Leaky water main dispute resolved — at a cost

A 4-year-old dispute between a La Jolla homeowner’s association and the city of San Diego over water main breaks on Caminito Avola that allegedly caused road/hillside subsidence on Mt. Soledad has been settled.

But some Colony Hill homeowners, including Cindy and Thomas Goodman at 7515 Caminito Avola, can find little consolation in the costly legal settlement adopted July 13 by the City Council.

That settlement gave $790,000 to the city in settlement monies from cross-defendants, including the homeowners’ association and the individual homeowners’ insurance companies, to re-route Colony Hill’s 16-inch water main. A total of $90,000 of that amount will go to the Association and its attorney, Schroeder & Associates. The settlement also requires the association to design and reconstruct a new smaller main to serve nine properties within Colony Hills previously serviced by the 16-inch main.

“This new main and/or water services will be designed and constructed to all applicable building codes and standards, and will be constructed at plaintiffs’ expense,” states the settlement agreement.

There is a sense of resignation — and sadness — on the part of Cindy Goodman and others in the homeowners’ community who say they repeatedly demonstrated the half dozen city water main breaks on Caminito Avola were the cause of major cracks in their street and subsidence of their hillside.

“Why didn’t the city just make those repairs without us having to file a lawsuit and waste all this time and money?” Goodman asked. “The city promised for a year to repair the damage, then reneged just short of the end of the statute of limitations. Our community has been in litigation with the city ever since — with a cost to taxpayers of hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

In August 2006, the homeowners’ association first sought the city’s help on dealing with the six water main breaks. The city’s response after the last major break was to place 2-inch water pipes above ground to serve 40 Colony Hill homes rather than to repair or replace the area’s deteriorating water mains.

“We basically came to a settlement in this case almost seven months ago, and we’ve been working out the details ever since,” noted attorney John Schroeder, representing Colony Hill.

“Everyone compromised,” Schroeder said about the result. “The most important thing is the old bad storm drain is being replaced and they’re (city’s) going to make some repairs to the road.”

The settlement also authorizes payment of $15,000 to the homeowners’ association in exchange for a dedicated easement through its open space for construction of the re-routed city water main.

Concerning the resurfacing of roads in the settlement agreement, Schroeder said once water repairs are complete, the HOA will pay for the normal resurfacing of the street.

“What the city will be doing will be resurfacing that part of the street that they damaged,” he added.

If Colony Hill’s new smaller main and/or water services is completed and approved by the city, the city has pledged to “operate, maintain and repair it,” in return for a waiver by homeowners of “any and all liability for this new main, as well as any liability to the city’s existing water main on Caminito Avola.”