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VALLEY FOCUS | Calabasas

Council OKs Purchase of Pump for Residents

September 12, 1998|SUE FOX

Faced with a legal claim against the city, the Calabasas City Council tentatively agreed Wednesday to buy pumps to siphon water away from a luxury home that was badly damaged by a February landslide.

The decision comes in the midst of a complicated round of finger-pointing and negotiations over who is responsible for the damage and how to keep it from worsening with more rain.

Zareh and Rahel Vartivarian, owners of the $2-million home in the gated neighborhood of Mountain Park Estates, filed a claim against the city on Aug. 12.

The claim contends that Calabasas was responsible for a faulty storm drain that allegedly discharged water onto the slope supporting their Linden Terrace house. The Vartivarians also filed claims against Los Angeles County and the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday September 16, 1998 Valley Edition Metro Part B Page 3 Zones Desk 2 inches; 50 words Type of Material: Correction
Storm drain--Because of an editing error, a statement by the attorney for a Calabasas couple whose home was damaged during February's storms was incorrect Saturday. Attorney Greg Aftergood said that both the city and county maintain they are not responsible for a storm drain that allegedly discharged water onto the slope supporting the $2-million home.

"I'm very worried about the house going down the hill," said Zareh Vartivarian, who was forced to evacuate the home in April because it was slipping.

The couple's attorney, Greg Aftergood, appeared before the council last week to ask officials to reinstate emergency pumps that had been installed for several months to remove water from the site. The city removed the rented pumps in August because Calabasas had already spent more than $15,000 on them and the rain had stopped, said City Manager Charles Cate.

"Then the rains came last week and everybody became concerned, so in response to Mr. Aftergood's plea, we were going to actually go out and purchase pumps," Cate said. The plan is to turn them over for use by the Mountain Park Homeowners Assn.

The council authorized city officials to provide the temporary relief with the caveat that Aftergood and the city's attorney would draw up an agreement that shielded the city from liability, Cate said.

"They have tried to be understanding of the situation," Aftergood said.

As far as the larger issue of the storm drain, Aftergood said that the city and county maintain the drain, and that it was not their responsibility. The drains were built by a developer who later declared bankruptcy. "Everybody's saying, well, they're not mine," he said.

Though the Vartivarians' unresolved claim against the city may result in a lawsuit, Cate said Calabasas officials were making a good-faith effort to assist the homeowners on an emergency basis.

"We thought it was in the public interest to protect not only that slope," he said, "but other property owners on the cul-de-sac."

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