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City refuses to remove K-rails despite protests

Council cites federal Station fire recovery report as reason to keep barriers.

June 20, 2012|By Daniel Siegal, daniel.siegal@latimes.com
  • K-rails line the 5400 block of La Forest Drive in La Canada Flintridge.
K-rails line the 5400 block of La Forest Drive in La Canada… (Raul Roa / Staff…)

More than 30 La Cañada Flintridge residents let the city know Monday that they hate the concrete barriers placed on their neighborhood streets, but the City Council refused their request to move the barriers until federal authorities deem the area safe from mudslides.

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.

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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.

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