Slipping and sliding on a south Torrance hillside will be replaced by rumbling and rolling for seven months next year when heavy equipment and a steady stream of dump trucks attack a massive landslide.
More than 12,600 dump-truck trips will rattle once quiet residential streets weekdays between April and October, slowing traffic on major routes in the southern reaches of Torrance.
The parade of dump trucks--one every few minutes--will haul an estimated 190,000 cubic yards of dirt out of and, a few months later, back into the slide area during work to rebuild the hillside.
Destroyed 2 Homes
The April, 1986, landslide on city-owned property destroyed two expensive homes, left an unsightly gash in the landscape and dug a deep hole in the city budget.
By the time work is completed next November, the price tag to Torrance taxpayers to fix nature's handiwork will exceed $4 million.
Geologists believe the slide was caused by ground water undermining the hillside until it gave way.
The slide, sheathed in plastic to prevent rain from causing more damage, has been obvious to residents and passing motorists for almost two years.
Crews were busy at the scene on Wednesday, lowering sandbags down the steep slope to secure the dark plastic tarp in the rain and wind.
Torrance Capital Projects Manager Philip Tilden said the earthmoving operation and dump-truck brigade at the hillside between Via Corona and Vista Largo will have a significant effect on traffic on nearby Pacific Coast Highway and Hawthorne Boulevard.
"It will impact this area quite severely," Tilden told City Council members.
"The entire operation is hazardous," he said, because the work is being done in an unstable area.
Mayor Katy Geissert said area residents have been kept informed about the project and are "not happy at all about what is facing them."
"It certainly is going to cause a great deal of inconvenience and stress for the people who live there," Geissert said.
However, faced with the threat of further damage if nothing is done, council members unanimously agreed to move forward on the reconstruction project.
"This is a necessity," said Councilman Bill Applegate. "This is a matter of public safety. If we don't do it, we could be held negligent. So I don't see that we have a choice."
Although council members worried about the risk of damage suits if the reconstruction project causes more problems, City Atty. Stanley Remelmeyer offered no guarantees.
"In today's climate, there is no way I could tell you there would never be any liability," Remelmeyer said.
One thing is certain: The $4-million-plus cost to repair the slide damage is a big expense for a city with a $76.5-million operating budget.
"It's a big number," said Torrance Finance Director Mary Giordano. "It's just incredibly expensive."
The actual reconstruction project, budgeted at a minimum of $1.8 million, will involve removal of 88,000 cubic yards of slide debris, mostly of a type of soil known as Malaga mudstone.
More Material Trucked to Site
Once drainage improvements are installed to control underground water, an additional 101,000 cubic yards of fill material will be trucked in to the site.
Plans call for eight trucks an hour hauling dirt at least eight hours a day during most of next spring, summer and fall.
Except for a short stretch of Anza Avenue, Newton Street and Vista Largo, the exact route out of the city will not be known until a site to dump the excavated soil is found. However, heavily traveled Hawthorne Boulevard and Pacific Coast Highway are the only truck routes in the area.
The damaged hillside will be rebuilt in a stairstep pattern with terraces between slopes. If all goes well, the work will done before November ushers in the next rainy season.
The city is preparing a financial plan for the internal borrowing needed to pay for the project. The money will be repaid from future tax receipts and will not be available to spend on future needs. "It will definitely curtail any expansion into new programs," Giordano said.
So far, the city has spent nearly $1 million to buy two houses, including one owned by former Torrance Mayor Albert Isen, which was crushed by the slide.
Another $1.25 million has been spent over the past 20 months to stabilize the slope, make temporary repairs, install retaining walls and lay heavy plastic to divert rainwater.