The Soap Opera of Potrero Canyon Park: Why Isn’t the BOE Working with Caltrans?

At the 2011 Potrero Groundbreaking, those assisting were Rob Weber, Norman Kulla, Councilman Bill Rosendahl, Stuart Muller, David Card and George Wolfberg.
Photo: Courtesy Councilman Bill Rosendahl

When we left the ongoing Potrero Canyon Park saga, the L.A. Bureau of Engineering had asked for additional money to complete the canyon’s ongoing infill construction.

In June, the BOE asked for an additional $600,000 to re-purpose the “free” soil that was donated by Rick Caruso when his three-level parking lot was dug in 2016-2017 for his Palisades Village project.

The free soil was mostly clay. For an eventual riparian habitat and drainage to occur, the soil needs to be granular.

In an October 4 email, Circling the News asked Councilman Mike Bonin’s office when they found out the dirt was not going to work. His office has not replied.

Long-time resident Jack Allen wrote a comment about CTN’s October 4 story (“Potrero Canyon Funds Continue to Be Sucked Away, Caruso’s Soil Proclaimed Not Granular Enough”) that “When it was first proposed that the excavation materials from Carusoville be used in Potrero Canyon, I questioned the proposal.

“Most of the soils in the area east of Sunset and north of Carey contain adobe and other clay-like materials which make them unsuitable for use in the Potrero landfill because water tends to flow over rather than percolate through clay like soils,” he said. “That is what causes landslides.

“That the materials being removed from Carusoville were clay-like was confirmed when I observed the materials being put in the dump trucks,” Allen said. “Moreover, it isn’t surprising that Caruso’s soil engineers reported erroneously the soils were suitable for use in Potrero Canyon…. Because the problems with the soils deposited by Caruso in Potrero Canyon have to be remedied, Caruso should have to pay the cost of remedying those problems. If his soil engineers goofed, then Caruso should require them to compensate him for the costs of the remediation.”

On October 2, BOE’s Potrero Manager Pedro Garcia went in front of the Recreation and Parks Facility and Repair committee asking for a $3.9-million change order.

At that meeting he was asked, Did engineering take this money from the designated funds for grading? What about money for landscaping? And what about the proposed pedestrian bridge over PCH?

Garcia didn’t have any information for Commissioners Joe Halper or Lynn Alvarez.

Luckily, in “As Potrero Turns,” Caltrans Office Chief Abdi Saghafi did. He said that Caltrans had an initial teleconferencing with Garcia and had discussed the preliminary stages for a bridge.

“We were looking at a crossing that might be compatible with other PCH crossings,” Saghafi said. “We met with encroachment folks and we heard the bridge might cost $10 million.”

He added, “Frankly I don’t think that will be enough.”

Saghafi said that Caltrans is still waiting for a preliminary bridge design from BOE.

Assembly Member Richard Bloom’s District Director Josh Kurbies was asked if there might be some state money available, since a bridge would connect Potrero to the Will Rogers State Beach parking lot. He said, “We were told there was a lot of money and that extra wouldn’t be needed.”

According to one accounting, there was $16,232,018 left in Potrero funds when the first change order of $600,000 came in. The second change order was $3.9 million and the grading company, which bid $13,526,579, still had not been paid in its entirety.

Will there be enough money left for the park’s eventual landscaping? Will heavy rains this winter send the fresh infill downhill towards the proposed site of the pedestrian bridge? Will the bad dirt require more than $600,000 to fix? Will the project take another 30 years?

Stay tuned for the next episode of “Potrero: The Canyon Nightmare.”

A Potrero Canyon Ground breaking was held in 2019 with help from (left to right) Debby Dyner-Harris (former Bonin District Director),  Bonin Field Deputy Lisa Cahill, Councilman Mike Bonin and Norman Kulla (former Bonin Senior Counsel). Photo: Courtesy Mike Bonin

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