Thursday, December 29, 2016

Topanga Canyon Water Main Break Has Devastating Consequences For Canoga Park

By Charlotte Rudnick, Quilt staff.


Cast Iron Water Main Burstage Floods Topanga Canyon at Gault Street
Topanga Canyon Boulevard Closed at Site of Pipe Enbreaktion
Section of Rte 27 Also Closed Due To Broken Pipe
Wait, Wait — Turns Out Topanga Canyon Boulevard & Rte 27 Are The Same Thing
Nearby Canoga Park High School Closed During Pipe Repairment
Water Main #CP-4268-32: Just One Of Many Legendary Water
   Mains We've Said Goodbye To In 2016 [Slideshow]
Celebrities React To Loss of Canoga Park Water Main on Twitter

The closed section of Topanga Canyon Boulevard on Wednesday.  While DWP crews worked
tirelessly to repair the broken pipe and replace the road, many citizens questioned their own faith,
wondering how such a tragedy could occur in the shadow of a church at Christmastime. Staff photo.
A WATER MAIN BREAK below a busy thoroughfare in Canoga Park forced the closure of a northbound section of Topanga Canyon Boulevard on Tuesday, likely resulting in devastating long-term economic, cultural and psychological consequences for the area and its residents.

Staff photo.
Local boot business leader Boot Barn, located along the now-closed section of Topanga Canyon, has reported a marked decrease in sales of Kiwi brand 36” brown & yellow round nylon work boot laces. “We sold two pair last week. This week — well, since Tuesday — we haven’t moved any,” says Carl Zapatos-Botas, a sales representative with the store. “Of course we sell mostly non-lacing boots to begin with, and people can still get to us from the back alley, so, eh, maybe take all that with a grain of salt.”

Further up the street — yet still affected by the closure — a popular storefront was shuttered. “Back In 10 Minutes,” reads the sign on the door of ABC Party Rental & Sales, “Went to Boot Barn to buy new laces for my workboots.” It’s unclear when — if ever —  the business will open again, since there was no way to tell when the announcement had been posted. Two, five, six, seven minutes before? The terse, impassive hand-written note yielded no clue.

Another 'sign' of the devastation the broken pipe wrought. Staff photo.
The failure of the ancient 6-inch cast iron pipe and resulting road closure has taken an emotional toll on the people of Canoga Park, as well.

“Christ almighty! You know, I usually avoid Topanga altogether,” says Téodor Pasternak, who had to traverse a circuitous detour to get to his home on Vassar Avenue. “But the one time of the year — the one goddamn week — between Christmas and New Year’s — when it’s not wall-to-wall goddamn traffic out here, when things lessen a teeny-tiny bit because so many people are out of town, and this shit happens. And this is after I just spent six minutes negotiating the clusterf_ck of traffic cones, rent-a-cops, and slow, stupid, stupid drivers, none of whom ever heard of a turn signal, all the way from Erwin, up past Victory, along the frickin’ gridlocked entrance to Westfield Topanga — who even goes to that mall anymore? — and up to Vanowen.
The scene facing Canoga Park resident Téodor Pasternak and others as they reached the closed
section of Topanga Canyon Blvd and had to take alternate routes to their destinations. Staff photo.
“And I get through all that, go one more block and the goddamn road’s blocked off,” Pasternak continues. “I could really use a Mint Chocolate Swirl Shake to calm the f_ck down, but I’m damned if I know how I can even get to Arby’s now. And those things are only available for a limited time!”

Other area residents have been similarly bothered by the closure.  “Shit, man, that’s not cool, you know?” says Davtak ‘Davvy’ Barsamian, one of the most popular up-and-coming stars of Canoga Park’s fast-growing sport of illegal street racing. “Two, three a.m., I’m usually tearing up and down Topanga, you know? I guess I can just go against traffic for the north run, but they better fix that shit soon, you know?”
Illegal street racing is increasingly popular in the West Valley.  Road closures such as the one
caused by the broken water main could have a negative effect on the growing sport. Staff photo.
The pipe breakage is “typical for this time of year,” says Dr. Morris Detzer, Professor of Hydraulic Pipery at Pierce College Winnetka's Municipal Engineering Department.  “When you take LA’s horrendously crumbling infrastructuve and couple that with the fact that we’ve recently had rain, giving all of Southern California an enormous surplus of water, you’ve already got a problem. Then factor in the DWP’s decrepit waterworks and add the fact that everyone’s out of town and therefore not using water: the pressure builds up and the water’s got to go somewhere. These pipes are 98 percent rust at this point.” he says. “Most of them have the consistency of a deep-fried tortilla from a soft, flaky José Olé Microwave Chimichanga. Pardon, I haven’t had lunch yet.”

Dr. Morris Detzer, left, likened the LA DWP's system of disintegrating pipes to the outside of
a delicious chimichanga, right. Photos: Morris Detzer: Mimi Detzer. Chimichanga: José Olé.
Detzer went on to note that he wouldn’t be surprised to see many more pipe failures over the next few days “with water mains popping, perhaps somewhat suitably, like corks from champagne bottles on New Year’s Eve. This being Canoga Park, André champagne bottles.” 

With the broken pipe occurring at Topanga at Gault Street — the location of Canoga Park’s Firestone franchise — the well-liked tire retailer & automotive garage, now completely cut off from its customer base, has permanently closed. “Such is the catastrophic impact of an incident such as this,” notes Mariel Coleman of the Canoga Park Chamber of Commerce. “And look next door. What used to be a bustling BMW dealership is now nothing more than an empty lot. This road closure is sure to have enormous effects on the Canoga Park economy and beyond. Will the West Valley recover? Will we ever be able to return to our way of life? It’s much too early to tell.”

Canoga Park's former Firestone Complete Auto Care Shop had the misfortune of being located
on the very corner where the water main burst.  It is now permanently closed.  Staff photo.
While officials with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power claim to have the repairs completed by Thursday, many are less optimistic. No one knows exactly when the three-tenths of a mile stretch of Topanga Canyon Boulevard between Hart Street and Sherman Way will reopen, with some predictions putting it as late as June 2018 and—

Update: Well, it’s all fixed and Topanga Canyon Boulevard’s open again. Thanks to the hard-working DWP employees who fixed the problem in record time.Turns out Firestone had already closed before the pipe burst, Bob Smith’s dealership relocated to Calabasas years ago, those shakes at Arby’s are still available, Boot Barn is the place for Western wear, boots of all kinds plus hard-to-find laces; and we challenge you to find a better $3.99 bottle of champagne than André. Happy New Year!

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