FACT or BS: The Tramonto Landslide Cannot Be Fixed Because of Land Alteration

This photo was taken for the 2010 report about trying to stabilize Tramonto. A city official said this area can’t be remediated because it would alter the land form.

FACT or B.S. the Tramonto Landslide cannot be fixed because it would be a violation of the Coastal Act.

In researching the Tramonto slide in the Castellammare region of Pacific Palisades, CTN found a 2010 document that had been done jointly by L.A. City Bureau of Engineering, L.A. Department of Public Works and Caltrans.

One might ask why was Caltrans involved in this project? The toe of the slide goes onto Pacific Coast Highway and has had to be scooped up several times. The landslide continues to move and particularly after heavy rains at least one PCH lane northbound has to be closed to scoop up the dirt.

The cost to reinforce that Tramonto slide area was estimated to be about $25 million in July 2010, in a URS Corporation report.

CTN reached out to Traci Park’s Planning and Transportation Deputy Jeff Khau in a November 13 email and asked “Have you looked at the 2010 Tramonto Drive Landslide Proposed Stabilization Scheme that was done by URS and presented in 2011 by Caltrans/L.A. City DPQ and Bureau of Engineering?  Yes or no?”

CTN also asked, “Does the Councilwoman’s office support this project, or does she feel that additional testing is warranted?”

Khau responded “Our office has been monitoring this project since April when the project was first heard at the West LA Area Planning Commission (WLA APC) meeting. At that meeting, we expressed concerns about the safety of residents and the stability of the hillside. Those concerns were distilled into three priorities: preventing obstructions in the public right-of-way, ensuring that projects are completed expeditiously, and scaling the proposed homes to reflect Castellamare’s (sic) existing development pattern.

“We expect the developer to present a revised project that addresses the issues mentioned above at the WLA APC meeting this Wednesday. I want to reiterate that our commitment to ensuring the safety of current and future Castellamare (sic) residents is something we take seriously and, while the Councilwoman has not taken a position on the project, whatever stance our office decides to take will be in line with that commitment.”

Then, Khau added a PS. “The URS report assumes the grading of the entire landslide area, which would be a clear violation of the Coastal Act due to the significant land alterations. For that reason, the report’s proposal is not considered a viable option.”

Okay, the land has already been altered with slides in 1958, 1982, 1998, 2001 and most recently in 2005.

Here’s what The California Coastal Commission (CCC) writes about Land Form Alteration:

“In steep coastal areas with the potential for landslides, landslide remediation can result in significant alteration of natural land forms. When landslide activity has played a major role in developing the dominant land forms, efforts to mitigate landslides can have a dramatic effect on the region. In addition to changing the visual character of the area, large engineered slopes can change to natural runoff and drainage characteristics since most efforts to assure slope stability are concerned with preventing water from percolating into the engineered slope. Ignoring or improperly mitigating landslides can also have a dramatic effect; in California between 1973 and 1983, it has been estimated that one hundred million dollars in damage occurred annually due to landslides (adapted from Brabb, 1984; presented in Federal Emergency Management Agency, “Landslide Reduction: A Guide for State and Local Government Planning”, August 1989).

“In areas with high landslide potential, the best way to minimize alteration of natural land forms is often to locate and avoid all slide hazards. (While avoidance may be the best way to minimize land form alteration and the expense of landslide remediation, property owners have been found liable for the impacts from slides, even on undeveloped property which encourages property owners to consider remediation even when avoidance is possible.) Numerous papers and books have been published on landslide mitigation efforts, descriptions of various techniques, comparisons between various techniques for specific slide types, and other landslide mitigation topics. In almost all cases, land slide mitigation requires land form alteration, either to remove and recompact the slide, or to access the area to install stabilizing to retaining efforts. The Commission staff report, ‘Overview of Engineering Techniques to Reduce Grading,’ describes many of the common techniques to stabilize landslides and discusses options for reducing the amount of land form alteration; however, only the option of avoidance eliminates the need for some amount of land form alteration.”

It appears that remediation of this slope would be acceptable under the CCC.

Maybe even more disturbing is Councilwoman Traci Park’s office priorities in backing these oversized developments is 1.preventing obstructions in the public right-of-way, 2. ensuring that projects are completed expeditiously, and 3. scaling the proposed homes to reflect Castellamare’s (stet) existing development pattern.

It would seem given the complete shut down of the 10 Freeway, instead of worrying if the proposed projects would be done on time, a larger concern might be the closure of PCH. The hill has slid on the road before.

The toe of the landslide feeds onto Pacific Coast Highway.

FACT of B.S. the Tramonto Landslide cannot be fixed because it would be a violation of the Coastal Act.


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7 Responses to FACT or BS: The Tramonto Landslide Cannot Be Fixed Because of Land Alteration

  1. Mikael Kuhn says:

    Thank you for your reporting. I live in Castellammare and the proposed Tramonto/Revello development (4 mansions to be built on the landslide over the next 5-10 years) would be devastating in a million different ways. For all of us in the neighborhood – 300+ homes – and potentially for anyone who drives PCH. I truly can’t believe it’s being considered. We’ll be back in court tomorrow night. Wish us luck.

  2. Karin Olson-Espinosa says:

    As a resident of this hill I am horrified that the City cannot see the glaring flaws in this proposed development. Perhaps I should not be surprised. Several months ago we watched the City give away a public right of way at the top of our street, Giardino, to a homeowner wanting to build her dream home and “needing” this area for her pool etc.
    This public right of way is a critical path for firefighters to access the tops of Monte Grigio and Giardino Way, saving valuable time.
    The City gave the land to the homeowner and I suspect we will see the same and much worse tomorrow evening.

  3. Michele Shafroth resident of Castellamarre Mesa says:

    Thank you for your incisive investigative reporting of this situation. I completely agree with your analysis. Traci Park and her office’s unsympathetic position are disappointing.

  4. Jo says:

    The City of Los Angeles owns the lot immediately northwest of the proposed Tramonto home, and abutting the Tramonto bulkhead. I guess when that lot lets go in a landslide, we can sue the City for failure to remediate its own property.

  5. Ann Smith says:

    Just for the record, that landslide happened in January, 1969. Indeed people who lived in Malibu drove to the slide on their side and then went down to the sandy beach and back up again on the Palisades side for further transportation. Yes, that landslide covered all of PCH and the communication lines had to be installed above the slide.
    The removal of the slide took quite awhile months(?). The idea of homes being built on the land above the PCH slide is insane!.

  6. Kim Bantle says:

    Thank you for reporting on this. In addition to the proposed construction, I cannot believe Caltrans is not addressing the current slide that obliterates the shoulder on PCH. Are they waiting for the developers to clean it up someday? It’s not in anyone’s proposal. Bikers must go into ongoing traffic to get around this area. My husband and I ride frequently to the bike path, and it’s crazy how many close calls we’ve witnessed by bikers trying to get around this slide. In addition, the shoulder leading up to this slide is so buckled that it’s close to being unrideable. My understanding is that a biker was badly injured in this location several years ago, and the city shelled out millions from a lawsuit. This is another accident waiting to happen. I’m sure Caltrans will say they don’t have the money to fix this, but it’s a tragic accident waiting to happen!

  7. DR says:

    I was nearly killed biking here – started to take the lane to get around the slide and a huge RV towing a trailer did not slow or move over and missed me by inches.

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