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



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California State Water Project – Earthquake Analysis Board (1962-74)

Dr. Hugo Benioff, Caltech seismologist (Chair), Dr. George Housner (MSCE ’34; Ph.D. ’41 Caltech; Prof of structural engineering at Caltech), Dr. Clarence R. Allen (Caltech seismologist), Dr. H. Bolton Seed (Berkeley geotechnical engineer), Dr. James L. Sherard (Woodward-Clyde-Sherard geotechnical engineer), and Nathan D. Whitman, Jr. (Whitman, Atkinson & Assoc., structural engineers). Ex-officio State representatives Alfred R. Golze (DWR Chief Engineer), Laurence B. James (DWR Chief Geologist), and Arthur B. Arnold (DWR Chief, Project Geology, Southern District).


California State Water Project - Earth Dams Consulting Board (1962-74)

Wallace L. Chadwick (fmr Chief Engineer of SCE), Julian Hinds (fmr Chief Engineer & General Manager of MWD), Roger Rhoades (fmr Chief Eng’g Geologist, Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation), Dr. Phillip C. Rutledge (partner Moran, Proctor, Mueser & Rutledge in New York), and B. E. Terpen (1930-92).
California State Water Project - Earthquake Analysis Board (1962-77)

Dr. Clarence R. Allen (Caltech seismologist), Dr. Hugo Benioff (Caltech seismologist), Dr. John A. Blume (structural engineer, owner J.A. Blume & Assoc), Dr. Bruce A. Bolt (Berkeley seismologist), Dr. George Housner (Caltech structural engineer), Dr. H. Bolton Seed (Berkeley geotechnical engineer), Dr. James. L. Sherard (geotechnical engineer, partner Wood-Clyde-Sherard), and Mr. Nathan D. Whitman.



California State Water Project – Tehachapi Crossing Board (1963-69)

Major General John R. Hardin, USACE-Ret (Chair), Russell G. Hornberger (electrical engineer), Thomas M. Leps (BSCE ’36 Stanford; MIT ’39; former Chief Engineer of SCE), Dr. Frank A. Nickell (engineering geologist, after 1966), Elmer C. Marliave (engineering geologist, died in 1967), John Parmakian (former Asst Chief Designing Engineer for the Bureau of Reclamation), Louis G. Puls (former Chief Designing Engineer for the Corps of Engineers), and Robert Sailer (former Bureau of Reclamation design engineer).


California State Water Project - Board of Consultants on Alternative Aqueduct Routes to Southern California (1963-74)

Ralph A. Tudor, Chairman (Owner of Tudor Engineering in SFO), Adolph J. Ackerman (former Chief Engineer of Dravo Corp), A. H. Ayers (Consulting Civil Engineer, San Francisco), John S. Longwell (former GM & Chief Engineer of EBMUD), Carl R. Rankin (former Chief Engineer Hetch Hetchy and San Jacinto water supply tunnels), Roger Rhoades (former Chief Geologist of the TVA and USBR), and David Weeks (Professor of Agricultural Economics at Berkeley). Ackermann became the most vociferous critic of the California Water Project in the late 1960-early 1970s, because he believed the cost-justification models were flawed.
Metropolitan Water District-California Aqueduct and Foothill Feeder Project (1963-80)

In 1963 MWD began work on designing a delivery and distribution system for their allotment from the State Water Project. This included 26 miles of tunnels and three new dams to convey water from the north side of the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains to MWD’s service area. Richard Proctor convinced MWD to appoint a board of consultants to peer review the geologic investigations, report preparation, and construction records, which continued through 1980. This board included: Richard Jahns, (Dean of Earth Sciences at Penn State and Stanford), Vladimir Pentegoff (fmr Branch Chief of Foundations Group, LA District, USACE), Tommy Thompson (former USACE geologist), Mason Hill (Chief Geologist of ARCO in LA), and Carl R. Rankin (fmr Chief Engineer of the Hetch Hetchy and San Jacinto water supply tunnels). The actual construction was carried out between 1964-1974, but the consultants were retained because of the 1971 San Fernando Tunnel explosion and litigation that followed.


Mayor of Los Angeles Board of Inquiry-Failure of the Baldwin Hills Reservoir (1963-64)

The Baldwin Hills Reservoir failed on Saturday December 14, 1963, unleashing up to 4,300 cfs down a steep ravine more or less centered along Cloverdale Ave. in west central Los Angeles, eventually draining into Ballona Creek. The flood waters destroyed 41 homes and damaged 986 more, and killed 6 people. The off stream reservoir had been constructed by the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power in 1947-51, as an ringed earthen embankment of 855,000 cubic yards with a maximum fill height of 155 feet. Its design storage capacity was 897 acre-feet, and it was storing 738 acre-feet of water at the time of the failure.

Shortly after the failure, Los Angeles Mayor Samuel W. Yorty asked the presidents of the California Institute of Technology and the University of Southern California, and the chancellor of the University of California, Los Angeles to nominate suitably qualified individuals to comprise an impartial board of inquiry to make a scientific investigation of the significant factors contributing to the reservoir’s failure.

This panel was comprised of the following individuals: Alfred E. Paonessa, retired superior court judge (Chairman); Francis Wilcox, President of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce (Vice Chairman); Thomas Clements, recently retired Professor and Chair of the Geology, Geography and Petroleum Engineering Department at USC; Donald Hudson, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics at Caltech (earthquake engineering expert); Ronald F. Scott, Professor of Geotechnical Engineering at Caltech; Paul Baumann, retired Assistant Chief Engineer of the LA Co Flood Control District (who had designed dozens of earth and concrete dams); and Carroll M. Beeson, Professor of Petroleum Engineering at USC.

This Board of Inquiry prepared a report titled “Report to the Honorable Samuel W. Yorty, Mayor of Los Angeles, by the Board of Inquiry on the Failure of the Baldwin Hills Reservoir,” dated February 14, 1964. Caltech Professors Hudson and Scott subsequently published an article about the fault offset titled “Fault Motions at the Baldwin Hills Reservoir Site,” which appeared in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America in February 1965.
State Engineering Board of Inquiry & Consulting Board - Baldwin Hills Reservoir Failure (1963-64)

The very day of the Baldwin Hills Reservoir failure, the State Department of Water Resources appointed an Engineering Board of Inquiry to investigate the causes, despite the fact that it was an “off-stream storage facility,” and, thereby, exempted from jurisdiction of the Division of Safety of Dams within the DWR. This Board of Inquiry was chaired by Robert B. Jansen, PE (BSCE ’49 Univ Denver; MS ’55 USC, NAE ’86), DWR Deputy Division Engineer for Design & Construction. Other members included: Gordon W. Dukleth, SWP rep to the Federal-State San Luis Project, Bernard B. Gordon, DWR Soils Engineer, Laurence B. James, DWR Chief Engineering Geologist, and Clyde E. Shields, Construction Engineer, North San Joaquin Division, State Water Project.

This DWR board was assisted by a Consulting Board appointed on the day of the failure, comprised of consulting engineers J. Barry Cooke (Chairman) and Thomas M. Leps, and engineering geologist Roger Rhoades. They were assisted by consulting seismologist Pierre St. Armand. The Consulting Board was charged with assisting in outlining field investigations that would help determine the manner and causes of the failure. They met with the State Engineering Board of Inquiry at site inspections and at conferences directed toward furthering the acquisition of data, analysis of data, and the writing of the report.

The two boards jointly prepared a report titled “Investigation of Failure Baldwin Hills Reservoir,” dated April 1964, which concluded that seepage along an unnamed strand of the Newport-Inglewood fault had initiated hydraulic piping of the abutment rock, the Pico Formation, at an initial point located 400 feet downslope and about 82 feet beneath the crest of the reservoir, along said fault. The fault strand had experienced 12 inches of right-lateral offset during the previous 9 years. A benchmark located 2,500 feet west of the reservoir recorded 9 feet of subsidence between 1917 and 1962. The board stopped short of blaming the alarming rate of fault offset (> 1 inch/year) on petroleum withdrawal in the Inglewood Oil Field, which included the entire area abutting the west side of the reservoir.

The Standard Oil Company of California, which oversaw withdrawal operations in the Inglewood Oil Field retained the services of Harvard University Professor Arthur Casagrande and Stanley Wilson of Shannon & Wilson as their defense experts, to assuage that petroleum withdrawal had nothing to do with triggering the failure, that the problem lay with the Los Angeles DWP not providing a sufficiently robust design to withstand differential settlements along the various fault strands traversing the reservoir (see A. Casagrande, S.D. Wilson and E.D. Schwantes, The Baldwin Hills Reservoir Failure in Retrospective; ASCE Conference Performance of Earth and Earth-Supported Structures, Purdue University, 1972).

Others have disagreed with Casagrande’s assessments; see R.L. Meehan and D.H. Hamilton: Ground Rupture in the Baldwin Hills (Science. 172, no. 3981, April 23, 1971, 333-344); and T.M. Leps, Analysis of Failure of Baldwin Hills Reservoir (also in ASCE Conference on Performance of Earth and Earth-Supported Structures, Purdue University, 1972). Casagrande and Wilson’s assessment were also discredited in two publications that appeared in 1994: Groundwater Hydraulics (AGU Water Resources Monograph 9) included the groundwater equation that allows analysis of the deformation of the skeletal structure of soft sedimentary rocks, like those underlying the Baldwin Hills. The other article describing this mechanism of “bedrock compaction” was in a paper by Don Helm of the USGS titled “Horizontal aquifer movement in a Theis-Thiem confined system” (Water Resources Research v. 30:4 [April 1994], pp 953-64), which demonstrated how more than 13 feet of lateral movement in the Wilmington Oil Field could easily be ascribed to fluid withdrawal from the Pliocene age bedrock.


Los Angeles Section AEG - Building Codes and Related Matters Committee (1964-65)

Chaired by Don Michael, this committee sought to update the 1962 publication on [Recommended Practices for] Hillside Grading and Development, producing a new report titled “Geology and Urban Development,” a more formal volume which was published by AEG and released in October 1965. This publication included typical standards for hillside grading (Orange County’s 1965 standards), a reprint of Chapter 70 – Excavation and Grading of the 1964 Uniform Building Code and a chart that compared the various standards then being employed by public agencies in California, and the respective years of their adoption (up through 1965). The report also included recommended standards for engineering geologic maps prior to grading and the as-built maps that should be prepared during grading, when subsurface conditions are best exposed.


Mayor of Los Angeles - ad hoc Geologic Hazards Committee (1965-66)

In July 1965 Los Angeles Mayor Sam Yorty asked the American Institute of Professional Geologists (then based in Los Angeles) to appoint a special committee to evaluate how “the City of Los Angeles may with the best prospects of success protect its residents from risks caused by geologic hazards.” Seven geologists were appointed to this committee, including Henry H. Neel and James E. Slosson. The committee’s findings were incorporated into new directives issued to the Departments of Public Works and Building & Inspection so they would be encouraged to employ similar standards in all of their assessments of geohazards within the city limits, and to communicate more effectively with one another. These changes were adopted by the City Council in March 1966.


Mayor of Los Angeles - ad hoc Landslide Committee (1965-67)

In July 1965 Los Angeles Mayor Sam Yorty requested formation of an ad hoc committee on landslides to study the financial, technical, and legislative aspects of landslides, with particular reference to those that could impact the City of Los Angeles. This decision came about as a result of the Revello Drive Landslide on June 5, 1965, which frustrated everyone because the City was unable to predict, restrict, or effectively mitigate this slide, which continued to enlarge itself and sever public utilities and access for months thereafter, at great cost to the citizens. Unlike other committees cited above, this group was comprised of representatives from a broad array of agencies and technical backgrounds, including homeowner associations, the Departments of Building & Safety, City Planning, Public Works, AEG, ASCE, and the Engineering and Grading Contractors Association. The technical subcommittee consisted of Jay M. Shields (chair), former LA County Geologist Douglas R. Brown, geotechnical engineer LeRoy Crandall, Tom Clarke, petroleum geologist Martin Van Couvering, Sheldon Stark, and the Supervising Engineer of the City’s Grading and Excavation Division, W. E. ”Bill” Milburn.

The committee issued an interim report in February 1966 and their final report on March 28, 1967. This report contains a great deal of information on the recommended practices for hillside grading and landslide stabilization and erosion control in the mid-1960s, including much statistical information on the grading that had occurred in the city following adoption of the city’s first grading ordinance in 1952 (for example, an average of 17 million cubic yards of earth was handled each year to develop building sites in the City of Los Angeles). The committee concluded that it was not economically feasible to repair all of the landslides, stating that of the 40 largest landsides that occurred between 1925-65, only five had been repaired. They recommended that the largest pre-existing landslide complexes be identified and avoided, if at all possible. The report’s appendices included a number of articles on hillside maintenance, sample legal agreements that the City could use when allowing development of landslide-prone lands, and proposed ordinance requiring geologic and engineering reports as part of a parcel map application for hillside properties, which was subsequently adopted by the City Council, later that year.
Orange County Advisory Committee on Slope Stability (1965-69)

This committee was established in 1965 and was comprised of various soils engineers then practicing in Orange County. This group was set up to examine the problems the County was experiencing with development of tracts on the upper Pliocene age Niguel and Capistrano Formations along the southeastern side of San Juan Creek in south Orange County, which was proving to be especially troubling. Large landslides had developed which did not appear to be influenced by bedding planes like similar scale slides in Los Angeles County. This group included Rhett Moore of Moore & Taber, and representatives of the other established firms, including Woodward Clyde. They developed specialized recommendations for analyzing slope stability in the Niguel and Capistrano Formations, as well as for landscaping and landscape watering.


California Geologic Hazards Advisory Committee (1965-67)

In December 1964 the Resources Agency of the State of California sponsored a two-day Earthquake and Geologic Hazards Conference in San Francisco, which brought a wide array of experts from across the state to discuss what California’s vulnerability to seismic hazards, in light of the Great Alaska Earthquake of March 1964. In early 1965 the Resources Agency Chief Hugo Fisher organized the Califiornia Geologic Hazrads Advisory Committee, to convene and prepare a formal report summarizing what California has accomplished to date, and what recommendations they would have for the State of California to accomplish in the foreseeable future, in regards to mitigating seismic risk.

The committee was comprised of Caltech Professors George W. Housner (structural engineer) and Clarence Allen (seismologist), Cal Berkeley Professors Bruce A. Bolt (seismology) and Richard E. Goodman (geological engineer), Richard H. Jahns, Dean of the School of Earth Sciences at Stanford University; Dennis A. Evans, Los Angeles consulting geological engineer, George O. Gates of the U.S. Geological Survey; Walter Hahn Jr., assistant city manager of San Diego; Mason L. Hill, exploration manager of Atlantic-Richfield Corp., Elmer C. Marliave, Sacramento consuiting geologist; Jack F. Meelan, Director of Earthquake Research for the State Division of Architecture and Construction; Frank E. McClure, Oakland consulting structural engineer; and Karl V. Steinbrugge, earthquake engineer of the Pacific Fire Rating Bureau.

The committee issued their report in June 1967, recommending that the state’s program of urban geological mapping be expanded and accelerated, so that the accumulated information on landslides, soft soil subsidence, and other potential geologic hazards should be made available to the public. They also recommended that the state developing a clearing house for information pertinent to earthquake and geologic hazards. Recommendations were also made to develop a program of research to study the physical behavior of potentially hazardous soils (Goodman had just published an article in the GSA Bulletin about the magnification of seismic energy in relatively young depositional basins, like Los Angeles). The existing seismographic networks then operated by Berkeley and Caltech should be expanded and adapted to telemetering of earthquake motions to a central point of dissemination, which will immediately inform interested state agencies. The report encouraged a wide disseminagtion of seismic instruments throughout the state, to record ground and building motions during earthquakes. It also recommended that the State should launch a program of earthquake education directed toward geologists, engineers, architects, building officials, contractors, and the 'informed public.


Atomic Energy Commission Blue Ribbon Panel to review MWD Bolsa Island Desalination Plant (1966-67)

MihranMichael” Agbabian, PhD, PE, NAE (structural engineer & CEO of Agbabian & Associates), William Diment (USGS geophysicist), William I. Gardner, PhD, CEG (1903-91) (Chief Geologist U.S. Bureau of Reclamation), Clarence Allen, PhD, CEG, RGP, NAE (Caltech seismologist), R. McFerren (electrical engineer), Edwin B. Eckel (1906-89) (chief USGS Eng’g Geology Branch), H. Bolton Seed, PhD, NAE (1922-89) (Berkeley geotechnical engineer), and Stanley Wilson, PE, NAE (1912-85) (geotechnical engineer & CEO of Shannon & Wilson).
Establishment of the AEG Building Codes Committee (1968)

The AEG Building Codes Committee was established in 1968, with C. Michael Scullin as the national chairman. Regional representatives were Chuck Yelverton (Los Angeles Section), Chuck Taylor (San Francisco Section), Chuck Van Alstine (Sacramento Section), Nelson B. Higgs (Portland Section), John W. Kolowski (Washington state Section), C. F. Withington (Baltimore-Wash DC Section), Willard G. Owens (Denver Section), John W. Murchison (Ft Worth-Dallas Section),and Ed E. Lutzen (Kansas City Section). This group was the one that influenced the changes in Appendix Chapter 70 (Grading & Excavation) of the 1970 Uniform Building Code, which included the introduction of 2:1 cut and fill slope inclinations.


State Board of Registration for Geologists and Geophysicists (1969-2009)

The first Board of Registration for Geologists and Geophysicists (BRGG) was comprised of: Wilfred W. Peak (Chairman), Ted L. Bear (Vice Chair), Glenn A Brown, Prof. Ian Campbell, Joseph M. Crosby (public member), John F. Curran, and Gardner M. Pittman. The first executive officer was John E. Wolfe, RG who served for over 20 years. Peak worked for the Department of Water Resources’ Division of Safety of Dams. Peak was succeeded by former State Geologist Dr. Ian Campbell in July 1972. In 2009 the BRGG was absorbed into the Board for Registration for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors (BORPELS), as a cost-saving measure. On January 1, 2011 the name was changed to the Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors and Geologists.


Los Angeles Dam and Reservoir External Review Board (1971-73)

In the wake of the failures of the Upper and Lower San Fernando Dams (Van Norman Reservoirs) in the February 9, 1971 San Fernando Earthquake, the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP) moved quickly to replace these critical elements of their water supply system. LADWP, the State Department of Water Resources, and the National Science Foundation cooperatively sponsored a forensic assessment of the slope failures of the two dams by Professors H. Bolton Seed at U.C. Berkeley and Kenneth L. Lee at UCLA, using state-of-the-art techniques. The other key individuals involved with this initial assessment were I.M. Idriss and Faiz I. Makdisi. Lee, Idriss, and Makdisi were all PhD students of Professor Seed. This work was summarized in “The Slides in the San Fernando Dams during the Earthquake of February 9, 1971“(ASCE Journal of the Geotechnical Engineering Division in July 1975), which was recognized by the society’s most prestigious award, the Norman Medal.

The LA department of Water & Power also funded studies for a replacement structure, originally named the “Mission Hills Dam.” The name was changed to the “Los Angeles Reservoir” in December 1971. Its reservoir capacity of 10,000 ac-ft was considerably less than the aggregate total of the old Van Norman Reservoirs (16,520 ac-ft), completed between 1913-25.

In October 1971 DWP retained the LA office of Dames & Moore to design the replacement structure, so that state-of-the-art earthquake loads, dynamic triaxial testing, and dynamic finite element analytical techniques would be incorporated into the new design. The project lead for D&M was Vernon A. “Al” Smoots, assisted by Bob Moline, seismologist David J. Leeds, and geotechnical earthquake engineer Julio E. Valera (in D&M’s San Francisco office). Professors H. Bolton Seed of U.C. Berkeley and Charles F. Richter, and Paul C. Jennings at Caltech were retained to provide appropriate earthquake loads external peer review of D&M’s work.


California Seismic Safety Commission (1975 onward)

The Governor’s Earthquake Council was set up as part of the Seismic Safety Act of 1971, following the San Fernando earthquake. At the bequest of State Geologist Jim Slosson and others, Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. signed legislation establishing the California Seismic Safety Commission in August 1975. The first commission was chaired by Berkeley Professor H. Bolton Seed and included former State Geologist James E. Slosson, Berkeley seismologist Professor Bruce A. Bolt, Stanford Earth Science Dean Richard H. Jahns, and consulting geotechnical engineer L. Leroy Crandall of Los Angeles. From 1985-95 the board’s executive director was L. Thomas Tobin, PE (BSCE ’64 Berkeley; MS ‘72 SJSU).

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