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MTA Hunts for Leak Buckling Hollywood Blvd.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Four blocks of Hollywood Boulevard remained closed Sunday as Metropolitan Transportation Authority engineers tried to find the source of a water leak that caused the street to buckle and the earth above two unfinished Metro Rail tunnels to sink--in one spot, by as much as nine inches.

Construction crews were busy shoring up the two subway tunnels with steel reinforcements, while engineers searched for a burst or leaking water main that is believed to have loosened the soil under the street.

Crews also used jackhammers to remove 27 Walk of Fame stars--including those of Carol Burnett, Melissa Gilbert and Jim Nabors--to protect them from the construction work and buckling sidewalks.

MTA officials said they hope to have the boulevard between Cahuenga Boulevard and Cherokee Avenue reopened this morning.

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The 45 residents evacuated from an apartment building Saturday were allowed to return home briefly and under official supervision to retrieve a few personal items Sunday afternoon, but were soon shuttled back to a nearby Holiday Inn, where they were staying at MTA expense for the night.

“We are trying to minimize the inconvenience as best we can,” said Edward McSpedon, MTA’s executive construction officer.

All the commotion, however, has angered business owners.

“I might as well close up and go home,” said Pino Mohabber, who owns a minimarket on Hollywood Boulevard near Cherokee Avenue. “Sundays are usually my busiest day. But now, nothing.”

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Sal Marsiano, one of the residents evacuated from the Hill View Apartments, also criticized the MTA for the inconvenience.

“First, I couldn’t get to my job for three days because of the MTA bus strike,” said Marsiano, who works as a security guard on the Westside. “And now, because of the MTA, I can’t get into my apartment. Yeah, I’m frustrated.”

City building inspectors were checking the apartment house, which was severely damaged in the Northridge earthquake, to see whether the foundation was sound enough for the residents to return, possibly today.

On Saturday, structural problems in the four-story brick apartment building forced officials to evacuate the tenants.

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The problems started Thursday, when construction workers noticed an unusual amount of water in the tunnel. After the MTA informed the City Council of the trouble Friday, the council ordered a halt to all tunnel construction in the area until workers could determine where the water was coming from.

“We don’t want to go any further until we know what caused this,” said Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg, who represents the Hollywood area. “If you don’t know why it happened, then how can you prevent it from happening somewhere else?”

According to MTA officials, the ground has sunk by as much as nine inches near the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Hudson Avenue. But at no time was the area in danger of collapsing, officials said.

“We have put in steel columns and horizontal bracing there and we are extending it east of that point about 200 feet under Hollywood Boulevard,” said Bill Heard, an MTA spokesman.

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Critics of the project said the damage to the street is nothing short of a catastrophe.

“They’ve just been doing shoddy work,” said Bob D’Amato, a member of the Los Angeles Transportation Whistle Blowers in Favor of Congressional Enquiry. “They are just in a hurry to get the work done.”

He said his group wants the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct an assessment of the site.

“At this point, you can’t trust who is down there,” D’Amato said. “We need an outside person to come in and check it out.”

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