R.H. Estates Wants to Get Trucks Off Fragile Road

Times Staff Writer

A lot of trucks hauling a lot of dirt are causing a fuss between Rolling Hills Estates and some of its neighbors.

Faced with the specter of 2 1/2 months of heavy trucks hauling dirt along the two-lane stretch of Palos Verdes Drive North from a development in Rancho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills Estates wants to find a legally defensible way to force the trucks to take another route.

“If we had that many trucks, there would be no Palos Verdes Drive North anymore, and it would stop traffic,” said Rolling Hills Estates Mayor Nell Mirels.


A ban on truck travel along the key section of Palos Verdes Drive North would force the trucks to bypass the more direct route to travel instead through Torrance and Lomita, by way of Pacific Coast Highway, to reach their destination: the Chandler’s Palos Verdes Sand and Gravel quarry in Rolling Hills Estates.

The city’s effort to protect its road from congestion and damage has drawn fire from some of its neighbors. They accuse the city of being a bad neighbor who has forgotten it is part of a region in which all must share traffic and its problems--including trucks.

“The whole (Palos Verdes) peninsula is heavily impacted by what happens when you have an entire city saying trucks are prohibited from a street,” said Torrance Mayor Katy Geissert. “I would like to see the burden spread a little bit.”

Said Rancho Palos Verdes Mayor Jacki Bacharach, “It’s frustrating. We have an attitude in our city that we are all in a community and we ought to help each other.”

The immediate cause of the fracas is the construction of the 34-acre Marriott Corp. retirement complex, recently approved by the Rancho Palos Verdes City Council in a 3-2 vote. In preparing the land for building, Marriott plans to remove 165,000 cubic yards of dirt.

Most of it will be trucked to Chandler’s quarry just south of the Lomita border on Palos Verdes Drive East. The quarry produces ready-mix concrete and serves as a landfill for rock, asphalt, concrete and other inorganic material.

An estimated 8,000 to 10,000 truck loads of dirt will be shipped out over a 2 1/2-month period of 60 work days, according to Robert Benard, Rancho Palos Verdes environmental services director.

Shortly after the Rolling Hills Estates City Council learned that Palos Verdes Drive North was to be the major east-west thoroughfare for the trip to the quarry, it directed its staff to begin looking for ways to keep the Marriott trucks off that street.

The city already bans vehicles in excess of 6,000 pounds--about the size of a small dump truck--from much of the drive, as well as some other streets, unless their point of origin or destination is within the city. The City Council is now leaning toward narrowing the exemption to include vehicles with both a point of origin and destination within the city.

The prospect of the Marriott truck parade has riled Torrance and Lomita.

In a letter to Rolling Hills Estates, Geissert said, “I must take exception to any action which adds still more truck traffic to our streets.”

In an interview last week, Geissert said: “We feel there is a matter of equity here. . . . We really don’t appreciate being the corridor to accept the entire burden.”

Lomita Mayor Hal Croyts said: “It is unfair to make all the trucks carrying those hundreds of truckloads of dirt from up on the hill go down through Lomita.”

He said his city has no jurisdiction over Pacific Coast Highway, which is a state highway. But he said Lomita has discussed limiting the weight and operating hours of trucks on Narbonne Avenue, which is the continuation of Palos Verdes Drive East in Lomita.

A weight ban could potentially keep trucks from reaching the quarry by way of Pacific Coast Highway, which connects to Narbonne. Croyts said a City Council committee is studying the problem.

Even if the two city’s enacted both bans, trucks could still travel to and from Chandler’s by way of Palos Verdes Drive East and the four-lane eastern end of Palos Verdes Drive North.

Rolling Hills Estates officials say the ban proposal stems from concerns about adding more traffic to an already overburdened two-lane street, as well as safety and fear that the roadbed would be severely damaged by the heavy loads.

City Manager Raymond Taylor said the drive--the major east-west artery on the north side of the peninsula--carries more than 30,000 cars a day. He said the two-lane portion of the road was built many years ago without engineered soil compaction and cannot handle heavy trucks without “significant damage.”

Benard, however, said there are conditions in the Marriott development that protect against road damage. He said the company is required to do a pavement analysis and pay repair costs should road damage occur.

Rolling Hills Estates Mayor Mirels concedes that if she were an official in Torrance, Lomita or Rancho Palos Verdes, “I’d say the same thing.” But, she said, “We are facing annihilation of our poor little curvy road, and you have to do what you have to do. It makes traffic go on Pacific Coast Highway, but it (the highway) won’t fall apart.”

She said Rancho Palos Verdes is the “bad neighbor” for creating the dirt problem in the first place by approving the Marriott project. “It’s a monster,” she said. “I can’t believe they passed it.”

For her part, Rancho Palos Verdes Mayor Bacharach faulted Rolling Hills Estates for permitting expansion of the Peninsula Center complex in recent years without improving roads to handle more traffic. “But when it’s our city,” she said, “there seems to be a concern (by Rolling Hills Estates) that those trucks should not go up Palos Verdes Drive North.”

Geissert agreed, calling it “ludicrous” for the drive not to be wider than two lanes.

While the Rolling Hills Estates Council had before it a truck ban proposal at its meeting Tuesday, it delayed action for at least two months. It directed its staff to do an environmental study of the effects of various truck bans.

Taylor said the study will examine the environmental impact of both a total truck ban along the two-lane portion of Palos Verdes Drive North and one exempting vehicles operating with the city. The effects of routing trucks to other roads also will be examined. He said the city will “work with other jurisdictions” in doing the study. The council ordered the study because it wants to enact an ordinance that is reasonable and defensable if legally challenged.

Another major dirt-moving operation awaits the peninsula when Watt Palos Verdes Inc., builds 43 homes on 64 Rancho Palos Verdes acres along Palos Verdes Drive South near the former Marineland. It will take 3 1/2 months to move the contemplated 250,000 cubic yards of dirt in 15,600 truck trips, according to the city.

Watt has approached San Pedro-area Los Angeles City Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores about filling a canyon in Peck Park with the dirt to create sports fields.

Ann D’Amato, Flores’ Harbor area deputy, said she plans to hold a meeting sometime this week between city Recreation and Park Department officials and the Mira Flora Homeowners Assn., which represents people who live near the park, to see if there is interest in the idea.