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Torrance Says New Landslide Undermines Suit Against City

January 08, 1987|GEORGE STEIN | Times Staff Writer

TORRANCE — The Hollywood Riviera landslide that destroyed former Mayor Albert Isen's house last April slid again last month.

City officials said the recent land movement undermines a $10-million suit against the city brought by Fred Smith, whose house, perched just above the slide, was condemned in August and demolished in October.

Smith, however, said the new slide, which occurred Dec. 17, was caused by the city's clumsiness.

Isen's house was damaged when a city-owned parcel between Via Corona and Vista Largo slid onto his lot. State law requires property owners, including municipalities, to provide support to keep land from sliding onto adjacent property.

Covered by Plastic

The 300-by-200-foot area has been covered with plastic sheets to keep rain and runoff from soaking into the earth, which might cause further slippage.

By the end of the week, the city hopes to have installed 19 pilings 70 feet into the earth to halt further earth movement, according to Philip Tilden, capital projects administrator for Torrance.

In a hearing before the City Council in August and later in his lawsuit, filed in December in Los Angeles Superior Court, Smith claimed that the slide had stabilized, that his house at 4730 Via Corona was safe and that the city could have buttressed the slope without destroying his 4,000-square-foot house.

But, Tilden said this week, "We had about a 60-foot block that dropped four feet two weeks ago." Even though the new slide did not take place on Smith's property, Tilden said, the earth movement "changes the scope of the landslide from stabilized to rejuvenated, as soil engineers put it."

City Atty. Stanley Remelmeyer said the new slide undercuts Smith's argument that the city officials used "false data" when recommending that the house be condemned. "We will just use it when we come to court," he said.

Argument Disputed

Smith, however, disputed the city's interpretation, arguing that city employees had caused new earth movement.

"The second slide was, in all probability, brought about by the way they were grading on the hill," he said in a telephone interview.

Smith said several factors, in addition to the city's condemnation action, contributed to his decision to sue the city.

"The whole hillside has been the city's fault. They have done nothing to see if they can prevent the water from going under there or put in wells to take the water out," he said.

"You wonder why I am suing for so much money. I spent eight months trying to convince the city not to take my house and for most of that time, they acted as if they agreed with me and then they decided to take my house."

Home for 25 Years

He said that his wife, who is frail, has been suffering because of the move.

"It tears me apart. We were in that house 25 years. The house would still be there if they hadn't bulldozed it over. I had a tremendous view from Santa Monica Bay to Long Beach and all of downtown."

Smith added that the city hasn't "paid one damn dime" to defray his rent. City officials, who acknowledged that they had not payed Smith's rent, said the litigation prevented them from doing so.

In August, the City Council approved a $465,000 settlement to compensate Isen for the loss of his house.

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