No One Wants to Be Right on This One

The toe of the Tramonto landslide feeds onto Pacific Coast Highway. It has never been remediated and now the City is allowing major developments on the slopes above this major artery.

My first husband, who liked to ski, took me, a novice on the slopes. As we waited to get on the chair lift, he reminded me to keep everything next to my body, because things could get caught on the lift bars. Dutifully I made sure mittens and ski poles were tucked in.

When we got to the top of the lift, I skied off, but then the entire chair lift shut down. I looked back and somehow; my husband was caught on the contraption. His gloves hooked him to the lift, which didn’t allow him to ski off.

After he was released and back on his skis, he looked at me and said, “I was right, and this proves my point.”

That thought came to mind after hearing the results of the West Los Angeles Planning Commission hearing on November 15.

The City approved four large houses with pools and basements that will be built on an active landslide between Tramonto and Revelo. The largest house is 9,051 sq. ft. with a 5, 887-sq.ft. basement and a pool and spa.

There was a large turnout of residents for the hearing. So many, that people were turned away from the room, which had a capacity of 70.

One resident wrote, “I believe that the decision was made before the hearing even began.  My impression is that the Commissioners are concerned volunteers, but they rely totally on the City engineers, geologists, and building inspectors and those people are all in league with the developers.

“I don’t know enough to say whether this is out and out corruption. Rather, it seems like a kind of ‘old boys’ network.”

One resident said that those speaking against the project were treated as a bunch of NIMBY homeowners.

Maybe more disappointing to residents was the lack of support from Councilmember Traci Park.

A resident wrote that Park’s Planning and Transportation Deputy Jeff Khau “showed up and mouthed the platitudes about preventing obstructions in the public right-of-way, ensuring that projects are completed expeditiously, and scaling the proposed homes to reflect Castellammare’s existing development pattern. Another disappointment.”

During the hearing, one of the Commissioners asked if there was any history of successful building on active landslides in L.A. and was told by City officials there might be an example somewhere in Mt. Washington.

A 2010 Caltrans/L.A. City Bureau of Engineering/Department of Public Works report suggested ways to stabilize the Tramonto landslide, but when City engineers were asked about at the hearing, the comment was “that plan stabilized the streets but not the land and was never adopted, probably because it was too costly.”  The cost at that time to remediate the hillside was given at $25 million.

Too costly.

Here’s what could happen, which might be even more costly. Tramonto the only through street in Castellammare, which is held up by a bulkhead and needs to be reinforced.

There is no street access to construct the proposed properties, which means roads will need to be constructed on the landslide to carry heavy vehicles hauling dirt.

The whole hill could tumble down onto Pacific Coast Highway, shutting down a major artery on the coast. Khau told residents in a May meeting when they voiced that concern that “the City will fix it.”

Maybe nothing will happen, but if it does, residents will be able to say, “We were right. Unfortunately.”

A thorough investigation of the Tramonto landslide was done in 2010 by Caltrans and the City, with solutions given for stabilizing the hillside. At the November 15 meeting the City said the recommendations in the report were too costly.

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2 Responses to No One Wants to Be Right on This One

  1. 'joy' says:

    I am SO relieved that “…the City will take care of it (any slides or problems caused by developing a hill that is already sliding)”. Hmmm… I wonder if that’s the same city that was going to take care of the damage caused by the wise ‘handling’ of a truckload of fireworks deliberately detonated by the police in the heart of a neighborhood. Y’know, the one that seriously damaged the entire neighborhood 2&1/2 years ago? The ‘taking care’ of the families that are still living in hotels waiting for the City to repair the damage and their unlivable homes? Or, maybe it’s the same city that has been trying to repair one small area of Temescal Canyon Road for the last year or two… THAT City? I cannot figure out why anyone would worry about THAT City promising to fix whatever goes wrong. I just suggest the folks in the area buy some big sleds to slide down the hill when it goes!

  2. Judith Freed says:

    There is nothing about “building on a landslide” that makes any sense to me. I read the article in the paper about it and saw that someone said that the building of 4 houses would stabilize the slope. What was not explained was how that would happen. The developer must be going to spend a great deal of money to build on the landslide. Would anyone really buy a house on such a site. The whole thing does not make much sense to me and I would like to see in print a really detailed explanation of such a thing could be possible. We cannot drive from here to Monterey because Highway 1 is so unstable from landslides that it is cut in half and cannot be fixed. It will need to be rerouted to a more inland route because the land along the Pacific -top to bottom is all sliding pretty much all the time.

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