City Of Industry’s Tres Hermanos Development Intent Angles Toward Utilities

The unspoiled expanse of canyons and pastures on 2,450-acre Tres Hermanos Ranch will in most likelihood not be converted to residential use under a yet-to-be-fully-disclosed initiative by the City of Industry.
Sprawling Tres Hermanos Ranch, within and abutting Tonner Canyon, straddles or touches the borders separating Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties. 1,750 of the ranch’s acres fall within the confines of Chino Hills. The other 700 acres are within Diamond Bar’s city limits or its sphere of influence. In addition to the ranch itself, another substantial piece of property, the 2,500-acre Firestone Boy Scout Reservation, adjoins it and will likely accommodate the same type of development that takes place on Tres Hermanos. The Firestone property was acquired by the City of Industry, through its redevelopment agency, for $16.5 million in 2001. The City of Industry has also picked up another 1,300 acres of nearby land.
In 1972 the Pomona Valley Municipal Water District floated the concept of using a portion of the ranch property for a water storage and treatment system. That never came off but in 1978, the City of Industry’s Redevelopment Agency acquired the ranch for $12.1 million, purchasing it from the heirs of the three magnates – capitalist brothers – who acquired the ranch and gave it its name – Oil baron Tom Scott; Harry Chandler, former publisher of the Los Angeles Times; and William Rowland, son of John Rowland, who led pioneers over the Santa Fe Trail to California and the San Gabriel Valley in the 1840s. In 2000, Industry officials began to publicly discuss creating a network of reservoirs on the property.
With the state’s move to close out redevelopment agencies all over California in 2011, all redevelopment agencies have been required to divest themselves of the assets held by those agencies. The protocol for selling off those assets entails the creation of a successor agency to each redevelopment agency which handles those arrangements, subject to the approval of the California Department of Finance. In the case of the City of Industry, the successor to its redevelopment agency consists of Industry’s mayor Mark D. Radecki, and the city’s four councilmen – Cory C. Moss, Roy Haber III, Newell W. Ruggles and Abraham N. Cruz. A counterweight to the successor agency, a slight one, consists of the state oversight board to the successor agency, which counts among its members its chairman Santos Kreimann, the chief deputy assessor for Los Angeles County, and Michael Gregoryk, vice president of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut. The oversight board can moderate the successor agency’s action but does not have the power of directing the ultimate sale of those assets.
Last year, a signal that something was up came when the City of Industry bought 800 acres of land in Tonner Canyon near Tres Hermanos Ranch and the Firestone Boy Scout Camp for $7.2 million.
That purchase came roughly a year after GH America Inc. and its partner, South Coast Communities of Irvine, tendered a $101 million offer to take Tres Hermanos Ranch off of Industry’s successor agency’s hands. The successor agency has given GH America the stiff arm. The City of Industry tendered its own offer of $100 million for the land, which is not contiguous to the City of Industry, but more than nine miles distant from it, a distance which includes the entire breadth of the City of Diamond Bar. This prompted rumors, intense ones, that the City of Industry was on the brink of engaging in a bit of profiteering by using agency-to-agency privilege to get commitments from Diamond Bar, Brea and Chino Hills to radically upzone the property in terms of the intensity and density of permitted development, and then spin it off to a developer who would construct a massive subdivision there. Diamond Bar would currently allow 624 residential units to be constructed on the 700 acres on Tres Hermanos Ranch in Diamond Bar. But thirty of those acres are zoned for what the city terms “very high density” development of 16.33 units per acres. By means of a zone change, a general plan amendment or the granting of variances, Diamond Bar could convert a considerable portion of the acreage there to very high density zoning as well. Some 50 to 70 of the acres are hampered in their developability by steep slopes that would need radical grading to render them developable. Nevertheless, Diamond Bar could conceivably allow the property it has control over to be intensely developed, perhaps clearing the way for as many as 4,900 new dwelling units on the 700 acres within its purview.
It was speculated that for an investment of as little as $200,000 to $250,000 in political donations to sitting or future Chino Hills council members, development interest could easily persuade them to come off of their city’s current land use restriction policy that envisions no more than 657 residential units on the 1,700 acres of Tres Hermano Ranch in Chino Hills. At present, Chino Hills has indicated it will not tolerate anything other than very low density on the 1,666-acres there now being utilized for agricultural use, i.e., cattle grazing, meaning just 208 units could conceivably be established there. But Chino Hills says it would be more tolerant of denser development on 18.5 other acres on the ranch, where up to 24 units might be constructed per acre. It thus would not be inconceivable that the Chino Hills City Council might accept amendments, zone changes and variances to allow a developer to proceed with a plan to put in as many as 15 units per acre across the entirety of the property, or somewhere in the neighborhood of 25,000 units at build out. That would have meant perhaps as many as 29,900 homes on the Tres Hermano Ranch property alone, with an untold number of houses on the adjoining properties, including those in Orange County within Brea’s sphere of influence.
The prospect of the existing oak woodlands, riparian habitat, rolling hillsides, canyon creeks, cattle pastures and grazing land for longhorn steers, chaparral that offers cover for bobcats, mountain lions, skunks and opossum, scattered black walnut trees and glades being transformed into wall-to-wall housing alarmed the residents of San Bernardino County’s southwesternmost corner. Suspicion deepened with the assertions of City of Industry officials to the effect that they were intent on preserving the property as “open space,” which was perceived among many as doublespeak intended to mask the collusion between a set of public officials functioning across five governmental jurisdictions and a multitude of well-heeled developmental interests.
It now appears, however, that alarm and suspicion is unwarranted. The Sentinel has learned from reliable sources that the City of Industry, at least at present, has no intention of seeing that property developed residentially. Rather, officials there envision a very aggressive use of the property for utility purposes. Specifically, the Sentinel has learned, the City of Industry is in serious discussion with an entity, San Gabriel Valley Water and Power LLC, a San Diego-based limited liability company fronted by Robert F. Anselmo which was created in March 2016, relating to the ultimate disposition of the land. Whereas the utility designs considered more than four decades ago by the Pomona Valley Municipal Water District did not extend beyond those ultimately related to water delivery, the San Gabriel Valley Water and Power Company has far grander intent, both in scope and nature, including in addition to water-related operations those relating to power generation. Water treated on the site will be blended with available water sources at the site, including well water, for sale to industrial users or local municipalities for irrigation or landscaping purposes. In addition, Industry officials are considering the creation of a network of reservoirs with a capacity totaling 275,000 acre-feet or 89-billion gallons on the property, which would equal in size the seventh largest water storage facility in all of Southern California. In addition, there is an intent to devote 2,300 acres of the property for the construction of a 450-megawatt capacity solar powered electric generating facility. An issue is whether the solar plant will consist of photovoltaic cells or a design involving mirrors trained on a series of glass tubes containing therminol, a synthetic petroleum product capable of sustaining a temperature of over 700 degrees Fahrenheit, which would then be pumped into a condenser and put into contact with water, and thus converted to steam to run a turbine. –Mark Gutglueck

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