Sinkhole Situation Has Neighborhood Down

Times Staff Writer

A spectacular sinkhole that ended the year with a rumble in one Santa Monica neighborhood is starting the new one with grumbles from residents who face a two-month repair job in front of their homes.

City officials said Tuesday that it will take at least that long to replace any damaged water, gas and telephone lines and then rebuild a block-long stretch of Ocean Park Boulevard that was split open by the 200-foot-long sinkhole over the weekend.

About 100 residents were unable to reach their homes by car because of the street collapse and some had to rescue automobiles marooned in garages by driving them up sidewalks and over lawns. They will be required to park outside the sinkhole zone during the reconstruction.

"What a way to end the old year and start a new one," moaned Gilbert Borboa Jr., utilities manager for Santa Monica. On Tuesday he was overseeing more than 150 workers beginning the long repair project, which could cost more than $1 million.

Ocean Park Boulevard, a busy east-west street that links West Los Angeles with the beach, remained closed to through traffic between Lincoln Boulevard and 14th Street. At midday Tuesday police closed sidewalks between 11th and Euclid streets as well.

Workers were using chains attached to an earthmover to gingerly lift 600-pound slabs of asphalt paving from atop a fragile 6-inch gas line exposed by the sinkhole.

Borboa said a ruptured 12-inch main water line that runs along Euclid Street caused the sinkhole Saturday night. About 1 million gallons of water spewed under Ocean Park's pavement and washed down a hill toward 11th Street, undermining the asphalt.

The hill, which gives residents and motorists an ocean view, is actually a giant sand dune. Truckloads of sand washed from beneath the street were dumped Monday at the beach, Borboa said.

Street reconstruction will take two months because utility lines must be inspected and replaced, if necessary, before the hole is filled in and the street repaved, he said.

A 5-foot gash in the Euclid water main was visible under chunks of asphalt and concrete paving Tuesday.

Saturday's broken water pipe was discovered and reported to authorities by nearby residents Katherine Demopoulos and Thomas Mitchell. They heard cars whooshing through water and when they glanced out their apartment window they saw water bubbling through the pavement. The street began crumbling apart a short time later.

"I had things packed and ready to go. The street pavement was rising and stretching like taffy. I thought our building was going to fall," said Demopoulos, a teacher who was forced to cancel a New Year's Eve party.

Mitchell, a music producer and real estate investor, managed to move his large pickup truck off his concrete driveway as part of it began collapsing.

Crowds drawn to the scene Tuesday were met by neighborhood children selling sweet rolls, cookies, hot chocolate and candy. "Come to see our sinkhole, stay for our lemonade," was the motto of Leah Pomerantz, 9; Mason Shaner, 11; Aaron Pomerantz, 12, and Bowen Shaner, 13.

"A lot of people are hiking up to see the sinkhole," Aaron explained. "By the time they get here, they're thirsty," Bowen added.

Santa Monica resident Anna Marie Aben bicycled to see the sinkhole with her 9-year-old daughter, Monica, and husband, John.

"I was born here and have never seen anything this incredible," Aben said. "Things like this never happen in Santa Monica."

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