Is Auburn parking lot sinking?

City says pipe is structurally sound
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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Steve Rowett said he arrived at his smog shop one morning to find part of the parking lot had sunk about 2 feet. Since that day about a year ago, Rowett, who owns Sierra Smog, off of Highway 49 and Elm Avenue, has been trying to find out what caused the sinking and who is ultimately responsible for repairing it. “About a year ago it pretty much sank overnight,” Rowett said. “It just recently happened in the Grocery Outlet parking lot. I think right around the end of winter. It kind of happened overnight there, too.” Bernie Schroeder, Public Works Director for the City of Auburn, said the city has thoroughly studies the area in question. She said they have yet to find evidence the city is responsible. At the time, Rowett was leasing the building. He called his landlord, who wasn’t sure what to do. After he bought the building about five months ago, Rowett began making calls to the City of Auburn, Placer County Water Agency and PG&E. He was able to establish that a pipe carrying water from Auburn Ravine runs under the parking lot. An engineer hired by the city went out to inspect the pipe. Rowett said the engineer told him the pipe was not damaged. While the parking lot is only sunken in where the pipe runs, Rowett said he can’t say with 100 percent certainty that the pipe is the reason for the damage. Regardless of the cause, he said he hopes to fix it as soon as possible. At this point, Rowett said he isn’t sure who is responsible for fixing it. “It definitely makes part of the parking lot unusable. It looks bad, especially the way it affects that flower bed,” Rowett said. “(I want) to find out how to fix and who is responsible for fixing it. Can we get together with all the parties responsible for it and fix it? I don’t want to just fill it in and not really know if it’s going to keep sinking.” According to Rowett, Grocery Outlet filled the area of their parking lot that had sunk in with asphalt. He doesn’t want to do that until he knows the cause of the collapse. Schroeder said upon a thorough inspection of the pipe, the city came to the conclusion it is not responsible for the damage to the parking lot. “There is a pipe in that area that connects Auburn Ravine, a very thick-walled, rather large diameter pipe, metal in nature, that was put in there and we have done an extensive amount of investigation to confirm that that pipe is tied,” Schroeder said. “We aren’t at this stage considering it a city-related infrastructure failure.” Schroeder said the city isn’t even sure how long the parking lot has been that way. “It’s hard to tell whether or not that depression has been there,” Schroeder said. “It seems like it’s been there forever. People always park over it. We’re aware of it. At this point I can’t link it to be anything the city is responsible for.” Schroeder said after having a third-party contractor and geotechnical engineer examine the site, it is still unclear what caused the asphalt to sink. “We don’t have a solution because we haven’t really identified the problem,” Schroeder said. “I’m trying to help him as much as we can, but I have an obligation to make sure the public isn’t funding private projects.” Schroeder suggested Rowett look into the history of the property to find who the original builders were and what might have occurred. Rowett said there have been some complaints about the way the Sierra Smog corner looks. He said if the parking lot were fixed, Sierra Smog could park more cars in the back of the lot, rather than right up front near the corner. “I don’t want people driving by and not being happy with the way it looks. We put money into the flower box and made it look better,” Rowett said. “I definitely think getting that fixed will really help me with my goal of remodeling this place and making it look better.” Reach Sara Seyydin at