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Monthly Archives: December 2020
Coronavirus Infection Rate Escalating To Unwieldy Levels Countywide
The COVID-19 crisis in San Bernardino County has escalated to an unparalleled level, according to county health officials.
As of today, the coronavirus outbreak is at the most critical stage the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health outlines in its monitoring of the disease’s progression throughout the county’s population, designating the contagion as widespread, which exceeds that of substantial, moderate and minimal on the four-tier ranking the county uses. Since the outset of the coronavirus pandemic there have been 174,091 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the county, of which 145,276 have been resolved. County health officials say 1,420 deaths have been attributed to the virus.
With regard to the latter statistic, skeptics have claimed that local healthcare entities such as hospitals and medical centers have inflated that number because of augmentation funding they receive from the government for dealing with COVID-19-related fatalities. This has resulted, those critics say, in officials attributing deaths to the condition in circumstances when the virus was only a correlated and not an underlying cause of death.
According to San Bernardino County’s website’s informational feed, known as the County Wire, as of Wednesday, December 23, there were 170,855 confirmed cases of COVID-19, which was characterized as “up 1.5 percent from the previous day.” The Wire also reported that as of Wednesday, December 23, there were 1,407 deaths, which was “up 1.4 percent from the previous day. Thus, between Wednesday and today, there were 13 deaths, and 3,246 more confirmed cases of the contagion making the rounds in the county. That appears to be a minor respite from the serious advance of the malady that took place between December 14 and December 21 inclusive, when 134 deaths of county residents were attributed to the disease. That included 52 deaths over a 48-hour period on December 19 and 20. Deaths wholly or partially attributable to COVID-19 in San Bernardino County reached their apex on December 16, when 63 people died. As of December 21, a total of 1,375 county residents had perished from the disease from the onset of the outbreak in February 2020. Thus, over the last four days, 55 deaths from the coronavirus had been recorded in four days, a clip of thirteen-and-a-half people per day. This represents a weekly average of 94.5 deaths. The second-highest number of COVID-19-related fatalities in a single week in the county was during the seven days of August 2 to August 9, inclusive, when 129 people died.
A silver lining in the grim COVID-19 statistics is that at this point, an ostensible total of 134,337 county residents have recovered during the same period, and 1,526,935 tests have been administered. The 1,526,935 residents tested is tantamount to 69.4 percent of the county’s roughly 2.2 million population. What is unclear is the degree to which some of the 1,526,935 tests administered were ones provided to residents who had previously been tested.
Early in the coronavirus pandemic, county medical and public health officials were turning away by the thousands county residents who were seeking tests. It is unknown, exactly, what percentage of those remain untested and how many of those have given up on seeking testing, despite calls by public health officials for the entire county population to submit to COVID-19 testing, given the fashion in which those residents were previously frustrated in their efforts to have their COVID-19 status determined.
The county’s rise in COVID-19 infection rates, which includes both seven and 14-day records in new cases reported, with 36,154 and 56,017 cases from December 14 until December 21 and from December 7 until December 21, respectively, is an indication that the crisis is reaching a crescendo, according to public health officials.
A possibility exists that the infection rate may reach 50 percent of the county’s population before a significant enough percentage of the population receives inoculations of the coronavirus vaccine, which public health officials have said will alleviate the crisis. Inoculations are to be given in two phases, with an initial injection followed by a booster within 21 to 28 days, depending upon the vaccine’s formula and manufacturer. According to the Food and Drug Administration, the vaccine becomes effective roughly two weeks after the first dose is administered.
Reports have reached the Sentinel, unverified as of press time, that there has been some degree of favoritism in how the inoculations have been allotted locally, and that the prioritization of providing the vaccine first to healthcare professionals and then the eldest and most vulnerable elements of the county’s population has been violated in favor of providing the first dosages of the preventative medicine to those of political standing in the community.
As of Wednesday, the last time at which data for the relevant categories was available, the number of people hospitalized with the virus or suspected cases of the virus countywide was 1,749, and the number of those in intensive care units either confirmed as suffering with the virus or suspected of having contracted the virus was 336.
All but one intensive care unit bed in the county was filled as of that time, with patients suffering from the coronavirus as well as those under care for other life-threatening conditions.
Victorville To Let CarMax Operate Used Car Lot In Zone Set For Factory Direct Vehicle Saless
Seduced by the prospect of an influx of sales tax revenue from the retailing of big ticket items while overriding charges that it was engaging in spot zoning, the Victorville City Council last week approved CarMax locating a used car sales lot southeast of the intersection of Roy Rogers and Civic drives, at a plum spot adjacent to the city’s Auto Park at Valley Center.
The project involves the consolidation of five existing parcels to allow for the creation of two parcels totaling 4.76 acres, and the development of an approximately 7,600 square foot sales, service, and presentation building, as well as ancillary onsite operations including an approximately 900- square foot carwash and fueling service facility.
CarMax is a chain of used car dealers with over 200 physical locations located across the U.S. featuring roughly 50,000 vehicles which carries out both lot and online sales.
CarMax involves sales of vehicles with total individual mileages of between 4,000 miles and 100,000 miles, entailing elements of the used car industry that differ from the retailing of new vehicles, in particular allowing buyers to return their cars for a full refund within a week.
Since the dealers at Victorville’s Auto Park have traditionally engaged in the exclusive or near-exclusive sale of new vehicles, the ownerships of existing car dealerships in Victorville felt giving CarMax an opportunity to function within the city’s showcase for new car dealerships would constitute an unfair advantage for the used car retail giant.
The dealership is to be established on an undeveloped portion of the site immediately adjacent to existing vehicle sales facilities that include Ram Truck Center and Valley Hi Honda. The CarMax project is to comprise an approximately 7,600-square foot sales, service, and presentation building, as well as ancillary onsite operations including an approximately 900-square foot carwash and fueling service facility. To facilitate this development, the proposal included a specific plan amendment that will conditionally permit used vehicle sales within the Civic Commercial Land Use District, as well as the associated site plan, conditional use permit and parcel map.
The Civic Commercial Land Use District, encompassing 473 acres, is provided for under the Civic Center Community Sustainability Specific Plan, which was adopted by the city council in 2016.
Earlier this year and in November, when the CarMax proposal was first previewed by the Victorville City Council, the city’s auto dealers both individually and collectively made the case that approving the CarMax enterprise at the spot it had selected for its operations would constitute arbitrary and therefore discriminatory rezoning of a parcel of land within the limits of the overarching car dealership zone outside the legal bounds/accordance of the city’s comprehensive zoning plan, i.e., a practice that is referred to as spot zoning.
City officials who were backing CarMax’s proposal sought to blunt the spot-zoning accusation by noting that the property on which the CarMax lot was to be sited actually lies outside the city’s auto park, and was not therefore subject to the same restrictions. Furthermore, CarMax’s representatives maintain the company does not begrudge other dealerships being able to sell used cars from their lots, which have heretofore been restricted to selling new vehicles, and are amenable to all city commercial zones being opened to allow used car sales.
This week, the council showed itself to be unpersuaded by any arguments against allowing CarMax to set up shop at its chosen location, and voted 4-to-1, with Councilwoman Blanca Gomez dissenting, to certify the project’s final 28-page environmental impact, which concluded, “The city finds, based on the draft environmental impact report, the recirculated draft environmental impact report, final environmental impact report, and the whole of the record, that the proposed project will result in less than cumulatively considerable impacts related to irreversible environmental changes.” The draft environmental impact report was 67 pages and the recirculated draft environmental impact report went through several iterations.
Councilwoman Blanca Gomez indicated she had disagreements with environmental impact report’s conclusions.
In giving go-ahead to the project, the council further voted to adjust the city code conditionally allowing used car sales in the city’s civic commercial zones.
David Greiner, the owner of Greiner Buick GMC and one of the premier existing car dealers in Victorville, indicated he was willing to live with CarMax “as good neighbors” based on the city providing his company with “the type of relief from the zoning restrictions that we currently have,” meaning, essentially, that his dealership would be permitted to engage in used car sales as well.
On December 1, the council indicated it would revisit the city’s land-use restrictions in the Auto Park. In a staff report accompanying the agenda for the December 15 council meeting, City Planner Scott Webb wrote, “Due to the changing automobile market, as detailed in the discussion section of this report, staff supports accommodating the growing market of used automobile sales by conditionally allowing large format used car sales in the [city’s Auto Park District]. This change would give the growing used car industry access to larger lots within the Civic Commercial Land Use District in line with existing new vehicle sales facilities currently permitted in the Auto Park District. The CarMax operation would be located along Interstate 15 with access from Civic Drive and is adjacent to freeway access at Roy Rogers Drive. “
The council made short work of rejecting protests to the project lodged by the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, which has raised objections to the project in actuality because the project will not entail the construction of buildings beyond the 7,600-square foot showroom and sales/service building and 900-square foot carwash and fueling service facility, which its members would otherwise be involved in constructing. The union’s written protests are based upon what it is representing as shortcomings in the environmental impact report for the project. Pasadena-based Mitchell Tsai, representing the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, asserted that the project, as approved, violates the California Environmental Quality Act. After dwelling upon the temperature screening procedure to prevent those who might be infected with COVID-19 from being granted access to the car lot envisioned as being used at one of the entrances to the project site, Tsai concluded that this procedure was in some way inconsistent with the protocol approved by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Carpenters International Training Fund for the protection of construction workers. Tsai also said that the environmental impact report was impermissibly vague in specifying “mitigation measure for paleontological resources” at the site. Tsai said the project violates the State of California’s planning and zoning law as well as the city’s general plan and that the project would result in significant and unmitigatable impacts on air quality and result in excessive greenhouse gas emissions.
Tsai wrote that the city “should seriously consider proposing that the applicant provide additional community benefits such as requiring local hire and use of a skilled and trained workforce to build the project” such as workers who have graduated from a state-approved apprenticeship training program. He did not explain how having local workers involved in the construction phase of the project would cure its environmental defects
City Planner Scott Webb said adequate response and refutation of the issues encapsulated by Tsai had already been provided. “These are restatements of incorrect assertions that have already been addressed in the document that’s presented to you today,” Webb said on December 15, when the council gave its approval to the project.
Webb was, unsurprisingly, supported in that position by Mark Ostoich, a lawyer representing CarMax. Ostoich opined that both Tsai and the Carpenters’ Union were “misusing the California Environmental Quality Act” in raising objections to the project.
Steve Hudak, representing CarMax, predicted that the company’s Victorville location would engage in $45 million to $60 million in annual sales, boosting the city’s annual sales tax revenue to $450,000 to $600,000. He said that there were already Victorville residents who were CarMax customers, and that they were spending their sales tax dollars at the CarMax site in Ontario.
“By approving this application, the city could already recapture about $250,000 in sales tax by having a CarMax in this marketplace,” Hudak said.
Webb said dispensing with restrictions on used auto sales in the district reserved for new vehicle sales was justifiable for economic reasons.
“Historically,” according to Webb, “overall sales of used cars relative to new cars has followed a predictable pattern, with the two running parallel with new car sales always on top. However, in recent years, used car sales have been on the rise while new car sales have remained relatively flat. Experts expect this trend to continue into the foreseeable future. Edmunds, a company that conducts quarterly studies on the sales and pricing trends of used cars, identified these changes in their third quarter 2019 press release and reiterated it in several press releases in 2020. Edmunds has also pointed out another significant detail, in that while the price gap between used and new cars continues to grow wider, used cars are also more expensive now than they have ever been. As one of the largest industries in America, auto sales are of relevance to any city, given the potential for tax revenue. In accordance with implementation measure 188.8.131.52 of the land use element of the general plan, which states that the city should “periodically review or update the zoning ordinance to ensure it allows a wide array of commercial uses,” it is appropriate to periodically reassess the city’s land use standards to respond to industry changes. Such assessments allow the city to avoid preventable negative effects on the economy, such as loss of potential tax revenue, and to be in a position to benefit from the expansion of the used car market.”
6.38-Square Mile Annexation Makes Rancho Cucamonga County’s 8th Largest City
Rancho Cucamonga expanded from 40.12 square miles to 46.5 square miles in one fell swoop this month, with the annexation of 4,085 acres at the top of its northeastern quadrant.
Now part of the county’s fourth-largest city population-wise is the generally rectangular-shaped piece of ground bordered by the Fontana City Limits on the eastern end, reaching northward to the San Bernardino National Forest, ending at Haven Avenue to the west and involving a zig-zagging southern boundary using a combination of parcel lines, Wilson Avenue or its logical extension, Wilson Street and Milliken Avenue, all within what was Rancho Cucamonga’s northern unincorporated sphere of influence.
The San Bernardino County’s Local Agency Formation Commission on November 9, 2020, based upon an executive hearing of the board held on November 5, approved the annexation of the acreage from the County of San Bernardino, allowing it to be incorporated into the City of Rancho Cucamonga. According to the Local Agency Formation Commission, all of the landowners of the property to be annexed had an opportunity to protest the city’s takeover, and protests did not manifest from owners of land equaling or exceeding fifty percent or more of the assessed value of the total land to be annexed. Had such a protest been lodged, a traditional vote of the city’s residents would have needed to be held to confirm or block the merger. The Local Agency Formation Commission also accepted the environmental impact report the city completed to support the annexation request.
On December 16, the city council took official action to accept and ratify the Local Agency Formation Commission determination, thereby drawing the property, referred to as Etiwanda Heights, into the city.
While the city has indicated that it will welcome the development of about 12 percent of the property into as many as 3,000 single-family dwelling units, a modest commercial component and an elementary/middle school, officials have indicated they will ensure the portion of the land lying immediately south of the foothills, which is currently described as an alluvial fan at the base of Cucamonga Peak featuring chaparral, sage scrub and oak woodlands in their natural state, will ultimately to be enhanced with 11 miles of trails that are to provide the public with access to both Day Canyon and Deer Canyon, which nestle into one of the farthest-east-reaching extensions of the San Gabriel Mountains.
The annexed property contains the Etiwanda North Preserve. In the past, the city and San Bernardino County have moved to restrict public access to the preserve by having sheriff’s deputies, who serve as the city’s police force, ticket and sometimes arrange to have towed the cars of those who have parked near its entrance when they have sojourned by foot onto the preserve. The preserve is to be included as part of the open space the city has committed to keeping in place as part of the annexation proposal that was approved by the Local Agency Formation Commission.
Despite the commitment to preserve the majority of the land involved in the annexation from development, the annexation clears the way for the actuation of the full Etiwanda Heights Neighborhood and Conservation Plan, which was given approval by the city council in November 2019. That plan permits a relatively narrow swath of property that was previously within the city limits, featuring chaparral, grasslands and oak woodlands alongside a natural alluvial creekbed, to be developed with something on the order of 90 to 100 homes. Another 790 acres in the annexed property is to be designated as eligible for a variety of residential uses, including senior living cottages, some relatively small single family units as well as a number of half-acre sized lots to be zoned to allow equestrian use. Overall, the lion’s share of the land to be annexed, 88.2 percent or 3,603 of its 4,085 acres, is zoned for “rural/conservation” land use.
There is negligible existing residential use of the property that was annexed.
At its December 16 meeting, the council directed that the entirety of the annexed property be brought into the city’s District 4. On November 3, incumbent City Councilwoman Lynne Kennedy was elected to represent that district.
By gobbling up the property, Rancho Cucamonga advanced from being twelfth among San Bernardino County’s 24 incorporated municipalities in size stature to eighth, leapfrogging past Chino Hills, Fontana, Barstow and Yucca Valley, all of which previously encompassed more land than it did.
Victorville is the county’s largest city area-wise overall, including both land and water, at 73.7 square miles. Apple Valley, which is cataloged as a town rather than a city, is next, at 73.5 square miles. When land area is strictly considered, excluding water-covered acreage, Apple Valley is the largest of San Bernardino County’s municipalities land-wise with 73.2 square miles of dry territory. Just behind Apple Valley is Hesperia with 73.2 square miles of total acreage. San Bernardino is fourth, with 59.6 square miles. Twentynine Palms is fifth, at 59.1 square miles total, all of it land with no water. Adelanto is currently the county’s six largest city, at 56 square miles. Ontario is seventh at 49.99 square miles. Prior to Rancho Cucamonga’s expansion, Chino Hills was the eighth largest city in the county at 44.73 square miles. Fontana ranked ninth with 43.02 square miles. Barstow at 41.33 square miles, was the tenth largest. The Town of Yucca Valley, previously the eleventh largest incorporated municipality in the county, was just slightly larger than Rancho Cucamonga, at 40.02 square miles.
New Fed Ex Facility At Ontario Airport Expands Cargo Volume
At Ontario International Airport, holiday travelers stood, or sat, witness to the immediate success of Federal Express’s occupancy of its newly-completed 251,000-square-foot ground reception/distribution facilities.
Covering 51 acres on the northwest side of the aerodrome, the addition includes a concrete ramp with aircraft bays used to load and offload packages, a ground staging area and a sorting building.
Fed Ex Corporation is investing $100 million in an effort to efficientize and speed its package delivery capability into the Inland Empire and the immediately adjoining portion of Southern California. The Ontario Airport facility is a significant part of that outlay.
The modernization effort, which has taken two years, came just in time for the Christmas gift-giving rush, which has been made even more intense by the COVID-19 restrictions in place that have made traditional store shopping more difficult for buyers. Air cargo handled at Ontario International, including that at the Fed-Ex facility and the United Parcel Service package processing center, increased 19 percent during the first nine months of 2020. It is believed the freight moving through the airport over the Christmas season will leap upward by more than 25 percent over the material passing through the airport last year.
The new facility is three times the square-footage of Federal Express’s previous cargo/freight-handling space in Ontario. The upgrade represents the most expensive capital improvement at the airport since the addition of the two modern terminals and concourse in 1998.
Fed Express has been operating out of Ontario International Airport since 1987. Its previous location was on the south side of the airport, and covered 18.5 acres. The newly-completed 51-acre facility entails nine aircraft gates for wide-body planes, 14 feeder aircraft gates, 18 truck docks and greatly enhanced ramps to facilitate trucking operations. At maximum capacity, the sorting function, can handle 12,000 packages per hour.
“The opening of the new Fed Ex Express Ontario ramp greatly strengthens our operations and services, including our competitive position in the market and added efficiency to handle the increasing e-commerce volume coming out of the Southern California area,” said Richard W. Smith, the regional president of the Americas for FedEx Express.
Those departing from Ontario International Airport in the early morning of December 19 experienced firsthand how the Fed Ex operations had added to the air traffic coming into the airport. Flights departing from the airport between 5 a.m and 6 a.m., including a United Airlines flight to Denver, were delayed on the ground for as long as fifteen minutes while incoming Fed-Ex cargo planes monopolized the runways.
“We’re proud to launch this state-of-the-art ramp operation right before the peak holiday season,” Smith said.
According to Fed Ex, as many as 490 employees will now be employed by the company at Ontario International.
Assemblyman Ramos Donates His San Bernardino Restaurant To The Time For Change Foundation
Assemblyman James C. Ramos has donated his Yum Yum Restaurant in San Bernardino to the Time for Change Foundation
“This is exactly what our community needs, and the Time for Change Foundation is in a prime position to use it as part of an economic development hub,” said Time for Change Foundation Executive Director Vanessa Perez in a press release posted to the foundation’s website.
Ramos assigned ownership of the restaurant to the foundation in August, according to the press release.
“COVID-19 has only increased the dilemmas of homelessness, job loss and lack of access to health services,” Ramos said. “The people at Time For Change are filling an essential need in our community, and I am privileged to help them in the great work they do to uplift the most vulnerable in our society.”
The Time for Change Foundation has been active in the San Bernardino area since 2002
“Empowering women and ensuring that families are thriving is at the heart of what we do,” Perez said. “According to the State of Women in the Inland Empire report from the University of Riverside overall, in the Inland Empire, black women are at a 24 percent poverty rate and Hispanic women are at a 22 percent poverty rate. We are taking time to plan how best to use the building in order to increase the self-sufficiency of those seeking our services. “Our goal is to build successful futures and create economic security.”
Ramos, a former chairman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, was elected Third District San Bernardino County Supervisor in 2012. He was reelected to that post in 2016. In 2018, he ran successfully for the California Assembly in the 40th District. He was reelected to the Assembly this year.
A Bruising Process
1870s Saw Dynamic Fight Over Which Railroad Would Establish Cajon Pass Track
By Mark Gutglueck
Even as Ontario city officials today have a pipe dream that one day Ontario International Airport will be a worthy rival to Los Angeles International Airport, nearly a century-and-a-half ago, there were principals in San Bernardino County or those who had come to the area from elsewhere who saw the region east of Los Angeles as the potential economic, cultural and governmental center of Southern California, wagering a considerable amount of capital, investing hard work, and putting down stakes in an effort to manifest that vision.
One of those was David Colton, the one-time sheriff of Siskiyou County. Colton deluded himself into believing that the the Big Four – Leland Stanford, Collis Huntington, Charles Crocker and Mark Hopkins – who founded the Central Pacific Railroad Company which built the western portion of the First Transcontinental Railroad, would welcome him into their circle to form the Big Five. After David Colton put up $1 million toward the undertaking, the Big Four were willing to let Colton carry out the lion’s share of the work that needed to be done in Southern California and Arizona to complete the Southern Pacific Railroad, a later transcontinental rail line, the westernmost leg of which was constructed in the 1870s from Los Angeles through the San Bernardino Valley on its way eastward. Colton would never achieve status as a full partner with the Big Four, and the Big Five never came to exist, although there were jokes and witticisms suggesting that there was a “Big Four-and-a-Half,” and that Colton was the half referred to. It was his decision to build the railroad line from Los Angeles on a straight line straight out toward Arizona rather than curving it up into downtown San Bernardino that led to the creation of Colton, the railroad town which later grew into a significant San Bernardino County city. When he was thrown from a young and unruly horse in August 1878, complications during his recovery led to Colton’s death two months later. The City of Colton was named in his honor, and his widow was left to duke it out with the Big Four over the money her husband had invested in the Southern Pacific Railway she felt was hers.
An early chapter in the effort to complete the Southern Pacific Railroad provides an illustration of how transportation was a major consideration in the development of Southern California, how money and political influence played a decisive role in shaping the way that development came about, the degree to which skulduggery determined who eventually assumed political and economic power, and the role the railroad barons played in determining the geographic locales where the development occurred.
John Percival Jones made a fortune in silver mining in Nevada, and served for 30 years as a Republican United States Senator from Nevada. Nevada was not the extent of his interests. After an 1873 visit to Santa Monica, he later arranged to purchase a three-quarters interest in Colonel Robert S. Baker’s seaside ranch there. Thereafter he and Baker laid out the town of Santa Monica, becoming its founders.
In 1874, Jones and fellow Nevada senator, William M. Steward, invested in the Panamint silver mines near Independence in Inyo County. Initially, Jones was a silent partner in the effort to build the first railroad from Los Angeles to Santa Monica. Thereafter, after Jones set sights on building an extension of the line all the way to his mines in Inyo County, the enterprise was dubbed the Los Angeles and Independence Railroad, and Jones no longer masked his participation in the undertaking.
By January 1875, this put Jones and those involved with him in the Los Angeles and Independence Railroad, into a fierce competition with others to utilize the Cajon Pass as a rail pathway to Los Angeles.
The stakes were high. The Los Angeles and Independence Railroad, which became known as the L.A. & I, and the Southern Pacific Railroad were in competition to establish the first rail line to and from Los Angeles and the rest of the country. Whichever entity prevailed would ultimately achieve what was presumably the sole right-of-way through the Cajon Pass, granting it a monopoly on the transport of freight and passengers between Southern California and the mining regions of Central California and Nevada.
Though he had considerable personal wealth, Jones was nevertheless at something of a disadvantage in engaging with the Southern Pacific Railroad, and by extension Stanford, Huntington, Crocker and Hopkins and their comparatively larger wealth.
The Southern Pacific Railroad was already eyeing the Cajon Pass as the most logical route for its trains to make the approach from Nevada and upper California to Los Angeles. Moreover, in 1872, Los Angeles County voters, eager to see the importation of goods from the rest of the country to the region, passed a bond for the provision of more than $600,000 to assist the Southern Pacific with its effort to lay down a railroad line to extend northward and meet the existing transcontinental line in Central California.
Jones recognized he was in a footrace with the Southern Pacific to be the first railway from Los Angeles to the first eastward destination, San Bernardino, on the yet-to-be-constructed railway line. Though Jones was not without wherewithal and some advantages of his own, he was up against some even more powerful adversaries, ones with political pull, resources of their own and, even more importantly, experience in establishing a railroad in virgin territory.
As a senator, he had a command of parliamentary procedure and an understanding of both how a legislative body works and is motivated. He networked with a small cabal of Los Angeles businessman and mine owners in California and beyond that to Nevada who had an interest in not being put into the position of having to accept whatever freight handling rates the Southern Pacific was likely to demand if it had a monopoly on the railroad line into and out of Los Angeles. Together, in March 1874, they obtained the California Legislature’s passage of a bill that gave them a railroad right-of-way from Los Angeles to Independence, through the Cajon Pass. Jones and the L.A & I outmaneuvered, at least temporarily, the Southern Pacific through a set of nifty stratagems.
With the legislative clearance in hand, Jones retained James U. Crawford, a seasoned railroad man, to survey the potential routes the line would take, and thereafter manage its construction. Crawford’s conclusion was that unquestionably the logical route for the railroad was through the Cajon Pass.
In 1850 freighters Phineas Banning and W. T. B. Sanford constructed a wagon road through the Cajon gap, running parallel to and roughly five-and-a-half-miles west of the old Spanish Trail leading down from the Mojave Desert into the San Bernardino Valley. That road had a grade of roughly 30 percent over much of its length, requiring a team of 32 mules to pull a load of 15 wagons. In 1861 the California Legislature authorized John Brown, Henry M. Willis and George L. Tucker to construct a much-improved wagon road in the Cajon Pass, and to charge a toll for its use at rates set by the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors. Brown, Willis and Tucker employed Sydney P. Waite, Horace C. Rolfe and David N. Smith, who headed a work crew of 36 men to both widen and improve the existing road, clearing the pathway that began at what is present-day Devore of boulders, grading the earth, going upward to the area known as Blue Cut, the narrowest span of the lower section of the road, what was referred to at that time as the lower narrows, before continuing up the canyon along the bank of Cajon Creek, then through a substantial ravine now known as Crowder Canyon, or the “upper narrows.” They scraped a road across the floor of the canyon and from that point cleared a wide swath to create the steep plane to the crest of Cajon Summitt.
By 1875 John Brown was yet the proprietor of the toll road, and was charging a single rider on a horse a quarter, a wagon and one span of horses a dollar, a wagon and two spans of horses $1.25, a wagon and three spans of horses $1.50, a wagon and four spans of horses $1.75, loose horses or cattle five cents a head, pack animals a quarter, sheep three cents a head and a horse cart or buggy fifty cents to use the toll road.
Crawford obtained the cooperation of Brown in allowing him to survey a potential route up the pass that would either closely parallel of actually follow that of the existing toll road.
In this way, Crawford outhustled a team of surveyors who were likewise seeking to take measurements in the area on behalf of the Southern Pacific. Crawford made a fastidious accounting of the best possible pathway for the railroad and the different approaches to Cajon Summit.
Ultimately, Crawford reported to those who had hired him, “Cajon Pass is practicable for a railroad which can be cheaply constructed and operated with vast advantage to Los Angeles and her back country.”
Nevertheless, Crawford’s survey and the estimates he made with regard to the cost of further grading and track placement indicated the rail line was to be somewhat more expensive than the investors in the L.A. & I had hoped. Accordingly, Jones signalled that he would be willing to bear the cost this would entail with an even more substantial infusion of funding than that to which he had already committed.
At that point, the Southern Pacific escalated its efforts to outmaneuver at a political level the forces behind the L.A & I.
Huntington, who practically owned former San Jose Mayor and later Congressman Sherman Otis Houghton, a Republican, induced him to sponsor legislation that authorized the Southern Pacific to change the railroad’s earlier intended route to and from Los Angeles into Southern California such that it would go through the Cajon Pass. Prompted by the Los Angeles business community intent on preventing the Southern Pacific from obtaining a stranglehold on the means of transporting goods into and out of Southern California, Democratic Congressman John K. Luttrell introduced a competing bill that would have disallowed the Southern Pacific from establishing its rail route through the Cajon Pass. Thus, the Republican Jones found himself in league with the Democrat Luttrell in the effort to outmaneuver the his fellow Republicans Houghton, Huntington, Stanford, Crocker and Hopkins.
Meanwhile, the L.A. & I Railroad was progressing toward establishing a 16.7-mile section between Los Angeles and the Santa Monica Wharf, an object demonstration to the Southern Pacific Railroad that the L.A. & I was capable and committed to building a functional rail system.
With the battle raging at the legislative level, in early 1875 the Southern Pacific sent its own surveyors to the Cajon Pass to carry out a précis of the potential route. Seeing what the Southern Pacific survey team was up to, Crawford beat them to the punch. Acting quickly, from January 8 until Janaury 12, 1875, he and his team staked out the L.A. & I Railroad’s track right-of-way all the way up the Cajon Pass, including through Blue Cut, the narrowest span of the stretch up the pass, preventing the Southern Pacific from claiming it for itself, thus rendering it impossible for the Southern Pacific to build a line through Cajon.
The industrious Crawford, along with 200 men, immediately set to creating the planned railway line, undertaking to grade the way for the railroad ties and rails, and initiating the burrowing of a tunnel in the West Cajon Valley. The L.A. & I’s investors made what was then state-of-the art steam-powered equipment available to Crawford’s crews to be able to complete the cutting of the route. That route is virtually indistinguishable from the rail lines that today exist through the lower pass. Crawford’s route, however, deviated from the modern route by cutting west near what is now Highway 138, and closely paralleling where the current highway now exists into West Cajon Valley, and then making a hard turn northward toward the ridge atop the crest of West Cajon Summit. Near the peak, Crawford and his men were using a heavy duty drill to to hollow out a tunnel through which the train was to reach the southernmost reach of the Mojave Desert.
The apex of the L.A. & I’s achievement as a railroad came in October 1875, when service on its nearly 17-mile span between what is now downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica began
Ultimately, however, the Southern Pacific would bring its financial and political power to bear, blocking the L.A. & I from ever completing its line up the Cajon Pass, despite the upstart company having succeeded in completing more than 180 feet of the tunnel into the side of the mountain crest near the Cajon Summit. Work on the railroad east of Los Angeles ceased in mid-1876, and Crawford’s men were pulled out of the Cajon Pass. Due to issues with further financing, Jones and the other investors in the L.A. & I Railroad were forced to sell their enterprise to Southern Pacific in 1877
As was inevitably going to be the case, San Bernardino County remained a backwater to Los Angeles for the remainder of the 19th Century and throughout the 20th Century, while Los Angles grew to become one of the world’s leading megalopolises.
Mr. Gutglueck relied upon multiple sources in composing this article, including his previous writing regarding David Colton, Luther Ingersoll’s Century History of Santa Monica Bay Cities, Luther Ingersoll’s Century Annals of San Bernadino County, Walter Feller’s digital website pertaining to the Mojave Desert, Wikipedia and an article by Mark Landis titled “Railroad wars of the 1800s and the battle for the Cajon Pass” that ran in the San Bernardino Sun datelined March 11, 2019.