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Re: Permit, EOR & Enforcement Question

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In a message dated 3/11/2008 11:09:54 AM Pacific Daylight Time, David.Gaines(--nospam--at) writes:
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?
The EOR has not submitted a stamped and signed drawing with all the missing information (I don't know who submitted it it is not even listed in the permit), but he claimes that he is the EOR and states in the SOR that he inspected (!) the footing (36'"wide) , 8" CMU wall and the reinforcing steel based on the aforementioned City approved sketch. I did run a calculation based on the approved drawing and found out that the wall and the 36" wide footing are way overstressed. The wall height was later on reduced by two courses (requested by the Zoning Dept.), but is still a little over 6' and the vertical rebar is still sticking out above the top of the wall!
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?
I am representing the neighbor. Our "team" physically verified the 18" fooing width. Mr. Phelps from the Mission impossible climed over the wall around midnight, drove (pushing it down by hand into the highly saturated soil with no darainiage) a few 5' long stakes (steel bars) at the 19" width location and found no resistance. The city height limit is 6' measured from the lower (my clients) driveway elevation. We have photos to prove it but have not "published" them yet.
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. Yes, I dod file a complaint at the Board. But as you probably know, each case takes about 3 years until the Board comes up with a decision (I am taking from experience)
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.
I agree with you. Unfortunately there is only one (licensed) Civil Engineer (in the Grading Department) in the entire Building Department (including the Building Official), not even one Structural Engineer. How can these unqualified people check drawings and calculations.
Antonio S. Luisoni, SE
Plan Checking and Code Enforcements?

Dave Gaines, P.E.