28 May 2015

Tres Hermanos Ranch Development Dispute

As reported by Marianne Napoles in last Saturday's Champion, claims by The Hoffman Company, the firm retained by the City of Industry to sell its 2,500-acre Tres Hermanos Ranch along Grand Avenue between Chino Hills and Diamond Bar concerning the maximum number of housing units allowable in the latter city have been grossly exaggerated.

Diamond Bar city manager James DeStefano was quoted by the paper as asserting that 628 housing units were the maximum allowable under city codes and that no commercial development was permissible.  He characterized Hoffman's assertions that up to 5,000 units were possible as "grossly in error, super grossly in error."  DeStefano followed up by stating, "our numbers have not changed . . . nowhere in the world are we going to have 5,000 homes."

Diamond Bar's city limits encapsulate 720 acres of the ranch, while those of Chino Hills envelop 1,700 acres.  The Champion reported that the latter could involve 467 units on 55 acres based on a development transfer from the southern portion of Chino Hills along Butterfield Ranch Road.

Previous statements, however, have indicated that this was a "parking" of that development transfer and that no concrete plans were in place for allowing development of that nature in Tres Hermanos.  Moreover, as the article noted, master plans for any development on the ranch would have to be submitted to review to the respective cities.

Chino Hills council member Art Bennett, a member of the Tres Hermanos Conservation Authority, a long-standing advisory agency composed of one representative from Chino Hills, City of Industry and Diamond Bar was quoted as stating that the future development of the ranch offered "a window of opportunity for Chino Hills" and that "this is the only time we'll be able to exert any kind of pressure on a developer to provide us with what we are asking for."

This statement is especially relevant in this era of severe drought, increasing risk of wildfire, and growing traffic congestion.  Obviously, it could be years before any concrete proposals are put forward for development at Tres Hermanos.  But, if water supply remains tight because of long-term drought (which many climatologists suggest is the scenario for this region), can approval of up to nearly 1,100 units (using the tentative high-end figures provided in the article) make any sense?

Moreover, wildland fire risk is heightened by continuing drought, tinder-dry fuel, and the propensity for higher winds in elevated areas like Tres Hermanos.

Finally, what are the realistic probable traffic solutions for the ranch?  Grand Avenue is the only artery through the property and, while access to the northeast in the Diamond Bar portion towards Chino Hills Parkway and then to the 60 Freeway is obvious, traffic patterns could prove to be very problematic for any development, particularly in the Chino Hills section.

Claire Schlotterbeck of Hills for Everyone, which has been, for decades, fighting to preserve open space for recreation and as a buffer against over-development, was quoted in the article as requesting, at a recent Conservation Authority meeting, that a "visioning" process be introduced so that local residents can weigh in on what they think should be done with the land.

Schlotterbeck observed that many residents surrounding Tonner Canyon and Tres Hermanos want to see the land preserved as an important natural resource amidst massive suburban development.  Her statement to end the article is notable: "If people don't want to see Tonner Canyon bulldozed, they need to be paying attention."

Obviously, there are conflicting views here.  Bennett appeared to be suggesting that Chino Hills can only request mitigation or seek benefits from developers, but not stop housing projects from coming to Tres Hermanos and Tonner Canyon.  Schlotterbeck looked to be advocating for preservation for recreation and habitat protection in these areas.

Coming years will bring these issues to a head as one of the last remaining major open areas in our region is sold and plans promoted to Chino Hills and Diamond Bar for development that, by any standard, will be large-scale.  Resource (especially water) issues, fire risk and protection, and traffic concerns will be among the most important elements of the discussion.

As Schlotterbeck indicated, those who are concerned for the future of these two cities and the property in question have to be aware and, more importantly, engaged as part of the discussion.

Large-scale housing projects have been stopped before, with a prominent local examples of recent vintage being in the Newhall-Santa Clarita area.  Tres Hermanos could be a similar situation and time will tell if that is the case.

21 May 2015

Chino Hills State Park Seasonal Park Aides Wanted

California State Parks is now accepting applications for between three and five seasonal park aides for Chino Hills State Park, the remarkable recreational resource that is just a stone's throw away from Carbon Canyon.

These new positions provide for park aides to work for up to nine months or 1500 hours, but in increments separated by three months between seasons, with weekly schedules of 24-40 hours (usually three to five days of eight-hour shifts).  Work on weekends and holidays are generally required.

Park aides will either work at the new kiosk at Bane Canyon, the remaking of which is now being completed with a fully-paved and improved road, as well as the kiosk, forming much of the project in Chino Hills, or at the Discovery Center, located on Carbon Canyon Road in Brea, adjacent to Carbon Canyon Regional Park.

Duties include giving information to park users; helping park rangers with projects; registering campers and conducting checks at the park's campground; collecting use fees; selling park passes; and, perhaps, interpreting the park's historical and natural features.

Because the park aide positions are considered ideal for students who want summer jobs, weekend employment, or both, they are designed to be flexible with school and other job schedules.

Qualified candidates have to possess a valid California driver's license; have a good driving record; pass a background check, including live scan fingerprinting; and are, preferably, 18 years or older.  Preferred skills include being reliable, being a good communicator and demonstrating customer service ability; filling out accountability paperwork; and being an independent worker.

Those interested can e-mail Carmen Zone at Carmen.zone@parks.ca.gov.  Applications can be downloaded from www.pars.ca.gov and can be scanned and e-mailed to Ms. Zone or sent by snail mail.

19 May 2015

On the Skids in Carbon Canyon #17777

Last night about 7 p.m., the familiar long screech was heard and then a thud as a westbound green pickup truck (a Ford 150 type) took a Carbon Canyon Road curve too fast and slammed into a low wall at the former Canyon Market/Party House Liquor in Sleepy Hollow.

While there apparently were no calls made to local law enforcement--at least not one that involved sirens--and no evident closure of the state highway for any length of time, a crowd of locals scooted down and over to the crash site to check it out.

As to the recent bits of action by the police and sheriff departments in Brea and Chino Hills, the latter had its message board on the highway near Canon Lane for one day and then was taken away, while the two boards in Brea, the first westbound a little east of the old La Vida Mineral Springs property and the other eastbound next to Carbon Canyon Regional Park, are still up and functioning.

It remains to be seen if anything else is in the works based on recent conversations held between canyon residents and city and law enforcement officials.

15 May 2015

Carbon Canyon Historical Artifact #47: Canyon Hills Country Club Postcard, 1965

With the recent posts on this blog about the several uses of the property that was, from 1928-1958, Camp Kinder Ring, the Jewish camp of The Workmen's Circle, north of Carbon Canyon Road at Canyon Hills Road, part of which is being developed now as the 76-unit Canyon Hills housing subdivision, this seemed an appropriate time to highlight this postcard.

With the title of "Canyon Hills Country Club," the image shows one of the two swimming pools (the other is partially visible in the background) at the facility with the view looking towards the south and the hills that are now the subject of an application for another large housing project, the 107-unit Hidden Oaks development.

A couple of people are swimming in the foreground pool and a person sits on those cool chairs with the curved stainless steel legs.  To the left are concrete block walled planters and there are a variety of bushes, shrubs and trees in the landscaping around the pool decks.

On the reverse is the name of the facility, its post office address in Brea, the phone number, a list of club activities (the two pools, shuffleboard, ping-pong, archery, badminton, horseback riding, picnic grounds, and a rollerskating rink) and a recommendation for membership section.

This latter is pretty funny, as it begins, "I have recommended and vouched for you as a desirable person for membership in the Canyon Hills Country Club."  It then goes on to say that the membership committee would contact the person "once only" and then offers that Canyon Hills was "a real club for real people."

The name and address of the members are provided along with the recommended addressee, both of whom were from the area (Whittier and La Mirada.)

The card is postmarked from Brea--probably filled out at the club and then mailed by club personnel--and dated 25 October 1965.

This appears to have been at the very end of the lifespan of the club, which appears to have changed names from Canyon Hills Swim and Saddle Club, which was the successor to Club El Circulo (in turn following Camp Kinder Ring), to Canyon Hills Country Club.

By early 1966, as an upcoming post will detail further, there was another change in use, as the club gave way to one of the wackier concepts in Carbon Canyon's colorful history: Ski Villa.  After the demise of that short-lived project, however, yet another club, the Carbon Canyon Country Club took over--but, more on that later.

14 May 2015

Carbon Canyon Road Patrolling/Traffic Enforcement News

UPDATE: 4:30 P.M., Friday:  Following suit, the sheriff's department in Chino Hills has taken their message board, which was over on the 71 Freeway warning locals to cut their brush to reduce fuel for wildfires, and placed it on westbound Carbon Canyon Road a little east of Canon Lane.  The message here is to reduce speed when driving on the state highway.

In the wake of recent accidents and road closures on Carbon Canyon Road, law enforcement officials in Brea and Chino Hills have been communicating with concerned residents about ways that they are exploring, planning and implementing to provide better patrolling and traffic enforcement along the state highway.

It is notable, as well, that the sheriff's department in Chino Hills and the police department in Brea have been talking to each other, so there may be some ways to facilitate actions between the two for more efficient and effective work--realizing that resource allocation is always a challenge.

A City of Brea electronic message board has been placed on westbound Carbon Canyon Road a little east of Olinda Village in response to a spate of accidents and road closures.  As noted here, the sign warns of a "High Enforcement Area" and reminds drivers not to pass within the canyon.  This is the first of what appears to be a series of steps taken by the Brea Police Department and Chino Hills Sheriff's Department to improve patrolling and traffic enforcement on the state highway.
Already there is a visible and tangible presence resulting from these efforts.  On the Brea side, just a bit west of the former Manely Friends stable on the westbound side of the highway is an electronic message board that reads "High Enforcement Area" and warns people to not pass--this already being proscribed via signage throughout the canyon.

What else is in the works remains, of course, to be seen.  But, there will be a citywide Public Safety Forum, sponsored by the City of Chino Hills and the sheriff's department, at the city's Community Center on Peyton Drive between Grand and Eucalyptus and across from Ayala High School, on Thursday, 9 July at 6:00 p.m.  Among many other issues, the question of traffic safety on Carbon Canyon Road will be addressed.

We have two well-managed cities in Brea and Chino Hills, so it is encouraging at this date to see what has transpired so far.  Stay tuned for more as further information becomes available.

13 May 2015

Canyon Hills Swim and Saddle Club

This San Bernardino Sun article, from 1 June 1964, discussed county planning commission approval of the "Canyon Hills Ranch, Swim & Saddle Club," the name of which changed slightly with the removal of "ranch."
The demise of Club El Circulo in the first months of 1964 on the former Camp Kinder Ring property was quickly followed by a new enterprise by the same owners, the Olinda Development Corporation, which incorporated in January 1961 with its business address later shown as in Olinda Village.  This endeavor was christened the Canyon Hills Swim and Saddle Club and was managed by the Circle C Development Company, a subsidiary of the Olinda Development Corporation.

In late May 1964, the San Bernardino County Planning Commission heard a proposal to remake the El Circulo compound into the new facility, including, as reported in The Champion, the building of new stables and a riding ring, while adjacent land would be marketed for real estate development.

The San Bernardino Sun of 1 June noted that "plans call for facilities for horse shows, training rings, stables, show rings, teen canteen and lodges."  Existing components included "a restaurant, bar and guest cottages and facilities for swimming, tennis and archery."

A photo from the 9 July 1964 edition of the Chino Champion showing Rex Vance, manager of the new Canyon Hills Swim and Saddle Club posing next to the facility's recently-completed swimming pool, the second at the facility, with the first pool directly behind.  From newspapers.com.
By mid-June, the commission approved the thirty-acre project, conditional upon the state transportation department's requirements that warning signs be erected to warn drivers on Carbon Canyon Road (State Highway 142, which, incidentally, was officially designated by that number around the same time) of horse riders crossing the highway, as well as meeting local fire department stipulations for on-site precautions for preventing wildfires.

"Steady there, young fella!"  This photo, from the same issue as the above photo, shows the new rollerskating rink at the Canyon Hills Swim and Saddle Club with the rink's manager Barbara Behnke assisting an unidentified boy learning to skate.
In mid-July, a public notice was taken out by the Circle C Development Company's president, Eric Sutton, stipulating the fictitious business name of the Canyon Hills Swim and Saddle Club was being used, while another notice at the same time verified the previous operating entity of Club El Circulo.

This came on the heels of the first event held at the new club, the inevitable Hawaiian-style luau, a staple of California outdoor events at the time.  Complete with fire-and-sword dancers and "native music," the event, supervised by club manager Rex Vance, highlighted the redecorated clubhouse and second swimming pool, while the stables and arena were under construction.

A relic of its time, for sure.  Here is the ad from the Champion, also 9 July 1964, for the Canyon Hills Swim and Saddle Club's authentic "Royal Hawaiian Luau," complete with whole barbequed pigs, fish and poi, chicken and long rice, pineapple, fire-and-sword dancers, "native music" and so on--all for $5.  Now, that's "da kine, brah!" 
Also noted in a Champion article covering the luau was that the complex included the rollerskating rink and children's playground that were holdovers from El Circulo.  But, there were also new horseshoe and shuffleboard courts and a snack bar.  In the works was a clubhouse for horse riders over the arena and a "teenage activities" center.  Upcoming events slated were a horse show and opening party for the arena planned for August, a barbeque, another luau, and "a before school jamboree."

Whether or not these events took place or if the planned improvements were completed, the Canyon Hills Swim and Saddle Club had an existence about as short as that of Club El Circulo.  By early 1966, the club was out of business and the next phase for the site was underway.  This was the bizarre, but notable, development of Ski Villa, the only all-year ski slope in the region.  While Ski Villa has been covered here before, new material has been found for an upcoming post.  So, stay tuned.

10 May 2015

Hidden Oaks Project More Visible

As reported in the Champion in yesterday's edition, the Hidden Oaks housing project, proposing 107 houses, a nearly four-acre park, a clubhouse, and trails on 110 of 537 acres south of Carbon Canyon Road at Canyon Hills Road and across from the in-process Canyon Hills development of 76 units, is moving forward many years after a predecessor project, which removed some 2,000 oak and other trees on the site, failed.

This coming Tuesday, the Chino Hills City Council is likely to vote for an environmental impact report (EIR) from PCR Services Corporation costing just over $400,000, which is to be reimbursed by the developer.

During the course of the EIR, a public meeting and accumulation of written comments will be included.

It is a certainty that the EIR will find that the project creates significant unavoidable adverse impacts on the environment by the criteria of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  This is an environment that has changed greatly since CEQA was enacted in the early 1970s, so the criteria are actually outdated.  Therefore, the responses will be, as well.

Then, as a matter of course, the City will then do all it can in its power to issue Statements of Overriding Consideration (SOCs) as the developer promises benefits that will (presumably) accrue to the city as a whole, regardless of the fact that those significant unavoidable adverse impacts remain in effect in the canyon.

Here's the scorecard for approved developments within Carbon Canyon:

Canyon Hills (Chino Hills)          76 homes
Stonefield (Chino Hills)               24
Madrona (Brea)                          162

Total                                           262 homes

Hidden Oaks (if approved)        107

Presumed total                           369 homes

This means:

  • some 1,600 or more additional residents 
  • thousands of daily car trips 
  • more traffic on Carbon Canyon Road, which cannot be widened beyond its two-lane status 
  • more difficulty in arranging emergency evacuations for the wildfires that will strike again 
  • fires that are more quickly spread on exposed hilltops like the ones these developments will largely occupy 
  • more water for these larger-sized homes and lots when we're being asked to cut consumption dramatically during an unprecedented drought 
  • more removal and pollution affecting our diminished oak-and-walnut woodland habitat

So, those who find the above problematic might want to attend the public meeting, submit written comments and then let their voices be heard at the planning commission and city council meetings when the project comes up for approval.

08 May 2015

On the Skids in Carbon Canyon #17676 (And Some News)

Well, there have been many instances of "on the skids" since the last post under the name, but they have been of the more dramatic full closure of Carbon Canyon Road variety that have been plaguing our canyon recently.

But, there was another CalTrans sign that was cut down by a driver, who left her (confirmed by a commenter) front fender as a calling card, on the westbound side of the state highway about a quarter mile or so from the entrance to the Chino Hills State Park Discovery Center.

The incident had to have happened within the last couple of days and is another illustration of errant driving that reflects a greater degree of incidents than has been seen in quite a while.

However, there may be some good news to come out of this.  Discussions have been taking place in Chino Hills involving the city and its police (sheriff's) department chief, as well as between the latter and some of the folks in Brea.

It's in the very early stages, but the conversations have to do with increasing patrols in the canyon in response to concerns raised by residents about the spate of incidents that have taken place in recent weeks and months.

So, we'll see what materializes there.  Even an occasional, but regular, presence could go a long way in sending a message to drivers to mind their p's and q's, or dot their i's and cross their t's, or whatever cliche happens to work.

07 May 2015

Tres Hermanos Ranch For Sale

With the dissolution of California's redevelopment agencies, the City of Industry, through a successor agency, has been going through a multi-year process of identifying and then either buying or selling its large swaths of redevelopment land.

The most significant piece involved in this has been the Tres Hermanos Ranch, created in the upper or northern reached of Tonner Canyon between Chino Hills and Diamond Bar about 1914 by Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler, oil magnate William Benjamin Scott, and former Los Angeles County Sheriff, oil producer and ranching heir William R. Rowland.

The property, which passed down to Chandler's heirs was sold to the City of Industry in 1978 and the city had longstanding plans to build a reservoir for water storage intended for city uses.

While these went unrealized, the 2,450-acre parcel has been leased to several people using the land to graze small herds of cattle on the picturesque property on either side of Grand Avenue in the cities of Chino Hills and Diamond Bar.

This blog has featured several posts relating to the history of Tres Hermanos, which will now enter a new phase after nearly four decades.  Local papers have reported in the last few days that the City of Industry has contracted with the Hoffman Company of Irvine to sell the ranch.  It has been suggested the land could go for as high as $125 million.

Steve Tye, mayor of Diamond Bar, was quoted as being "shocked that they are selling it" and that he "didn't know it was going to come to that."  Why exactly Mayor Tye was surprised is, well, surprising.  Cities with redevelopment land can either buy at market rates or sell that properties.  Tres Hermanos clearly didn't have commercial value and, as noted above, the city's intent was for water storage.  Faced with new realities in the post-redevelopment agency area, the obvious outcome was to sell.

Obviously, the prospect of buying a huge, nearly virgin property is going to make the mouths of land investors and housing developers water (pardon the pun).  According to Industry's city manager, speaking to a reporter Tuesday after a meeting of the successor agency, "this could be an international sale of some sort."

The same article, in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, quoted a Diamond Bar resident as feeling "very strongly about the preservation of our natural environment" and expressing the idea that "it would kill me to see them take out such beauty for tract homes."

It would take a significant number of people and very strong, highly organized community-based grassroots organizations to have any chance of convincing at least one of the two cities in which the ranch is situated that Tres Hermanos is better suited for preservation than for home building.  The lobbying efforts of developers and promises of revenue and enticements (developers' fees for infrastructure, parks and so on) are going to be formidable barriers to overcome.

Another barrier, of course, is our drought.  If it continues to worsen and lasts for decades as some project, will the building of hundreds of housing units be feasible as conservation measures get more extreme and water supplies tighten further?  Knowing that housing projects would be years and years away, but also knowing that our changing climate makes the prospect of a long-term drought more likely, how can any large-scale development, whether at Tonner Canyon or anywhere else in the region, be justifiable?

Then, there are considerations dealing with traffic.  Grand Avenue is the only major thoroughfare through the ranch and a proposed Tonner Canyon Road, which would essentially be a north-south bypass for the 57 Freeway, could only potentially be built if the lower part of the canyon, held by the City of Industry and the Boy Scouts of America, was made available.  Hundreds of houses with many thousands of car trips per day with only one current roadway leading to freeways that are already packed (the 57/60 interchange is one of the busiest in the country) do not bode well for efficiency in traffic movement.

There are other considerations relating to infrastructure, schools, pollution and others, as well, which leads to another point about how we continue to conduct urban planning in a transforming environment.

Our long-established templates for development are increasingly being challenged as archaic and not viable for the changing world in which we now live and will be living.  Planning for any place in our region, including Tres Hermanos, using outmoded models is not a smart way for public policy to proceed.

There has been a Tres Hermanos Conservation Authority, comprised of representatives from the City of Industry, Chino Hills and Diamond Bar, that has met and discussed the future of the ranch.  We'll see what becomes of that body and how the management of the property is to be handled as the sale proceeds.

Naturally, with the announcement of the impending sale just made, there is nothing listed yet on the Web site of the Hoffman Company, but those interested might want to check here from time-to-time to see when a listing is posted.

06 May 2015

Carbon Canyon Road Closed Yet Once More!

Last night before 11 p.m., sirens were heard somewhat faintly somewhere near Sleepy Hollow and then the cars stopped coming.

Sure enough, an emergency alert was sent out early this morning that Carbon Canyon Road is closed yet again.

According to the message, an accident took place between Olinda Village and the San Bernardino/Orange counties line.  A power line as downed during the crash.

Given the location and time of day, an uninformed guess would be that speed and/or chemicals were factors.  But, that's just wild speculation.

The road is expected to be reopened at around 9:30 this morning.

Just a few weeks ago, we had downed lines at Olinda Village in front of Hollydale Mobile Home Estates.  This was followed the next day by another closure at the S-curve in the Chino Hills portion of the canyon.

The spate of closures, including a fatality in March, since the first of the year indicates a greater degree of reckless driving.

Since 28 February 2014, this blog has posted information for 12 complete road closures on Carbon Canyon Road.

Does that seem out of the ordinary?

This blog used to, with some degree of intensity, question whether the regular occurrences of the accidents, road closures, private and public property damage, injury and deaths could be a cause for more patrolling of the state highway by the local authorities in Brea and Chino Hills nominally tasked with policing the roadway.

It has seemed increasingly pointless to ask.  That's called resignation and apathy.  Which is sad.

But, that's what happens in the face of inaction.

At least it's been quieter at night when the closures happen.

03 May 2015

Carbon Canyon Convenience Store Robbers Captured

A pair of robbers, including a 20-year old Chino Hills man and his Riverside-based accomplice, were arrested on Friday for a string of at least sixteen holdups in four counties, including the Circle K store on Carbon Canyon Road and Canyon Hills Road, which was hit twice.

Anthony Oddie, the Chino Hills resident, entered businesses wearing a hoodie, bandada, surgical mask, gloves and dark sunglasses and carrying a machete and what appeared to be a handgun, which turned out to be an airsoft gun.  Sidekick Richard Gomez-Quiroz would wait in a getaway car parked a distance from the scene to avoid cameras.

The two robbed a Pizza Hut in Chino Hills and other businesses in Diamond Bar, Fountain Valley, Newport Beach, Riverside and other locales in the region over the course of a few months before they were arrested and booked on $1,000,000 bond.

Chino Hills sheriff's department detectives took the lead on the case because six of the sixteen incidents took place in the city and they are still looking at possible additional incidents involving Oddie and Gomez-Quiroz.

For coverage of the arrest, please click here.