Back in April 2018, I was driving on 16th Street in Upland west of Mountain Avenue and saw an old building surrounded by chain-link fence and a wall. Curious, I pulled over for photos. It’s on a small plot of land by the entrance to the Carmel Circle East condos.
My thought was that the low-slung building was a chicken coop that had been granted protected status, odd as that concept seemed. I figured I would ask someone, although I didn’t know whom. So there it languished.
The photo was still on my phone’s camera roll when I noticed it recently. And the mystery occurred to me shortly after in a timely way: I was about to meet up with my friend John Atwater, a retired Upland senior planner who worked in the Planning Department from 1984 to 2009. Surely he would know.
I showed him the photos. He thought a bit. It’s not a chicken coop.
“It’s a leftover water utility building,” Atwater said. He couldn’t remember which small water agency had relinquished the property. It have have been in the 1980s or ’90s.
The land was sold privately and has probably changed hands several times, given that Atwater recalled several would-be developers dropping into City Hall to inquire about putting a fast-food restaurant or other business on it.
He had to tell them that the property, which they may never have even visited in person, was far too small for a business since the parking requirement would eat up the entirety of their land.
“It’s the footprint of a cell tower,” Atwater told me.
Until a cell tower or some other very vertical use comes along, it’s an abandoned water utility building. Perhaps one day, the chickens will come home to roost, but they won’t be doing it there.