ROLLING HILLS — After more than five years, the Flying Triangle landslide here remains a slide in search of a solution. But attempts to find one are being stepped up, the result of pressure from residents in the slide area and the actions of a new city manager.
The City Council, whose role since the slide started has been limited largely to monitoring land movement and passing information on to the affected homeowners, has agreed to study the feasibility of a plan to fill two canyons that the slide is moving into.
The plan was proposed by Frederic W. Hartwig, an engineer and Flying Triangle resident who, in an effort to save his home, has put it on heavy steel beams that shift with the land.
Nearly 30 Flying Triangle residents jammed council chambers last week and strongly urged the council to give the Hartwig proposal a chance.
Hartwig contends that filling Klondike and Paintbrush canyons with compacted topsoil would "stop the toe of the slide" and that, in turn, would halt land movement above it. He said that fees charged to contractors for dumping excess soil into the canyons could more than pay for the operation.
Los Angeles County geologist Arthur G. Keene, who monitors the slide for the city, agrees that both canyons should be filled in an effort to halt the slide.
Hartwig has drafted a detailed proposal only for Klondike, near his home, but he said the same concept could apply to Paintbrush. According to the proposal, 224,000 cubic yards of soil would be needed and it would cost $150,000 to place and compact the soil. Additional costs, including drainage and a connector road to bring trucks from Crenshaw Boulevard, would increase costs to $253,500. A $1.50-per-cubic-yard charge to contractors dumping soil excavated from job sites would produce $337,000, he said.
Meanwhile, City Manager Terrence L. Belanger has put out feelers for state and federal money to combat the slide, but officials concede that this is a long shot.
"The prospects are very slim, because of the fact that we are a private community, and given the reluctance for the state and federal governments to hand out money," said Mayor Tom Heinsheimer. "It is a process we have to go through, because we want to exhaust every possible alternative."
A private, gated city of 2,300 that has no public roads, Rolling Hills--where tennis courts mingle with horse stables and some homes qualify as rustic estates--has one of the wealthiest populations of any American city, with a median income of $75,000. Roads are maintained through assessments by the community association, which regulates deed restrictions in the city.
City officials, however, are optimistic that even if Rolling Hills is unable to get government money, it may obtain technical assistance from the Army Corps of Engineers to evaluate the slide area and determine how to stop it. The city has asked Rep. Daniel E. Lungren (R-Long Beach) to pursue its request to the Corps of Engineers.
Belanger said that aside from government help, he would like to find an engineering company that would study the landslide, devise something to stop it and "stake its reputation that it will work, and pursue it."
"We need an analysis of the feasibility of our being able to do anything, to answer the question, can we arrest this thing?" Belanger said. "We need someone to not only describe what is happening, but to offer solutions if they exist. . . . We might get an opinion that we can't stop it."
Belanger, who started working for the city Dec. 1, said the possible sources of public money he has identified include low-interest loans that could be made available to property owners experiencing slide damage if the Flying Triangle were declared a disaster area.
The city also is inquiring whether it would be eligible for state gasoline-tax funds if it were to designate one of its private roads a public street.
Assemblyman Gerald N. Felando (R-San Pedro) has agreed to carry legislation for the city seeking state money to stop the slide if the city develops a plan.
Last year, a Felando bill was passed by the Legislature granting $2 million to Rancho Palos Verdes to finance a project to slow or stop a 30-year-old landslide in Portuguese Bend, which lies below the Flying Triangle. Work is to begin this summer on the project, which combines the shifting of tons of soil to reduce land movement and the installation of canyon drains.
Rolling Hills officials say the probability that the city will not sacrifice its private roads essentially rules out gas-tax money. And the lack of public facilities would make it difficult to follow in the footsteps of Rancho Palos Verdes, which obtained its grant based on the need to stabilize a public road--Palos Verdes Drive South--and protect the public coastline.
"We have no public property in distress," Belanger said.