After hearing nothing but complaints for eight months, the La Canada Flintridge City Council has decided to give homeowners in the exclusive Meadow Grove area what they want: asphalt for their streets.
The unanimous decision puts an end to a controversy that has been simmering since October, when the city had 14 streets near La Canada High School paved with a chip-seal mixture that did not solidify. The project left a residue of loose rocks and sticky tar that, among other nuisances, clung to shoes and was unwittingly tracked into houses.
Residents wanted the streets repaved with asphalt, but city officials said that would be too costly. Earlier this month, the city tried to repair the streets by spreading a layer of slurry seal over part of the chip seal.
The test, however, did not work, and last week the council voted to spend about $243,000 to repave with asphalt.
200 Homes Affected
"I inspected the area before the meeting, and it became readily apparent that something had to be done," La Canada Flintridge Mayor Barbara Pieper said. "The people living there have been terribly inconvenienced, and I for one wouldn't have wanted streets like that just off my driveway."
City officials estimate that residents in about 200 homes in the area have been affected by what they call sloppy work by a Long Beach firm that was contracted to do the chip-seal job.
The chip seal was spread unevenly, city officials said, and, because the old pavement was not hot enough when it was applied, the sticky mixture never dried and the small rocks used as base material did not stay in place. The city has hauled away more than 100 tons of the rocks and has been sprinkling sand over the streets to absorb the oily seal.
Residents said small children playing in the streets have slipped on the loose gravel and skinned their hands and knees. And joggers and bicyclists who used to frequent the area have gone elsewhere for exercise, residents said.
Homeowners this week expressed relief that the council had voted to resurface the streets. One resident, Ardella Horsfall, said parts of the wood floor in her home have been seriously damaged because of the street tar.
"We're just ecstatic that the council saw fit to repave because it's just a mess up here," Horsfall said. "But we'll put up with it now because we know that there are going to be some improvements."
Other residents were less excited--pleased that their streets will be resurfaced but disgruntled that it took eight months for the council to make a decision.
"We voiced our concern a long time ago, and they procrastinated this long," resident Robert Rhody said. "These are streets we use every day and the conditions are the worst they possibly could be. I'm glad they finally took action, but I'm a little disappointed that we've had to live through this."
Not Hot Enough to Start
The repair work will not proceed immediately, partly because temperatures have not been hot enough to enable asphalt to dry, City Manager Don Otterman said. Work crews will start the job within 30 days, Otterman said, and the project will be completed the end of summer.
Meanwhile, the city is withholding about $53,000 that it owes Sully-Miller Inc., the company that did the chip-seal work. The firm has received about $125,000 from the city for building curbs and gutters along parts of the 14 streets.
Otterman would not discuss the money the city is withholding, but said: "We don't want to pay for something that we're going to have to tear up."
"If we had gotten a satisfactory job, we wouldn't be in the mess we're in now. Everything went wrong," Otterman said.
John Berton, vice president of Sully-Miller, acknowledged that "the project may have some deficiencies but we were willing to work with them."
Burton said his firm had recommended that the streets be paved with asphalt, which can last up to 20 years longer than chip-seal pavement.
'Better Suited for Asphalt'
"The area was better suited for asphalt, but we had no say in that, and we still feel we did an adequate job," Burton said.
Mayor Pieper said the Los Angeles County Roads Department, which drew up the contract and was responsible for inspecting the project, should receive part of the blame.
"All these problems may not have happened if the streets received proper inspections, and I'm not convinced they did," Pieper said.
Besides irritating area residents, the project has prompted at least three claims to be filed against the city by people who said their cars were damaged when they lost control because of the loose gravel on the streets.