Several years ago, we were asked to assist a homeowners association (HOA) with their damaged retaining walls in Anaheim, California. Twelve properties in the HOA were being affected by the movement of a retaining wall that varied in height up to about 12 feet, which supported the backyards of their stunning view properties.
When you say you live in Anaheim, many people think you live near the happiest place on earth—Disneyland, which is relatively flat and much closer to the western side of the city. These HOA owners, however, were unhappy campers located in the newer eastern scenic foothill region of the city known for its planned suburban communities with parks, open space, schools and shopping. Many of the homes in the Anaheim Hills have views to the north of the Yorba Linda Hills and the snow-capped mountains beyond, which make them highly desirable and irresistible to buyers—especially young professionals and their growing families. Continue reading
Tilted retaining wall
When purchasing a home, especially a resale home, be sure to walk around the outside of the entire property or you might be surprised at what you find after your purchase. The phrase, “buyer beware,” still applies when it comes to purchasing real estate.
This situation occurs more often than you would think when it comes to older or historic properties dating back 40 years or more when building codes and construction industry standards were less stringent than today.
Bridge Out Ahead!
We were asked to investigate a property in Thermal, California to observe and evaluate erosion of the foundations of a steel bridge. This bridge crosses a 50-foot wide irrigation canal in a rural area. Thermal is located in the east Coachella Valley of Southern California about 35 minutes from Palm Springs. The area’s economy is centered largely on agriculture, which includes a wide variety of vegetables such as bell and other peppers.
Appearances Can Be Deceiving
Agricultural canal bridge
This bridge serves as access to farmland and a residence. It looks safe from the road level, but at this point it is unsafe to use! This is a real inconvenience for the farmers who need to access their crops and perform necessary tasks such as irrigation monitoring, fertilizing, harvesting and replanting. The homeowners are bothered by this nuisance, which limits their safe access by car or truck to their property without the worrisome danger of a bridge collapse. Continue reading
Existing Narrow Driveway and Wall
What do you do when the retaining wall along the driveway entrance to your coastal home’s garage is too narrow for your cars? After experiencing constant, annoying collision sensor beeping on your newer vehicle or a scrape on your classic car, you begin to think that something has to be done.
In Southern California’s scenic beach areas, the land is very expensive and this often leads to compromises in home design that sometimes later prove to be impractical. A popular solution is to go skinny and vertical—building two- or three-story homes on narrow lots with the garage at street level. The stunning upper story or roof-top ocean views are a welcome incentive to climb the stairs. Continue reading
Patched pool shell & cracks.
We were recently hired to evaluate a beautiful pool and patio that were built near a hillside in the popular community of Diamond Bar, California. Unfortunately, the pool has experienced soil movement, causing cracking and tilting of the pool and patio that led the concerned homeowner to call us before the damage became any worse.
This unfortunate situation is an all too common occurrence in hillside residential developments across Southern California, where the earth is prone to continuous movement, earthquakes and periodic heavy seasonal rainfall. One or all of these factors can contribute to the destabilization of slopes where homeowners often buy properties with spectacular vistas of natural scenery, sunsets, wildlife and more. The problems then begin after the outdoor amenities such as patios, pools and spas are built, the contractor has been paid, the first family celebration and then months or years later the problems show up. Continue reading
Photo Source: Randy Jibson, USGS
What do you do when you own a vacant lot with a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean in Southern California? You build a vacation home, of course, but there’s always a complication or two with coastal properties and sometimes it pays to call in an expert at the start of the process.
Helfrich-Associates is blessed to be in the construction field because building and construction are essential industries. Over the past two months, we have continued to respond to our client’s needs, while following the social distancing restrictions of the COVID19 Quarantine and embracing some new technologies. Continue reading
We were asked to perform a geotechnical investigation at a property in Temecula, CA, to assess damage and prepare repair recommendations for a pool, retaining wall and patio system. Damage was caused by settlement of improperly compacted fill dirt and the movement of slope soils. Cracks and separations in the retaining walls up to about 1.5-inches wide were visible. Continue reading
Wooden apartment balconies will require periodic inspections in California by 2025.
If you’re an owner or investor in an apartment building or an officer in a home owners association, which at the time of sale met all the building code requirements with all the paperwork in order, you might think that’s the end of the story.
Think again because, unfortunately, building and civil codes in California and elsewhere have a way of evolving and changing over time, which frequently requires new inspections and property maintenance.
A case in point: We were recently asked to evaluate an HOA community’s buildings and see if they were affected by California SB 721 and/or Civil Code Section 5551.
KEY PROVISIONS OF SENATE BILL 721
The bill (approved by the Governor on September 17, 2018) requires an inspection of “exterior elevated elements and associated waterproofing elements… including decks and balconies for buildings with three or more multi-family dwellings…” These inspections are to be performed, by a licensed engineer or architect, by a qualified building contractor, or by a qualified building inspector, before January 1, 2025.
The bill applies to apartment buildings, but not to hotels/motels and “common interest developments” such as HOA’s. The bill, however, authorizes a local governing entity to enact stricter requirements, and some will do so before the SB721 deadline.
Exterior elevated elements that are subject to this requirement include those building elements that are supported (in whole or substantial part) by wood members, are more than 6-feet above the ground surface, are outside the building envelope, and are designed for human occupancy or use. Continue reading
Example of exterior wall cracking.
At Helfrich-Associates, we know how important it is to do your research when starting a new project. We were asked to investigate a property located in Los Angeles. The house we visited was originally constructed in 1937 and alterations were performed in 1957 and 2010-2011. Continue reading