La Cañada residents bemoan K-rails, City Council refuses to budge

More than 30 La Cañada Flintridge residents let their disdain of the concrete barriers placed on neighborhood streets known this week, but the City Council refused their request to move the so-called K-rails until federal authorities deem the area safe from mudslides.

Residents of Big Briar Way and Haskell Street said Monday that they want the K-rails, which were installed the winter after the 2009 Station fire, taken out because they are ugly, create hazards and hurt property values.

“The K-rails on Haskell Street have created much more of a problem than anything they were intended to prevent,” said Catherine D’Zurilla, who lives on the street.

D’Zurilla told the council that the sandbags surrounding the K-rails trap water, stinking up the neighborhood, and that a K-rail at the Haskell Street curve above Vista del Valle Road frequently causes drivers to swerve into the oncoming lane.

Despite receiving a petition from more than 30 residents, the City Council voted unanimously to abide by the findings made in May by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to keep the barriers in place until at least next year.

There is not yet enough deep-rooted vegetation covering the affected hillsides to justify removing K-rails, according to a report written by a geologist for the agency.

And the dry winter of 2011-12 may have slowed the forest’s recovery, according to the report. Agency officials said K-rails — with the exception of a few in La Crescenta — should remain in place at least until the spring of 2013, when the situation can be assessed again.

The report states that some debris remains stored in a channel above Big Briar and notes that residents in the Ocean View area said K-rails mitigated the worst damage during the January and February 2010 rain storms.

“Public safety is our city’s top priority,” La Cañada Councilwoman Laura Olhasso told residents. “You all said, ‘I don’t think there’s a problem.’ I hope you’re right, but what if you’re not?”

Councilmen David Spence and Michael Davitt said they would support a city inquiry into moving the single Haskell Street K-rail that residents say is a driving hazard.

Meanwhile, Olhasso said that the city can’t rely on just the hope that strong storms won’t strike.

“I was at the top of Ocean View and saw that devastation, and that broke my heart,” she said. “I would hope not to see that devastation on your street. We don’t want to take that chance as a city."

-- Daniel Siegal, Times Community News

Twitter: @ValleySunDan

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