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City sues FMWD to fix Foothill Boulevard dip caused by leaking pipe

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Vehicles pass a large dip on the road on the 1700 block of Foothill Boulevard in La Cañada Flintridge, on Tuesday, Sept. 10.
(Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)

The city of La Cañada Flintridge has filed a lawsuit against Foothill Municipal Water District seeking damages and repairs after an April 21 water pipe under Foothill Boulevard burst, causing significant sinking of the road near Lutheran Church in the Foothills.

An Aug. 20 complaint filed with the Los Angeles County Superior Court by the city alleges it took more than nine hours for Foothill Municipal Water District officials to discover the source of the Easter Sunday leak and nearly a week to complete temporary pavement repairs.

“Since Defendant’s repair of the water line, the subsidence has continued to grow progressively worse,” the complaint states. “It is now spreading out and radiating from the site of the Defendant’s repairs, causing the westbound lanes of Foothill Boulevard to sink dramatically, causing cracks to appear in the westbound lanes and causing the median to warp.”

The worsening condition of Foothill Boulevard poses a threat to vehicular traffic, bicycles and pedestrians as well as to adjacent properties, according to the city’s complaint, and will only continue to degrade if it is subjected to rains or flooding.

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Yet, despite the urgency, city officials claim FMWD did not adequately respond to a request by La Cañada Mayor Len Pieroni to address the subsidence and, as of the Aug. 20 filling date, had yet to deliver a decision on a claim against the district.

The complaint states the water retailer was negligent in failing to maintain and repair public property and has created a public nuisance by obstructing the free passage of Foothill Boulevard, on which the city has placed a number of signs and markers to indicate a severe “dip” in the road just east of the Glendale (2) Freeway.

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A surveyor places his instrument on a surveying nail near a large dip on the road on the 1700 block of Foothill Boulevard.
(Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)

The city, further alleging FMWD has damaged city property, is seeking a mandatory injunction requiring the agency to repair the damage to Foothill Boulevard.

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FMWD General Manger Nina Jazmadarian said Friday the water district had retained legal counsel and that while attorneys on both sides were communicating, she could not further comment on the legal action.

In emails dating back to July, Jazmadarian said FMWD was investigating subsurface soils and trying to determine what caused the pipe to fail. A surveyor was continuing to monitor the subsidence as part of a phased work plan, she indicated on July 31.

Public Works Director Pat DeChellis said Monday the city has been measuring the subsidence since late June and had recorded less than 1 inch of movement. He could not say how far Foothill Boulevard had subsided, in total, but assured it is being measured on a weekly basis.

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Parking is prohibited near a large dip on the road on the 1700 block of Foothill Boulevard.
(Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)

A city press release issued by City Hall Tuesday said parking has been restricted immediately adjacent to the depression to provide for increased visibility among drivers and urged FMWD officials to address conditions quickly.

“We are very disappointed that Foothill Municipal Water District has not taken responsibility for the condition they have caused,” Pieroni said in the release. “Therefore, we are taking this action to encourage, as strongly as we are able, the water district to do the right thing and repair their damage to our roadway as soon as possible.”

A case management conference between the two parties is scheduled for November, according to court records.

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