Asilomar Stabilization Plans Draw Ire

By Sarah Stockman
Staff Writer

On Oct. 10, residents from the Asilomar Bluffs neighborhood gathered in Gilbert Hall at Palisades High School for a public “scoping” meeting regarding the stabilization of Asilomar Boulevard.

The stabilization of that street above PCH, between Almar Avenue and Wynola Street, dates back to 1958, when two slow-moving landslides were discovered under the bluffs. Since then many temporary fixes have been implemented, most recently the installation of four de-watering wells.

The city unveiled its latest stabilization proposal in July. It plans to use a new technique called deep-soil mixing (DSM), which involves digging 3-ft.-wide holes and then mixing the loosened soil with cement to create columns.

The Oct. 10 meeting was to hear questions and concerns from residents regarding the city’s environmental impact report (EIR).

The red area will be an active construction area on Asilomar; the yellow area will be a construction lay down area, moving east past El Medio.

An EIR investigates and analyzes potential environmental effects from construction, including air quality, noise and geology to determine the best way to complete the project.

Debbie Dyner Harris, Councilmember Mike Bonin’s district director, opened the meeting by telling everyone, “We want to get your opinions about the project.”

Eileen Schoetzow, an environmental supervisor for the Department of Public Works/Bureau of Engineering, then introduced herself and engineer Patrick Schmidt.

“The format of a scoping meeting is to get your comments,” Schoetzow said. “We do not respond on the spot.” She promised that all comments and questions would be addressed in the EIR draft, and residents would get another say in the matter before finalization, as is required by law.

Residents were quick to voice their concerns.

One issue that was brought up multiple times was beautification along the bluffs, where residents like to gather to watch the sunset. “It [the park] looks like something from the third world with garbage and trash dumping,” one resident said. “We still need to maintain it and not let it look like an urban blight.”

A second resident compared the current state of the park to the slums of Calcutta. “How will the street look after it’s been done? Will we have ugly traffic signs? Above-ground water lines? Will we have a park?” he wanted to know.

The biggest concern of the evening was the pilot study that will be conducted before construction begins on the slide itself. That study, which will take place a block down from the slide, involves digging four wells and testing different mixes of soils and cement to see which one works best for the bluff.

“If you’re doing an experiment, why not on the slide itself?” one resident wanted to know. Many people nodded their heads, wondering the same thing.

“The pilot program just means two more years of construction,” another resident added.

After these concerns were raised for the fourth time, Schoetzow decided to offer an answer. “The deep-soil mixing study is for a citywide study not connected to this particular project,” she said. “The aim is to help us . . . gain knowledge how this DSM works on those areas in the city.

This answer didn’t seem to pacify residents. “Our street is being used as a guinea pig,” one said.

Other residents wanted to note that nighttime lighting should not be allowed since Pacific Palisades is a “dark skies” neighborhood, and that the number of trucks trips should be limited, especially when the school day begins and ends at Palisades High School.

Although this meeting focused on an issue that mostly impacts residents along and near the bluffs, residents of the two mobile home parks at the base of the slide were also in attendance.

“The city has no authority over private property,” Dyner Harris said. The lower half of the hill is privately owned by Eddie Biggs (owner of Palisades Bowl) and John McDonald (owner of Tahitian Terrace).

The government agency that does have authority over mobile home parks is the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD).

“Did they [HCD] ever get invited to this meeting?” a resident wanted to know.

“This agency is extremely hands off,” Dyner Harris said. “They’re not property owners [so] I don’t see them having any desire to participate.”

“Maybe we should invite them,” another resident grumbled.

As the meeting came to a close, one resident asked, “What are our legal rights here? What prevents us from having a class-action lawsuit?”

There was no response to that query.

The city hopes to have an EIR draft to residents by spring 2018 and a certified EIR by winter 2018, with construction beginning in early 2020.

Residents can submit comments before November 3 to Schoetzow at Eileen.Schoetzow@lacity.org or fax them to (213) 847-0656. 

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