Donald L. Lamar, CEG, RGP Adjunct Professor of Engineering Geology (at USC 1965-77)
Don Lamar (1930-2009) (BS Geophys ’52 Caltech; MS Geol ’59, PhD ’61 UCLA) of Lamar-Merifield served as an adjunct professor at USC teaching engineering geology and field geology from the mid-1960s though the late 1970s. Don had a healthy interest in engineering geology because his father had lived through the disastrous Montrose-LaCresenta fire-flood sequence debris flows of January 1, 1934, which killed 42 people and damaged or destroyed more than 500 homes and $5 million in property in the La Canada-Flintridge area. Don often told the story of how the debris came tumbling into the Armenian Hall during the New Year’s Eve party and trapped many people because the building frame was tilted sufficiently in simple shear to preclude the opening or door and windows. During the time he was lecturing at USC Don and ARCO Chief Geologist Mason L. Hill developed the Zip-A-Dip devise in the mid-1960s. He was forever more known as “Mr Zip-a-dip,” because he promoted the use of these handy devices and sold them for many years thereafter.
Prof. Bernard W. Pipkin, CEG Coastal and Engineering Geologist (at USC 1969-93)
Bernard W. Pipkin, CEG was a native Angelino from the mid-Wilshire District who enrolled in courses at USC in 1948. He joined the Marine Corps PLC officer training program during the Korean War and earned his B.S. (1953) and M.S. (1956) degrees in geology from USC. He then worked for the Army Corps of Engineers and the California Department of Water Resources, before deciding to pursue his Ph.D. in the School of Mines at the University of Arizona, which he completed in 1965. He then took a job with his old USC geology Prof Tom Clements, who had a small, but thriving consultancy providing engineering geologic input for a number of clients in the Los Angeles area.
Barney joined the USC geology faculty as a Lecturer in 1969, around the same time he became registered as an engineering geologist and formed his own consultancy, B.W. Pipkin & Associates. Although his stated specialty was coastal geology with an emphasis on coastal sediment transport and shoreline protection, Pipkin was a recognized pioneer in environmental geology, a natural outgrowth of his many years as a consulting engineering geologist.
During his 24 years at USC he received numerous teaching awards, hosted an Emmy Award winning educational film series (Oceanus – The Marine Environment), and co-authored several textbooks: Laboratory Exercises in Oceanography, and served as the principal co-author of Geology and the Environment, which remains in print, the 7th Edition scheduled to appear in 2013. He also served as co-editor of Engineering Geology Practice in Southern California, published by AEG in 1992.
Barney Pipkin studied or served as a consultant on many of the largest coastal landslides in the Palos Verdes Peninsula and along the Malibu –Pacific Palisades coast. In 1973 he and his grad student Mike Ploessel wrote “Coastal Landslides in Southern California,” a 20-page pamphlet as a Sea Grant Publication of the USC Department of Geological Sciences. This diminutive publication was thereafter cited in most of the real estate transactions along the sea cliffs of southern California for the next few decades. The publication included summaries drawn from Ploessel’s master’s thesis which tabulated the average rate of cliff retreat with bedrock type and sea cliff height for southern California.
Pipkin continued the work that began at USC in the late 1950s on retreat of coastal bluffs in the Los Angeles area (described above). One of Pipkin’s first grad students was Mike Ploessel, whose thesis was titled “Sea Cliffs of Southern California, Malaga Cove to Palos Verdes,” completed in 1972. Barney retired from USC in 1993, but continued teaching part-time and writing semi full-time for many years thereafter. Registered as a geologist and engineering geologist, Prof Pipkin maintained a consultancy out of his home in Palos Verdes Estates.
John F. Mann, Jr., CEG Adjunct Professor of Hydrogeology (1957-98)
John F. Mann, CEG (1921-98) received his BS in geological engineering from the Colorado School of Mines in 1943, served as a Navy officer during World War II. After the war he attended grad school on the GI Bill at USC, receiving his MS in ’47 and PhD in ’51, working under Prof. Tom Clements. He worked as a groundwater geologist for the USGS and State of Illinois until 1951, when he was given a lectureship at USC. There he continued lecturing on groundwater hydrology for many years thereafter. In 1954-55 he collaborated with USC profs Tom Clements, Dick Merriam, and Dick Stone in a study funded by the US Air Force titled “An evaluation of types and scales of aerial photographs for use in arid regions.” Much of this work was summarized by Mann in an oft-cited article titled “Estimating Quantity and Quality of Ground Water in Dry Regions,” Pub No 44 in of the Int’l Assn of Scientific Hydrology, which appeared in 1958.
In 1957 he opened the first consulting groundwater geology firm in southern California, based out of his home in La Habra. He was a founding member of AEG in 1957 and eventually became the most influential figure in groundwater management and water rights in California. That same year (1957) he published a landmark article with Dick Stone titled “Pollution of ground waters by Oil Field Wastes in Southern California,” recognized as one of the earliest to deal with that subject and the most oft-cited.
One of the most famous forensic cases he worked on was the San Fernando water rights case, which examined the issues of recharge and safe yield in the seemingly previous alluvial gravels of that region. This litigation lasted a record 24 years, between 1955-79. Dr. Mann also served as an expert for the City of Los Angeles on dozens of their Owens Valley inverse condemnation cases (1972-97) and on the controversial Mono Lake litigation (1979-94). He also served as one of the experts in the Ocean Trails Landslide case in Rancho Palos Verdes, one of the five largest slides reactivated in the Palos Verdes Peninsula during the post-war era (1946-86).
Mann did a great deal of early work studying the various groundwater basins in southern California, including the Kern and Tulare Basins, as well as most all of the coastal basins, such as the Goleta Basin. His article “Ground Water Management in the Raymond Basin, California,” which appeared in GSA’s Engineering Geology Case Histories No. 7 in 1969 resulted in more aggressive groundwater basin management in the Los Angeles area, pointing everyone to the structural impacts of buried faults.
His generous donation established the John F. Mann Center for the GeoSciences and Society to enhance the contribution of geoscience to the resolution of society’s growing environment and natural resource challenges; and GSA’s John Mann Mentors in Applied Hydrogeology Program.
Engineering geologists trained at USC
The post war era at USC witnessed a thriving geology program, driven in large part by the expanding petroleum industry in southern California. The principal instructors during this period were Thomas Clements, Orville Bandy, Bill Easton, Duncan McNaughton, John Mann, Gordon McDonald (moved to Univ Hawaii), Dick Merriam, and K. O. Emery. All of these men had strong ties to applied geology, and several, such as Clements and Merriam, routinely consulted in engineering geology. Several of the programs graduates went onto notable careers in engineering geology, including: Gordon Oakeshott (PhD ’36), John F. Mann (MS ’47), Robert Stone (grad work ’48-’50), Jim Slosson (BA ‘49 MA ’51; PhD ‘58), Joe Riccio (MS ’50; PhD ’65), Ray Sholes (BA ’54), Stuart A. Bell; Doug Moran (BS ’58), Dick Lownes (MS ’59), Dietz Warnke (PhD ’65), George Larson (BA ‘61), Joe Cobarrubias (MS ’61), Shell Medall (MS ’64), Art Keene (MS ’65), Gail Hunt (MS ’66), Michael F. Mills (BS ’68), Paul McClay (BS ’76), Rod Combellick (MS ’76), Bill Cavan (BS ’76), Roy Dokka (MS ’76), Ed Hill (BS ’78), Thom Slosson (BS ‘80), Kevin Trigg (BS’81), Chris Wills (BS ’81), Chris Koepke (BS ’84), John Wallace (BS ’85), Miles Grant (BS ’86), Mike Phipps (BS ’87), Phil Hogan (PhD ’93), Kim Bishop (PhD ’94), Dawn Robinson (MS ’95), Rory Robinson (PhD ’97), Brooks Ramsdell (MS ’99), and many others, including those who completed MS in engineering geology degrees, mentioned below.
Master’s degree in engineering geology
In 1959 Eldon S. Roth (BA Geol ’52 UCLA) completed his master’s thesis on “Landslides between Santa Monica and Point Dume,” which was the first thesis in engineering geology at USC (Roth completed his PhD in educational geology in 1965 and taught at Northern Arizona University). In 1966 Sidney S. Neblett also focused on engineering geology, with a master’s thesis titled “Engineering Geology of the Dana Point, CA Quadrangle.” Later that year Jim Slosson succeeded in convincing department chair Dick Stone that USC should offer a specialized master’s degree in engineering geology. This program required courses in sedimentary processes, geohydrology, engineering geology, engineering geology seminar, groundwater hydrology (in civil engineering), soil mechanics & foundation engineering, advanced soil mechanics, and completion of a written thesis. The first graduate of the new engineering geology master’s program was John Byer in 1967, followed by Mike Ploessel (’72), Brian Robinson (’74), Jim Krohn (’76), Don Kowalewsky (’78), Hugh Robertson (’81), Rod Masuda (’81), Mike Bass (’85), and several others.
Pacific Soils Threadline (in USC thread)
Joseph F. Riccio, PhD, CEG (1921-2003) grew up in the Chicago area and served in the Marine Corps from 1942-45, during the Second World War. After being discharged as an E-6 in 1946 he used the GI Bill to study geology at USC under Tom Clements, completing his BA degree in 1950 and MS in 1951. He then worked in the petroleum exploration until joining Maurseth & Howe as an engineering geologist in 1953. In 1955 he and structural engineer Jules A. Juge, Jr. founded Pacific Soils Engineering (see below). Riccio did some pioneering work examining adobe clay in the Los Angeles Basin (Riccio, J.F., 1963, Origin of adobe clays in the southwestern portion of the Los Angeles basin: in Essays in marine geology in honor of K.O. Emery: USC Press, Los Angeles, p. 127-43). Riccio returned to USC in the early 60s and received his Ph.D. in geology in 1965, working with Dick Merriam. In the late 1960s he opted out of the partnership, discouraged by the lawsuits they found themselves mired in. He found employment with the petroleum industry, then shifted to geothermal exploration in the 1970s, working first for the City of Burbank and then for Oregon DOGAMI. He returned to southern California and worked as a consultant for Pacific Soils until the fall of 2001, when he moved to the Kansas City area to live with his daughter. He died in Kansas City on July 11, 2003.
Pacific Soils Engineering, Inc. (1955-2010)
Originally founded in 1955 by geologist Joe Riccio, CEG (1921-2003) and structural engineer Jules A. Juge, Jr., SE (1928-2008), and based in Hawthorne. By the mid-1960s Riccio grew tired of dealing with lawsuits so his partners decided to sell the firm and Joe departed (described above). Jules Juge also left Pacific Soils and started Western Laboratories, a “flat land” geotech firm based in Torrance. In 1986 Juge founded J & J Contractors, based in Wilmington. Pacific Soils provided geotechnical services for single family homes, light commercial, and planned unit developments, specializing in hillside grading.
Most of the fellows that worked at PSE in the early years came from the Los Angeles County Flood Control District (LACFCD). There were bonds that were floated in the late 50's and early 60's for extensive flood control projects, such as the Dominguez channel improvements and all the appurtenant storm drain lines feeding into it. In the South Bay area (Torrance, Gardena, Carson, Hawthorne, etc.) there were all sorts of flooding problems during the rainy months. There was ample funds and lots exploration/design and construction work that needed to be performed. People with engineering degrees from all over the country came to southern California to work at LACFCD. In typical County fashion the budgets were large, and the funds had to be expended each year so additional money could be requested the following year. PSE also established a credible soils testing laboratory, which was certified by the City of Los Angeles and LA County.
By 1964 the firm had moved to Harbor City/Lomita. Some of the senior staff who worked at Pacific Soils in the 1960s included: Earl R. Morley, CEG, Dick Lownes, CEG, (MS Geol ’59 USC) also worked for Ventura Co Public Works in the late 60s, then returned. Syd Neblett, CEG, Dick Henry, Jim Patton, CEG, Dave Poppler, CEG, Bruce Leinster, CEG, Shell Medall, CEG (who founded several firms, see below), and Hugh Balkwill. In 1969 Jim Patton passed the Bar exam and soon developed a practice in geotechnical litigation, defending many of the southland’s finest engineers and geologists. In 1973 he published an oft-cited article titled: “The engineering geologist and professional liability,” which became required reading at ASFE Loss Prevention Seminars (required for principals of firms insured by Terra Insurance) [Attorney Gene Bass played a similar role up in the Bay Area].
Dick Lownes, CEG served as the firm’s chief geologist in the 1970s and Vice President Alan J. Jessup, GE, (BSCE ’61 Wyoming) ran the firm’s Irvine office. During the 1970s and 80s additional staff included: Michael F. Mills, CEG, Stevan Pekovich, GE, Len Deutsch, GE, Deborah Flavin, Anna Evashko, Al Richardson (RCE 16384), Clarence Olson (GE 654), Bruce Leinster CEG, Jim Knowlton, CEG, Rex Ketter, GE, and Greg Axten, GE. Eldon Gath, CEG also worked at Pacific Soils Irvine office from 1980-84 (before joining Leighton). In the 2000’s the company was headed by Daniel T. Martinez, GE (BSCE ‘75 UC Davis), who began working for the firm in 1975. Dean Armstrong was also a principal for many years. Their headquarters was in Cypress, CA, with branch offices in Tustin/Irvine, Corona, and San Diego. Dick Lownes retired in December 1998 and founded Lownes Geologic Services, based in Pasadena.
Martinez was the firm’s last President, but not the sole owner. After Ketter/Lownes/etc retired, the firm’s ownership passed to Dean Armstrong (CEG), John Hansen (CEG), Jim Castles (GE), and several others. They had a difficult time surviving the 2008 recession and closed down in late 2010. Armstrong left and Hansen retired.
Azzam J. Alwash, GE (BSCE CSUF; MS ’86; PhD ‘89 USC) joined the firm in ~1985 and rose to become Director of Foundation Engineering until leaving in ~2005. He married Suzie Reynolds Alwash, PG (MS ‘86, PhD ‘88 Geol USC), who taught geology at El Camino College. They founded Eden Again/Nature Iraq in 1998 and moved to Iraq in 2005. By 2012 Suzie was teaching geology part-time at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut.
Geolabs, Inc. (1964-unknown)
Founded by engineering geologist Sheldon E. Medall, CEG and civil engineers Fred Allen, PE and Gary Rittenhouse, PE in 1964, based in Van Nuys. Medall had just finished his master’s degree at USC and had worked for Pacific Soils. The firm went on to establish offices in Orange County, Westlake Village, etc. Ronald J. Lejman, M.S., GE was senior engineer from 1967-72, then departed to manage the Geolabs-Nevada office in Las Vegas (1972-73). Mike Scullin, CEG resigned from his post as Orange County Geologist to manage the Orange County branch office in August 1968 (he remained there until opening the firm’s Washington, DC office in Sept 1970). GeoLabs Hawaii was another separate, but related entity, purchased by Bob Y. K. Wong, PE in 1975, after being managed for many years by Fred Allen in Honolulu.
Geolabs -Westlake Village was established as a separate entity in the late 1970s by George Larson, and it was managed by Bobby Burke. One of those assisting him was Brian Robinson, PE, CEG (from LACoDPW), who started his own firm in 1978. Ronald Shmerling, PE, CEG (MS Geol ’75 UCLA), took over ownership of Geolabs-Westlake Village sometime later. Mike Phipps, CEG (BS Geol ’87 USC) is senior engineering geologist.
Sernco, Inc (1970)/S.E. Medall & Associates (1974)/Medall, Aragon, Worswick & Associates (1979); Medall-Worswick & Associates (1982-86)
Sernco, Inc. was founded by engineering geologist Sheldon “Shell” E. Medall, CEG (BA Geol ‘58 Berkeley; MS ’64 USC) in 1970 in Los Angeles. Seeing an opportunity to do engineering geology subcontract work on the proposed Alaska pipeline, Medall spun off Alaska Geological Consultants, Inc as a Sernco Company in late 1971, placing Harold J. Moening in charge of that office in Anchorage, Alaska.
In 1974 Medall started another firm called S.E. Medall & Associates, which became Medall, Aragon, Worswick & Associates in 1979, based in Los Angeles, with branch offices in Santa Ana and Riverside. The other partners at that time (1979) were L. Fernando Aragon, PE (BSCE ’74 Loyola) and Andrew W. Worswick, PE (BSCE ’72 UCLA). Some of the other principals included: Claude Corvino, PE (BS Geol ’75; MSCE, ‘77 UCLA), Peter C. Yong, PE (MSCE ’61 Stanford) and Chief Geologist Paul Davis, CEG (BS Geol ‘63 Berkeley). Senior staff included: John Gaffey, John Dailey, Jeff Butelo, Mike Bracher, Ron Maddox, Bruce Thacker, Jim Scott, and Jack Thompson also worked for Medall & Associates. The firm was absorbed by Schaefer Dixon Associates in March 1986.
GeoSoils, Inc. (1974-present)
Founded in 1974 by geologist George R. Larson, CEG (BS Geol ’61 USC), soils engineer Del Yoakum, GE (BSCE ’62 Washington; MS ’63 Harvard), civil engineer Fred Allen, PE, geologist John Sayers, CEG, and geotech engineer Al Kleist, PE in Van Nuys. George began as a lab assistant for Jim Slosson at LA Valley College and Slosson hired him after he graduated. Fred, George, and Del ran the Van Nuys office, while Al and John ran the firm’s Santa Ana office. Fred Allen had a background in running the business side of civil engineering firms. He later moved south to open a branch office in Carlsbad, with a satellite office in Murrieta (he also managed the Geolabs office in Honolulu for a time).
Sometime later, Dick Lownes, CEG (MS Geol ’59 USC) left Pacific Soils to become their senior geologist at the Orange County office in Costa Mesa, while Jim Krohn CEG served as senior engineering geologist at the Van Nuys office in the late 1970s. Jay Roberts worked out of their Costa Mesa office in the late 1970s. John Sayers left the firm around 1988 to start his own company down in Orange County. Paul McClay (BS Geol ’76 USC) moved from Slosson to GSI in 1987 (managing their Murrieta office), while John Franklin CEG (BA Geol ’75 USC) came aboard in 1988, and began managing the Carlsbad office in 2002. More recently, Dave Skelly (MS Oceanography, UCSD), became a principal in the firm, (along with Paul McClay and John Franklin) to supplemental their coastal engineering projects. Dean Armstrong now works for GSI while Franklin serves as the firm’s President. GeoSoils maintains offices in Anaheim, Van Nuys, Carlsbad, and Murrieta.
Eberhart-Axten & Associates (1978-84); Eberhart & Stone (1984-2000); Eberhart/United Consultants (1985-2008); Geosphere Consultants (2008-present)
Eberhart-Axten & Associates was founded in 1978 by Dan R. Eberhart, CEG (BS Geol ’72 CSU Fullerton) and Greg Axten, PE, and based in Anaheim. In 1984 Axten founded American Geotechnical (profiled below), and the following year (1985), Dan Eberhart founded Eberhart/United Consultants, in Placentia.
From 1984 to 2000 Eberhart was a partner with American Geotechnical (described below). Sometime around 1984 Dan Eberhart, CEG formed a new partnership with geotechnical engineer Gerald L. Stone, GE to form Eberhart & Stone, Inc., Geotechnical Consultants, based in the City of Orange. Their senior staff included engineer Steven Alford, PE and engineering geologist Robert Fulton, among others.
In May 2008 Eberhart/United joined with the Geotechnical Division of Consolidated Engineering Laboratories (CEL) to form Geosphere Consultants, Inc., with offices initially in Placentia, followed by San Ramon, Salt Lake City, and Honolulu. Consolidated Engineering Laboratories operates offices in Oakland, Sunnyvale, Santa Rosa, and Sacramento, while United Testing and Inspection is based in Moreno Valley. Materials Testing & Inspection operates from five offices in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. Geosphere’s original principals included Eric J. Swenson, GE, CEG, Jim Backman, and Gary M. Cappa.
American Geotechnical (1984-present)
Founded in 1984 by Gregory W. Axten, GE (BSCE ’73 CSPU-Pomona) in Palos Verdes Estates, after working for Walsh-Forkert Engineering, Pacific Soils, Shell Medall & Associates, and the Irvine Consulting Group. From 1978-84 he served as a partner with Eberhart-Axten & Associates. Axten serves as Principal Engineer and CEO (there was another founder at the time). Robert W. Day, GE joined the firm in 1984 and has served as Chief Engineer and a firm partner since 1988. His degrees include BSCE and MS [structures] from Villanova; MSCE ’80; and Engineer Degree ’81 MIT (working with Chuck Ladd). Day has authored a number of textbooks: Geotechnical and Foundation Engineering: Design and Construction (1999); Geotechnical Engineers Portable Handbook (1999), 2nd Ed (2012) McGraw-Hill Portable Handbook; Soil Testing Manual: Procedures, Classification Data, and Sampling Practices (2000); Geotechnical Earthquake Engineering Handbook, 1st Ed (2001), 2nd Ed (2012), McGraw-Hill Handbook; Foundation Engineering Handbook, 1st Ed (2005), 2nd Ed (2010); and Forensic Geotechnical and Foundation Engineering, 2nd Ed (2011).
Other senior principals have included Mohammad Joolazadeh, GE (BSCE Pahlavi Univ; MSCE Idaho) (1987-2009), Arumugam Alvappillai, PhD, GE (PhD CE ’92 Oklahoma), Fei-Chiu Huang, PhD, GE (PhD CE ’93 Northwestern), Senior/Chief Geologists have included Jim Olbinski, CEG (BS Geol ’76 NAU; MS ’83 Oregon State), Jeff L. Hull, CEG (BS Geol ’88 SDSU), Cathrene Glick, CEG, CHG (BS Geol ’80 SDSU), and Chief Geologist Doug Santo, CEG, CHG (BS Geol ‘87 CSULA).
For many years their main office was in Anaheim, before moving to Yorba Linda. They maintain branch offices in San Diego, Las Vegas, and Davis. Edred Marsh, GE (BSCE 1988 SDSU) joined the firm in 1988, and became a partner in 1999. He has managed their San Diego and Las Vegas offices
R. L. Sousa & Associates (1987-95); GeoConcepts (1995-present)
Founded in 1987 by Robert Sousa, CEG (BS Geol ’81 CSUN), after working for LA Co DPW. In 1995 he formed GeoConcepts with geotechnical engineer Scott J. Walter, GE (BS Geophys ’86 UCLA) and the firm is based in Van Nuys. Jonathan Miller, CEG (BS Geol ’97 CSUN) worked for GeoConcepts from 1997-2009, before starting his own firm, Bay City Geology, Inc.
Neblett & Associates (1997-2009)
Founded in 1997 by former LACDPW and Pacific Soils engineering geologist Sidney S. Neblett, CEG (BA ’51 Hampton Sydney; MS Geol ’66 USC), along with Sid’s son Bill Neblett, and geotechnical engineer Steve Strickler, GE (BSCE ’84 CSULB). Syd flew AD-1 Skyraiders for the Marine Corps during the Korean War, and completed his master’s at USC, with the topic “Engineering Geology of the Dana Point, CA Quadrangle.” For many years he worked as a reviewing engineering geologist for LACoDPW, he was familiar with how the County’s Geotechnical Section viewed the various geotechnical problems. Although the firm was based in Huntington Beach, they performed a great deal of geo-design work for the Calabasas area, assisted by Larry Fanning, CEG, Daniel Morikawa, GE, David H. Ginter, PG. The firm ceased operations in 2009.
G3 SoilWorks (2009-present)
G3SoilWorks Earth Sciences Group was founded in August 2009 by Steve Strickler, GE (BSCE ’84 CSULB), after having worked for Pacific Soils (1990-97), and then as a founding partner of Neblett & Associates (1997-2009), profiled above. The firm is based in Costa Mesa. Strickler serves as CEO and Larry E. Fanning, CEG (BS Geol UCSC) is the firm’s president (Fanning also served as a member of the California’s Mining & Geology Board). Dan Morikawa, GE (BS Geol ’76 UCLA) serves as a principal geotechnical engineer, Vas S. Srivatsa, GE (BSCE ’55; MS ’61 Madras-India; PhD Geot ’70 Oklahoma State) was a senior geotechnical engineer. Catherine Glick, CEG, CHG serves as Director of Water Resources, assisted by Lyndsey Funkhauser Bloxom. The senior geologists have included Richard H. Spindler, CEG (BA Geog UCLA; MS Geol CSULB) and Carisa Endrizzi-Davis, CEG (BS Geol ’86 Arizona). The firm is based in Costa Mesa, but services a broad area, including the Coachella and Imperial Valleys. Strickler is also the founder of The Source Of Sustainability (SOS) Foundation, a California Non-Profit Charity.
Mills & Kolthoff Geological Consultants, Inc. (2010-11); Peninsula Geologic (2011-present); SK Geological, Inc (2011-present)
Mills & Kolthoff was founded by Michael F. Mills, CEG, CHG (BS Geol 1968 USC) and Steven H. Kolthoff, CEG (BS Geol 1979; MS 1994 CSULB) in January 2010, after both had served as senior engineering geologists at Pacific Soils. Previous to this Mills had been with Pacific Soils since 1971 while Koltoff worked Pacific Soils from 1990-98, and for Group Delta from 1998-2010. Mills went onto found Peninsula Geologic in July 2011 and Kolthoff established SK Geological, Inc.
Geology & Soils Consultants (1971-73); Kovacs-Byer & Associates (1973-92)
Geology & Soils Consultants, Inc. was founded by geotechnical engineer Gerald S. (Jerry) Kovacs (RCE 13503) in 1971, based in Studio City. Their Chief Engineering Geologist was John Byer (BS Geol ‘65 UCSB; MS EnGeol‘67 USC), assisted by Hugh Robertson, CEG (MS EnGeol ‘81 USC). The firm became Kovacs-Byer & Associates in 1973 and Jerry Kovacs served as President of SAFEA in 1973-74. Kovacs, Byer and Hugh Robertson then formed a tri-parte partnership in 1978 as Kovacs-Byer-Robertson (see below). This reverted to Kovacs-Byer & Associates (KVA) in 1985.
KVA did lots of work in the Santa Monica Mtns, incl. deep fills, and became known as the “soil engineers of the stars.” Some of the geologists who worked for KBA included Frank Denison, CEG, Richard Escandon, CEG (now with Klienfelder in Redlands), Joe Cota, CEG (owner of Earth Resources, Inc), Bob Hollingsworth, CEG (partner at Grover-Holingsworth), Dave Grover, CEG (Partner at Grover-Hollingsworth), George Davis (now at CSU Northridge). KVA’s senior geotechnical engineers included Robert I. Zweigler, GE, CEG (now with Byer Geotechnical) and Leonard Liston, PE, who departed to start his own firm.
Kovacs-Byer-Robertson (1978-85); Robertson Geotechnical (1985-present)
Founded in 1978 in Malibu as Kovacs-Byer-Robertson by Hugh Robertson with Jerry Kovacs and John Byer as partners. Robertson bought out Kovacs and Byer and renamed the company, moving to Westlake Village in 1985. Hugh S. Robertson PG, CEG (MS EGeol ‘81 USC), who serves as president and principal geologist. Key personnel included Richard Escandon, Ed Hill (now with Geotechnologies) and David Benson (now with Grover-Hollingsworth).
Kovacs-Byer-Grover (1981-84); Grover & Associates (1984-88); and Grover-Hollingsworth & Associates (1988-present)
David J. Grover, CEG (BS Geol ’75 UCLA) began working in the soils lab at Kovacs-Byer in 1972, while attending UCLA. After graduating in 1975 he worked full-time for Kovacs-Byer, and they formed Kovacs-Byer-Grover in 1981. This became Grover & Associates in 1984. In 1988 Dave Grover teamed up with Robert A. (Bob) Bob Hollingsworth, GE, CEG (BS Geol ’79; MS Eng ’82 UCLA) from Kovacs-Byer & Associates, to form Grover-Hollingsworth & Associates. Their office is based in Thousand Oaks, CA. James O’Tousa, CEG was an engineering geologist with the firm in its early years, and Martin Lieurance, PE, CEG (BS Geol ‘86; MS Eng UCLA) left the firm to form Soil Labworks, LLC in Westlake Village in 2011. Senior staff include: Jeffrey Farrar, CEG (BS Geol ’86 UCLA), Greg Byrne, CEG (BS Geol ’88 CSULA), Jeff Kofoed, CEG (BS Geol ’88 CSUN), Danny Daugherty, PE, PG (BS Geol 2000 UCSB; MS CE ’07 UCLA), Jared Little, PG (BA Geol ’02 Cal Lutheran), David Benson, PG (BS Geol ’83 SDSU), and Steve Watry, GE, CEG (BS Geol ’79 UCLA; MS ’83 CSULA).
G. C. Masterman & Associates (1979-95); Subsurface Designs (1995-present)
Founded by Gary Masterman, GE (BSMechE ’75 CSPU Pomona) in March 1979 in Sun Valley, CA, who also taught soil mechanics at CSU Northridge. Masterman worked for Kovacs-Byer prior to starting his firm. His senior geologists included Jeffrey R. Knott, CEG (BS Geol ’83 UCLA; MS ’92 CSULA; PhD ’98 UCR) and Dale Glenn, CEG (profiled below). Geotechnical engineers included Greg Silver, GE (BA Geol ’84 UCSB; MSCE ’88 CSULB) and Scott J. Walter, GE (BS Geophy UCLA). Jeff Knott went on to become a Professor of Geology at Cal State Fullerton in 2001. Greg Silver joined Bing Yen and Associates as in 1988 and Scott Walter formed GeoConcepts with Bob Sousa, CEG (profiled below).
Masterman founded Subsurface Designs in 1995, with senior geologist Mark Triebold, CEG (BS Geol ’87 Illinois). Gary Masterman sold his share of Subsurface Designs to Triebold in 2000, who moved the firm to Sylmar. Masterman served as President of Cal Geo in 2000-01 and moved to Lebec, where he operates Professional Geotechnical Consultants, with a branch office in Larkspur, CO.
Brian A. Robinson & Associates (1980-present); GeoBAR (2010-)
Founded by Brian A. Robinson, GE, CEG (BS Geol 1969 CSUN; MS Geol 1974 USC), after working for Los Angeles County DPW, and Geolabs Westlake. The original firm created a sister corporation, GeoBAR in 2010, and is based in Tarzana. His daughters Dawn Robinson PE, CEG, CHG (BS Geol 1993 CSUN; MS Geol 1995 USC; JD 2006 FSU) and Tiffany Robinson (BS Geol 2001 CSUN; MA Geog 2011 CSUN) worked for him for many years. All of Brian’s sons went on to found their own geotechnical firms: Rory “Tony” Robinson GE, CEG, CHG (BS Geol 1989 CSUN; PhD Geol 1997 USC) and Steven Robinson CEG (BS Geol 1993 CSUN) worked for their father before starting Stratum Geotechnical Consultants in 2002 (profiled below); James Robinson RCE, CEG (BS Geol CSUN 1998) started Enviroasses.com in 2009; and Christopher Robinson CEG (BS Geol CSUN 2001) and Paul Robinson (BA Geog CSUN 2009) started Dynamic Earth Consultants in 2010.
Liston & Associates (1982-2001); L C Engineering Group (2001-present)
Founded by Leonard I. Liston, PE (BS Eng ’77 CSU Northridge) of KBA in 1982 and based in Thousand Oaks, with a branch office (?) in Westlake Village. Liston also became a licensed General Building Contractor in California in 1995 (he also owns LDMS Construction). Jeff Holt of Mountain geology used to provide much of the firm’s engineering geology input, as the two were related by marriage for a time. Lin-Chuan Yeh, PE, SE (BSCE Nat’l Taiwan; MSCE SMU) is the firm’s structural engineer. Britten Pond, PE (BS ArchE Wyoming), Quang Tran, PE (BSCE CSUN) and Ruben Haro, PE (BSCE Guadalajara; MSCE Queretaro Univ) are project engineers, and Eli Katibah (BS Eng CSUN) is a staff engineer.
Mountain Geology (1984-present)
Firm founded by Jeff Holt, CEG (BS Geol ’77 CSU Northridge) in March 1984 in Simi Valley, after working for John Byer at Kovacs-Byer & Associates between 1977-84. Jeff was eventually joined by his two oldest sons: Jacob W. Holt, CEG (BS Geol ’97 CSU Northridge), Jesse F. Holt, CEG (BS Geol ’98 CSU Northridge), and Brett Scott, CEG (BS Geol 2001 CSU Northridge).
Frank E. Denison, CEG (1990-2003); Geostudies, Inc. (2003-2009)
Frank E. Denison, CEG (BS Geol ’73 UCLA; MS work 1995-2003 CSUN) grew up in Venice and enjoyed Pat Merriam as his first geology instructor at LA Harbor College in 1961. He continued his studies in geology at UCLA in the fall of 1961, while working for Vons and Atlantic Richfield Co. After serving in the Marine Corps, he eventually completed his geology degree at UCLA in 1973. He worked for Kovacs-Byer & Associates (1974-88), followed by GeoSoils (1988-90). In 1990 he founded his own consultancy working out of Westlake Village, where he serviced a number of geotechnical firms, such as Subsurface Designs, Inc. From 1995-2003 he pursued work on a master’s thesis at Cal State Northridge titled “Structural Geology of the Santa Monica Mountains,” which was never completed because of the death of his advisor, Dr. Peter Weggand. During that time he also taught engineering geology at CSU Northridge. In 2005 he and Jim Slosson co-authored “Testing of the Site Amplification Hypothesis on Earthquake Damage that Occurred in the San Fernando Valley and Santa Monica during the 1994 Northridge Earthquake as Related to the Underlying Geological Structure of Faults and Synclinal Folds.” Frank had particular expertise and experience with bucker auger assessments, but was seriously injured in a downhole accident in November 2005, which resulted in the amputation of one of his legs. He became a Director of the Dibblee Foundation in 2000, and retired in 2009.
Parmelee-Schick & Associates (1991-2001)
Larry Parmelee, CEG (BS Geol ’83 UCLA) and J. Wayne Schick, CEG, who both worked for Kovacs-Byer & Associates between 1983-91 before going out on their own in 1991 as Parmelee-Schick & Associates, based in the Studio City area. They split up in 2001 and formed their own consultancies. Larry now owns Parmelee Geology, Inc. in Agoura Hills while Wayne Schick owns Schick Geotechnical, Inc. in Van Nuys, with a staff of about five people.
Jerry Kovacs & Associates (1992-2000); Geotechnologies, Inc. (2000-present)
JKA was formed in 1992, when Jerry Kovacs split off from KBA, and was based in Glendale. Edward F. Hill, CEG (BS Geol ‘78 USC) became the firm’s President in 1995. In 2000 the firm was rebranded under the current name, Geotechnologies, Inc., servicing clients in the building industry with responsive engineering and testing services. Michael R. Savage is Vice President, Stanley Tang, PE is a Project Engineer, Reinard Knur, GE, CEG is a Project Engineer/ Geologist, and Michael Cazeneuve, PE, CEG serves as Project Engineer/ Geologist. They received Outstanding Project Awards from CalGeo in 2002 and 2008.
The J. Byer Group, Inc. (1992-present); dba Byer Geotechnical, Inc.
Founded by engineering geologist John Byer, CEG (BS Geol ‘65 UCSB; MS ‘67 USC) and geotech engineer/engineering geologist Robert I. Zweigler, GE, CEG (BSCE ‘79 UCLA; MBA CSUN) in 1994, based in Glendale. They offer full geotechnical services. Giuseppe Cugno, CEG is another senior engineering geologist.
Dale Glenn & Associates (1985-87); Solus Geotechnical (1987- unknown)
Originally founded in 1985 by Dale Darlene Glenn, CEG as Dale Glenn Engineering Geology, then as Dale Glenn & Associates, when she became a WBE. The firm was based in Chatsworth. She had previously worked for Gary Masterman, PE. This was the first woman-owned geotechnical engineering firm in California. In 1987, she expanded her services as a WBE, and renamed the firm Solus Geotechnical, and they moved to Northridge, where they operated for many years. They have since downsized and their employees were absorbed by GeoSystems, GeoConcepts, and Leighton.
Irvine Geotechnical (2005 – present)
Founded by Jon A. Irvine, GE, CEG (formerly of Kovacs Byer) in 2005 and based in Pasadena. He frequently works with Joshua Feffer, CEG of Feffer Geological Consulting (former of Atwood Singh, Exponent-FAA, and American Geotechnical).
Stratum Geotechnical Consultants (2002-present)
Firm started by Dr. Rory “Tony” Robinson, PhD, GE, CEG, CHG (PhD Geol ’99 USC) in 2002, and based in Tarzana and Ventura. He is the son of Brian A. Robinson, GE, CEG of GeoBar.
Bay City Geology (2008-present)
Founded in 2008 by Jonathan S. Miller, CEG, formerly of GeoConcepts. Their engineer is Joseph Barr, PE (BS Geol ‘97 USC), who also worked for GeoConcepts. The firm is based in Santa Monica.
Slosson Associates threadline (under USC thread)
James E. Slosson, Consulting Engineering Geologist (1958-73); Engineering Geology Consultants (1973-75); and Slosson & Associates (1975-2007)
Founded by Dr. James E. Slosson, CEG (1924-2007) (BA Geol ’49; MA ’51; PhD ‘58, USC) while he was teaching geology at Los Angeles Valley College (1950-84). Jim was a charter faculty member of Valley College, where he also coached track & field throughout the 1950s. He served as department chair from 1975-84, after his service as Deputy State Geologist (May 1973) and then, as State Geologist, from late summer 1973 thru mid-1975. While State Geologist he instituted a series of Guidelines for Practice, which had a marked impact on raising the standard of care of engineering and of environmental geologists, not only in California, but nation-wide.
Slosson served on numerous expert panels in the Los Angeles area during the 1960s; including several of the engineering geology qualification boards (beginning in early 1958), which developed more extensive excavation and grading ordinances (after the 1962 storms), and panels promoting statewide registration of geologists and geophysicists.
Slosson originally did consulting work for various oil companies, and then selected private clients out of his office at Valley College. In 1964 he and his wife Nancy opened up an office (with printed stationary) in Van Nuys, and a year later moved to larger spaces in Sherman Oaks. George Larson (BS Geol ’61 USC) was his first full-time employee, beginning in the mid-1960s. Jim and Nancy later moved to other office spaces they rented in Van Nuys, where their Jack Russell terriers were a staple part of the office décor.
Nancy Slosson formed Engineering Geology Consultants as a woman owned business enterprise (WBE) between 1973-75 to avoid conflict of interest charges against Jim while he was in state service in Sacramento (taking a leave of absence from Valley College). Jim served as one of the original members of the California Seismic Safety Commission when it was formed in 1975, serving two terms, between 1975-78 and again, from 1991-99. Jim and Nancy’s son Thom Slosson, CEG (BS Geol ’80 USC) and his wife Lynn Alessi-Slosson (BS Geol ’78 USC) worked for the firm between 1975-2007.
Many of those who worked for Slosson & Associates began their associations as his students at Valley College. These include: Frank Kresse, George Larson, Blaise Selwick, Richard Raskoff, Don Kowalewsky, Mike Scullin, Robert Larson, Joe Cobarrubias, Thomas A. Hauge, Mike Phipps, Jeff Johnson, Bob Hill, Jim Krohn (profiled below), Prof. Vince Cronin in 1978-79 (BS Geol ‘79 Pomona; MS Dartmouth, PhD ’88 Texas A&M), Diane Evans, Paul McClay (BS ‘76 USC), Chuck Yelverton (LACo, then LA City Geologist), and Mike Ploessel.
Donald Kowalewsky, CEG
Don Kowalewsky, CEG received his MS in engineering geology at USC in 1978. He previously worked for Jim Slosson, then for Los Angeles County as a reviewing geologist in the 1980s. He has worked as a consulting engineering geologist from his home at 27101 Old Chimney Rd. in Malibu for several decades.
Geo Search (1993-2008)
Founded by James P. Krohn, CEG (BS Geol ’65; MS Geol ‘76 USC) in February 1993 and based in Northridge. Krohn had previously worked for Slosson & Associates in the 1970s-early 1980s and GeoSoils in the 1980s-early 90s. Krohn co-authored several significant publications with Jim Slosson in the 1970s and early 1980s, including: ”Landslide Potential in the United States” in California Geology in October 1976; "Effective Building Codes" in the June 1977 issue of California Geology; J. H. Wiggins, J.E. Slosson, J.P. Krohn, Natural Hazards: Earthquake, Landslide, Expansive Soil, report to the National Science Foundation (October 1978); “AEG Building Code Review, Mudflow/Debris Flow Damage” in the January 1979 issue of California Geology; "Assessment of Expansive Soils in the United States" for the 4th Int’l Conf Expansive Soils in 1980; “Southern California Landslides of 1978 and 1980,” in the 1982 NAS volume Storms, Floods, and Debris Flows in southern California and Arizona 1978 and 1980; and “Landslide Mitigation Using Horizontal Drains, Pacific Palisades Area, Los Angeles, California,” in GSA Reviews in Engineering Geology v. 9 (1992).
GeoSoils Consultants, Inc. (1998 - present)
In 1988 GeoSoils was split into two separate firms. Fred Allen and Al Kleist retained ownership of GeoSoils, Inc and ran the offices in Carlsbad, Orange County, and Murrieta. Del Yoakum and George Larson incorporated as GeoSoils Consultants, Inc. and ran the Van Nuys office. Over the last few years Del retired and sold his stock to engineering geologist Rudy Ruberti, and later, to geotech engineer Karen Miller. Many of their employees have remained with the firm for over 20 and 30 years, including Dave Sherman, Joe Cota, John Sayers, and several others.
Natural Hazards Disclosure (1995-2002); Earth Resources, Inc (2001-present)
Joseph A. Cota, CEG (BS Geol ’81 CSUN) grew up in the Sun Valley area of the San Fernando Valley and attended Valley College and CSUN. During his college years he worked for Kovacs-Byer. After graduation in 1981 he spent 5-1/2 years working in the California oil industry on well correlations, stratigraphy, offshore exploration, and environmental mitigation. He then joined GeoSoils, becoming registered as a PG and CEG in 1990. He has many years' experience in providing engineering geology and environmental assessment consulting services for large residential and commercial development projects throughout southern California.
In 1995 Joe was associated with the start-up of Natural Hazards Disclosure, Inc. (NHD) of Santa Clarita. NHD provided natural hazard disclosure reports for California real estate transactions, such as Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zone, FEMA Flood Insurance Hazard/Rate Zones, State Fire Responsibility, Seismic Hazard Map, Inundation Areas, and Very High Fire Hazard Severity Area reviews. It also provides information about Mello-Roos District, an area where a special tax is imposed on real property owners within Community Facilities District and markets California Association of REALTORS (CAR's) disclosure compliance kit. In 2002 NHD was sold to CAR's business branch, Real Estate Business Solutions (REBS). In 2001 Cota founded Earth Resources, Inc., based in Santa Clarita, which provides similar services, where disclosures need to be more detailed and exacting, often as part of forensic assessments.
Cal State Los Angeles Threadline
Los Angeles State College was founded in 1947. In September 1949 it was renamed the Los Angeles State College of Applied Arts & Sciences. In January 1964 L.A. State College was renamed California State College at Los Angeles (CSCLA) and joined the California State College (CSC) system, formed in 1960. At that time the geology faculty was comprised of James Richmond (Chair), Robert Meade, Perry Ehlig, and Martin Stout. In 1972 the school was renamed California State University, Los Angeles (CUSLA). That same year CSULA established a geology master’s degree program with an emphasis on engineering geology by partnering with their sister programs Cal State Northridge and Cal State Long Beach, with each campus emphasizing different aspects of geology. This decision was made to gain approval from the Chancellor’s office of the California State University and Colleges (CSUC). Between 1972-82 grad students were required to take courses offered by each school, with the advantage being that most of the offerings were in the evenings. After 1982 this requirement was lifted and students could take all of their courses at CSULA. The program was unique in that it allowed “working geologists” to pursue a graduate degrees. USC also offered evening geology courses, many taught by adjuncts; but the engineering courses like soil mechanics were only offered during daytime. For many t years the program advisor was Bob Bean, who had a good deal of real world experience. The CSULA grad students worked with individual profs on their respective thesis topics. Between 1976-2009 181 students had received their master’s degrees from Cal State LA, by any standard, a most respectable figure.
Alfred Livingston, Jr. Lecturer (1949-56) and consulting geologist
Alfred Livingston, Jr. was born in Kentucky in 1896. He attended the University of California, Berkeley, majoring in mining, receiving his bachelor’s degree in ~1924 and MS in geology ~1929. In 1930 he was working in the Coalinga oil fields. When UCLA moved to their new Westwood campus in 1929, their original campus became the Los Angeles Junior College (it was renamed Los Angeles City College in 1938). Livingstone joined the faculty around 1931 and served as Chairman of the Geology & Geography Department from about 1931-61. In January 1933 Livingston and W. C. Putnam co-authored the classic reference “Geological Journeys in Southern California,” released as Los Angeles Junior College Pub No.1, Geology Series No.1 (104 pages). Putnam moved onto the geology faculty at UCLA in 1938 and their book was reprinted in 1939. This was followed by a soft cover spiral bound second edition, released in 1949. This book formed the basis of understanding the complexities of southern California geology prior to the advent of plate tectonics, which was heralded with Tanya Atwater’s classic 1970 paper Implications of plate tectonics for the Cenozoic tectonic evolution of western North America (GSA Bull., v. 81, p. 3513-3536).
In November 1937 Livingston was quoted in area newspapers when the Elysian Park Landslide closed Riverside Drive and damaged a bridge under construction across the Los Angeles River. In 1949 Livingston also prepared a field trip guide titled “Geological Journeys in Big Tujunga Wash and Vicinity,” published by the Audubon Student Naturalist Association.
Around 1949 Livingston also began lecturing at the newly formed Los Angeles State College (now CSULA). In 1950 he published “Introduction to Geology-An Outline,” which contained 55 pages of notes and sketches for students enrolled in his Introduction to Geology course (reprinted in 1951 and revised in 1960).
Livingston was the first geologist in Los Angeles who marketed himself as a consultant to assess geologic and geotechnical problems for real estate transactions and appraisals. In 1950 he published a book titled “Buying a Home in Southern California,” which contained a great deal of useful information on flooding hazards, slope instability issues, retaining walls, erosion, and differential settlement, which was cited by real estate appraisers, bankers, real estate agents, and all the early foundation engineers and geologists who worked on geotechnical issues. In particular, his block diagram of a split-level home constructed on a dip slope with uncompacted fill prone to differential settlement was a classic image that was often replicated during the crisis that erupted after the January 1952 storms damaged so many home in Los Angeles.