14 June 2015

Tres Hermanos Preservation Effort Launched

In the wake of recent revelations that the Tres Hermanos Ranch, comprised of 2,500 acres and recently put up for sale by the successor agency to the City of Industry's shuttered redevelopment agency, a group of Diamond Bar and Chino Hills residents have initiated an effort to preserve the property.

As discussed here before, a sale price as high as $125 million could be fetched, which money would go to the state, and current zoning would allow for nearly 1,100 houses.  It was reported that the likelihood of foreign investment is quite high, based on statements made by The Hoffman Company, the Irvine firm that is managing the sale.  Clearly, any buyer, no matter where they are from, is going to seek zoning modifications to maximize the amount of residential and, perhaps, commercial development possible.

The first meeting of those interested in saving Tres Hermanos for open space, a regional park, or as an addition to Chino Hills State Park was on 31 May at the Diamond Bar City Center.  A Facebook page was set up specifically for that event (see here for that listing) and, presumably, there will be something else coming soon.

Meantime, the 6 June edition of the Chino Hills Champion covered the nascent effort, followed by an article yesterday in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.  In the latter, a Chino Hills resident who holds a doctorate in environmental science and engineering, Dan Swenson, started a letter-writing campaign, was quoted as lamenting the loss of wide swaths of open land as an escape from urban sprawl, stating that "it is almost like a relief from all the urban everything we are constantly surrounded by" to have the ranch in its current state.

A view of a portion of Tres Hermanos Ranch from Grand Avenue north on an overcast morning last week.
Swenson, citing examples in Monrovia and Boulder, Colorado of successful citizen-initiated efforts to preserve land for open space and passive use, approached the regional state parks superintendent about interest in annexing Tres Hermanos to Chino Hills State Park.  All Kelly Elliott could say was that the ranch is among other properties identified as desirable for acquisition.  Clearly, the price tag is steep for any preservation group, much less state parks, to contemplate.

Diamond Bar resident Brian Worthington has launched a bid for city council with saving Tres Hermanos as a key component of his emerging platform, saying that the effort stemmed for a few people getting together to discuss what to do.  According to the Tribune, some 400 people have become Facebook friends of the effort.

Meanwhile, persons from The John T. Lyle Center for Regenerative Studies at Cal Poly Pomona have sprung into action, as well, with a preservation plan being started, according to the Center's Ashley Cupp, as quoted on the Center's Facebook page.

The Champion piece quoted Bob Goodwin, who spearheaded the impressive effort to redirect the Southern California Edison TRTP towers underground within Chino Hills, as saying that there were more Chino Hills residents at the 31 May meeting than those from Diamond Bar, but observed that the concern was much bigger than just about Chino Hills, in which about 70% of the ranch lies.

The article also had a quote from a Cal Poly student, who noted that "we need more than passive opposition.  We need action, involvement, ideas, inspiration, and the energy to fight — found only through the community."

These are well-spoken words and the challenge was brought to the fore at last Monday's lecture for the Chino Hills Historical Society by Claire Schlotterbeck, covered here, in which there were more questions about Tres Hermanos than on her subject, the history of Chino Hills State Park.

Schlotterbeck, with decades of experience and still engaged in preservation efforts on several local fronts, has noted that it will take an extraordinarily coordinated, disciplined, well-funded effort that has significant community engagement, political will and staff agreement at whatever agencies are involved.  She and Goodwin have directed just such campaigns, so, obviously, it can happen with Tres Hermanos, as well.

Whether the recent launch of the effort to save the ranch can replicate those and others will be determined in upcoming months and years as the slow march to development stems from a sale, studies, applications, staff reports, hearings and other elements.

But, the first steps have been taken on the long road ahead.

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