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RE: Permit, EOR & Enforcement Question

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I live and work in Pasadena. It's troubling to think this 2&1/2 foot retaining wall, topped by a 5&1/2 foot CMU yard wall lacks adequate engineering design or City permit. Has the EOR submitted a stamped and signed set of calculations and drawings, with plans, ground elevations, details and general notes outlining the materials? Is the City going to review and permit the wall after the fact? Did the EOR design a 3 foot wide footing, say he observed a footing that was in fact only 18" wide; and then said he observed it was built per plan?
How did you get involved with the case? And how do you know how wide the footing is? Are you representing the neighbor? Have you checked the wall for the required footing size and reinforcing? Can a short retaining wall be designed and permitted using prescriptive, empirical design? What is the City's height limit for a wall above the lower grade level?
Have you considered a Board complaint? It sounds like the Civil Engineer is either providing a grossly inadequate design and/or he's saying he observed something that does not exist, the wider footing.
Here in Pasadena we have many examples of over-development of properties. One only has to look at many of the more recent commercial developments that defy set-back rules and the percentage of square footage allowable for a given lot size. Pasadena residents should be talking to the City council and planning department to demand development that preserves the beauty and quality of life in Pasadena. This holds true for many LA County communities, but Pasadena is a special place with unique history, fine architecture and tree-lined streets.

Dave Gaines, P.E.

Structural Project Engineer
HDR ONE COMPANY | Many Solutions
251 S. Lake Ave, Suite 1000
Pasadena, CA 91101
T: 626.584.4960
F: 626.584.1750
email: david.gaines(--nospam--at)


From: ASLCSE(--nospam--at) [mailto:ASLCSE(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Tuesday, March 11, 2008 10:30 AM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: Re: Enforcement Question

In a message dated 3/10/2008 5:59:45 PM Pacific Daylight Time, Jnapd(--nospam--at) writes:
I am not sure which City you are talking about.
If it is in Pasadena, and your are friends with Building Official (Sarkis Nazerian) or City Inspector Scott Klar...You can get almost anything "inspected" and "approved," even if it is built without a permit. They even lie for you.
Then again, what can you expect from a Building Department like Pasadena, which has only one licensed Civil Engineer (in the Grading department). Not a single person (Civil or Structural) in Plan Check, Code Enforcement, etc., is licensed, not even the Building Official.
Antonio S. Luisoni
Consulting Structural Engineer 
Tony now we are talking horror stories even if true.
While at the counter a a local city I pick up and looked thru another engineers calculations... I told the Building Official/Inspector that the calculations were not correctly performed and that moment connections are not achievable in 4x12 lumber frames...and that the city should send the plans & calculations out to be reviewed. He took the calculations back and pointed to the engineering stamp and said it was the cities problem; it has the stamp. So I asked If he the Building Official/Inspector ever took his car to that repair garage and he replied not anymore. And life goes on....
Joe Venuti
Johnson & Nielsen Associates
Palm Springs, CA

Well, the true story gets even better: Eight months after the unsafe (uninspected) over 8 ft high CMU "fence wall" (the lower 32" are retaining) was built with a 18" wide, yes 18" wide footing, the Building Official Sarkis Nazerian wrote a letter to the owner, citing in detail all the requirements of CBC section 108.5.2 and 2402.24.4 stating that the City of Pasadena cannot approve the construction without the required inspections.
Then, in the same letter he is trying to cover his rear end, by stating and misleading the owner that pursuant to CBC section 104.2.9  the Building Official is requiring a Structural Observation by a licensed engineer.(104.2.9 deals with Tests!). Guess what? The owner found a civil engineer (Leon Barzegar, C041760) who was willing to fabricate a detailed Structural Observation Report 8 months after the wall was built.
"Prior to obtaining a building permit the wall substantially completed" (a quote in the same letter from the CBO to the owner. A sketch depicting the subject wall showing a 36" wide footing, no footing thickness, no vertical wall reinforcing, no location of vertical wall reinforcing extending into the footing, no transverse heel reinforcing in the footing, no drainage system (not even weep holes, they would not be allowed anyway on a property line wall draining to the neighbors property), no material specification, but was approved by Pasadena's Division of BUILDING, CURRENT PLANNING AND DESIGN & HISTORIC PRESERVATION.
Leon Barzegar, based his Structural Observation Report on the aforementioned approved sketch!
Now, the Building Official Sarkis Nazerian claims, that since he received a Structural Observation Report, everything is fine and the case is closed, even though the SOR states that "structural observation does not include or waive the responsibility for the inspections required by Section 108, 1701 or other sections of the code". It looks like the owner of the subject property, Rodney Swan, must be a very influential man with clout in the City of Pasadena.
My complaints (stating "perjury" and "fabrication") are now (over 3 weeks have passed already) with the City Manager Bernard Melekian. In Pasadena it is the City Manager who appoints the Building Official.
I will keep you informed of the outcome.
Antonio S. Luisoni
Consulting SE