City refuses to remove K-rails despite protests
Council cites federal Station fire recovery report as reason to keep barriers.
K-rails line the 5400 block of La Forest Drive in La Canada Flintridge. (Raul Roa / Staff Photographer / May 16, 2012)
Residents of Big Briar Way and Haskell Street said Monday that they want the K-rails, which were installed the winter after the 2009 Station fire, taken out because they are ugly, create hazards and hurt property values.
“The K-rails on Haskell Street have created much more of a problem than anything they were intended to prevent,” said Catherine D'Zurilla, who lives on Haskell.
D'Zurilla told the council that the sandbags surrounding the K-rails trap water, stinking up the neighborhood, and that a K-rail at the Haskell Street curve above Vista del Valle Road frequently causes drivers to swerve into the oncoming lane.
Despite receiving a petition from more than 30 residents, the City Council voted unanimously to abide by the findings made in May by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service and keep the barriers in place until at least next year.
There is not yet enough deep-rooted vegetation covering the affected hillsides to justify removing K-rails, according to a report written by geologist Julia Grim.
The dry winter of 2011-12 may have slowed the forest's recovery, according to the report. Agency officials said K-rails, with the exception of a few in La Crescenta, should remain in place at least until spring 2013, when the situation can be assessed again.
The report states that some debris remains stored in a channel above Big Briar and cites residents in the Ocean View area who said K-rails mitigated the worst damage during the January and February 2010 rainstorms.
“Public safety is our city's top priority,” Councilwoman Laura Olhasso told residents. “You all said, ‘I don't think there's a problem.' I hope you're right, but what if you're not?”
“We need to take the recommendations from the same group of folks that were up here to begin with, who saw the landscape after the fires, and saw it over the last three years,” she added.
Councilmen David Spence and Michael Davitt said they would support a city inquiry into moving the single Haskell Street K-rail that residents say is a driving hazard.
Eldon Horst, a civil engineer and resident of the area, said he doesn't blame the city, but the problem was that the federal report lumped in Haskell and Big Briar with areas like Ocean View Boulevard.
“The report [the council members] are relying on appears to be a broad brush look at all K-rails [in La Cañada],” he said. “The experts don't have the money to do the proper analysis.”
D'Zurilla told the council that the neighborhood around Big Briar and Haskell, just off Angeles Crest Highway, isn't subject to the same dangers as Ocean View.
“The first of the storms, we had some debris come down the street, no big deal,” D'Zurilla said. “We did the shoveling because it wasn't that much.”
Olhasso said the city can't rely on just the hope that strong storms won't strike.
“I was at the top of Ocean View and saw that devastation, and that broke my heart. I would hope not to see that devastation on your street,” she said. “We don't want to take that chance as a city.”