Officials Say Rubio Canyon Wall Will Finally Be Removed Within a Week

The illegally built wall in the Rubio Canyon streambed that neighbors and activists said could cause damage to infrastructure will finally be removed in about a week or so, according to county and state officials

By Justin Chapman, Altadena Patch, 2/18/2011

The seemingly never ending saga of the illegally built wall in the streambed at the bottom of Rubio Canyon may be nearing an end, according to county and state officials, after the homeowners worked out a mitigation plan with LA County Public Works and the California Department of Fish and Game.
Months after the county issued a stop-work order to Moninder and Ruchi Birdi for building a 10-foot retaining wall in the Rubio Canyon streambed in September, the wall and all the tools used to build it remain to this day. This has had many Altadenans concerned, especially in the midst of winter and a storm on the way this weekend.
That stream, located just north of where Rubio Canyon Road turns into East Loma Alta Drive, is what's called a blue-line stream. It has certain legal standing and even if you own the property, as the Birdi's do, you cannot do work on it. Essentially it is undevelopable land.
After submitting a mitigation plan to the county and Fish and Game, the Birdi's promised to remove the wall about a week or so from now. The exact date of the wall's removal, however, depends on the weather, according to state regulations.
"Part of the stipulation is that (Moninder Birdi) can't (remove the wall) when it's raining or about to rain," said Andrew Hughan, Public Information Officer for Fish and Game. "It's about to rain so he might wait until the weather subdues a little bit. Once he removes the wall he has seven days to submit to our department what's called a 'Final Wall Demolition and Debris and Removal Plan.' He's good to go as far as we're concerned to take the wall down, and once he's done and submits the plan, we'll be happy."
Mitch Miller of county Public Works reiterated that the Birdi's received approval from Fish and Game to remove the wall, as well as the county's blessing.
"The county issued its permit to the Birdi's a month ago," said Miller. "The removal of the wall should start within the next week or so."
As Patch in November, officials from Public Works claimed that the wall was supposed to be removed three months ago. The delay comes to no surprise to some local activists, such as Paul Ayers, staff counsel of the Save the Altadena Trails nonprofit organization, who said at the time he was doubtful that the county would even do anything about the situation.
"They should have regulatory agencies swarming all over them," Ayers . "Unfortunately my experience is the county won't do anything. At the end of the day what usually happens is there's some kind of casualty and there's a lawsuit."
Ayers added that he doesn't think the Birdi's are bad people intentionally working against the public interest; they were just ignorant about the rules they were violating.
"I would like to think the county will do something about this, but you really have to rattle favors at them to get anything done," Ayers said.
The Birdi's had hired workers that, according to Moninder Birdi, misinterpreted his instructions by grading the streambed and building the stone wall in a position that could divert the entire stream to the east, potentially causing untold property damage during the rainy season to local neighbors and infrastructure and pipes that connect to mains that run into Pasadena, which are owned by the Rubio Canyon Land and Water Association.
The property, which includes the Birdi's home and an old octagonal building that once was a Boy Scout facility and the gateway to Camp Huntington before the bridge and dam to the south were built, is still littered with tools, wheelbarrows and other equipment surrounding that building.
"(Mr. Birdi) was cited for the stream abatement thing, and late last year I looked at this issue and if I remember right the homeowner was stuck between county and state regulations," said Hughan in response to why the removal of the wall has taken longer than initially expected by all parties involved. "This homeowner put up the wall and now he has to take it down. He's had to go back and forth with county agencies and the state several times. Our biologist is well aware of the situation now, and she's going to be keeping an eye on it more carefully now that a schedule has been set."