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Snagged : Red Tape Puts the Fern Dell Project on Hold

February 16, 1989|DOUG SMITH | Times Staff Writer

A project to restore the deteriorating Fern Dell area of Griffith Park has made little progress in almost a year, stymied by the city's own building code and a conflict between engineering and landscaping.

At an upbeat ground breaking in April, city officials said the vandal-ravaged canyon of streams, foot bridges and densely planted ferns would be restored to its former beauty in 120 days. A contractor reported to work almost immediately.

But the work was soon halted when the contractor learned that there were no building permits for the job.

It took six months to get the permits.

Then the first substantial sign of progress--a row of fence posts installed in October--set off such a dispute that the project stopped again.

"It's been an interesting job," said Richard Humphrey, vice president of Hacienda Landscape of Walnut, the city's contractor.

Humphrey said he thinks that the problems are solved and expects to complete the job next month.

City officials are also optimistic, but concede that the solution may involve more money and could require more time.

The troubles in the $389,000 renovation began almost the day after the April 20 ground breaking. Hacienda employees began excavation to pour concrete footings for 14 metal bridges that were being bought from a Minnesota firm to replace the badly dilapidated original wooden bridges over the dell's streams.

Humphrey said the first problem was that water from the streams filled in the holes they had dug. Then a city building inspector asked for permits. There were none.

The inspector not only wanted permits for the footings but required separate permits for the bridges. Neither request turned out to be simple to fulfill.

The Building and Safety Department demanded a thorough structural analysis of the bridges and, in addition, proof that the welders who would assemble them were properly certified.

"That threw us for a loop," said Richard Klink, project manager for the Department of Recreation and Parks. "The whole thing ended up taking around six months."

Then, Klink said, "we had a little snag on the footings."

The building inspector decided that an individual structural analysis was necessary for each footing because many were being placed closer to the water than allowed by code.

"They're afraid the water will erode under the footings," causing them to fail, Klink said.

The city has retained a private structural engineer to review the 28 footings, two for each bridge.

Klink said that the reports on two bridges are done and that work can resume if the added cost is less than $5,000 each, the limit of cost overruns he can approve without consulting the Board of Recreation and Parks Commissioners.

He was less hopeful that the problem with the fence can be cleared up for under $5,000.

The problem is that the fence posts run along the surface of an asphalt walkway instead of beside it.

Klink said department engineers decided to put the posts there because it would have been too difficult to set them properly into the rubble that forms the edge of the walkway.

The decision, however, did not work for Friends of Fern Dell, an advocacy group that lobbied successfully for the state bond money that is paying for the project.

Laurie Smith, spokeswoman for the group, said the reason for the fence was to discourage people on the walkway from trampling the ferns.

The smaller part of the walkway inside the fence would merely draw people in, she said.

After deliberation, the city concurred and is awaiting an estimate on resetting the fence posts. The engineering has yet to be worked out, Klink said.

When it is, commission approval will probably be required to pay for it, he said.

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