Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Rossmore Residents Urge City To Take Action Before Winter Rains Begin

The storm drain at 585 Rossmore is overwhelmed by water flowing down Rossmore from Melrose Avenue. (photo from Caroline Debabane)

As an El Niño climate pattern strengthens this year, forecasts favor wetter-than-average conditions across the state, residents at The Rossmore, a condominium located at 585 N. Rossmore, are urging the city to take action. For the past several years, flooded streets and underground garages have become a regular occurrence during heavy winter rains. New flood maps show exactly how this area, a known sub-watershed of the Ballona Creek Watershed, is prone to flooding

Karen Strauss, a resident at The Rossmore, told the Buzz that last January’s rain coming down from Melrose and Rossmore created a flash flood with water rushing down Clinton Street and Lillian Way. Their garage was flooded with nine feet of water, totaling more 20 vehicles and knocking out the elevators to the five-story building. It took more than a week to pump out the water.

The underground garage at 585 N. Rossmore was flooded this past January with nine feet of water.

The problem is inadequate storm drains, explained Caroline Debbane, president of the homeowners association at 585 Rossmore.

“The water comes down Rossmore and makes a turn on Clinton into the storm drain that is located near the entrance to our building,” said Debbane. According to LASAN, that is the largest of the storm drains and all the other drains converge into this one which simply can’t handle that much water. And it’s not just storm water, said Debanne, it’s also sewage and it’s disgusting.

When Hurricane Hilary made landfall in Los Angeles as a tropical depression in August, the garage was flooded with two feet of water despite the flood barrier measures installed over the years by the condo association to keep water from entering the garage.

Longtime residents recall that twelve years ago, water came rushing into the underground garage, quickly filling it and damaging all the vehicles, the building elevator and much of the basement level of the building. Thankfully, no one was injured in the incident.

Since then, the homeowners association of the building has taken steps to try to prevent future flooding, but it’s become increasingly clear that the city needs to take action too.

“This flooding has been going on for a very long time, but nothing has been done,” said Debbane, “we really want our neighbors to be aware that the city has known about this for a very long time.”

“This doesn’t just affect us,” explained Strauss, “it affects everyone who is living around us as well. Residents on Lillian Way can’t safely park their cars on the street.”

Debbane and Straus have started a petition demanding the City of Los Angeles take action to address the longstanding problem of the area’s inadequate and flawed storm drains.

“Since at least 1983, continual constituent complaints filed with the City, County and LACDPW over the drainage deficiency led to the creation by the City of the “Rossmore Drain Project”, aka “Hancock Park Drain,” to address the antiquated system. As it stands today, nothing has been done. Residents are concerned and claim that “with each storm comes the risk of a truly hazardous and potentially life-threatening situation,” wrote Debbane in statement she shared with the Buzz.

The homeowners association at The Rossmore has gone a step further and recently filed suit against the City of Los Angeles for flood damages resulting from the deficient city storm drains.

According to Mike McLachlan, a lawyer for the association, “For over two decades, the City of Los Angeles has acknowledged that the storm drain system design is grossly inadequate. The City has had plans to replace it for decades but has done nothing in response while people’s homes continue to be flooded and damaged over and again. It is very disappointing that tax-paying homeowners have to sue their local government in order to get basic services we all should be able to take for granted in the United States.”

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Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the co-editor and publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

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