11 September 2015

Hidden Oaks Housing Development Public Meeting on 23 September

The Hidden Oaks project, planning for 107 houses on 537 acres of hilltop and hillside land directly across from the in-process 76-unit Canyon Hills development, south of Carbon Canyon Road between Sleepy Hollow and Mountain View Estates, is moving to the next stage.

On Wednesday, 23 September from 4-5:30 p.m. and 6:30-8 p.m., a "scoping meeting" will be held at the McCoy Equestrian Center on Peyton Drive across from Ayala High School and next to the Chino Hills Community Center.

The purpose, according to an article in tomorrow's Champion is for the public "to provide input on the effects of the project" based on the environmental impact report (EIR) now being completed.  Further "input" in the form of public comment to the draft EIR will be accepted by the city until Wednesday, 14 October.

The estate-sized homes will be on minimum 5-acre lots, according to the article, yet the piece also states that the structures will be clustered "onto a flat area," with 427 acres, or almost 80% of the property, consisting of open space.

Clearly, the lots will not be five acres, but probably under an acre apiece, especially with proposed amenities like a 4-acre park, clubhouse, and trails.  More significantly is the somewhat misleading use of "a flat area" to describe where the clustered residences would go.

The property is actually hilly, with some relatively flat sections along the tops of the hills.  Obviously, a goodly amount of cut-and-fill, scraping, and other "manicuring" of the natural landscape will make the parcel seem a lot flatter.

These, however, are areas that will not only receive more wind gusts, because of their elevation, but will also be subject to funnelling from gullies and small canyons around the project site.  Why this matters is because wildfires travel much faster when aided by hilltop winds, as well as carried more quickly when ascending and descending canyons and gullies.

Needless to say, our chronic drought condition leads to another question about water for "estate-sized" residences and their landscaping.

A third major question, aside from wildfire risk and water, is, naturally, the addition of more vehicles, some 1,100 daily car trips, on a Carbon Canyon Road that is increasingly seeing more commuter hours use.  Anyone who has driven the road in the last couple of weeks since school has opened for the year has noticed that the backup in the mornings is greater than in past years.  Even earlier hours, such as before 6:30, have included more westbound traffic in the last couple of years.

This doesn't include the effects of Hidden Oaks along with the other approved projects in the canyon--Madrona at 162, Canyon Hills with 76, and Stonefield totaling 28 units--and the approximately 1,500 more residents and nearly 4,000 car trips a day the quartet of projects will bring.

The history of the project is also outlined in the piece, starting with approval of 114 houses on the site by San Bernardino County in 1989 when there seemed to be all the water needed, Carbon Canyon Road was lightly traveled compared to now, and there were no wildfires in the canyon . . . oops, actually there was one in 1978 and another in 1990 and so on.

In that first iteration, "hundreds of removed trees were placed in buckets along Carbon Canyon Road and left to die," the article continued.

Then, in 1998, as the housing market recovered after the bubble of the late 80s/early 90s was ancient history, a new plan was offered for 341 houses was put forward.  Measure U, passed the following year in large measure (!) to the new proposal's density, put a damper on that plan because voters now have to approve such requests.  But, that project died before anything was done--well, except for the fact that the owner butchered 523 oak trees before abandoning the idea.

The Champion article observes that the city did require the unnamed developer to "address impacts to slopes, ridgelines, and biological resources" and notes that Chino Hills "worked with the developer to create a specific plan."

Do these mitigations include where to find more water . . . or, deal with walls of flame forty feet high like those seen in the November 2008 fire, as well as manage an orderly evacuation of residents in the canyon  . . . or, how to deal with traffic on a two-lane road that cannot be widened other than have a traffic signal that will only slow down everyone on Carbon Canyon Road during those commuter hours . . .  or, how all of this will maintain a high quality of living in a canyon that already has three approved projects totaling 266 houses plus the 107 proposed at Hidden Oaks for a grand total of 373 units?

Maybe those questions will be addressed on the 23rd . . . or not.

1 comment:

David Martinez said...

One of the considerations when selecting Sleepy Hollow as a home site was the tranquility. I understood the existing traffic was a compromise. When I submitted plans, I was not aware of the 76 unit development let alone the additional 176 homes. Considering we all need a place to live, I can live with the new homes. What I would like to see is traffic control. Commuters have no consideration for local residents and are in hurry to come or go. They don't allow residents to enter the lanes and figure they can just wait. The negative of traffic control is slowing traffic, the positive are it allows residents to move freely and safely into traffic, and if it slows down the commute maybe the commuters may find an alternate.