Monday, August 27, 2012

Thinking big in the Santa Ana Mountains

Some folks in the canyon communities of the Santa Ana Mountains (e.g. Silverado, Trabuco, etc.) are pushing for two things:

1) To have a large portion of the Cleveland National Forest named a national monument, to provide the area and its natural resources with a greater degree of protection. (Their working name is "Grizzly Bear National Monument" - although the bears have been pretty thin out there for more than a century.)

2) To have the occupied and privately held portions of the canyon communities declared a historic district. (Yes, this would include the Holtz Ranch area at the front of Silverado, which is currently the site of a development battle.)

According to Joel Robinson of "Naturalist For You," and his friend Shay, a group of investors/developers from Las Vegas bought up a bunch of Silverado recently and wanted to make significant changes. However, local pushback and the economy have both worked on the side of preserving things as they are. That, of course, could change. And then, of course, there's the general and constant pressure (from all angles) to develop every last square foot of Orange County. (That's one way to prevent wildfires, I suppose.)
Santiago Creek, running through Black Star Canyon.
 I know zero about creating national monuments, so I'll skip that for the moment. But the idea of creating a historical district that encompasses ALL the canyons is daunting. We're talking about a vast amount of land -- larger than any other historical district I'm aware of. And while that area is inarguably saturated with history, I'm not sure how one would approach such a complicated and expansive task. Even creating an official historic district in the middle of a city -- with  all the old houses lined up in neat rows -- isn't easy.  Trying to create a district out of the crazy-quilt that is canyon country would be,... well,... extra not easy.

If SHPO or the NPS would accept reports compiled by volunteer historians, perhaps that would help. But I still wonder how a typical "windshield survey" would work in a place where some folks are twitchy about visitors. (Remember when visitors used to get shot at in Black Star Canyon?)
Sign on the Ortega Highway.
These folks have a lot of challenges ahead of them, but the idea of keeping the backcountry as backcountry is important. Lord knows we have enough housing, strip malls and hotels in Orange County. And we've pushed nature too far to the fringes already. If you'd like to help or have questions, email Joel at


Connie Moreno said...


Anonymous said...

See.. this is the sad part. There is SOOO much land out there they can develop before hitting the canyons. Tons. But they keep eyeing it. And the naturalists keep fighting with all they have to save it. I wonder how many try and overcome like the Laurel Canyons and the lot? Never hear about that... Why don't they just leave the canyons alone? The Irvine company has all that land west and south... and they won't sell or develop. Do they not set an example?

Right now, the Holtz Ranch project was canned. The canyonites fought it with all they had and the Las Vegas company sorta went toes up. Their funding tanked. But recently, they've supposedly sold that land to the Hungarian Norbertine Monks.. the ones by Cook's Corner. Seems the monks had some property up there collapse after those bad rains and they're looking for new digs. And they will be making some radical changes.

Of course they say nothing will change... but anyone believing that should see how fast they put up no trespassing signs on the Riviera property..across from the Community Center. Some people tore down the signs in protest.. since the monks are not even there yet... but they now have a watchdog group protecting them. They have plans filed with the county to put in dorm housing for 140 students.. and then housing for the fathers and teachers and staff. Add in a big, giant parking lot (with lights), a gymnasium, a football field, a church, a food hall and even a cemetery. All of that goes against the SilMod specific plan to keep it rural. But some how, the group of Catholics are able to get things going on with the powers that be. Forget all the protected wildlife that lives there.

I've seen bobcats. mountain lions and foxes lately. Right outside of the town. How sad that they will just be pushed back even more. There isn't going to be a student or churchgoer that will put up with them being around. That's a given. And if the housing project tanked because 12 homes would have too big an impact on the creeks, etc with their septic systems and living... what does anyone think about the Catholics and their impact?? The church charges about $38K a year for a boy to go there... that's probably enough money in the church coffers to fight whatever our naturalists can come up with.

Canyon life isn't for everyone. It's rural and dusty and hokey... but the people that live there love it.. just like the people that live in Laurel Canyon love their spaces... cept they have better zip codes. Let them build between the toll roads and the 91 freeway. TONS of property there.. that will need to be graded, sure. But they won't be encroaching on tiny communities that barely are hanging on.. ones that want to preserve their canyon lifestyles. Anyone that loves the canyon / Cleveland National Forest life would LOVE to see more bobcats, mountain lions and bears. It's what they live for.

All the time, I hear people say, "I never even knew this was here." ... regarding the canyons. How sad that there are those, in the name of financial gain, that will take that discovery away from so many. I personally love it when I see city kids bail out of a van and play in the creek for an afternoon. They probably feel the same way I did about El Dorado Park when I was a kid... open space, water... fun!! Why not try and preserve what's there for the future? It sickens me to see what the greed can do. And those greedies will be the ones complaining that a coyote ate their cat or dog and it will just escalate. I wish they would all just go somewhere else and find a tree to build around.

Silverado said...

Canyonites have fought but they have not fought a smart fight. Anyone who thinks they've had any success of note needs to find pictures of the area 30 years ago along Santiago Canyon Rd and compare it to now.

All the battles over development have been suicide missions in a battle of attrition. Guess who's going to win against the infinite stream of money from Orange County, Irvine Company, Rutter Development, Marnell, etc, against the funding of canyon folk?

For those who want to ignore history the environmentalist lost the fight against Marnell. Marnell did not go toes-up they walked away because of a bad economy to make money elsewhere.

And for those who harbor fantasies the Abbey will be approved. Without some smart action the canyons will get a pittance in return for the affect it will have on the canyons.

The just-say-no-crowd has gotten zero property or contribution in return for any of the development that has gone up because they rushed in like the foolish soldier against a line of machine guns.

The opportunities to protect the future of the rural canyons has been squandered by the short-sighted narrow strategies of so-called environmentalists dominated by short-sighted people with all the vision of a rattlesnake.

They should be ashamed of themselves but the self-righteous are usually quite proud of themselves. That's what is what is most sad.

Anonymous said...

While this is all very entertaining it seems that the premise of private property rights is being overlooked. Just this week the Orange County Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the EIR for this project stating that is was in full compliance to the General Plan. The Sil-Mod Plan (as it is known by locals) is a reference document only (of which the Norbertine Father's have also complied). There is a very large, although silent majority of educated residents that love this canyon we call home but do believe in owner property rights. None of us want to see a typical downtown development, but threatening of property owners, the County, the Board of Supervisors etc. certainly isn't conducive to peaceful canyon living. These radical anti-development groups have already cost taxpayers thousand of dollars including putting the Silverado Modjeska Recreation Parks District at risk over a prior judgement against this property. Enough is enough many canyon residents say! We have already lost our school, restaurant, local canyon markets and our post office is in jeopardy of closing as we don't have a large enough population to support thriving commerce anymore. Quoting an odd statement in an OC Weekly article made by Mr. Amador, "It's real simple. It's a severe injury and fatality, a cancer the county's been put of alert about." One might respond by saying.... be careful what you wish for in threatening the County who provides resources and assistance especially during times of disaster. That Mr. Amador does not sound like a quote from someone who should be being considering as a local CoxHero, shame on you

Anonymous said...

Here here - well said.

Shay Peterson and Ed Amador are all about self promotion, distorting the truth and out right lying to instill fear to further there cause. Raising money to sue neighbors! Some think to line their own pockets.

Their stories change every time they open their mouths.

Yes, it does sound great to Save our Canyons. Donate to our cause! Give us money! We are great people! See what we do for the community! Just look us up on Facebook or You tube. Look at me in a butterfly costume. How can you say no to that?

We all live here for the same reason. It is beautiful, unique and rural. The difference is this? Most of us believe in owner property rights. The right as a property owner to do what we want on our land. We believe in the Silmod plan and it's guidelines. We respect this plan and believe if anyone develops they should also. This does not make us pro-bulldozer or insensitive to our environment or its inhabitants as Ed and Shay would have you believe.

We believe in reasonable development. Shay and Ed (Canyon Land Conservation Fund) do not believe in ANY development. They do not respect or believe in property rights. In fact, Shay promotes trespassing on private property especially if it will help her raise money to sue more local property owners.

Shay and Ed brag that they have saved the land from Irvine Lake to the Cleveland National Forest. They have done no such thing. They have for years sued property owners to stop them from developing their own property.

I must agree I am glad the the 300+ homes didn't go in at the Holtz Ranch. I am disappointed that the 12 homes did not. 12 equestrian style homes would have been a nice fit in addition to generating income for our canyons. Tax revenue on those homes. Money that helps to pay for our fire dept, post office, library, parks dept, and schools not to mention new families that would bring in children to attend the schools.

All of these anti-development lawsuits have cost us canyon folk deeply. Not only financially but it has caused a major fracture in our community. Remember the ruinous $350,000 lawsuit that Shay and Bob Hunt got the Parks board into after they broke an agreement they entered into with Marnell in 2003. Funny, the Arroyo toad hopped on in just at the right time to stop any development. Maybe instead it fell out of one's pocket.

Another lawsuit comes to mind, a lawsuit that has been going on for some time now against the Giracci Vineyard. Property owners that bought a piece of land with broken down buildings. They restored the farm/ranch and it is beautiful and serves our canyons well. I LOVE having a glass of wine there with my friends and neighbors. It is rural and a definite improvement to the area.

How has Giracci negatively affected anyone or changed the quality of their lives? The hatred that is out there for any improvement, growth or development is unrational and sickening.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Anybody who thinks the folks from the abbey will make good neighbors need only look at their actions so far. Within days after flooding our mailboxes with propaganda about how happy they were that we all "supported" them and what great neighbors they were going to be, they plastered their "private property" signs all up and down the Riviera, telling those of us who live here that we were no longer welcome to take an occasional walk along the creek, and we needed to "respect their property". It's interesting to note that they don't have much respect for the property of others, because their new "private property" signs were illegally nailed to the utility poles along the road, which are owned by the utility companies, NOT the abbey. One set of standards for us, and a different set for themselves. As for all this "support" that they keep insisting they have, I can tell you I certainly haven't seen any of it. It's becoming alarmingly obvious what kind of neighbors these people are going to be... selfish, hypocritical, and inconsiderate. What we've seen so far is just a hint of what's to come. Once these people break ground, it's going to be all bad. The canyon is already as built up as it ever should be. I strongly support the idea of designating this as a historical district, because it is. If the abbey project prevails, it will be to the detriment of the rural and historical nature of the canyon, the wildlife that has already been pushed to the limit, and it'll only bring more traffic and more development.