Humpty Dumpty on Rockery Walls

Submitted by Geoffrey Brooks  –  Association Member

Humpty Dumpty Sat on a Wall

I woke up on Sunday to see the sun shining, a gorgeous spring day followed. I went for a walk and carried out my own cursory rockery wall inspection.

After a gloomy Saturday, a long well-attended presentation and QA session at the TCTC, one felt that Somersett’s world was coming to an end. All 13.5 miles of SOA walls are about to collapse. All privately owned rockery walls are doomed. What about the “not-surveyed” walls in The Village, The Vue, and Sierra Canyon? Litigation that will go on for 5 years (minimum) and cost, if it goes to trial (with expert witnesses) probably the best part of $5 million.

Basking in early Spring sunlight, I could see that most walls in my Somersett neighborhood and in the communities nearby in NW Reno seemed robust, solid, well built, surviving at least 15 years of rain and earthquakes.

Yes, after our do-it-yourself primer from American GeoTechnical and studying their report, I was alarmed. However, they simply have not accessed the relevant site records to see how each wall was built, and the quality of the soil at that specific wall site. The real question, is what caused our 360’ walls to fail? Maybe this is primarily due to the poor soil conditions, which when saturated with rain, oozed away. Soil liquefaction can cause buildings to topple, rock walls to crumble. Just google mudslides in Southern California! Well built walls and buildings were carried away, we all saw it on TV.

Somersett has been developed over the last 15 years. One can see from the current Toll Brother activities at Village 6, that significant terra-forming of the foothill soils of Mt Peavine are required to construct suitable building pads. There have already been failure of building pads, requiring extensive shoring up of the houses built on them. We do have bands of clay within Somersett, which need to be removed before building a house (or pad). Clay with water makes great ooze, which will flow! There was a successful Chapter 40 suit by Somersett Development against the designers and builders of the “cutting”, and extensive modifications had to be made for safety reasons.

Perhaps our legal efforts should be aimed at the “failures” – so far. It seems that the affected areas are on the golf course where extensive terra-forming has been performed. The 13.5 miles of walls surveyed (presumably on SOA land), were most likely built to the prevailing good building standards (for rockery and other walls) at the time. It seems highly unlikely that any of these were “improperly built”. Hence, unlikely to fail.

Walls do require maintenance. Our reserve studies calculate the life of a Rockery Wall at 30 years. Much of Hadrian’s Wall in Britain is still standing after 1800 years. At the turnover, all the construction records, permits, approvals, etc. should be on file with First Services and available for either expert or curious homeowner inspection.

Somersett as a whole, has little to worry about from collapsing walls, unless you have a home in an extensively terra-formed area … but then the unusual climatic events which caused the walls to collapse has happened already. So, I suspect that you have little to actually worry about now; if your rockery walls are still standing!

Remember, it was Humpty Dumpty who fell down and had to be rebuilt – NOT THE WALL!

A Homeowner Thought on the MEA

Submitted by Joe Bower – Sierra Canyon Homeowner

This is a good time for the two boards to agree to cancel the MEA !

The original MEA states:

“In order to maintain a uniform landscaping scheme along the Main Thoroughfare, Somersett Owners Association desires an easement for the purpose of maintaining repairing and replacing the landscape, hardscape, softscape, and related irrigation systems, including controllers, within the Easement Area (“Somersett Obligations”).” (emphasis added)

The revised MEA states:

“for the purpose of maintaining a uniform scheme, including without limitation maintaining, repairing and replacing the landscape, hardscape, softscape, and related irrigation systems, including controllers, within the easement areas – along Somersett and Del Webb Parkways (the Main Thoroughfare.)” (emphasis added)

Anyone who is not blind can see that there is no such thing as a “uniform landscaping scheme aka uniform scheme” on the long with six roundabouts Somersett Parkway (a small portion of which lies within Sierra Canyon – between the NE Monument and the intersection of Del Webb Parkways East and West) and Del Webb Parkway East and Somersett Ridge Parkway – the three of which comprise the Main Thoroughfare.

The differences between Somersett Parkway and the two parkways in Sierra Canyon is like the difference between technicolor (Somersett Parkway) and black and white (the two parkways in Sierra Canyon). Another way of saying it, is the difference between day and night. Just drive or walk (with eyes open) from one end to the other. No need to demonstrate here by describing plant/tree species and rock/boulder sizes and their absence along the route.

The original document says “Somersett and Del Webb Parkways” There are two Del Webb Parkways (East and West).

Somersett has never performed maintenance on DWPWest. In addition, DWPWest does not have a landscaped center divider. DWPWest has houses on it with most of the curbside landscaping the responsibility of homeowners and not any association. DWPEast has no houses on it. Big differences between the two “Del Webbs.”

The Main Thoroughfare is Somersett-DWPEast-Somersett Ridge. It is not correctly/fully described in either document.

It should be noted that the revised document says: “There are presently two entrance features at SC. There is one that is at the north east entrance on Somersett-Ridge Parkway (“NE Entrance’”) and one that is at the south west entrance off of US 40 and US 80 on Somersett-Ridge Parkway (SW Entrance)”.

That sentence contains errors: (1) north east should be spelled northeast; (2) Somersett Ridge is spelled twice with a hyphen when there is no hyphen in its legal spelling; (3) the NE Entrance is not on Somersett Ridge Parkway. It is on Somersett Parkway; (4) the SW Entrance is not off of US 40 and US 80. There is a roundabout at that location. Rather the SW Entrance is a distance from the roundabout on Somersett Ridge Parkway at the geographical entrance/exit and the convergence of the opposing two lanes of traffic.

These basic errors call into the question the validity of the document itself.

All of the, attached to the revised document, “fancy-dancy” legal wording descriptions, maps, and aerial photographs (at what cost) depicting the Maintenance Easement Area to be maintained by Somersett mean nothing to the crew workers on the ground. There are no lines on the soil that tell a worker on which side he is to mow/rake/water/clear snow and the other side where he doesn’t.

In addition to all this confusion, there is a sentence in the PUD which says:

“ALL COMMON AREAS, including pedestrian easements, streetscapes, open space, parks, “commons,” and trails WILL BE MAINTAINED BY THE SOMERSETT OWNERS ASSOCIATION (when enabling legislations is passed by the City of Reno allowing such districts.)” – emphasis added – Pay no attention to “enabling legislation” as that has already happened when the City Council approved the PUD.

At its December 14, 2015 meeting the Somersett Board agreed the maintenance of the trails within Sierra Canyon is the responsibility of Somersett (asphalt repair and patching is right now being done under the auspices of Somersett).

Somersett has yet to admit it is also responsible for all the common areas in Sierra Canyon, not just the parkway ones. Up until recently maintenance of common areas meant landscaping. Rickety walls were not on anyone’s mind, but they are there along with some man-made structures that Somersett is to maintain per the PUD.

A financial analysis needs to be made, but it appears when Somersett assumes the landscaping of all common areas in Sierra Canyon our dues to Somersett would go up a little, but go down more to Sierra Canyon.

Since there would only be one Somersett contract for common area landscaping throughout Somersett, Sierra Canyon would require some level of authority (and a monthly spending limit) over the crew when it is in Sierra Canyon. No one knows what needs to be done better than the locals. A volunteer landscaping coordinator position for liaison with Somerset would need to be established.

SC Maintenance Easement Agreement

With the proposed lawsuit against Somersett Development Company et. al. regarding SOA rockery wall defects, questions have been raised as to why rockery walls within Sierra Canyon (SC) were not included in the rockery wall assessment report performed by American Geotechnical and the subsequent lawsuit. At the Litigation Information Meeting, the SOA Attorney clearly stated that maintenance of common area rockery walls within SC were the responsibility of the SC HOA and not the SOA (this also applied to other Sub-associations as well).

However, it has been questioned as to whether or not some of the Sierra Canyon walls may actually fall under SOA responsibility based on the 4/11/2017 Maintenance Easement Agreement (MEA) between SC and the SOA. The MEA establishes an easement along the Del Webb and Somersett Parkways within SC for which the SOA has maintenance responsibility.

For those interested in reading the MEA for themselves, a copy of such may be accessed via the following link (also available under the References tab on this website):

1st Amendment to Maintenance Easement Agreement