28 September 2016

Tres Hermanos and Its "Highest and Best Use"

The latest development in the fate of Tres Hermanos Ranch, which is just north of Carbon Canyon, and situated between Diamond Bar and Chino Hills as one of the last large pieces of undeveloped land in the region, was in the news today.  Click here for an article in today's San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

The successor agency to the former Industry Urban Development Agency, axed when redevelopment agencies were outlawed several years ago, commissioned a report from a consultant to determine what the "highest and best use" of the ranch would be.

This action was taken in light of the City of Industry's recently unveiled bid of just under $42 million for the 2,400-acre ranch, a figure determined by an appraisal from a firm hired by the city and taking into account its current zoning and future use.

The new report, however, presented to the successor agency stated that this figure was far too low and that the land should be sold in conformance with state law which mandates that such properties be disposed of "in a manner aimed at maximizing value."

Naturally, this means "dollar value," not just because of the sale price, but because future residential and commercial development means more tax revenue for the state, county and cities.

Of course, there are other less tangible "values," such as the cost of increased pollution, the lost hours stuck in traffic, the long-term net effect of residential property, which most of the ranch would undoubtedly become, with respect to maintenance and care.

Tonner Canyon and Tres Hermanos Ranch from the south, March 2016.
When the report states "highest and best use," the operative term is not "best," it is "highest."  After all, if the only criteria for determining whether a property has "value" is that it brings top dollar for its sale and development, there would never been a reason for any government--be it local, county, state or federal--to dedicate or purchase property for parks, monuments, open space areas, conservation easements or other passive uses, which are often "best" for the broader public.

The City of Industry's city manager has been quoted as saying the offer of $42 million for Tres Hermanos was to keep the property for public use and not for housing. although past plans have discussed a reservoir and talk lately has also centered around a solar farm.

In any case, anyone who has driven Carbon Canyon Road just in the last several months and seen the very obvious and noticeable increase in volume and the lengthening of commuting hours readily understands the problem, just with this one issue alone, that would come with approximately 2,000 houses as well as commercial development that have been slated for Tres Hermanos if it is sold to developers.

Grand Avenue is the only road through the ranch.  A public roadway, namely Tonner Canyon Road, which exists as a prviate thoroughfare on the ranch, could be built to the 57, but that freeway has also seen a significant increase in volume in recent years with backups for miles in either direction depending on the time of day.

Regional pollution levels are rising precisely as we should be dramatically reducing them as climate change worsens.

If regional leaders addressed the broader issues of greater development, such as the mind-boggling number of homes being built in Eastvale, Corona and other Inland Empire areas, and then square those with the consequences of more pollution and traffic (and other variables) that would be remarkable.

Instead, what is driving the discussion is what this report highlights (lowlights?).  That is, the "highest and best use" of property is that which is handled "in a manner aimed at maximizing value."

What about "best use" for the public good as a whole?

What about "value" being quality of life, rather than chasing short-term revenue gains exceeded by long-term costs?

Can we afford our public policy to be pursued by these outmoded and outdated perceptions of "best use" and "value"?


Anonymous said...

Very thought-provoking post. I have such mixed feelings about it all. One thing I hope they avoid is a solar farm -- bad juju, too many rays cooks, melts, fries, things nearby (have relatives who've built solar farms). I wish they'd continue leasing it for ranching, if feasible, though probably no longer profitable for the rancher. :^(

The traffic on 142 is getting to be just plain nuts, insane. It's so annoying that what should take me all of eight minutes to drive normally (from Valencia Ave. to my home just past Sleepy Hollow), takes me 25 minutes after 3 p.m. The vast majority of cars using it, by the way, are people who have other options but reasonably regard 142 as a shortcut. It's annoying that people who don't even live on the road, which is my ONLY access to my house, end up slowing me down so much.

One thing for sure ... change happens. I sure like Carbon Canyon Chronicle and am glad you're here!!! :^)

prs said...

Hi Anonymous, thanks for your comment and nice words about the blog. It'll be interesting for sure to see where the future of Tres Hermanos goes. Will try to update as news comes along.