LCF at Odds With Water District Over Foothill Boulevard Damage

The city of La Cañada Flintridge recently filed a complaint in a Los Angeles Superior Court against the Foothill Municipal Water District, saying the wholesaler’s failure to properly maintain a water pipe under Foothill Boulevard caused the street to sink and could lead to further damage in a wet winter.
In a complaint filed on Aug. 20, the city said it seeks damages from the water agency in an amount to be proved at trial.
“The pipe is fixed and water is not leaking, but the road still has a dip,” said LCF Mayor Leonard Pieroni in a phone interview on Tuesday. “We’re pushing hard on the Foothill Municipal Water District to come to the table and fix it. We’ve done some things to make it safer. We’ve eliminated parking on the side of the road. … We have signs up and are monitoring.”
In an emailed statement on Wednesday, district General Manager Nina Jazmadarian said she could not go into detail about the complaint.
“The district has retained legal counsel and an investigation is underway to determine the cause of the break in the district’s pipeline,” Jazmadarian said. “In addition, the city has filed a complaint against the district, therefore it is not appropriate for the district to comment upon pending litigation.”
In its complaint, the city alleges a water line owned, operated and maintained by the district ruptured on April 21 and created a noticeable leak under the eastbound lanes of Foothill Boulevard between Cypress Drive and El Camino Corto.
The district took more than nine hours to discover the leak, during which time “significant amounts” of water saturated the ground beneath Foothill Boulevard, according to the complaint.
It took the defendant nearly a week to complete all repairs at the boulevard, including temporary pavement fixes. The repairs, according to the complaint, required the district to dig into the eastbound lanes of Foothill Boulevard and restore the roadway.
Less than two weeks after water line repairs were completed, city staff members found that a stretch of the boulevard west of Alta Canyada Road had begun to experience significant sinking.
Additionally, the dip has continued to grow “progressively worse” and has caused the eastbound lanes of Foothill to sink dramatically and cracks to appear in the westbound lanes, the city has said.
The repairs have also caused the median to warp where its southern side sinks and twists into the eastbound lanes, with the north side also affected. The boulevard’s southern side also shows signs of widening gaps between the curb and sidewalk, and the damage could enlarge to affect private property as well, according to LCF’s complaint.
Because of the issue, the city has posted signage notifying drivers of the dip in Foothill and lowered the speed limit at the dip.
The winter’s wet season, according to the complaint, could lead to further damage, flooding and a potential closing of Foothill, the city’s major thoroughfare. The condition of the street also poses an issue for bicyclists, pedestrians and vehicles.
City officials say in the complaint that after the dip was discovered, LCF Public Works Director Patrick DeChellis contacted Jazmadarian and she informed him the district would address it. Jazmadarian later told DeChellis the wholesaler had retained legal counsel and she could no longer communicate with him.
The water district “has not indicated to the city that it intends to repair the damage to Foothill Boulevard that it has caused,” according to the complaint.
Pieroni sent a letter on June 28 to the district’s board of directors requesting immediate action regarding the boulevard, and the city had its attorney send a letter to Robert Gokoo, who identified himself as the district’s legal counsel.
The complaint says that a letter dated July 15 from Gokoo stated that the city’s letter “appears to substantially comply with the Government Claims Act. This letter will be addressed accordingly by the district in closed session.” However, Gokoo did not state which letter he meant.
City officials have not received confirmation from the district that Gokoo was authorized to make the remarks, the complaint says. More than 45 days have passed since June 28 and LCF has not received a rejection of the claim.
As of Aug. 16, there had been no closed session on any of the district board’s agendas that pertains to a claim by the city, according to the complaint.

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