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



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Workmanship Guidelines – Contractors State License Board of California (1982)

In November 1982 the Contractor State License Board (CSLB) prepared a 35-page document titled “Workmanship Guidelines,”which may never have been officially adopted by the CSLB, but existed nevertheless. The “guideline provides suggestions for voluntary tolerance levels for construction work for the first year of ownership unless the contractor provides additional warranties.” The CSLB Workmanship Guidelines included sections pertaining to Excavation and Backfill, Site Drainage, Septic Tank Systems, Waterproofing, Concrete work, Gypsum Wall Board, Framing, Landscaping, Masonry, Stucco, Painting, Plumbing, Roofs, Weather Stripping and Seals, etc. These include acceptable tolerances for minimum slope to drain, out-of-levelness for floors, and plumbness of walls, etc. For each catergory the guidelines list “common deficiencies,” “acceptable tolerances,” and “contractor responsibility.” These tolerances have been cited in numerous construction claims in California.


State Landslide Hazard Identification Program (1983)

In 1983 the California Assembly approved AB 101, funded in the wake of record numbers of landslides being triggered between 1978-83. The bill directed the State Division of Mines and Geology to prepare landslide-hazard maps in urban and urbanizing areas. This activity became known as the DMG’s Landslide Hazard Identification Program, and although still law, has suffered from a lack of funding since 1994. Between 1984-92, maps were produced as open file reports with a blueline format. These maps usually consisted of four sheets: Plate A- Relative Landslide Susceptibility Map; Plate B - Landslides and Related Slope Features Map; Plate C - Geologic Map (may be omitted in some areas); and Plate D - Relative Debris Flow Susceptibility Map (also optional). These maps were all produced at a scale of 1:24,000 (1 inch = 2,000 feet). In 1993 map products started being produced as DMG map sheets, in a two color format. By 1998 DMG produced 30 maps covering 38 7.5-minute quadrangles as part of this mapping program, including 17 maps in Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange and Ventura Counties.


Geotechnical Engineer title act (1986)

During the mid-1980s the Soil and Foundation Engineers Association (SAFEA) of California lobbied the State Legislature to enact the Geotechnical Engineer Title Act in 1986, sponsored by State Senator Leroy Green, SE, a licensed structural engineer. SAFEA’s aim was to bring geotechnical engineers up on par with structural engineers, by offering a specialty license. The ‘title act’ does not preclude professional engineers from practicing geotechnical engineering, only from calling themselves ‘geotechnical engineers.’ Geotechnical engineers are normally identified by the initials “GE” behind their name. During the first year (1986-87) 930 engineers received the GE title by grandfathering (GE numbers 001 thru 931). These individuals had to demonstrate that they had worked at least four years in geotechnical engineering after having received their professional engineering licenses, prior to October 1, 1986. The first 8-hour Geotechnical Engineer examination was administered in April 1987, and these GE registration numbers begin with GE #2000, going forward. The GE title remains the only legal recognition of geotechnical engineers in the United States.


California Building Code (1988)

The California Building Code (CBC) was approved and incorporated into the UBC in 1988. It was simply the UBC with the addition of California’s more stringent seismic design parameters, as determined by California Building Standards Commission (CBSC). The CBSC reviews and approves building standards proposed and adopted by state agencies, administers California's building code adoption processes, resolves conflict, duplication, and overlap in building standards. Almost every municipality in California uses the CBC, while a few entities use a more conservative version (e.g. San Francisco has their own San Francisco Building Code).


Seismic Hazard Mapping Act of 1990

Prompted by 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the State legislature passed the Seismic Hazard Mapping Act of 1990, which became operative in 1991. The purpose of the Act was to protect public safety from the effects of strong ground shaking, liquefaction, landslides, or other ground failure, or other hazards triggered by earthquakes, such as landslides. The goal of the program was to prepare hazard maps noting areas of potentially liquefiable ground and seismically-induced landslides. The maps delineate areas where site-specific investigations are required for evaluating liquefaction potential and landslide hazards before development and construction. For new structures, site-specific studies are now required by law to demonstrate whether sites can be made suitable for habitable structures, safe from seismic threat. In addition, owners of existing structures within a designated seismic hazard zone must disclose that information when a property is sold.

In 1997 CDMG began publishing Seismic Hazard Zone Maps, at a scale of 1:24,000, focusing on developed portions of Los Angeles and Orange Counties, as well as some portions of Ventura County. Official maps of designated seismic hazard zones were originally released as blueline print open file report overlays of standard 1:24,000 scale USGS topographic quadrangles, but are now downloadable as digital files from the California Geological Survey. .

The hazard zone maps showing areas prone to liquefaction and landslides, covering most of Los Angeles and Orange Counties, and portions of Ventura, west San Bernardino, and west Riverside Counties. The first 38 maps covered the areas most impacted by the 1994 Northridge earthquake because funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) were made available to speed up post-earthquake mapping of these areas.


California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA) (1991)

The California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA) was created executive order in 1991, following a "Big Green" initiative by Governor Pete Wilson, establishing a cabinet-level agency to oversee state environmental regulations and research. Following inter-agency reorganizations, it became a cabinet department in July 1991. Cal/EPA is composed of six departments, boards and offices responsible for environmental research, regulating and administering the state's environmental protection programs, and fulfilling hazardous waste cleanup. These departments include: California Air Resources Board; Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR); Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC); Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment; and the State Water Resources Control Board (WRCB); and California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), which replaced the California Integrated Waste Management Board in 2010.


ASTM Guide for Soil Sampling from the Vadose Zone (1991)

In 1990 ASTM Subcommittee D18.21 on Ground Water and Vadose Zone Investigations recommended that ASTM Committee D-18 on Soil and Rock formally adopt a new 17-page dstandard titled “Standard Guide for Soil Sampling from the Vadose Zone” as ASTM Test Designation D 4700-91, approved on July 15, 1991, and first published in September 1991. These new standards addressed the various types of samplers and sampling methods most appropriate for varying types of materials, with particular emphasis on recovering soil samples for “chemical analyses of liquids, solids, and gases from the vadose zone” that might “provide information on the presence, possible source, migration route, and physical-chemivcal behavior of contaminants.” The ASTM test standards are not intended to be absolute or “minimum practice” standards, but are intended to serve as practice guidelines thst should be reviewed and considered when providing technical consultations pertaining to sampling from the vadose zone (or unsaturated zone, above the permanent or perched groundwater tables).


Natural Resources & Conservation Service (1995)

In 1995 Congress reorganized the Department of Agriculture. The Soil Conservation Service was re-designated as the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and within each County the NRCS office was co-located with a Consolidated Farm Service Agency (formerly the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service) office. County soil survey reports are usually available at no charge from these offices, though many counties only offer poor quality machine copies. A comprehensive listing of soils reports was compiled by the California Geological Survey: An Index to Soil Surveys in California. This is available from the Department of Conservation and it lists every report of any length, by county, dating back to 1900.


International Building Code (1997)

The International Code Council (ICC) is based in Falls Church, VA. It was formed in 1994 by combining the three model American building codes published by the Building Officials Code Administrators (BOCA), founded in 1915; the International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO), founded in 1927; and the Southern Building Code Congress International (SBCCI), founded in 1940. The ICC produced the first edition of their International Building Code (IBC) in 1997, intended to be the new national standard for the United States. The 1997 IBC was based on the 1997 Uniform Building Code (UBC), but without the Chapter 33 Appendices for Excavation & Grading (these amendments are part of the California Building Code). Amendments to the new IBC were issued in 2000, 2003, 2006, and 2009. Forty-seven (47) states including Washington, DC, the U.S Department of Defense, and the National Park Service, had adopted the IBC or parts of it into government regulations by 2009. Local building code officials mainly regulate the enforcement of the IBC.


Geotechnical Evaluations of Structures during Real Estate Ownership Transfer (2013)

During the 1990s and 2000s, engineering geologist Harry S. Audell, CEG (BS Geol ’79 CSUN) of Geodynamics Consultant Group, Inc. performed over 2,500 evaluations of real estate properties in Orange, Los Angeles, and San Diego Counties. In 2008 he in 2008 he received AEG’s Claire P. Holdredge Award for his article “Field Guide To Crack Patterns in Buildings.” Subsequent to this, he developed a systematic procedure for evaluating and comparatively grading structural performance, based on observable features and measurements of such features as tension crack aperture. In 2013 The Association of Environmental & Engineering Geologists (AEG) published Audell’s book titled “The Residential Geotechnical Evaluation for Ownership Transfer: A Risk Assessment Guideline,” with an appendix titled “Report Guideline for the Residential Geotechnical Evaluation for Ownership Transfer.” These are marketed by AEG as Special Publication No. 25.


Increased funding for A-P Earthquake Fault Zone mapping (2014)

On June 30, 2014 Governor Jerry Brown approved $1.49 million for fault hazard zone mapping, with $1.3 million in annual dedicated funding for this same activity by the California Geological Survey (CGS). This increase came after the CGS witnessed its annual funding dropping from $9.1 million in 2001 to just $2.9 million in 2013. The legislation was sponsored by State Senator Ted Lieu of Torrance, concerned that the CGS was unable to complete ongoing studies of the Santa Monica and Hollywood faults, as well as portions of the Whittier and San Andreas faults. CGS’s inablity to prepare such maps were impacting projects in those areas of west Los Angeles County. These funds represent a 30% increase in CGS’s annual budget and allowed them to hire three new engineering geologists to help prepare the A-P Zone hazard maps.






Notable boards and expert panels conveened in Southern
The Walker Board (1896-97)

In June 1896 President Grover Cleveland appointd an impartial board of engineers and scientists to examine th various locations in southern California suitable for the construction of a deep water port, which would receive federal funds for development according to the River and Harbor Bill then before Congress (in 1896). The borad was fiunded by a $50,000 appropriation attached to the bill. The President appointed retired Rear Admiral John G. Walker, USN as the chairman of this board, along with Prof Augustus F. Rodgers of the U.S. Coast Survey, Professor William H. Burr of Columbia University, New York consulting engiuneer George S. Morison, and businessman Richard P. Morgan, who was sympathetic to Southern Pacific’s wharf at Santa Monica. The board’s assignmnent was to choose between San Pedro and Sanata Monica. Public sessions commenced in December 1896 and the case for San Pedro was argued eloquently by Harry Hawgood, C.E. (1869-1930) of the Free Harbor League, and Harry Moore for the terminal. Approximately $15 million in local capital was promised for development of the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro. The Walker Board issued their report on March 1, 1897, which stated that a deep water port (e.g. year round access with a minimum 30 ft draft) could be constructed at San Pedro for less cost than a comparable facilty at Santa Monica, which offered no natural shelter. They recognized that development of the harbor between San Pedro and Wilmington Slough would likely involve considerable excavationnand filling, over a period of time. This momentous decision led to the eventual establishment of the Ports of Los Angeles-Long Beach.


Board of Engineers to Investigate Sources of Water for Los Angeles (1905)

William Mulholland (Chair), J. B. Lippincott, and O.K. Parker. Appointed by the Los Angeles Board of Water Commissioners to examine possible sources of water for the expanding needs of the City of Los Angeles. This panel selected the Owens River, along the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Lippincott was a supervising engineer for the federal Reclamation Service, after having supervised the activities of the USGS Hydrographic Branch in California of the USGS during the previous decade. After the verdict of this panel was released, Lippincott was hired by the City to prepare a [public report summarizing all of the possible sources of water supply for Southern California, which was incorporated into the 4th Annual Report of the Water Commissioners on November 30, 1905.
Advisory Board of Engineers to examine the feasibility of the Los Angeles-Owens River Aqueduct (1906)

In November 1906 the City of Los Angeles appointed a three-man “Board of Consulting Engineers” to examine and report on the feasibility of the proposed Los Angeles Aqueduct, conveying water 226 miles from the Owens River to the north end of the San Fernando Valley. This board was led by Frederick P. Stearns, Chief Engineer of the Metropolitan Water District of Massachusetts and President of ASCE; John R. Freeman, Consulting Engineer for the City of New York’s New Croton Aqueduct and a national figure in hydraulics and waterworks engineering (who later emerged as the father of earthquake engineering); and James D. Schuyler, a Los Angeles Consulting Engineer who had designed some of the largest dams in the western states, including Sweetwater and Hemet Dams in Southern California (he would serve as a consultant to Los Angeles on a number of semi-hydraulic fill dams over the succeeding years). The three men later served as members of the Panama Canal Engineering Advisory Board, in 1908-09. This board filed their report on December 25, 1906, estimating the cost of the proosed aqueduct to be about $24 million, and would likely require about seven years to construct. The Aqueduct was actually built under control of the City’s Board of Public Works, not BWWS (who operated and maintained it, after completion). Interestingly, Stearns, Freeman, and Schuyler also served on the Special Board of Consulting Engineers for the Panama Canal in 1908-10.


Board of Engineers for Apportionment of Surplus Waters of the Los Angeles Aqueduct (1911)

A Board of Engineers was appointed by the City of Los Angeles in 1911 to study and report on how the City’s water resources should be apportioned and distributed, including groundwater. This board was comprised of J. H. Quinton (Chair), William H. Code, and Los Angeles City Engineer Homer Hamlin, all respected members of ASCE. Their findings were published by the Los Angeles Board of Water Commissioners as “Report Upon the Distribution of the Surplus Waters of the Los Angeles Aqueduct,” by John Henry Quinton, W. H. Code, and Homer Hamlin (1911). The board concluded that Owen River water could be distributed to the irrigable areas of the San Fernando, Glendale, West San Gabriel, East San Gabriel, and Los Angeles Valleys, as well as the coastal plain, including the Redondo, Inglewood, and Cahuenga Basins. Quinton and Code had both previously worked for the U.S. Reclamation Service. They decided to form a partnership on November 1, 1911, providing consulting in water resources engineering in the greater Los Angeles area (profiled above).


Board of Engineers [to examine] Flood Control of Los Angeles County (1914-15)

In the wake of the floods of January 1914 the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors appointed a Board of Engineers Flood Control of Los Angeles County to investigate the flood control menace and summarize their recommendations in a report to the County. This board was comprised of civil engineers Harry Hawgood, Charles T. Leeds, Joseph B. Lippincott, Frank H. Olmstead, and James W. Reagan. Chairman Hawgood had been the Resident Engineer of the Southern Pacific Railroad in Los Angeles when the floods of 1889 destroyed every bridge across the Los Angeles River, and who since 1894, had served as the most prominent advocate of establishing a deep water port at San Pedro. The board’s report was completed in the summer of 1915 and titled: "Provisional Report of Board of Engineers of Flood Control: Submitted to the Board of Supervisors Los Angeles County, California, July 26, 1915."


SSA Committee on Building Safety Against Earthquakes (1924)

In 1924 the Seismological Society of America formed a standing Committee on Building Safety Against Earthquakes composed of representatives from the American Society of Civil Engineers, American Institute of Architects, National Board of Fire Underwriters, and the Cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles. The members included San Francis co-based consulting engineers Henry D. Dewell, and Walter L. Huber, and Stanford Geology Professor emeritus Bailey Willis.

The committee took Willis’ Fault Map of California published by the Seismological Society of America and formulated tables listing the probable horizontal acceleration of expected earthquakes, based on observations made after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, using the old Rossi-Forel scale, the distance from known fault lines, and the character of the underlying soil. Dewell was the first engineer to apply these parameters in assessing the damage patterns emanating from the June 1925 Santa Barbra earthquake, and reported the results in Engineering News Record.
Independent Assessments of the San Gabriel Dam at the Forks (1924-26)

On May 6, 1924 the citizens of Los Angeles County approved a $35 million bond issue to construct an integral system of flood control, which included dams and debris basins along the principal tributaries of the western San Gabriel Mountains. The largest of those proposed was the San Gabriel Dam project, which envisioned the largest and highest (425 feet) concrete dam ever designed up until that time, to be situated just downstream of the confluence of the Western and Eastern Forks of the san Gabriel River, about seven miles north of Azusa. In 1924 the County retained Arthur Powell Davis, former Commissioner of the U.S. Reclamation Service to inspect the proposed dam site and approve it.

Between mid-1924 and late 1926 the County Flood Control District finalized its design of the new dam, which received ample skepticism because the agency had yet to construct even a small dam, let along the world’s largest. In 1925, LACFCD Engineer J. W. Regan retained a Board of Consulting Engineers comprised of John D. Galloway (San Francisco) and David C. Henny (Portland) as consulting engineers to review the flood control’ district’s preliminary plans for the San Gabriel Dam at the forks site, in San Gabriel Canyon. Their conclusiuons were summarized in “Report on the Forks dam site, San Gabriel River, Los Angeles County Flood Control District, California” By Henny and Galloway was issued on August 24, 1925.

On December 12, 1926 a report by F.J. Safley, Inspector for the U.S. Department of Interior’s General Land Office and W.D. McGlashin, District Engineer with the U.S. Geological Survey was critical of the suitability of the San Gabriel Dam site. Another contrasting report was released the same day, in which other experts, hired by Los Angeles County, opined to be in favor of the forks dams site in San Gabriel Canyon. Their report discussed the pros and cons of the Granite Dyke site (where Morris Dam was later built) and the Forks Site. This board of consultants was comprised of consulting engineers Louis C. Hill of Quentin, Code & Hill in Los Angeles and A.J. Wiley of Boise, who opposed the Forks Site in favor of the Granite Dyke site.


Board of Consulting Engineers to the Los Angeles County Flood Control District (1927)

This board was convened by the LA County Board of Supervisors to review plans developed by the newly formed LA County Flood Control District to develop a system of flood control works using a voter-approved funds of $26 million, when the district was being led by engineer James W. Reagan. The primary purpose of this board was to advise the flood control district on the projects proposed in the san Gabriel River watershed, in particular, the San Gabriel Forks Dam in San Gabriel Canyon, intended to become the largest concrete dam ever constructed up to that time.

The board was comprised of Stanford University CE Department Chairman Charles D. Marx, Frederick H. Fowler, Consulting Engineer from San Francisco (and future ASCE President), and Charles H. Paul, former Chief Engineer of the Miami Conservancy District in Dayton, Ohio. The board recommended the constriction of the San Gabriel Forks Dam, just downstream of the confluence of the river’s Western and Eastern Forks, as well as the San Gabriel Dam No. 2 (later renamed Cogswell Dam) on the West Fork of the San Gabriel River.
Governor’s Board of Inquiry to Investigate the Failure of the St. Francis Dam (1928)

A few days after the untimely failure of the St Francis Dam on March 13, 1928, Governor C.C. Young appointed a six-man panel to make an investigation and report their findings as soon as possible. The members were selected from a list provided by the American Society of Civil Engineers to the Governor Young. The panel was chaired by famed dam engineer A. J. Wiley of Boise, Idaho (1862-1931); assiksted by Geology Professor F. Leslie Ransome of Caltech; Geology Professor George D. Louderback of U.C. Berkeley; Frank E. Bonner, District Engineer, US Forest Service in San Francisco; and California Respresentative to the Federal Power Commission; consulting engineer H.T. Corey of Los Angeles, and consulting engineer Frederick H. Fowler of San Francisco (and future ASCE President). The panel convened in Los Angeles on March 19th, made one site visit on March 22nd, and submitted their 79 page report to the Governor on March 27th, titled: “Causes Leading to the Failure of the St. Francis Dam.” Being the first report released after the failure, it garnered the most attention in the news media. Reproduced in quantity by the State Printing Office, it served as the primary reference on the dam failure for many decades thereafter.

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