20 March 2021

Allen McCombs: A Champion for the Chino Valley

In 1956, a young man from northern California, steeped in a journalistic background because of his father's long newspaper experience, came to the rural town of Chino to take over the operations on its paper, the Champion.  Though he had a MBA from Harvard and was viewed by some as an outsider, Allen McCombs overcame some local skepticism and became not just a stellar journalist and newspaper owner, but a pillar of the community, serving in many leadership roles, including the planning commission, school board, and a committee working with CalTrans on the routing of the 60 Freeway through the city.

Even though he was head of a small town paper, McCombs was president of the state newspaper publishers association and was widely known for his dogged defense of a free press and the First Amendment.  His ownership of the paper lasted a staggering 60 years until he sold the Champion in 2017, though he retained the title of publisher emeritus and continued his management of the editorial pages and the writing of his always-informative and entertaining "Rolltop Roundup."

As Chino Hills began to emerge as a growing unincorporated community, McCombs recognized the importance it would take in coming years and formed the Chino Hills News in the late Eighties.  He later created an edition of the Champion for the city, after it was incorporated in 1991, and he did a stellar job in reporting on news and events in the new community as he did for Chino.

Launched by Chino's founder Richard Gird in 1887, the Champion is the second oldest continuously operating newspaper in the greater Los Angeles region, being a half-dozen years younger than the Los Angeles Times and it is hard to overstate how much of an accomplishment it was for McCombs and partners like Bruce Wood to keep the local weekly viable as print media shrunk dramatically in recent years.  It is a testament to his vision, faith, keen understanding of community and sheer hard work that McCombs was able to not just keep the paper afloat, but of top-notch quality all of those years.

McCombs was also a keen student of history, generally and locally, and was a veritable storehouse of knowledge about Chino Valley's rich past, including that of Carbon Canyon.  He always wrote incisively about aspects of our area's history and, in person, could retrieve long-stored facts from his prodigious memory that was astounding even as he got into his nineties.  It was an honor to be asked by him to submit monthly columns, starting in 2018, in the "History of the Hills" series, sharing aspects of the history of Chino Hills as a complement to Kerry Cisneroz' excellent columns on Chino.

Though I did not know him for long or that well, I always enjoyed speaking with or corresponding with Al about the history of the Chino Valley, including at meetings of the Chino Hills Historical Society, where he gave a great presentation about local history.  He lived a long and eminently useful life and his achievements in community building and the operation of a newspaper for six decades, especially during the lean years that have shuttered so many papers, are truly impressive and inspiring.

Thank you, Al, for all that you have done and given to the Chino Valley for 65 amazing years!

19 March 2021

Proposed Legislation to Require State to Add to Chino Hills State Park

Lying just to the south of Carbon Canyon on the other side of Soquel Canyon and also a small portion north adjacent to Olinda Village, Chino Hills State Park is a crown jewel of passive recreational space in an increasingly urbanized area. While it has been ravaged by huge wildfires twice in the last dozen years, the park remains vital for our region and it is great news that legislation by Senator Josh Newman, recently returned to the legislature after a recall, to require the state park system to rescind its policy of not accepting purchased or donated land to any given park.

Working with Hills for Everyone, the amazing grassroots group that led the effort to create the park some forty years ago, Senator Newman crafted and introduced the bill, which is advancing through committees and, hopefully, will soon be passed and sent to the governor for his signature.  At issue for the CHSP are 1,600 acres, mostly at the eastern and southern sections, that will further insulate it from any future development, a problem that became most manifest in the Yorba Linda side where homes were built directly up against the park and, in the most egregious example, on view lots visible from large swaths of the park.

Hopefully, there'll be good news soon about this legislation and additions of a little more than 10% of the park's current size (it is now over 14,000 acres), so we'll stay tuned for future developments—oops, wrong word; let's use "future news."

Read more about Sen. Newman's legislation here.

18 March 2021

A Bit Part for Local History in a Los Angeles Times Article on the Ball Family

I was surprised to get an email last week from Los Angeles Times reporter Andrew Greif, saying he'd seen the blog and other references with my involvement in local history and wanted to talk to me about Chino Hills history as context for his article on the return of LaMelo Ball to this area tonight as his Charlotte Hornets play the Lakers.

I spoke to Andrew for a while, sharing my recollections, as mentioned in a post here, of LaMelo's father telling me at their house almost twenty years ago that his older sons, Lonzo (who is, for now, with the New Orleans Pelicans) and LiAngelo (still looking for an opportunity to get to the pros) were going to be in the NBA.  I don't think the boys were older than maybe 6 and 5, though the post probably says they were younger, but I sure was struck by LaVar's confidence as he told me that while showing me his back-yard set up for training his kids.

I was further surprised when Andrew asked if I would agree to have my photo included in the article, but I met Gina Ferazzi out on English Road, which still retains the rural equestrian feel of days gone by, for a quick session, which included the published photo, in which I had to stare in the sun and had a bit of trouble keeping my sensitive eyes fully open.  There's that and my pandemic hairdo, but Gina is a very good photographer and I like her images of LaVar.

In any case, Andrew got in a fair amount of the area's history, as well as interviews with a number of residents and officials, and wrote a really good article, which you can check out here.

14 March 2021

Carbon Canyon Road Closed Due to Motorcycle Accident

It happened several hours ago, but a motorcycle accident on Carbon Canyon Road (State Highway 142) on the Orange County side west of Sleepy Hollow and east of Olinda Village has led to a full closure of the highway.

There are no details at this time, but a full closure and of this length sadly suggests a fatality.  More info will be provided as it becomes available.

08 March 2021

The Ghost of Carbon Canyon: A True Story

Mark Kautz got in contact recently and wanted to share a true story about "The Ghost of Carbon Canyon," which comprises two chapters of his book Fishing, Ghosts, and My Mother's Gray Hair.  So, enjoy and thanks to Mark for sharing!

Chapter 10: The Ghost of Carbon Canyon

The time is the late summer of the 1960s. This is a true story.

There were six of us who used to hang out together. Three of us were roommates; the other three were girlfriends. The three decided we wanted to put a little scare into the girls by taking them to see the Ghost of Carbon Canyon.

Carbon Canyon is southeast of Los Angeles in the rolling hills that are common to the Chino, California area. As the story goes, a couple was parked at the local make-out place at Carbon Canyon, doing things that couples do when parked, and somebody killed them. The ghost comes into the picture this way: He waits—at least we think it’s a he—on the hill top for couples to park below. He or she then comes down the hill to see if anyone is related to the person that killed the couple. If they are not, the ghost disappears. If they are, the ghost floats over the gate and approaches the car with the intention to kill that person. The ghost wants revenge for its own death.

The six of us piled into my 1959 Chevrolet and headed out. We wandered through a few canyons, telling ghost stories and generally being the butt heads that young men can be. Oh, this was going to be fun! Oddly enough, one of the places we went through was a little town called Sleepy Hollow. That was enough to put up the hair on the back of your neck.

We got to the “parking” spot, and I backed in the car. Wanted to be sure we could get out in a hurry if need be. It was just another show of being macho. We sat there, we talked, and we listened to the radio and generally had a good time.

Suddenly on the top of the hill, in front of us, a light appeared. In that light, an apparition of some sort also appeared. The six people in the car almost had heart attacks; well, the girls anyway. Then it got worse. The apparition started down the hill toward the gate. By then, I was trying to get the car started. You know how that is: when you are in a panic, you can’t even get the key into the ignition. Half way down the hill, the apparition and the light disappeared. Some calm returned to the car.

Seconds later, the light and the apparition reappeared and proceeded to the bottom of the hill and approached the gate. At the instant, it stopped at the gate, and there was a huge ringing sound. The sound of a gong of some type is the best way I can explain it. By then I had gotten the key into the ignition and panic had returned to the car.

In the split second it took to start the car, we noticed the apparition crossing the gate and starting toward the car. Flying dirt and squealing tires on pavement, we were out of there. We never went back, ever.

 Chapter 11: The Ghost of Carbon Canyon (The Rest of the Story)

The time is the late summer of the 1960s. This is a true story.

There were six of us who used to hang out together. Three of us were roommates (actually there were four roommates); the other three were girlfriends. The three guys (all four were involved) decided we wanted to put a little scare into the girls by taking them to see the Ghost of Carbon Canyon.

Carbon Canyon is Southeast of Los Angeles in the rolling hills that are common to the Chino, California area. As the story goes, a couple was parked at the local make out place at Carbon Canyon, doing things that couples do when parked, and somebody killed them. The ghost comes into the picture this way: He waits—at least we think it’s a he—on the hill top for couples to park below. He or she then comes down the hill to see if anyone is related to the person that killed the couple. If they are not, the ghost disappears. If they are, the ghost floats over the gate and approaches the car with the intention to kill that person. The ghost wants revenge for its own death.

The six of us piled into my 1959 Chevrolet and headed out. We wandered through a few canyons, telling ghost stories and generally being the butt heads that young men can be. Oh, this was going to be fun! Oddly enough, one of the places we went through was a little town called Sleepy Hollow. That was enough to put up the hair on the back of your neck.

We got to the “parking” spot, and I backed in the car. Wanted to be sure we could get out in a hurry, if need be. It was just another show of being macho. We sat there; we talked, and we listened to the radio and generally had a good time.

Suddenly on the top of the hill, in front of us, a light appeared (headlights from a car coming over a rise on the hillside behind us). In that light, an apparition of some sort (roommate number 4 in white T-shirt, white Levi’s, and white sneakers) also appeared. The six people in the car almost had heart attacks; well, the girls anyway. Then it got worse. The apparition started down the hill toward the gate. By then, I was trying to get the car started. You know how that is: when you are in a panic, you can’t even get the key into the ignition. Half way down the hill, the apparition (roommate number 4 tripped on a rock and fell down) and the light disappeared (The car went into a dip, and the headlights didn’t show any longer). Some calm returned to the car.

Seconds later, the light (car came over the next rise) and the apparition reappeared (roommate number 4 got up and started back down the hill) and proceeded to the bottom of the hill and approached the gate. At the instant, it stopped at the gate; there was a huge ringing sound (when he fell down, he picked up a big stick). The sound of a gong (he hit a hollow metal post with the stick) of some type is the best way I can explain it. By then, I had gotten the key into the ignition and panic had returned to the car.

In the split second it took to start the car, we noticed the apparition crossing the gate and starting toward the car. Flying dirt and squealing tires on pavement, we were out of there. We never went back, ever.

It was years before any of the girls found out the truth of what actually happened that night. I was fortunate enough to be out of the initial firing line since I was no longer with that girlfriend, but the other two couples had married by that time, and since we were still friends, I did get some of the fireworks; in fact, what I got was a pot bounced off my head. I kept that pot for a long time just to remind me of that night. It was always good for a laugh.

06 March 2021

State-Mandated Housing for Chino Hills and Carbon Canyon, Version 2.0

A third public housing workshop was held last Tuesday by the Chino Hills Planning Commission, the main result of which was that 30 identified sites for the over 3,700 housing units the state is mandating be built in the city have been whittled down to a baker's dozen.

Of these 13, however, two are in the canyon and, even though Marianne Napoles of the Chino Valey Champion reported that the others were struck off the list for several reasons, including "without proper access," the canyon properties, like any other proposed housing projects within it, are accessed by a two-lane state highway that already ranks D or F, the lowest possible ratings, for traffic congestion and which cannot be widened because of the physical constraints of the canyon.

The two parcels include 10 acres of the Western Hills Golf Course, the owners of which have been working with major developer Randall Lewis on a housing plan, and the Leonard Grenier property, comprised of stables and structures (many dating back to the Workmen's Circle's Camp Kinder Ring, which was there from 1928 to 1958) on 16.5 acres on Canyon Hills Road just north of Carbon Canyon Road.

Commissioner Patrick Hamamoto rightly asked if the state was taking future water supply into consideration when imposing these mandates and was told by Community Development Director Joann Lombardo that this was not the case.  Presumably, this is true for other critical elements of infrastructure (roads, schools, sewers, etc.)  And, again, the traffic impacts would be very significant.

Napoles wrote that projected numbers of units for the 13 properties are expected to be announced at the next workshop, which is to be held virtually on the 16th at 7 p.m.  More information is available on the city's housing element webpage.

13 February 2021

State-Mandated Housing for Chino Hills and Carbon Canyon

Thanks is due to a friend and fellow Canyonite from Olinda Village for the reminder to post about the issue of the impacts of state-mandated housing in Carbon Canyon as the City of Chino Hills grapples with the thorny problem of providing for nearly 4,000 units as required under the mandate.

Coverage in the Chino Hills Champion in its issue from 6 February lays out the scenario in terms of identified some twenty parcels in the city, including lower performing shopping centers, undeveloped land between Soquel Canyon Parkway and Woodview Road, the space between City Hall and The Shoppes, and, in Carbon Canyon, Western Hills Country Club.

Western Hills, which was opened in the mid-1960s on part of what was the ranch of industrialist Shelly Stoody, has been slated for closure and sale, with housing already a targeted use for the site.  The problem is that, unlike all of the other identified locations for mandated housing in the city, the traffic situation is simply untenable now and won't get any better down the road.

Carbon Canyon Road is a two-line state highway and it is physically impossible to widen it, given its proximity to Carbon [Canyon] Creek, steep canyon walls, and developed property.  Adding what easily could be hundreds of housing units on the Western Hills sites, in addition to other developable tracts like the proposed 28-unit property just to the east across Fairway Drive and the recently abandoned Hidden Oaks parcel to the west across from Circle K, takes us back to what has been raised frequently in this blog and elsewhere—building hundreds of housing units on the Chino Hills side of Carbon Canyon will not improve, but worsen, the quality of life for its residents and those who commute through it.

The state's rush to meet demand for an enormous number of housing units leads to released plans like the mandated housing element and the automatic approval of ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units) without enough consideration of local concerns.  Moreover, what is appearently not being discussed nearly enough in conjunction with this is the projected availability and supply of water, power, means of transportation, schools, and other core and crucial components of infrastructure.  

Obviously, available and affordale housing in California is a vital issue, but the sheer level of pushback from cities of all kinds, from working-class to upscale, over the imposition of formulas by fiat rather than working with the particular conditions of communities, shows how contentious the matter is becoming.  Is it an iron-clad rule that, just because there is demand supply has to be met no matter the at-large cost?

This Tuesday the 16th @ 7 p.m., the Planning Commission will conduct another workshop on this issue and, at the end of the Champion article, Planning Commission Chair Jerry Blum encouraged residents to be involved and participate in the public input process.