Earlham Lots in Pacific Palisades: Sharply Divided Opinions

By Sue Pascoe

The fate of residential construction on Earlham Street, adjacent to Potrero Canyon, continues behind the scenes.

A public hearing was first held on Dec. 5 regarding the Earlham project proposed by developer Reza Akef, owner of Metro Capital Builders, Inc. He also happens to serve as Area 8 representative on the Pacific Palisades Community Council. The property is part of an investment portfolio that is managed by his father.

The project’s location (from 15210 to 15222 Earlham) is at the loop on Lombard Avenue between the intersections with Friends Street and Earlham. Each of the three lots is about 12,100 sq. ft. and each house is roughly 6,500 sq. ft, with 3,500- sq.-ft. basements.

Although the city had approved the project, consulting geologist E.D. Michael, hired by Earlham Neighbors, studied the Earlham/Friends lots and his report was submitted as part of the March 31 appeal filed by Earlham Neighbors.

Three 10,000 sq.ft. homes are proposed for lots on Earlham.
Three 10,000 sq.ft. homes are proposed for lots on Earlham.

Michael warned the city that the “Friends Street slide,” which was buttressed to some extent by the infill project in Potrero Canyon, had reactivated.

“At the present time, there is a line of en echelon cracks in the pavement of Friends Street, crossing it between 15260 and 15263. The orientation is such that it appears they represent the crown of a developing scarp advancing the slide headward to the west and consequently threatening a number of residences along that side of the street.”

The city then sent an investigation team to the site, and its April 19 report concluded that “the settlement of inadequately compacted subgrade material may account for some of the damage.” The report continued that “a review of the archived photos show that the current site conditions existing as early as 2015.”

The city concluded that the roadway should be repaired, cracks in the roadway should be sealed, and broken and unsupported curbs and gutters repaired. It also recommended the service lines in the roadway be inspected and repaired if leaks are detected.

Ultimately, the City’s Geotechnical Group said that the slope (adjacent to Friends) was “grossly stable,” but recommended stabilization fills be placed in areas where the original buttress is steeper than 2:1.

Michael responded in an April 21 letter: “I don’t agree with the basic conclusion that the problem is ‘settlement.’ Settlement refers to lowering of a surface as the result of compaction in the underlying materials. The classic example is that of areas in the San Joaquin Valley due to long-term withdrawals of ground water.

“The system of cracks on Friends Street is a clear indication of incipient landslide movement,” Michael continued. “The line they form is developing along what, with further development, will be the crown of a landslide scarp. There may be some localized settlement along the gutter on the eastern side of Friends Street, but if so, it has nothing to do with the en echelon crack system now in the progress.”

Michael called for an immediate slope stability investigation.

“Based on the results of data from them [the city], a program of stabilization involving dewatering, or a line of soldier piles somewhat east of Friends Street, or both, probably will be required to assure the prevention of a massive headward extension of the Friends Street landslide and accompanying damage to total destruction of properties on the western side of the street if this is to be avoided.

“The situation is somewhere between urgent and critical,” Michael concluded.

The city and Reza Akef were contacted. Akef said that he had offered to pay half the cost of another geologist for a second opinion. “The caveat is that the geologist must have worked in the Palisades in the last three years.”

The city never responded. A date has not been set to hear the appeal.

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