In hot, dry, crowded Southern California, many people are attracted by those resort style or park-like homes set on ocean-view or urban forest lots. They tug at every nature lover’s heart. You fall in love with statuesque Palms or the sculpted limbs of old California Oaks or evergreen Cedars or stately Sycamores or fragrant Eucalyptus surrounded by beautiful lawns and beds full of shrubs and flowers.
I love trees too. Trees provide shade and are awesome to look at. There is, however a big downside to trees placed too closely to homes. They look great when you buy the home or when you plant those stick-like saplings. Years later, unfortunately, we are often asked by property owners and insurance companies to evaluate the structural damage after large trees fall or invasive tree roots cause harm. Continue reading
Hint: Water Always Flows Downhill …
Assessing drainage conditions around properties and how to improve them are both simple and at times complicated. Simple because everyone knows that water flows downhill; so you start out knowing generally what direction it is likely to go. Far more complicated, however, are designing commercial or residential property lot drainage systems based on technical analyses of how much water flow to expect, where it will go and what needs to be done to prevent damage. At Helfrich Associates, we are most often called in when drainage conditions have been long neglected and/or when there is real damage to property and structures. In Southern California with our abundant sunshine, it is tempting to put off addressing drainage problems until after our relatively short, but sometimes intense rainy season. Those fast-moving thunderstorms in August or that first gentle rain in the fall disappears and then nothing happens until January or February when the bulk of our seasonal rain arrives (sometimes in buckets). Continue reading
When the iconic 1960’s surf band the Beach Boys sang their hit song “Good Vibrations,” they definitely had romance on their minds and not earthquakes, slope movement, or landslides, etc. Falling in love and that unsteady feeling you get during an earthquake are different to be sure, but, they both can rock your world and leave you as Elvis would say, “All Shook Up!”
The ocean and canyon view
We were asked several years ago to consult on a “view” property in Malibu, California, that had been red-tagged (deemed unsafe for occupancy) due to earth movement and undermining of the house by a landslide that had occurred during the winter rains of 2004/2005. The client contacted us in May, 2015, after he purchased the property. Continue reading
Tilted reinforced concrete foundation next to slope below building
In 2015, one of our property management clients purchased an apartment complex in Northern California that consisted of five, two-story buildings. One of the buildings in the complex (constructed in the early 1960’s) has had a long history of foundation problems, consisting of fill settlement and slope movement. This building movement had caused leaks in the below ground plumbing (water pipes and sewer pipes), which caused additional settlement and movement of the building.
Attempts to stabilize the building, and to lift it to approximately level, were made in the early 1980’s and in the mid-1990’s, approximately 15 years later. We were contacted about 20 years after the latest repairs because the building was again becoming seriously tilted and potentially unsafe (and certainly inconvenient) for occupancy. Continue reading
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
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.