Amid cracking foundations, city joins with residents to form panel to evaluate sinking soil

City agrees drought, not wells cause of problem

City of Pleasanton staff and several members of a disgruntled neighborhood will form a panel to look into the cause of soil shrinkage that is causing substantial damage to some Pleasanton homes.

City staff met with dozens of members of the Gates neighborhood Thursday night to go over their analysis of a prior Zone 7 Water Agency study that evaluated the likelihood of soil subsistence in the Livermore Valley.

Residents of the Gates neighborhood, located just south of West Las Positas off Sutter Gate Park, were concerned with the cracks in their foundations, walls and driveways that have been appearing in the past few years, asking for answers to the shifting soil that has caused the damage.

Neighbors had previously questioned whether Zone 7's nearby well, which pumps groundwater from the deep underground aquifer, was the cause of the problem.

"I can say to a huge degree of certainly, like 99%, that the settling is not due to overpumping of wells," city of Pleasanton assistant director of operations services Leonard Olive stated.

Staff stated they believed Zone 7's analysis that the clay and silt that forms the structure for most of that neighborhood dried out faster than other components of the soil during the four-year drought, causing the areas with clay to shrink faster than the areas with dirt or gravel. The result is an uneven ground, cracking roads and home damage, he said.

A contractor hired by Zone 7 in the summer stated if soil collapse due to groundwater pumping -- called subsistence -- were occurring, the ground would be sinking evenly over a wide area and the Zone 7 well heads would be drastically higher than the soil level.

Neither situation is occurring in Pleasanton, the contractor stated at a community meeting in August. City engineers agreed with that assessment at Thursday's meeting.

However, some members of the neighborhood want a more through look at what is happening deep underground since Zone 7's study only looked at topsoil disruption.

Gates resident Michael Grossman said he and some of his neighbors weren't convinced, given the scope of the prior study, that Zone 7 pumping isn't at least partially responsible.

"Some Gates home foundations have dropped eight inches or more. Some repaired more than once. Some have cost $100,000 to repair the foundation, out of pocket," Grossman said.

Since members of the neighborhood feel uneasy about the determination -- and don't have viable solutions to prevent additional damage to their homes as long as a drought persists -- the community panel will do additional research to answer any lingering questions, Olive said.

The panel will be made up of city staff and four or five members of the Gates community. Once representatives are chosen, the City Council will be presented with a proposal for what the panel wants to investigate, how long it would take and what budget the panel would like to request, said Councilwoman Kathy Narum.

The council would have to vote to approve any proposal before the panel could start working, she said.

Narum said since a large group of residents are concerned about this issue, it makes sense to listen to their voices and study the issue further.

"I think the staff wants to take some time and try to get some answers to some of the questions," she said.

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6 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton Transplant
a resident of Birdland
on Mar 22, 2016 at 10:28 am

Pleasanton Transplant is a registered user.

This sort of problem has been happening in the neighborhoods up against the hills for years...even without droughts. (Val Vista, Valley Trails, etc).

Makes sense that if some of the soil in the Gates is clay and some not that uneven settling would occur.

6 people like this
Posted by FrequentWalkerMiles
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2016 at 1:53 pm

FrequentWalkerMiles is a registered user.

I thought the soil settling issue in areas around West Las Positas, Hopyard, and Stoneridge is a well known fact. Are these newer homeowners whose realtors neglected to tell them this?

9 people like this
Posted by PPL
a resident of Birdland
on Mar 22, 2016 at 9:36 pm

It's a rare realtor that's going to point out something like that (even on the buyer side). And as for seller disclosures - not worth the paper they're written on. I'm happy to be proven wrong, but just relaying my experience from too many real-estate transactions over the years

2 people like this
Posted by Sandee
a resident of Birdland
on Mar 22, 2016 at 11:06 pm

We are not alone experiencing cracks to our pool shell. Ask the staff at Pool Time how many Birdland pools have cracked since 2014; it might surprise you!

9 people like this
Posted by FrequentWalkerMiles
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 23, 2016 at 1:59 pm

FrequentWalkerMiles is a registered user.

Odd. When we bought our current house not too long ago that was the first thing our agent warned us about buying in the areas with settling problems. We were amazed at the prices people keep paying for the large property with pools in the affected neighborhoods, we just figured they knew about it and accepted as a manageable risk, especially if a thorough inspection was done.

Maybe not, I guess.

7 people like this
Posted by Flightops
a resident of Downtown
on Mar 23, 2016 at 4:42 pm

Flightops is a registered user.

Before the business park was built and before those homes were built all that property turned to "mush" every winter, buyers beware, us long-time residents would never buy anything in that area, hopefully full disclosures are being made

25 people like this
Posted by AC
a resident of Avignon
on May 6, 2016 at 4:06 pm

here is a map i made based on the requests for foundation repair permits from the city

Web Link

4 people like this
Posted by Pete
a resident of Downtown
on May 6, 2016 at 4:58 pm

All of the land in hacienda business park area was a Marsh as was much of the land on the west side of Hopyard Road. Downtown, Birdland, and the east side of Santa Rita are rock solid.

Stoneridge between Santa Rita and Hopyard is dropping big time. Swampland.

1 person likes this
Posted by elizabeth
a resident of another community
on Apr 4, 2017 at 8:53 am

My husband and I are currently thinking about moving to Pleasanton. Primarily looking into Birdland/Pleasanton Valley after learning about the issues in Val Vista and Valley Trails. Is this area safe, or is it built on the same type of land and will only take time? I was surprised to see a lot of Birdland homes on the map that AC provided.

3 people like this
Posted by Flightops
a resident of Downtown
on Apr 4, 2017 at 3:37 pm

Flightops is a registered user.

Stay away from anything west of Santa Rita and north of valley basically all formerly marshland, or buy lots of homeowners insurance that will cover everything. All the builders are long gone and the city won't take any responsibility but it's a great time to be a foundation contractor.

Like this comment
Posted by EastBay-Resident
a resident of California Reflections
on May 2, 2017 at 3:21 pm

EastBay-Resident is a registered user.

Please advise,

We are planning moving to Pleasanton and found few good houses with nice neighborhoods with pools in the backyard. These houses had foundation settlement issues, some fixed foundation issues by installing Helical Steel Piers with 15 years warranty.

Once these repairs are done, Is it safe for another 10 - 15 years? The area is around west Santa rita road and stone ridge intersection.

Really appreciate any comments.

1 person likes this
Posted by Flightops
a resident of Downtown
on May 2, 2017 at 6:10 pm

Flightops is a registered user.

If you are referring to the "gates" neighborhood off of sutter gate and stone ridge maybe stay away from that area, large amounts of ground water has been pumped out of that area probably helping to cause foundation issues along with that whole area being former marshland, don't plan on the builders or the city coming to the rescue!

Like this comment
Posted by WC
a resident of another community
on May 22, 2017 at 4:18 pm

WC is a registered user.

Thank you AC for the nice foundation permit Map. I'm currently looking to buy in Birdland area and surprised to see quite of bit of home with foundation permits. Can you share the actual map link where we can zoom in to see the street names so we can review if it's near any of the houses we're looking at? Thank you so much.

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