County Allowed to Continue Drain Work Pending Hearing

Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles County has been ordered to show why storm drain construction under way in the Fairfax area should not be halted until an updated environmental impact report is completed.

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge made the ruling Monday after the North Orange Grove Neighborhood Assn. requested a temporary restraining order. The association represents between 500 and 600 people living in the 400 and 500 blocks of North Orange Grove Avenue.

Residents are concerned about the first stage of the $8.7-million project in which the 300 and 400 blocks of North Orange Grove, from Beverly Boulevard to Rosewood Avenue, will be torn up to install a conduit that will carry rain water to a retention basin in Pan Pacific Park.

Association member Joan Seckler said she was disappointed that Superior Court Judge Warren Deering issued an order to show cause, rather than a temporary restraining order, which would have halted work immediately. A hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday.

As Deering was issuing his order, construction workers and heavy equipment were closing off the 300 block of Orange Grove Avenue. By 2 p.m. Monday, a three-foot-wide, nine-foot-deep trench for new sewer pipes ran down the east side of the block. By late afternoon, the pipes had been laid and the trench filled.

C. M. Otero of the county Department of Public Works said work will continue unless it is halted by an order at next Wednesday's hearing.

In the meantime, he said, arrangements have been made for residents to park their cars at a lot on Stanley Avenue between 3rd Street and Beverly Boulevard, about six blocks from their homes. A shuttle van makes trips every 15 minutes 24 hours a day, according to a county announcment. Special arrangements have been made to permit paramedics and other emergency services, as well as scheduled delivery trucks, to enter the street.

Security guards are on duty from sunset to sunrise at the parking lot and along the street, Otero said.

A six-foot fence will be built around the excavation site, according to Don Hays, resident inspector for the Department of Public Works. Association members had complained earlier about the lack of fences.

Digging began near the middle of the sidewalk on the east side of the 300 block of Orange Grove, leaving only grass and about two-foot width of concrete on which to walk.

Hays said that about 400 feet of the 300 block of North Orange Grove Avenue will be excavated from sidewalk to sidewalk when the storm drain is being built. Sidewalks will be intact at all times.

"We have talked to the paramedics and the Fire Department," Hays said. "They said as far as they are concerned, the sidewalks will be totally adequate for their needs."

When work progresses to north of Oakwood Avenue, only half of the street will be closed off. The other half will be open to emergency vehicles at all times, Hays said.

Services Required

Seckler said many elderly residents in the area require oxygen and daily services, such as Meals on Wheels. Closing off the street will make it impossible for emergency vehicles to get in when needed, she said.

Other objections cited by association members include what they said is an environmental impact report, completed in 1977, which they said is outdated; inadequate testing for methane gas in the two-block stretch of North Orange Grove Avenue; failure of city and county officials to allow a scientist of the association's choosing to participate in studies, and generally, bad faith on the part of Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, Supervisor Ed Edelman and the Department of Public Works.

Seckler said she had been reassured that efforts would be made to reduce working hours to fewer than the present 14 hours daily. However, the sound of workmen and heavy equipment awoke her at 6 a.m. last Monday, the first day of work on the project, she said. Work is now scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. and stop at 9 p.m. six days a week.

Association members said that studies since the 1977 environmental impact report have indicated gas and oil dangers in the area.

Gas Levels Tested

It was at Edelman's suggestion that methane levels were retested before work began on Orange Grove, according to Edelman aide Susan Loewenkamp. She said results showed that levels were negligible.

Loewenkamp called accusations of bad faith on the part of Yaroslavsky and Edelman totally unjustified. She said both men and their aides met repeatedly with association members and have consulted with the city Fire Department and paramedics to ensure that they can reach residents quickly in the event of emergencies.

"We are convinced this is a safe project. Unfortunately we are in the position of asking a few residents to be inconvenienced to prevent flooding that 200,000 people now experience," Loewenkamp said.

But attorney Dan Stormer, legal representative for the North Orange Grove Neighborhood Assn., said, "We feel that at the hearing we will prevail. The court will restrain them from going any further."

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