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.


Anonymous said...

I'm surprised that no one has yet commented on the possible sale of Tres Hermanos ranch. This has enormous potential to impact our area - either positively or negatively depending on the buyer. All of us should discuss this sale with our city council members because only concerted effort can save this beautiful open space and habitat. Imagine 2500 acres of gorgeous land bulldozed for houses and the accompanying traffic on Grand Avenue and surrounding roads.

prs said...

Hi Anonymous, well, maybe there will be some comments offered when a buyer comes along and announces plans. As noted in the post, there has been a Tres Hermanos Conservation Authority, so whether that body continues to exist or how Chino Hills and Diamond Bar communicate as the process moves on will be interesting to see. Of course, the public comment part comes at planning commission and city council meetings, especially as zone change petitions are made, then to the applications, plans submittals and so on. At $125 million, if that's close to the actual sale price, it's hard to imagine land conservancies and environmental groups being able to compete with buyers, international or not. Stay tuned!

Anonymous said...

I am wondering when our Govenor is going to set a mandate to stop development in California altogether. We have no water. I have called him sesveral times since he told everone to cut back and get rid of your lawns. Of course nothing was said to us.
I called the California Water Athorities and the board never called me back. I am thinking of getting with Senator Lang to see what she can do to prod California into stopping the building.
We have too many people here and not enough water much less freeways to get us around.

Anonymous said...

I always thought that the Bartholamew family still owned that part of Diamond Bar. The City of Diamond Bar is already proposing to build two mountain bike trails around the beginning of the Tonner Canyon area near the 57 freeway. One path is the continuation of the present-day Schabarum Trail, which will probably be located more along the Country Estates. The other proposed trail is Tonner Canyon Trail. I don't know how far that will go into that area that is now untouched. Parallel to Tonner Canyon and east of the 57 freeway is a new subdivision that's being constructed. That is considered Brea but it's very close to that part of Diamond Bar.

prs said...

Hello Anonymous, the Bartholomaes sold to Transamerica in the 1950s and the development of Diamond Bar as a suburb came shortly afterward. This has been covered elsewhere in this blog. Whatever may be on a general plan concerning trails is just on paper. Actually having those built is a whole different proposition. The main thing for now is to see who buys Tres Hermanos from the City of Industry when that time comes--the property could be listed within the next couple of months or so. Stay tuned.