.  This latest incident appears to have taken place over the weekend.  It is a wild guess that it happened late in the evening and involved excessive speed on the curve just to the east.  The length of the skid indicates that the driver was moving along at a brisk clip and then did a little more than clip the rail.

14 November 2015

Chino Hills State Park Replanting Project

This morning, Chino Hills State Park and the Chino Hills State Park Interpretive Association sponsored a replanting project at the Rolling M Ranch headquarters.

A cadre of about fifteen volunteers, as well as park rangers, worked on installing a few dozen native plants, pulled weeds, pruned bushes, and prepared areas adjacent to walkways for seeds of flowering plants.

The group worked hard for a good three hours or so, sharing responsibilities and working in an organized, coordinated way to get the work done efficiently.

This volunteer project was a great way for local residents from Chino, West Covina, Chino Hills, Yorba Linda and Placentia to help improve this jewel of a park and give something to their community.

After the project was completed, boxed lunches were provided and hungry workers ate under the shade of large pepper trees next to the ranch barn.

All in all, it was a nice way to spend a Saturday morning, so thanks to officers of CHSPIA and the state park's rangers for organizing the project.

09 November 2015

Hillcrest Homes in Carbon Canyon Coming in Spring 2016

Here it is--the first public announcement that the 76-unit Hillcrest (formerly Canyon Hills) development is coming (well, debuting does sound more high-class) next Spring.

Woodbridge Pacific also has the development's Web site up with preliminary information for houses ranging from about 3,500 to 5,000 square feet.  Though prices are denoted as "TBA" on the site, the sign obviously indicates that prices start from somewhere north of $1 million.

For that, buyers get the feeling of safety, security and, most important, status, of living in a gated community "in an exclusive, coveted location."

They also get to reside in a devlopment "situated amidst rolling hills and mature canyon oaks," although the property itself has been graded, cut, and filled from rolling hills and a large number of "mature canyon oaks" were bulldozed so that buyers can see those that still remain.

There are also "stunning panoramic views of the mountains and canyons," the better to see the next wildfire coming the way of residents living on wind-swept hilltops and hillsides where fire moves most quickly, though the growing lines of cars navigating Carbon Canyon Road during longer commutes won't be as visible for most residents, from what the site plan shows.

There certainly won't be disclosures in the glossy literature, expense advertising and other media on Hillcrest concerning the extreme fire hazard that exists in the canyon year round, nor about the increasing traffic during longer commute times, or other significant issues of concern.

By the way, it sure was nice of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors to issue a negative declaration (click here for more) on this project some 30 years ago that claimed that any project on this blighted site, formerly home to part of a Jewish camp, the Ski Villa project and other uses, would have no significant effect on the environment.

Because we all know that the environment in the canyon and outside it has not changed one iota since the 1980s.  Everything is exactly the same.

Ironically, an Orange County judge ruled just last week that the Madrona project, also first proposed in the 1980s, does, after all, have to follow existing City of Brea ordinances, which, in fact, have acknowledged that our environment in Carbon Canyon and more broadly has changed.

To view the Web site, click here.

07 November 2015

On the Skids in Carbon Canyon #18123

Having a front-row "seat" along Carbon Canyon Speedway can be an interesting experience, for sure.  Such as with what happened about ten minutes ago, at 2:45 a.m.

The familiar roar of an engine, the screeching and skidding of tires, and the dull thud of metal and fiberglass hitting dirt or whatever . . . it has a habit of strirring someone from their deep slumber.

In this morning's example, it was a (surprise) young man heading eastbound and taking one of our Sleepy Hollow curves with too much speed, while being followed by another dude of tender years.

His vehicle came to a stop right below my fence, while his friend (sorry, just took a call from sheriff's dispatch asking for more information, because the deputy just arrived) pulled up and stopped.

Unintentional artistic photography?  A quick shot of the two vehicles involved in this morning's little roadside (mis)adventure on Carbon Canyon Road, just below my house in Sleepy Hollow, driving away from the scene.  This came out as bad documentary photography, which is all too typical, but does have a cool effect to it.  Getting aroused from a sound slumber wasn't a total loss, maybe?
While I was making my call to sheriff's dispatch, the two cars were stopped, but, as I headed downstairs to see what was going on, the vehicles, including a dark sedan and a yellow Miata convertible, had done a U-turn and were stopped on the road facing westbound towards Orange County, from which they had presumably come for a little late-night weekend frolic through our canyon.

Just after I had hung up from making the report, the driver was, with a small flashlight, walking by the side of the road, where he had skidded off and come to his initial stop, looking around, probably for any stray pieces of his vehicle, while his friend stood by his sedan.  They chatted a bit and then climbed in their cars and headed off towards Brea.

Incidentally, someone might be able to verify that there was another recent incident westbound on the downslope from Olinda toward the regional park.  Stains from car fluids on the road and some dirt from the hillside splayed onto the shoulder and roadway look to be new within the last few days.

Just another early-morning traffic incident on Carbon Canyon Road and just another incident of interrupted sleep.

03 November 2015

A Thunderous Decision: Madrona Is Struck Down!

It seems entirely appropriate that, as these words are being typed, dark clouds are descending on Carbon Canyon, a refreshing rain is falling, and lightning and thunder have been seen and heard in the area.

Is this a sign from above?  Or, is it just a sign from Santa Ana?  Either way, a lot of people are thunderstruck over what has been a lightning rod of controversy for decades.

This morning, Orange County Superior Court Judge Robert J. Moss issued a ruling in the lawsuit of Hills for Everyone vs. City of Brea over the latter's approval last year for the 162-unit Madrona project on the north side of Carbon Canyon between Olinda Village and the county line in the Brea portion of the canyon.

The order from the bench just after 9:30 this morning is clear, concise and utterly damning of the way that the City of Brea ignored its own ordinances to get approval for this project, which was first proposed a-way back in the 1980s.

Here are the highlights in Judge Moss' findings:
  • Brea's Hillside Management Ordinance is applicable to the project "and therefore precludes project approval"
  • Madrona is not consistent with the city's own general plan and the Carbon Canyon Specific Plan "as admitted by the City"
  • The project does not comply with woodland preservation policies "as admitted by the City"
  • Madrona is not exempt from review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) under a specific section, 65457, which is excerpted here:
Any residential development project, including any subdivision, or any zoning change that is undertaken to implement and is consistent with a specific plan for which an environmental impact report has been certified after January 1, 1980, is exempt from the requirements of Division 13 (commencing with Section 21000) of the Public Resources Code. 

However, if after adoption of the specific plan, an event as specified in Section 21166 of the Public Resources Code occurs, the exemption provided by this subdivision does not apply unless and until a supplemental environmental impact report for the specific plan is prepared and certified in accordance with the provisions of Division 13 (commencing with Section 21000) of the Public Resources Code. After a supplemental environmental impact report is certified, the exemption specified in this subdivision applies to projects undertaken pursuant to the specific plan.

An action or proceeding alleging that a public agency has approved a project pursuant to a specific plan without having previously certified a supplemental environmental impact report for the specific plan, where required by subdivision (a), shall be commenced within 30 days of the public agency's decision to carry out or approve the project.

  • That the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) "is otherwise inadequate, as it fails to analyze the consistency with the specific plan's" guidelines on grading, climate change impacts, and impacts on recreation.
  • Otherwise, the judge did rule that "the petition is denied on all other issues raised."
For those who got the point and don't feel inclined to read details on the ruling, they can stop here and celebrate (or, if there are any of you out there, mourn) the ruling of Judge Moss.  

Otherwise, feel free to read on.

It was a dark day for the City of Brea and the State of Idaho and a bright, shining moment for Hills for Everyone and its partners as Judge Robert J. Moss issued a writ of mandate this morning concerning the Madrona project proposed for the Brea portion of Carbon Canyon.  The photo was taken this afternoon a little before 4 p.m.
In further explaining, his ruling, Judge Moss offerred some highly pointed criticism of the city.  For example he states that, relating to the applicability of the Hillside Management Ordinance, he noted that "the statute could not be any clearer, so the issue is not one of ambiguity."  Moreover, he continued, "the City's shifting approach with respect to the ordinance does not allow this court the option to defer to the City on the issue."

Going on, the judge added that "the City's historical position has been anything but clear and consistent" and went on that "the City actually took the exact opposite position, from that which it is taking now, in 2001 and 2004."

Notably, there was an argument made that inconsistencies between this ordinance and the city's specific plan invalidated the HMO and there could have been plausbility, the judge observed, "had the City made that finding," but it did not do so.

Conversely, as to the petitioner's claim that the HMO is consistent with the specific plan, the court agreed, noting, "the ordinance advances several of the goals of the specific plan and does not obstruct the obtainment of those goals."

Critically, Judge Moss stated that
The developer can comply with both [the Hillside Management Ordinance and the specific plan] without violating either.
He concluded that
This brings us to the end result that as the ordinance applies to the project, the project is barred, and neither the City nor the real party in interest has argued otherwise.  The petition must be granted for this reason alone.   
As admitted by the City, Madrona is inconsistent with the Brea General Plan and the Carbon Canyon Specific Plan, further reason for the Petition to be granted.   
Moss did rule that the petitioner's claim that the project was anathema to the open space policy of the specific plan was not valid and he did side with the city on the issue.

Concerning the applicabililty to CEQA under the aforementioned section, 65457, of the government code, the judge stated that the project is not exempt because of Brea's admission that the project did not comply with the city's general plan and the Carbon Canyon Specific Plan "and the exemption cannot apply when such inconsistencies exist."

On grading standard inconsistency, Judge Moss wrote that, of the three documents submitted for Madrona, "two of the documents do not analyze the current project, but a former project, and the third . . . [is a] self-serving analysis submitted after the approval of the final EIR, and therefore not within the EIR itself.  That is insufficient."

With respect to climate change impacts, the court ruled that the city's use of South Coast Air Quality Management District thresholds for emissions "has not been consistent and no substantial evidence shows otherwise."  In addition, there was nothing offered "which supports applying different standards to each individual project."

Judge Moss did strike down one of the petitioner's claims about greenhouse gas reduction plans "based on case law that is not any longer citable and the argument therefore fails."  But, on the matter of conflicts with a regional transportation plan, "the City incorrectly finds the strategies promulgated there do not apply to the project."  Noting that "Madrona is plainly inconsistent with the Plan's key strategies," the jurist observed that "there is no citation to support this bald assertion, and the argument therefore fails."

A sustainability plan from 2012 was also a core component of this line of argument and the court ruled that the petitioner's claim that the EIR did not take this into account "is correct."  He went on to note that, "the plan was well on its way to coming to fruition, and certainly within the City's purview.  It was the City's own Plan, and it should have been considered."

On assessing trip rates for traffic in the area, "the City offers no effective explanation for its failure" to properly apply calculations for Madrona than it did for those used for hillside residences.

Judge Moss did reject the petitioner's claims about property analysis in the EIR for fire impacts, ruling that the document "was sufficient and supported by substantial evidence" and that "mitigation measures are also adequate."

Concluding his ruling, the judge stated that the recreation impacts were not properly identified in the EIR baseline, specifically that there are existing trails as a "significant physical environmental feature."

Allowing that there were a few rejections of arguments made by the petitioners, this sum total of this decision was a clear and resounding defeat handed to the city and to the State of Idaho, identified as a "real party in interest" in the document.  The judge obviously was dismissive of the city's gross inconsistencies in applying its own ordinances and in failing to have an adequate Environmental Impact Report.

However . . . there is always the possibility (probability) of an appeal by the City of Brea and the State of Idaho.  So, stay tuned for any further developments along those lines, should they arise.

Meantime, this is a resounding victory for a model of grass-roots community organiztion and activism of the highest order.  Hills for Everyone, its co-petitoners, the citizens of Brea's portion of Carbon Canyon, the law firms which ably represented its clients and everyone else involved!

31 October 2015

Happy Sleepy Holloween 2015

A neighbor here in Sleepy Hollow has been, during recent holidays, putting up great displays on a chain link fence along Carbon Canyon Road.

Here is the latest one--and have a safe and happy Sleepy Holloween out there.

To quote one of the greatest lines in cinematic history: Human sacrifice!  Dogs and cats living together!  Mass hysteria!

29 October 2015

A Carbon Canyon Dam/Reservoir Proposal from 1930-31

As the Boulder (now, Hoover) Dam project was being constructed in the early years of the Great Depression, the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) was scouting locations for a reservoir to store the immense amounts of water brought into the Los Angeles region from the east, specifically from Banning near Palm Springs to the Chino area.

As reported in the Chino Champion's edition of 9 May 1930, one potential site was Carbon Canyon.  The article began by observing that, "Carbon Canyon residents south of the summit may find themselves under many feet of water if . . . the proposal to construct a high dam at the county line is ultimately approved."

That's right--there was talk of actually flooding the canyon from where the summit is near today's Carriage Hills subdivision all the way to the Orange/San Bernardino counties line.  That meant that parts, or perhaps all, of the existing Mountain View Estates, off Canon Lane south of Carbon Canyon Road and Sleepy Hollow would have to have been condemned, while ranch lands elsewhere in what is now the Chino Hills side of the canyon would have been inundated.

An article from the Chino Champion discussing reported surveys for a dam and reservoir in the San Bernardino County portion of Catbon Canyon for water brought in to the Los Angeles metropolitan area from the impending Boulder Dam project.
Canyon residents reported seeing surveyors and engineers scouring the area to do their investigative work and it was claimed that, "the present plan, which is reported as being the most feasible advanced by engineers to date" would involve a dam fifty feet higher than one previously suggested for the lower end of the canyon.  This "lower end" would probably have been in close proximity to where the La Vida Mineral Springs resort was then thriving just east of today's Olinda Village.

However, the piece continued, "by bringing the dam site further to the north, just inside the San Bernardino county line, engineers state that a greater reservoir will be provided with the hills at [the] summit end providing the enclosure."  Moreover, the article went on, "thus all lands between [the] summit and the southern edge of Sleepy Hollow would be used in the formation of a huge lake to supply water to the cities of the metropolitan area."

The northern end of the body of water would have been on the ranch of Peter Chilobolast--this is what later became the ranch of Shelly Stoody, whose 1950s home is still on top of the hill just to the north of the summit, and, after Stoody's untimely death in a plane crash, Western Hills Country Club.  At the southern limit, the dam would have been built "just below the Tidwell store in Sleepy Hollow at the concrete bridge."  That store is now the building fronting Carbon Canyon Road at the east end of the neighborhood and south of the highway.  By concrete bridge, it is assumed this is where Carbon [Canyon] Creek crosses the road where the former liquor store building now stands.

After counseling the few readers who were living in the very sparsely-populated canyon not too worry any time soon because the Boulder/Hoover Dam project was years from being completed (1936 was when the dam was formally turned over to the federal government), the paper half-jokingly ended by stating, "we just pass the word along so that those who like to fish, swim and boat can dream about what may be in the years to come."

A 30 January 1931 piece in the Champion detailed competing proposals for a reservoir in Carbon Canyon and at Puddingstone near Pomona and San Dimas.
Months later, at the end of January 1931, another Champion article reported that there were two competing locations for the Boulder Dam reservoir, Carbon Canyon and Puddingstone reservoir near Pomona and San Dimas.  Surveyors were said to have been busily at work on both locations, with the Carbon Canyon crew following a route from Banning to Temescal Canyon and Corona.  Reiterating that the plan earlier on was to site the dam further down in the Orange County portion of the canyon, the article observed that the narrowness of the Brea section made anchoring the dam much more difficult.

Noting that the projected cost of the reservoir was just under $18 million, the paper stated that, "the cost of dam construction and purchase of properties in the canyon, which are now populated to a considerable extent" might make the cost at Carbon Canyon about the same as that at Puddingstone.  The Champion went on to suggest that, "from this discussion we gather that [the] final decision . . . is some time distant" and that "the project is of such magnitude that it will require years for completion."

Of course, there was no dam and reservoir built at Carbon Canyon, while Puddingstone's 250-acre reservoir, completed in 1928, still exists.  In recent years, the City of Industry was actively exploring a reservoir project for Tonner Canyon just to the north, an idea that had been investigated by the City of Pomona long before that.  Water, however, from Hoover Dam is piped down from the Inland Empire through Tonner and Carbon canyons before being treated at the Diemer plant on the hill overlooking the far west end of Chino Hills State Park and Yorba Linda.

Now, as we are in the midst of a prolonged drought that appears to be the worse in this region for several centuries, the movement to capture and store water is becoming a bigger issue.  It is interesting, though, to imagine what might have been if the dam and reservoir had been built in Carbon Canyon, especially as the 2008 earthquake centered just a short distance to the south revealed a new active fault previously unknown.

22 October 2015

Chino Hills State Park Native Plant Restoration Project

A great opportunity to volunteer at Chino Hills State Park is coming up on Saturday, 14 November from 8 a.m. to Noon.

A native plant trail restoration project at the Rolling M Ranch, involving new plantings, the pruning and trimming of existing plants, and the spreading of mulch and seeds are among the components.

Participants are asked to wear comfortable outdoor work clothes, including what will work for light rain, during which the project will still occur (though heavy rain or red flag conditions denoting an extreme fire risk will call for a postponement.)  Lunch is provided, as well.

The project is limited to the first 25 persons who respond, so send an email to: eric@ChinoHillsStatePark.org or call 714.524.0757 to sign up.

Access to the work site is from the state park entrance in Chino Hills off Sapphire Road near Soquel Canyon Parkway and then via the recently-reopened and improved Bane Canyon Road.  Rolling M Ranch is at the end of the road.

This event is sponsored by California State Parks and Chino Hills State Park Interpretive Association and funding is made available by Toyota Motor Corporation through the National Environmental Educational Foundation.

18 October 2015

Carbon Canyon Horse Ranch Property For Sale Again

Devastated by the November 2008 fire that consumed much of Carbon Canyon, the former Manely Friends horse property in the Brea portion of the canyon is back on the market again.

The accompanying flyer shows several drone-taken photographs of the 10-acre parcel, noting that it has 24 stables, which were, to some extent, rehabbed after the fire; a variety of fruit trees; and the bridge built to replace the one burned out by the conflagration seven years ago.

Notably, the listing states that "per the sellers" the property is zoned as recreational, commercial, and hillside residential and that "sellers have been told be the City that they can build 2.2 houses/acre, and 5 acres of this property is buildable."  Whether it is actually feasible to build up to 11 houses on the property is another matter.

It is also observed, "per the sellers," that "the grant deed shows the property going to the center of [the] road, and the state has a 20 foot easrment on each side of Carbon Canyon."  This must reflect the fact that the original Carbon Canyon Road, dating back to the 1910s, was much narrower and that an easement had to be obtained with property owners to widen what became a state highway in the early 1930s.

Five years ago, the property was marketed for sale at $1.8 million, but now there is no price listed on the flyer, only a statement to "please call for pricing."