The City of Los Angeles has charged a Pacific Palisades homeowner with making illegal cuts into a hillside that could threaten the stability of several Rivas Canyon homes.
The nine misdemeanor counts and two infractions against Urban J. Didier of 1270 Marinette Road are scheduled for trial March 26 in Division 90 of West Los Angeles Municipal Court, said Deputy City Atty. Judith Levin.
Didier also will face a civil action in May by the state attorney general on behalf of the state Department of Parks and Recreation charging that he has encroached on Will Rogers State Park.
Homeowners on Chautauqua Boulevard, above the hillside where the cuts were made last spring, and those living on the Rivas Canyon floor below the hill, maintained that the allegedly illegal actions endanger their residences during the rainy season, Levin said.
Levin said the city filed charges because Didier has not taken action either to restore the hillside or to build a concrete retaining wall at the base of the hill.
"This is an extremely dangerous situation in an area where mud slides are common," Levin said. "We are going to prosecute the case vigorously." Each misdemeanor count carries a maximum of six months in jail and a $500 fine. Each infraction involves a $50 fine.
Levin said it is unusual for such a case to reach the courts because people charged with similar violations usually comply with city orders to rectify the problem.
"What makes this case rare is that Mr. Didier's home is also endangered by the cuts," Levin said. "We are not asking him to do anything that is impossible."
The state court action also is rare, according to Ray Patton, chief ranger at Newbury Park district headquarters for the state Department of Parks and Recreation.
"Usually," Patton said, "when a homeowner has been told about an encroachment, the issue is settled through negotiations."
Patton refused to discuss the state's case, but other sources said Didier has dumped fill onto property deeded to the state by the family of actor Will Rogers. The state is trying to get Didier to remove the fill because the family, in deeding the property, stipulated that the land be used for park purposes only.
Didier's neighbors below the canyon contended that the fill interferes with drainage during rainstorms.
Didier's attorney handling the city charges was unavailable for comment. Attorney Kenneth Bley, who is representing Didier on the state court action, refused to discuss the matter.
'Trying Case in Newspapers'
"The problem is that we are in court," Bley said. "We are disappointed that his neighbors are trying the case in the newspapers."
Didier's son, Kurt, said his father would have no comment on the case.
In contrast to the court action in the Didier matter, state park officials have yet to resolve a series of private encroachments on Topanga State Park that were reported well over a year ago.
Department of Parks and Recreation files reveal a backlog of eight trespassing cases, most involving private homes, fences or other structures that stray into the park or adjoining state lands acquired for the Backbone Trail, a hiking trail running from Will Rogers State Park to Point Mugu. Several of the cases were reported by park rangers in late 1983 and the rest were noted even earlier.
In one case, parkland has been used to graze horses, and in another virtually an entire commercial nursery is located on park property.
None of the encroachments has interfered with visitor use of the park, however, and park officials for the moment are ignoring all but the most extensive trespass, involving more than an acre of park property that is being used by the Sassafrass Farm and Nursery, 275 North Topanga Canyon Blvd.
A survey completed 18 months ago revealed that virtually the entire nursery is built on park property. Park officials and owners of the business are discussing ways to eliminate the trespass, either by eviction of the nursery or through a sale or lease of land that would allow it to stay.
Confusion Over Boundaries
State park officials say they believe most of the trespassing arose through confusion about boundary locations in the rugged hills of Topanga, where little survey work was done in the past. They cited the nursery trespass, reported by a park ranger in July, 1983, as one they believe was purely accidental.
Paul Flowers, a consultant who is negotiating with the parks department on behalf of nursery owner Pamela Ingram, credited park officials with showing understanding for Ingram's predicament.
"They understand that here's a woman that bought a piece of land years and years and years ago, and she thought she was buying the piece of land that the realtor showed her," Flowers said.
Then Ingram "all at once finds out that half her property doesn't belong to her," Flowers said.