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Foothill dip blame game continues as FMWD files countersuit against city

dip in the road at 1700 Foothill Blvd.
Vehicles pass a dip in the road at 1700 Foothill Blvd., in La Cañada Flintridge. The city and Foothill Municipal Water District have filed lawsuits against each other to determine whether a broken water pipe or poor soil compaction was responsible for the sinking.
(File Photo)

Foothill Municipal Water District has filed a countersuit against the city of La Flintridge over the subsidence of a portion of Foothill Boulevard east of the 2 Freeway, after a claim it filed seeking damages over $10,000 was rejected by the city.

The cross-complaint — filed with the Los Angeles County Superior Court on Sept. 18 — challenges claims made by the city in an Aug. 20 lawsuit that the water retailer was negligent in responding to and fixing the April 21 break of a 21-inch pressurized water pipe, which city officials say caused the roadway from El Camino Corto to Cypress Drive to sink.

FMWD contends in its countersuit the city’s failure to ensure and maintain proper soil compaction underneath the roadway caused the pipe to break and is ultimately responsible for subsidence of the Foothill Boulevard.

“[The] district believes Foothill Boulevard and the underlying soils will continue to cause ongoing subsidence, jeopardizing the district’s pipeline,” the document further states.

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The agency submitted a claim for damages with the city on Aug. 22 highlighting the same concerns but learned on Sept. 17 that claim was or will be formally rejected by the city.

City Council members discussed the matter Tuesday in a closed session special meeting, and City Atty. Adrian Guerra said while action was taken, there was nothing to report to the public.

Public Works Director Pat DeChellis confirmed Wednesday that a $45,600 contract for emergency repairs approved by the council Oct. 1 has been awarded to Sequel Contractors, Inc. for the application of 140 tons of asphalt at the site of the dip. Work could begin as soon as Thursday or Monday and should take about a week.

“All we’re going to do is put a layer of asphalt so [rain] water doesn’t pond and drains to the catch basin,” DeChellis said. “The dip will still be there, it just won’t be as deep.”

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La Cañada resident David Haxton, who attends Lutheran Church in the Foothills near the subsidence, asked the City Council in a public comment Tuesday why the city opted for temporary repair of asphalt rather than fully fixing the damage.

Haxton also accused the city of not keeping the public informed of its findings, as it has conducted weekly surveys of the site since late June.

“How much subsidence has there been? At what rate? What did the core sample drilling show? What are the dangers to the public?” he asked. “What are your plans for fixing the dip? When will this happen? How disruptive will this be? What will it cost? I’m only asking that you keep the public informed of the facts.”

Santa Ana attorney Robert Gokoo, who is representing FMWD in the dispute, said Monday the cross-complaint had already been served to La Cañada’s city attorney and would soon formally be served to the city.

From here on, he said, both the city’s suit and the agency’s countersuit will be heard jointly. The two parties are due to appear in court for a case management conference on Nov. 18 at 9 a.m. in Dept. 96 at 111 N. Hill St. in Los Angeles, according to court records.

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