10 August 2016

Stonefield Stonewalling Stopped Stone Cold (Sort Of)

There is a little bit of good news on the Carbon Canyon housing development front, actually.

As reported by Marianne Napoles in last Saturday's edition of the Chino Hills Champion, Ausmas Properties, developer of the approved 28-unit Stonefield development, slated for construction between Carbon Canyon Road at the summit near the Carriage Hills subdivision and Fairway Drive across from Western Hills Country Club, is seeking yet another two-year extension, following two others, the number allowed by state law.

Seven residents spoke at the most recent Planning Commission meeting to point out that traffic has worsened significantly on Carbon Canyon Road since Stonefield was approved by the city council in 2009.

The assistant city attorney stated, however, that the project's contribution to that traffic is minimal and was concurred in this by the city's development director--in pure number-crunching terms this is true, except that Stonefield was approved with a stipulation that the developer pay for "traffic improvements" consisting of signals at Carbon Canyon and Fairway.

As we've found out since signals were installed at Olinda Village, largely to assist students to get to a school that was then closed down and moved, this "traffic improvement" only slows down the bulk of commuter traffic on the state highway, while providing some relief to the few vehicles that need access to it.  This, in fact, is the flip side of the assistant city attorney's coin (and that of the development director)--of which she only acknowledges one side.

As one resident astutely put it, "It's like saying we have a big leak in the boat, but this other little leak won't hurt."  A very fair analogy, especially when those steering the boat look at all of the leaks, like Stonefield (28 units), the in-process Canyon Hills (76 units), the soon-to-come-to-a-decision Hidden Oaks (107 units), and the not-yet-dead Madrona (161 units), in isolation as if there is no cumulative effect!

An Ausmas representative claimed that these mandated improvements were a major issue for the developer, yet it seems like 7 years is plenty of time to deal with that problem.  In other words, Ausmas either prepares to build accordingly because it has the financial wherewithal to do so, or it sells the property.

Wait, Ausmas actually is selling the property!  The representative didn't bring this up until it was pointed out by observant residents and then the question was asked by chairperson Gary Larson, who was also quoted as stating, "I'm tired of extensions.  I'm tired of developers blaming the recession."  Frankly, it was a bit surprising to read Larson's observation given the ease with which developers have been able to build just about anywhere in the city (and elsewhere, for that matter.)

Commissioner Mike Stover added, "At some point we need a 'have to use by' date.  If we wait long enough, there'll be another recession."

But, the most pointed remarks came from commissioner Stephen Romero, who decried a lack of transparency by staff, who didn't provide information to back up their statements, and then observed, "as projects come on board, at what point do we say that Carbon Canyon is a real problem?"  He aired his view that the canyon is a "death trap" which is being worsened by more development. Romero followed by noting, "it's getting worse, not better, so I have a real concern."

It's worth bringing up that a traffic engineer hired by Madrona's owner, the State of Idaho, after providing all of the mind-numbing data on traffic, then claimed, to a very audible chorus of groans, snickers and laughter from the audience at a Brea city council meeting, that traffic would go down over time.

Beyond traffic, though, there is the matter of water supply and fire risk in a hazardous fire zone with few exits for a growing amount of traffic and number of homes in the canyon.

After a 3-1 vote to reduce the 3-year request to 1-year, it was stated in the article that the question might appear on the agenda of the city council meeting, which was yesterday, so there may be more on this soon.

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