City Secrecy, Increasing Density & Election Lead To CH Red Barn Confusion

There is unresolved confusion in Chino Hills about a prominent landmark and whether it is fated to conversion from an iconic and picturesque vestige of the city’s rustic past into an example of the high density land use of the city’s intensely urbanized future or whether it will remain as it is for another generation.
Visible along the panorama of the 14000 block of Peyton Drive is a quintessential piece of old fashioned Americana, a red barn, which sits upon a ten-acre equestrian/cattle ranch.
At its September 13 meeting, the Chino Hills City Council adjourned into an executive session behind closed doors to discuss what the council agenda described as a: “Conference with real property negotiators pursuant to Government Section 54956.8, relating to the purchase or lease price/terms of interest in real property located at 14556 Peyton Drive; APN: 1032-221-02; Steve Caballero on behalf of Caballero Ranch and Konradt Bartlam, negotiators.”
Bartlam is Chino Hills’ city manager. Caballero is one of the owners of the Caballero Ranch, upon which the barn is located.
When the city council came out of that closed session, city attorney Mark Hensley reported that during the closed session the city council took no reportable action with regard to the matter.
This went relatively unremarked by the community until, at the September 29 Chino Hills City Council candidates forum put on by the Chino Valley Chamber of Commerce, one of the candidates, former councilwoman Rossana Mitchell-Arrieta, referenced the unconcluded bargaining with regard to the property involving Bartlam and Caballero. Mitchell-Arrieta stated that she had “heard” the city was seeking to purchase the
land at the corner of Peyton and Eucalyptus Avenue in advance of an effort to develop an apartment complex there.
Mitchell-Arrieta suggested this might “take away from the rural density we all want.”
This led to burgeoning speculation the property is now, or will soon be, slated for development, and the red barn will be razed.
There have been less than clear denials of the existence of a development proposal on the Caballero Ranch property. The confusion intensified when three of those in the know, councilwoman Cynthia Moran and mayor Art Bennett, who are up for reelection, and councilman Ray Marquez, who is not running in this year’s race, all declined to answer directly about the report the property was on the brink of development. Moran, Bennett and Marquez participated in the September 13 closed session negotiating session.
Since September 29, a clarification, of sorts, has emanated from City Hall to the effect that the sale being negotiated involved two pieces of city property abutting the Caballero Ranch, conveying the possibility the ranch, which has been in the possession of the Caballero family since 1956, was going to be expanded.
Nevertheless, the report that the property is to be sold is yet afoot. And the suggestion that the property is going to be developed – by the Caballero Family or someone else – persists.
The Sentinel sought to get its information directly from Steve Caballero. He, however, was in Las Vegas earlier this week and could not be reached. He had not returned a series of calls to his home by press time and was unavailable to clarify whether the secret discussions he held with the city pertained to his family’s sale of the property to the city or another party working with the city or whether he was seeking to purchase city-owned property.
A Caballero Family spokeswoman did tell the Sentinel on Wednesday that “The family is not going to sell the property.”
Unstated, however, was whether the family is now looking to develop the property, either as reported into an apartment complex, or in some other fashion.
The matter is of some moment in the current election, as there is some discontent within the 78,352-population city at the extreme southwest corner of San Bernardino County over population growth and density. In 2000, Chino Hills numbered 66,787 residents. By 2010, it had grown to 74,799 residents as quantified by the U.S. Census. In recent years, the population growth has continued unabated and the density of development has increased. Those seeking to oust the city’s incumbents have cited the intensity of development in the upscale city as an election issue. Some effort to shame Mitchell-Arrieta for raising the issue followed in the wake of the controversy over the city’s secret negotiations with Steve Caballero in which it was asserted she had made an inaccurate assumption on the basis of inadequate information, spoke prematurely and thus propounded misinformation.
Others, however, have stood up to defend her, saying the city invited the controversy and whatever misinformation attended it by a lack of transparency in that negotiating process. They said Mitchell-Arrieta was simply bringing forward an issue of relevance in the course of the council campaign.

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