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The subject of this Case involves two (2) adjoining hillside properties in Pacific Palisades, California. One property (owned by Defendant) is at a higher elevation than the other (owned by Plaintiff). Both properties were developed and graded at the same time (in the 1960's). A sloped hillside is situated between each of the respective property building pads and yardscapes.

For years, the sloped hillside was relatively unimproved (aside from irrigation and landscaping on the Plaintiff side of sloped hillside and a low block retaining wall - built by the Defendant - at the top of the slope along the Property Line).

In 2004, the Plaintiff proposed and contracted to build a swimming pool, spa and waterfall along the rear sloped hillside at the back of the Plaintiff's property (adjacent to the Defendants property). A portion of the dispute arose after the construction of the swimming pool began when the Plaintiff noticed that the Defendant can see into the Plaintiff yard unencumbered. The Plaintiff also noticed that the slope was failing due to an alleged overwatering of the Defendant's yard.

To remedy the problem of privacy, the Plaintiff decided to build a block wall fence along the property line (on top of the existing low block retaining wall). The Plaintiff contended that the existing grade (resulting from the retaining wall) is the point of reference for the new 6'-0" height block wall. The Plaintiff contended that when Defendant built the Retaining wall, the wall encroached upon Plaintiffs property.

The Defendant's position was that the basis for any proposed height of a new privacy wall was natural grade (essentially the base of the retaining wall).

Relevant Codes: Los Angeles Municipal Code, Chapter 1, Section 12.21 - General Provisions, defines grade as:

"... grade shall be defined as the elevation of the finished or natural surface of the ground, whichever is lower..."

The Defendants also claimed that the retaining wall - built by defendants in 1960 - fell within the rule of prescriptive easement and was not an adverse possession.

WEXCO's Construction Disputes and Defects Team served as the Construction Expert, and was tasked to determine the following:

  • The configuration of the two (2) properties in relationship to one another
  • The history of both properties in terms of the construction of the original masonry wall
  • The history of the dispute between the Parties relating to the originally constructed masonry wall and the subsequently constructed plywood barrier wall
  • The Terminology and (Legislative) Intention of "Natural Grade", particularly as relates to Hillside Properties in Los Angeles
  • The Permissive Code Provisions for Maximum Height and locations of walls
  • Analysis of the proposed steps of Building an Additional Wall on the Property Line, including:
    • What the Codes (Zoning and Building) allows as to block wall positioning
    • What the Code (Zoning and Building) allows as to maximum height of a block wall
    • The Engineering and Construction details needed to build a wall along the property line
    • Analysis of monetary damages relative to alleged slope failure and block wall construction
    • Drainage patterns along the hillside as a result of hillside and top of slope watering
  • Analysis based on: Industry Standard Practices and Industry Standard Cost information, applicable Building Codes and WEXCO's Site Inspection and review of Project Records.

The above referenced incident occurred in Pacific Palisades, California, and was analyzed and inspected by our Los Angeles office Engineering staff.

WEXCO has over 20 years experience successfully serving the legal industry. Our highly trained staff have investigated over 10,000 cases, delivered over 2,000 depositions and provided testimony in over 600 trials.

WEXCO has offices in California and Texas, but has been called upon to testify in cases throughout the country.

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Dr. Stephen C. Wexler: 40 years experience in construction, construction management, safety and related. Unusual combination of safety engineering and construction and civil engineering permits separate areas within construction, safety, and premises liability. 6 years Instructor at UCLA Evening Extension in Engineering & Construction Management, and 4 years US Navy Seabees Instructor for Construction Management - Port Hueneme, CA and Gulfport, Mississippi.

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