Monday, August 18, 2008

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News on the Ongoing Threats to the Chino Hills Wildlife Corridor

(It Rivals Tejon Ranch in significance for wildlife migration from Southern to Northern California)


http://www.hillsforeveryone.org/news-and-press/pdfs/summer-2008.pdf

When people begin to accept that success is possible, it becomes virtually inevitable.

Despite the economic downturn, bad projects still abound but can also still be stopped.


Diamond Bar’s Bad Project - Shell-Aera


The Shell-ExxonMobil project, aka Aera Energy, remains Diamond Bar’s bad project. Five years ago Shell-Aera submitted a nearly identical development proposal to Los Angeles and Orange Counties to build 3,600 units in the undeveloped hills along the 57 freeway between Diamond Bar and Brea. (We call this area the “Missing Middle” of the Puente-Chino Hills Wildlife Corridor since thousands of acres of land have been saved on either side.)

Shell-Aera owns 2,700 acres of unincorporated land in southeastern Los Angeles County and 300 acres in unincorporated Orange County in Brea’s Sphere of Influence. Shell-Aera’s proposal threatens not only to sever the Wildlife Corridor and destroy important walnut and oak
woodlands, but it would also add 50,000 vehicle trips a day to our already congested roads and freeways.

After Los Angeles County found that the Shell-Aera project did not comply with its environmental rules, Shell-Aera sought to annex most of its land into Diamond Bar. With ambitions to enlarge its city, Diamond Bar rushed into a marriage with Shell-Aera in December 2006 in the form of a pre-annexation and pre-development agreement. An EIR was promised by fall of 2007. Yet, 19 months later, we are still awaiting a real look at the project. All we have ever been able to see are cartoon-like bubble diagrams.

Perhaps one reason the project has slowed is that California Attorney General Jerry Brown sent a letter to Diamond Bar insisting that the project comply with Assembly Bill 32 - California’s effort to reduce greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. The letter can be seen at:
http://ag.ca.gov/globalwarming/pdf/comment_aera_master_planned_community.pdf

So we still wait, and residents continue to inform fellow citizens of this massive project that, despite the early support from the Diamond Bar City Council, can still be stopped.


Brea’s Bad Project - Canyon Crest


Not to be outdone by Diamond Bar, Brea is now confronted with its own bad project called Canyon Crest. So far the City’s nose is clean when it comes to hillside development (ever since the illuminating initiative in 2000). The project that is currently being bulldozed along the 57 freeway and Lambert Road was actually approved by the County of Orange, not Brea, since it was in unincorporated territory and not within the city limits.

The Canyon Crest project will be the first test of Brea’s resolve. This 165-unit project on 367 acres is proposed to be built immediately adjacent to Chino Hills State Park and what remains of the land owned by the Scouts on the Firestone Scout Reservation. In approving the Final EIR in June, on a 3-2 vote, the Brea Planning Commission issued three Statements of Overriding Consideration - on air quality, traffic, and biology. This means these three Planning
Commissioners believe the benefits of this project (providing housing in Brea for multi-millionaires) outweigh the significant, unavoidable, unmitigatable negative impacts of (1) air pollution, (2) traffic congestion, and (3) destruction of 1,899 oak and walnut trees.
Issuing three Statements of Overriding Consideration is unprecedented in Brea development history.

The decision has been appealed so the outcome now squarely rests with the City Council. If the
Council approves the project it will virtually be proclaiming “we were just kidding when we
established strict criteria for developing hillsides.” The City of Diamond Bar can justifiably criticize Brea for the hypocrisy of “do as we say, not as we do.” After all, Brea has expressed strong concerns about Diamond Bar’s potential approval of the 3,600 unit Shell-Aera project. It too would bring negative impacts like air pollution, traffic congestion, and destruction of natural resources. Both cities are well within their rights to turn down these projects, if they judge that the negative impacts outweigh the benefits.

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