Environment & Science

Hollywood Fault: Developers dispute state's claim of limited access to trenches

A woman takes a photo of the new Hollywood earthquake fault map released by the California Geological Survey Wednesday.
A woman takes a photo of the new Hollywood earthquake fault map released by the California Geological Survey Wednesday.
Mary Plummer/KPCC

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State geologists say they were given limited access to several important trenches around the Hollywood Fault.

Developers dispute that claim, saying geologists were not only allowed to inspect those ditches on multiple occasions, they did so for several hours in some cases.

Related: State geologists release map of Hollywood Fault

The trenches were dug on lots near the Capitol Records building by Group Delta, a private geology contractor hired by developers Millennium Partners and others.

This came after the California Geological Survey said there was evidence a dangerous fault running right under the area in question.

Group Delta dug four trenches eight to thirty five feet deep. Then, the company's geologists inspected the walls of these trenches for evidence of fractures that would indicate an active fault.

Related: 'Trenching' can make or break quake zone development

Group Delta says there was no such evidence.

Ultimately, CGS needs to review the data and decide if it agrees with that assessment.

But in an e-mail statement, CGS officials told KPCC they were only given a brief amount of time in two of the trenches and were not allowed to take pictures, measurements or soil samples, leaving the sites "essentially unevaluated" by state officials.

Group Delta's Mike Reader says CGS was given plenty of access to all four trenches and were only restricted about a month ago when the agency's geologists began directing the investigation.

"Inviting them into the trench is a courtesy so they can see what we see, but they are not there to log or to do geology," Reader said.

In addition to digging the four trenches, Group Delta conducted several other examinations of the area including 80 cone penetrometer tests, where a sophisticated rod is stuck in the ground to measure information about the soil.

Earlier this week, Stephen Testa, executive officer of the State Mining and Geology Board, said he reviewed Group Delta's data and he agreed with their conclusions.

However, it's the California Geological Survey's decision whether or not to alter the preliminary map that currently shows fault strands under Millennium's property.

Under state law, no new structures can be built atop an active fault that could rupture to the surface and all near by buildings must be off set from the fault by at least 50 feet.

CGS says it will review the data collected from the Millennium and neighboring lots as soon as it receives that information.

After that, the agency will release a final version of the Hollywood Fault map later this year.