Geotechnical Consulting Board Threadlines of Geotechnical and Engineering Geology firms in the Greater Los Angeles Metro-Southern California Area



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Foundation Engineering Co. (1960-95)

Jack W. Rolston, GE graduated from Washington High in Los Angeles and attended Colorado School of Mines for three-plus semesters, between Sept 1941 and April 1943, before enlisting in the Army during World War II. He received additional training at Harvard through the Army in the fall of 1943. He returned to Harvard after the war, where because of his prior training and experience, he was allowed to enroll in the master’s program, without a bachelor’s degree. He completed his MSCE at Harvard under Arthur Casagrande in 1947. This was followed by an additional year at Stanford, where he earned his Engineer’s Degree (EngD) in 1948 (where he also taught surveying). He then took a position with the Bay Area Toll Bridges Commission, working with famed geologist Dr. Parker Trask on the proposed Southern Crossing of the SF Bay Bridge (between 1948-51). He then moved to Afghanistan, working for Morrison & Knutson (1951-53), then back to San Francisco, where he took a position with Charles Lee, Consulting Foundation Engineer, in 1953. Later that year, he moved to Los Angeles to work for the Soils Design Section of the Los Angeles District of the Army Corps of Engineers. Jack remained with the Corps full-time until starting his own consultancy.

In 1960 he started Foundation Engineering in Tarzana, which merged with Earth Systems in 1995. His engineering geologist was Bill Uhl, CEG. Jack returned to the Corps of Engineers LA District office in 1969, working part-time whenever his consulting business slowed down. He returned to the Corps full-time in 1982, and retired from the Corps in 1985, but continued as a part-time consultant to the Los Angeles District until 2011!

Being one of the only Harvard-trained geotechnical engineers in Los Angeles at the time, Rolston was an integral member of various ASCE and AEG committees that developed grading and excavation codes in the Los Angeles area between 1957 and 1985. Jack was the long-time AEG representative on their Building Codes Committee, which provided input to various municipalities and ICBO (until 1985). His work with promoting building codes also led to the formation of the Soil and Foundation Engineers Association (SAFEA) in 1971, and Rolston served as the association’s first president, in 1971-72. This is now CalGeo, the California Geotechnical Engineers Association.
Vladimir (Wally) P. Pentegoff, consulting geological engineer (1963-82)

Wally Pentegoff (1899-1982) was a native of Chelyabinsk in Siberia, where his father was a mining engineer. He fled communism in the early 1920s, first to Vladovostok, and then onto Shanghai, where he took odd jobs while saving for passage on a steamer. He arrived in Seattle in 1923 and enrolled himself at the Colorado School of Mines using the Rockefeller-sponsored Russian Student Fund. He completed a five-year course in geological engineering in 1928. He moved to Pasadena and took a position as chief geologist of the Radiore Geophysical Prospecting Co. of Los Angeles, working for mining and petroleum firms. In the fall of 1929 he moved to the International Geophysics Company of Los Angeles, engaged in making surveys of proposed routes for Metropolitan Water District’s Colorado River Aqueduct in the Mojave Desert. He became an American citizen the following year and was hired by MWD to work on the tunnel sections of the aqueduct. In 1940 he landed a civil service position with the Los Angeles District of the Army Corps of Engineers. During the war he saupervised investigation of the district’s largest flood control basins, including Sepulveda, Whittier Narrows, Santa Fe, San Antonio, and Prado. In 1946 he was named Chief of the newly formed Foundations and Materials Branch of the Los Angeles District. After retiring from the Corps in 1963, he became one of the most sought-after geological engineering consultants, working out of his home in Pasadena on just about every tunneling project in the western US. In 1964 he joined the Board of Consultants to the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, following the falure of the Baldwin Hills Reservoir. The board later engaged in reviewing the designs for the design of the second barrel of the Los Angeles Aqueduct in the late 1960s. In 1966 he was named to MWD’s Board of Consultants, with who he remained until 1980. During the period MWD constructed 26 miles of water supply tunnels and three embankment dams, to aid in distribution of waters from the State Water Project. Wally remained in Pasadena until his death in February 1982.
Harding Lawson Associates (1978-92)

Orange County office established at 1700 E. Dyer Road, Santa Ana, after purchasing L.T. Evans Foundation Engineers (described above). The original managing partner was Gerald M. Diaz, PE, who transferred from Harding’s SF Bay headquarters.


Diaz-Yourman & Associates (1992-present)

Founded by Gerald M. (Jerry) Diaz, GE (BSCE ’59 New Mexico State; MS ’79 Houston) and Allen M. Yourman, Jr., GE (BSCE ‘76, MS ‘78 UCLA; MBA Pepperdine) as an MBE and DBE firm. Jerry Diaz was principal of Harding Lawson’s southern CA office, where Yourman began working in 1978, after completing his master’s at UCLA (he was Ken Lee’s last grad student). They were originally located in Tustin, in Dec 1992. Now located in Santa Ana, with a branch office in Oakland. They specialize in ground improvement projects for port facilities (Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Oakland). Since 2004, other principals include Chris M. Diaz, PE as President and V.R. (Nadesh) Nadeswaran, GE, principal engineer.


Harrington Geotechnical Engineering (1990-present)

Firm started by Don P. Harrington, Sr., PE, GE and his son Don P. Harrington, Jr., REA in 1990, and based in Orange, CA since 1991. Don Sr. began his career as a soils tech for L.T. Evans in 1954 and completed his civil engineering training through the International Correspondence School (ICS) program in 1964, while working for Ed Twining, Sr. at Twinning Labs in Long Beach. He became a registered civil engineer in 1968 and moved to Advanced Foundation Engineering (1968-73), followed by H.V. Lawmaster & Co. in Stanton, from 1973-90. Don Jr. worked for H. V. Lawmaster from 1978-90. Their senior geotechnical engineer and lab manager is Joseph L. Welch, PE, GE (BSCE ’66 West Point; MS ’77 GWU Wash, DC), who joined the firm in 2005, after having worked for Geotek, Petra, Ned Clyde Construction, and other firms, mostly in the San Diego area, from 1985 onward. The firm’s engineering geologist is Christopher L. Tomlin, PG, CEG (BS Geol ’85 SDSU; MBA ’95 Univ Phoenix).


U.S. Reclamation Service threadline
Most of the region’s most prominent civil engineers were engaged in irrigation engineering, because the development of water resources was crucial to southern California’s early development. The U.S. Reclamation Service was established in 1902 as a part of the U.S. Geological Survey to aid in the development of water resources on public lands in the semi-arid western United States. Engineers were gleaned from the private sector and employed part-time, on a project-by-project basis. During the first five years the fledgling agency only developed 30 projects. In 1907 the Reclamation Service was established as a separate entity within the Department of Interior and was led by Frederick H. Newell, a leading zealot of irrigation engineering. Newell sought the best and brightest young engineers he could find, many of whom became prominent names in the civil engineering profession.

The Reclamation Service’s “consulting engineers” were expected to support themselves part-time, performing whatever consultations they could glean from private clients, especially in light of the fact that most of Reclamation’s construction projects shut down during the winter. When the Reclamation Service was re-organized into the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in 1923, their employment structure shifted to that of a governmental civil-service agency, using full-time employees selected by competitive examination, who were forbidden from moonlighting in the same field of expertise (e.g. designing dams).

The use of part-time “consulting engineers” by the old Reclamation Service was how so many Reclamation engineers came to work in southern California. These included: J. B. Lippincott, John H. Quinton, William H. Code, Louis C. Hill, Raymond A. Hill, Frank A. Nickell, A.H. Ayers, Trent Dames, Robert Stone, and Bill Wahler. These are some of the engineers who subsequently established engineering consulting firms in the Los Angeles area, which specialized in the design and construction of dams, canals, and water resources infrastructure. With Los Angeles being situated along a highly active tectonic margin, all of these structures were impacted, in one way or another, by the various geotechnical hazards presently taken for granted, such as floods, debris flows, earthquakes, landslides, expansive soils, brush fires, water table drawdown, saltwater intrusion, and petroleum and gas withdrawal. These challenges gave rise to an increasing awareness and appreciation of geotechnical hazards, culminating in the establishment of geotechnical engineering consulting firms, beginning in the 1930s.

Quinton and Code, Consulting Engineers (1911-14)

John H. Quinton, M.ASCE (1850-1944) was born in Ireland and graduated from Queen’s University in Dublin with a BA in 1871 and Bachelors of Engineering in 1872. He immigrated to California in 1873, initially working for the Southern Pacific Railroad and several of their subsidiaries, such as the Pacific Coast Rialway. In 1880 he was given charge of completing 80 miles of the Oregonian Railway. From 1881-84 he directed construction of the Pacific Branch of the Mexican Central Railroad.

From 1884-88 he was a consulting engineer, including irrigation projects near Fresno and ground leveling and irrigation projects in the San Joaquin Valley. In 1888-89 he worked for the Corps of Engineers in Portland, Oregon. From 1889-1903 he was employed by Hoffman & Bates, bridge builders for railroads. In 1891 he was hired by the US Geological Survey to evaluate various watersheds for development, including the Hetch Hetchy Valley of the Tuolumne River, which was subsequently selected by San Francisco in 1912. In 1894 Quinton moved to southern California to engage in private practice, which included work on the Santa Ana Canal (in 1894-97), followed by the San Gabriel Power Canal, which included 36 tunnels. In 1897 he established an office in Los Angeles and designed the twin tunnels at 3rd St. & Brodway in the downtown area.

In 1903 he was one of four “supervising engineers” hired by the U.S. Reclamation Service on a per diem basis to help the newly-formed agency design dams (the other supervising engineers were Hiram N. Savage, C.H. Fitch, and J.B. Lippincott). Quinton was credited with designing the Minidoka Dam on the Snake River in Idaho, the Uncompaghre Project, Lower Yellowstone Project, Belle Forche Dam, Strawberry Project, Pathfinder Dam & Interstate Canal, North Platte Project, Yuma Project, Laguna Dam, Orland Project, Klamath Project, Grand Valley Project, Huntley Project, Milk River Project, Hondo Project and several others. In 1910-11 he supervised construction of the Truckee-Carson Project and he continued working off and on for Reclamation and the Indian Service until 1915. Quinton continued consulting on a wide variety of water resources projects, not only in southern California, but also in Arizona, western Canada, and South America.

In 1926 Quinton retired from Quenton, Code & Hill, but retained his financial interest. He appears to have established a small firm named Quinton Engineers, which he operated until his death on July 7, 1944. That firm continued operating out of downtown Los Angeles into the 1960s (their chief engineer was Don Moran in 1965).



William Henry Code, PE (1864-1951) (RCE 153) was a native of Saginaw, Michigan and received his BSCE from the University of Michigan in 1892. Between 1892-1902 he worked on the Consolidated Canal System in Arizona’s Salt River Valley, becoming its superintendent. In 1902 he accepted a position with the the Indian Service as their chief of irrigation for the Territory of Arizona. He remained in that capacity until 1911.

In late 1910 Quinton and Code were named to the three-man Board of Engineers for Apportionment of Surplus Waters of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, then under construction. This associatrion led to their forming a partnership named “Quinton and Code, Consulting Engineers,” established on Novmeber 1, 1911, with an office in #601 of the Wright & Calendar Building, in downtown Los Angeles. Three years later they were joined by another former Reclamation engineer, Louis C. Hill, described below. The firm designed water resources projects in the western United States.

Code was a member of ASCE’s Committee of the Irrigation Division that authored “A National Reclamation Policy,” published in the 1931 ASCE Transactions. At that time his affiliation is given as “Consulting Engineer, Los Angeles.” He also co-authored the necrology of Dr. Elwood Mead published in the 1937 ASCE Transactions.
Quinton, Code and Hill (1914-1930)

Louis C. Hill, PE (1865-1938) (RCE 152) was a native of Ann Arbor, Michigan. He received his BSCE in 1886 and BSEE in 1890, from the University of Michigan (and an honorary MSE in 1911). In 1902 he left his faculty position at the Colorado School of Mines to join the newly-formed Reclamation Service in Denver. He supervised a string of famous projects in the upper and lower Colorado River Basins, including Roosevelt Dam (1903-11), the giant siphon under the Colorado River at Laguna Dam, and the design of Elephant Butte Dam, the state-of-the-art concrete gravity dam prior to the completion of Hoover Dam, 20 years later.

He entered private practice in March 1914, and availed himself as a consultant to the Bureau of Reclamation and Corps of Engineers for the balance of his life. He joined Quinton, Code, and Hill in Los Angeles as a full partner, and the firm consulted on a wide range of water supply and flood control projects. Louis Hill served on the Board of Consultants to the Bureau of Reclamation on Hoover Dam (1931-35) and all the major Reclamation dams that followed (e.g. Grand Coulee, Shasta, Friant, etc.), and as President of ASCE in 1937.

The firm designed dams and water supply projects in the American Southwest, Canada, and Mexico. They also managed the construction of these same projects, which included the construction of Camp Kearney for the Army in 1917-18, Pine Flat Dam, Madera Dam, and the Gibraltar Dam north of Santa Barbara, which was the first arch dam to utilize a thrust block on one abutment (completed in 1926, raised in 1948, and retrofitted in 1993).

One of the firm’s rising stars in the early 1920s was Walter E. Jessup (1888-1984) (AB ’10 USC; BSCE ‘12 Wisconsin), who was a charter member of the Los Angeles Section of ASCE when it formed in 1914 (and a Corps of Engineers Captain in WW1). He served as president of the LA Section in 1929, while in a partnership with Henry Z. Osborne, Jr. In August 1930 Jessup became the first editor of ASCE’s Civil Engineering magazine (which launched in Jan 1931). After three years for service in WW2 with the Chief of Engineers in Washington DC as a Lieutenant Colonel, he was tabbed to run ASCE’s new Western Headquarters in Los Angeles. In 1948 Jessup returned to New York to run CE magazine, until retiring in 1958.

In 1926 Paul Baumann (1892-1983; BSCE 1918 Federal Inst Technology Zurich) joined Quinton, Code and Hill as Design Engineer to work on Gibraltar Dam, after serving as chief engineer of the Lake Arrowhead Dam project in the San Bernardino Mountains. He became the principal protégée of Louis C. Hill until the latter’s death in 1938. In 1926 Albert H. Jessup (1886-1967) (hyd eng studies Univ Idaho) joined the firm as a designing engineer, and remained with them through the 1940s.
Quinton, Code and Hill-Leeds and Barnard, Engineers Consolidated (1930-1940)

In May 1930 Leeds and Barnard merged with Quinton, Code and Hill, and were incorporated as Quinton, Code and Hill-Leeds and Barnard, Engineers Consolidated, Los Angeles. The firm did a great deal of work for the State Division of Public Works in the 1930s and 40s, for whom Charles Leeds often served as a peer reviewer. Paul Baumann became their Chief Design Engineer in July 1930. The firm provided technical designs for dozens of dams and irrigation projects in the western United States, including Coolidge Dam. They were most noted in Los Angeles for their work in developing the Port of Los Angeles-Long Beach, and they performed pioneering work in the design of bulkhead wall systems for wharves and drydocks.

Baumann’s 1935 article for the ASCE Transactions titled “Analysis of Sheet-Pile Bulkheads” was awarded the 1936 James Laurie Prize of ASCE. In October 1934 Baumann was appointed Assistant Chief Designer of the Los Angeles County Flood Control District in charge of design, construction, and operation of their facilities, following the embarrassing trials over collusion involving the County’s contract with MacDonald & Kahn for the ill-fated San Gabriel Dam at the Forks site, in the late 1920s (which forced the resignation of Chief Flood Control Engineer E. Cortland Eaton). In 1943, Baumann’s published another article in the ASCE Transactions summarizing the “Design and Construction of the San Gabriel Dam No. 1,” which was awarded the Society’s Thomas Fitch Rowland Prize.

The firm also offered geotechnical engineering services as far back as 1932, with the Quelinda Estate landslides along Pacific Coast Highway. Wilfred Barnard died in January 1936 and Louis C. Hill died in November 1938, so the firm was re-organized as Leeds, Hill, Barnard, and Jewett in 1940.


Leeds, Hill, Barnard, and Jewett (1940-46); Leeds, Hill and Jewett (1946-1978)

In 1940 the firm became Leeds, Hill, Barnard, and Jewett, which continued throughout the Second World War, until 1946. Raymond A. Hill (1892-1973) received his BCE from Michigan in 1914 and a civil engineer degree in 1922 (similar to a master’s degree), after working for the Reclamation Service (1909-17). He moved to the Los Angeles area around 1913 and served as a first lieutenant in the Army Engineers during WW1 in France. Upon his return from Europe in 1919 he joined Quinton, Code & Hill, and was elevated to partner of the firm during the reorganization in 1940. John Q. Jewett (1899-1973; RCE 1642) was the third partner.



Ray Hill was well-connected within the various circles of power, and by the mid-1930s, became the youngest member of ASCE’s Executive Board. In 1938 his notoriety led to his appointment to negotiate the Rio Grande Compact adjudicating the waters of the Rio Grande River between Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas.

One of Leeds, Hill, Barnard & Jewett’s most unusual projects was the Camp San Luis Obispo Dam (since renamed the Salinas Dam), which retains Santa Margarita Lake, the mile-long Cuesta Tunnel, and 14 miles of pipeline. The dam was built on the upper Salinas River (which flows north), 15 miles east of the new Army post, which was home to California’s 40th Division (National Guard), and on the opposite side of the Santa Lucia Mountains (now crossed by US 101 along the Cuesta Grade). It was the first arch dam to utilize thrust blocks on both abutments. Ray Hill brought in Louis Hill’s old protégé Paul Baumann as a consultant to oversee the dam’s design, because of its similarity to Gibraltar Dam. The project was completed in 1941-42. The bulk of the firm’s work during the Second World War was on defense related projects, including development of Port Hueneme, California as the principal Navy Seabee base on the West Coast, which employed a deep-draft man-made harbor. The firm also designed and supervised construction of the naval magazines at Seal Beach, the largest ammunition handling facility on the West Coast. They were also associated with ongoing improvements to the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

In 1946 the war the firm was re-organized as Leeds, Hill & Jewett. The firm continued its work on defense related projects, such as the construction of Vandenberg Air Force Base, the principal missile launching facility for the Air Force. They also provided consultations to the Coachella Valley Water and Imperial Irrigation Districts, among others. Omar J. Lillevang (1914-2000) (BSCE ’37 Berkeley) joined the firm in 1938, served three years as a Navy Seabee officer in 1943-46, and then supervised the firm’s expanding work on coastal harbors and structures. He also served as the firm’s Vice President for coastal and harbor works in the early 60s.

Ray Hill was an influential figure in water resources development in California throughout the 1950s and 60s, advising the State of California as a Member of the Board of Engineering Consultants to California Department of Water Resources during the planning, design, and construction of the largest non-federal public works project in American history, the California Water Project, between 1956-71. After the death of Charles Leeds in 1960, Hill moved the corporate headquarters to San Francisco, which he believed to be a more lucrative marketplace for the firm’s expertise in water resources and dam engineering, world-wide. For a while Leeds, Hill & Jewett maintained offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco (probably between 1960-66, or thereabouts). Dallas E. “Dal” Cole (BSCE ’29 Caltech) became the chief engineer of the dwindling Los Angeles office in 1968, after serving on the Colorado River Board for 37 years. Phillip L. Wagner, CEG served as the senior geologist of the LA office throughout the 1960s. Some experienced personnel departed when the firm closed down its LA office, around 1973.
Soil Mechanics & Foundation Engineers, Inc. (1964-71); W.A. Wahler & Associates (1972-78)

This was a southern California branch office of the firm, founded by William A. “Bill” Wahler (1925-88). Wahler grew up in southern California, graduating from Pasadena City College in January 1944. He completed his BSCE at the University of Colorado in 1950, followed by an MS in 1952. In 1952-53 he and Dr. Jim Sherard formed a short-lived partnership in Denver (Sherard then joined Woodward Clyde as a partner in 1953, establishing their Denver office). In 1953-54 Wahler went to Harvard to take courses in soil mechanics. He returned to the Denver area to work for the Bureau of Reclamation before moving to the SF Bay Area, around 1956-57. After working for other firms (possibly Bechtel), he started up this firm in 1961, based in Sunnyvale, CA (they also had a branch office in Washington, DC).

The southern California office was originally located in Whittier, then Los Alamitos, and later, in Newport Beach. James Remmelkamp was listed as the office principal in May 1964, along with William S. Merrithew. By 1969 the southern California office included Gene Nelson, Dick Harding, Doug Hamilton, Frank Kresse, Frank Fong, and Gerry Nicoll. Their clients included the Metropolitan Water District, Irvine Company, and the Coastal Orange County Land Co.
California Division of Highways threadlines
The Department of Highways was formed by the California Legislature in November 1896, when most of the state’s ground transportation were crude dirt roads maintained by county governments as well as some paved roads within the boundaries of the largest cities, such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego. In 1907 the Legislature replaced the Department of Highways with the Department of Engineering, within which they created a Division of Highways. Voters approved an $18 million bond issue for the construction of a state highway system in 1910 and the first Highway Commission was convened in 1911. The first state highway projects began in August 1912, which also witnessed the founding of the Transportation Laboratory in Sacramento, which would garner national prominence in the years to come.

In 1921, the Legislature changed the name from the State Department of Engineering into the Department of Public Works, which included the Division of Highways. Over the next half century the Division of Highways became the leading highway transportation authority in the United States, garnering many “firsts,” such as the painting of centerlines on highways statewide; first to build a freeway west of the Mississippi (the Pasadena Freeway); the first to build a four-level stack interchange; the first to develop and deploy non-reflective raised pavement markers; and one of the first to implement dedicated freeway-to-freeway connector ramps for carpools. Most of this progress was chronicled in a State publication called California Highways & Public Works, which was in print between 1927 and 1967.

In late 1972, the Legislature approved a reorganization (suggested by a study initiated by Governor Ronald Reagan), in which the Department of Public Works was merged with the Department of Aeronautics to become the modern Department of Transportation, known simply as Caltrans. Caltrans operations are spilt into twelve districts statewide, with the Headquarters, Transportation Laboratory, and Bridge Engineering Group in Sacramento and the rock slope engineering group based in San Luis Obispo.

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