Threadlines of Geotechnical and Engineering Geology firms in the Greater San Francisco Bay-Northern California Area




НазваниеThreadlines of Geotechnical and Engineering Geology firms in the Greater San Francisco Bay-Northern California Area
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Threadlines of Geotechnical and Engineering Geology firms in the Greater San Francisco Bay-Northern California Area

compiled by

J. David Rogers and Alan L. Kropp


Last edited 12-01-2012


Smith-Emery Co. (1904-); Smith-Emery GeoServices (1972-)

Smith-Emery Co. was originally founded in 1904 in San Francisco, and began performing inspection and testing of commercial structures following the San Francisco earthquake and fire of April 1906. The firm gradually developed into a materials testing and construction inspection services operation, with graduate engineers supervising most of the overall activities. The firm now includes three subsidiaries: Smith-Emery-Laboratories, Positive Lab Service, and Smith-Emery GeoServices, established in 1972. The GeoServices arm provides environmental and geotechnical testing and inspection services, employing geotechnical engineers, engineering geologists, and environmental specialists.

In the 1990s Keith Gilliam (formerly of Lee & Praeszker) supervised the geotechnical lab in San Francisco. Patrick Morris, PE, Anthony Argyriou, PE, and Miles Grant, CEG (BS Geol ’86 USC) also worked for the San Francisco office in the 1990s. Lutz “Yogi” Kunze, GE was the firm’s principal geotechnical engineer in Los Angeles, who directed the operations of Smith-Emery Geoservices between 1994-2001, when Kunze moved to Earth Systems Southwest in Rancho Cucamonga and Bermuda Dunes.


Hyde Forbes, Consulting Engineer and Geologist (1925-late 1950s)

James Hyde Forbes, PE (1889-1961) was a graduate of Stanford University in engineering and geology in 1913, and the most noted protégé of Prof John Branner (1850-1922), who founded the geology program at Stanford. Forbes maintained a consulting practice based out of the Humboldt Bank Building in San Francisco between ~1925 and his death, in 1961. He consulted on numerous groundwater problems, including cases involving the Los Angeles Bureau of Waterworks & Supply in the early 1920s. He also worked with noted hydrologist Charles H. Lee (profiled below) for many years.

Forbes consulted on numerous slope stability problems around the SF Bay area in the 1930s and 40s. Examples would be: Geological report on Upper and Lower Narrows Dam sites on Yuba River, in April 1930; “Geological report on Friant, Fort Miller, and Temperance Flat dam sites on San Joaquin River,” State of California, Dept. of Public Works, Division of Water Resources (1930); and “Effect of Niles-Irvington section of the Haywards fault” in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, 1949 v.39: 243-247. Forbes wrote a memorable article in 1947 ASCE Transactions titled “Landslide Investigation and Correction” which was selected for ASCE’s James Laurie Prize in 1948. His clients included Charles H. Lee, Western Pacific Railroad, California-Oregon Power Co., C&H Sugar, Hawaiian Territory, Dept of the Army, Dept of the Navy, AEC in Hanford, and the cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco (after 1934, including the Broadway Tunnel), Oakland, etc.

Hyde Forbes’ son James H. Forbes, Jr., was President of Forbes, Hillendahl and Associates, an economic and planning research firm in the late 1950s-early 1960s. In the later years of his life Hyde Forbes provided expert testimony on water basins in the Oxnard Plain, listing his affiliation with Forbes, Hillendahl and Associates. Hyde Forbes also prepared several consulting reports for Forbes, Hillendahl and Associates, including “The demand for Sespe Creek water” (1961).


The Marliaves (1938 - 1980)

Chester Marliave (1885 – 1958) and his two sons, Elmer Marliave (1910 – 1967) and Burton Marliave (1917 – 1991), were engineering geologists who specialized in water-related structures including dam sites, aqueducts, pumping plants, and tunnels. One or more of the three Marliaves worked on engineering geology studies directed to practically every major water development project in California during the period from the mid 1920s through the late 1970s – projects which enabled the rapid economic growth of the state and which changed the appearance of the landscape over large areas. Much of their work was done for the East Bay Municipal Utility District in Oakland, but other agencies as well, such as the Santa Clara Valley Water District. They maintained consulting businesses for many years thereafter; with Elmer based in Sacramento, and his younger brother Burton based in Walnut Creek, then out of his home in Lafayette (up through ~1980). Elmer was a founding charter member of AEG in 1957, while Burt served as AEG President in 1963.


Charles H. Lee threadline


Charles H. Lee Consulting Engineer (1921-60); Pacific Hydrologic Laboratory (1926-60); and Lee & Praszker (1960-96)

Charles Hamilton Lee, PE (1883-1967) graduated from U.C. Berkeley’s engineering program in 1905 and went to work for the U.S. Geological Survey as a hydrologist. He made the first credible studies of groundwater resources of San Diego County. In 1906 he was hired by William Mulholland of the City of Los Angeles Bureau of Waterworks & Supply to assess the water resources of the Owens River watershed, writing a comprehensive report that was published as U.S.G.S. Water Supply Paper 294 and included as an appendix to the final report on the Los Angeles Aqueduct (published in 1916). He rose to become Assistant Engineer for the First Los Angeles Aqueduct, with primary responsibility for the design of the various embankment dams appurtenant to that project (built on force account by city crews).

Shorty after working on the first Los Angeles Aqueduct, in 1912 he began a life-long association with Karl Terzaghi (1883-1963), an Austrian engineer of the same age (29) who was visiting the United States to view its monumental construction projects, before the First World War. Terzaghi went on to become the father of soil mechanics and foundation engineering, teaching at Robert College in Istanbul (1919-25), where he authored the textbook Erdbaumechanik in 1925 and Ingenieurgeologie in 1929 (with K. A. Redlich and R. Kampe).

Lee left the City’s employ in 1912 to work for the State Conservation Commission, investigating water resources in San Diego County (along with geologist A. J. Ellis), followed by four years in private practice in Los Angeles (beginning in April 1913), consulting in irrigation, public water supply, and developing hydroelectric power.  During the First World War (1917-19) Lee served as an Army Engineer officer in France, rising to the rank of captain. After the war he served as President of the California State Water Commission, and later as Chief of Division of Water Rights (1919-1921), which proved useful in his subsequent consultations as an expert witness on hydrology issues.

In 1921 Lee moved to Berkeley and opened an office in San Francisco specializing in sanitation and water supply. He also taught courses in water supply engineering at Berkeley in 1923. During the early 1920s he was regularly engaged by the City of Los Angeles as their expert witness in the many lawsuits involving matters of hydrology in the Owens Valley, where the city had purchased water rights along the Owens River. In March 1928 the St. Francis Dam failed and the City of Los Angeles employed Lee as their expert in the defense of numerous wrongful deaths lawsuits brought against the City the relatives of 450 odd victims. Given the volume of work in Los Angeles, Lee maintained a separate “satellite” office in Los Angeles throughout the 1920s. Other clients included the City of San Francisco Water Department and the East Bay Municipal Utility District, developing the resources of the Mokelumne River. He also worked for the State Department of Public Works in connection with the proposed salt water barrier in Upper San Francisco Bay in the late 1920s-early 1930s.

In 1926 Lee established the Pacific Hydrologic Laboratory, which came to include the first soils engineering laboratory on the West Coast. Lee was the first engineer in California to offer consultations in the emerging field of soils and foundation engineering, building on the increasing notoriety of Terzaghi, who taught at MIT in 1925-29, and then, at Harvard between 1938-56 (Terzaghi also corresponded with R.V. Labarre and Fred Converse in Los Angeles during the 1930s). Lee’s appreciation of seismic hazards and associated geohazards are evident in his writings of the period, such as: “The future development of the metropolitan area surrounding San Francisco Bay,” published in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America in 1926. From 1936-1939 Lee served as Chief of Water Supply and Sanitation for the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island. Other soil engineering work included slide repairs, foundation engineering, tunnels, and earth dams. He was recipient of the 1939 Norman Medal awarded by ASCE for his research on materials for embankment dams.

Lee’s work files (through 1955) are maintained by the University of California Water Resources Center Archives (now in Riverside and San Bernardino). His pioneering work on predicting long term settlement and risk from earthquakes to the hydraulic fill comprising Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay proved remarkably accurate and prophetic. Increasingly cantankerous with age (he refused to pay employees for vacation or sick time), he died in his Berkeley home at the age of 84 on May 4, 1967.


Lee and Praszker (1960-1996)

A partnership between Charles H. Lee (1883-1967) and Michael Praszker (1917-99) was formed around 1960. Of Polish birth and heritage, Michael Praszker served in the Royal Air Force during WWII and subsequently received a degree in Applied Mathematics from the Imperial College in London. He immigrated to California in 1950 and earned a second bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Cal Berkeley in 1953. After graduation, Praszker briefly worked as a structural engineer for PG&E, then joined Charles H. Lee Consulting Engineers, in early 1954. Praszker was registered as RCE 10641 in July 1956 and became Lee’s partner in 1960, when Lee was 77 and Praszker was 43. Both men were stellar engineers with colorful reputations for being increasingly cantankerous with age.

Lee and Praszker’s office was originally at 58 Sutter Street in San Francisco. After the death of Charles Lee in 1967, Praesker moved the office 147 Natomas Street, in a former city fire station. Praszker abandoned much of Charles Lee’s groundwater hydrology clients, preferring to concentrate on foundation engineering for high-rise buildings, bridges and large industrial projects, as well as earth embankments and landslides. Mike Praszker lived in Marin County and served as a Marin County Planning Commissioner in the 1960s.

Mike Praesker liked to brag that he and Charles Lee “wrote the book on Bay Mud,” referring to Lee’s pioneering work on predicting settlements on Treasure Island in the 1930s, and culminating with their article “Bay mud developments and related structural foundation,“ in the seminal volume “Geologic and Engineering Aspects of San Francisco Bay Fill,” published by the California Division of Mines & Geology as Special Report 97 in 1969. Praszker continued working till 1992, when he was diagnosed with Alzheimers, but the firm was not dissolved until 1996. Mike Praszker died in 1999.

Some notable engineers who worked for Lee and/or Lee & Praszker included: Jack W. Rolston, PE (1953), Arthur T. Knutson, PE Ben J. Lennert, PE, Richard Appuhn, PE, CEG (1963-67), J. P. Singh (1965), Will A. Thomas, Don Hillebrandt, PE, Richard Rodgers, PE (later Treadwell & Rollo), Michael F. Majchrzak, GE (BSCE ’75 Loyola Marymount; MS ’77 Stanford; went onto Kleinfelder), John Gouchon (Treadwell & Rollo), Paul Lai, GE (Berlogar), Craig Shields, GE (Rockridge Geotechnical), Ed Becker PhD, GE (Chief Geotech Eng’r for Kaiser Engineers), John Hovland, PhD, GE (PhD ’70 Berkeley; became Chief Geotech Eng’r of PG&E), David T. Hsu, GE (became Senior Geotech Eng’r for City of Los Angeles), John M. Raney, GE (MSCE ’73 Berkeley; owner of Raney Geotechnical of Sacramento), Chuck Graves, Tom A. Tobin, GE, Barry Milstone GE (1980-83), and many others.


Some derivative firms of Lee & Praesker include:


Foundation Engineers was founded by Jack Rolston in Tarzana, California in 1960, after he worked for the Los Angeles District of the Corps of Engineers (profiled in the southern California threadline).


Arthur T. Knutson, GE (1913-2002) went to work for Marin County Public Works in early 1960s, thru the mid1970s. In mid 1970s he opened his own consulting firm, Arthur T. Knutson, Inc. based in Novato.


Donald Hillebrandt & Associates, founded by Donald H. Hillebrandt (BSCE ’61, MS ’64 Berkeley) in 1975, after having worked for Lee & Praesker and Lowney-Kaldveer. He was based in San Francisco until 1984, then out of his home in the Oakland Hills (described in Lowney-Kaldveer threadline).


Raney Geotechnical, started by John M. Raney (MSCE ’73 Berkeley), was based in Sacramento.


John H. Hovland, GE (PhD ’70 Berkeley) became Chief Geotechnical Engineer of PG&E in San Francisco in the mid 1970s thru the 1980s. He occasionally consulted on parcels in the Claremont Canyon area, not far from where he lived, in the Berkeley Hills.


Ben J. Lennert, GE

Ben Lennert (1924-2002) (registered in 1954 as RCE 9232, and GE 514) was a consulting soils and foundation engineer who worked out of Berkeley. He began his own consultancy after working for Lee & Praesker and having a disagreement with Mike Praszker. He did a lot of work for the University of California, Berkeley and with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBL), working with Campus Engineer John Shively in the early 1970s. The Lennert Aquifer in the Moraga Formation volcanics beneath LBL is named after him. Ben frequently collaborated with Berkeley Geology Prof. Garniss H. Curtis (PhD ’51, Berkeley) as a consultant. Curtis was the father of K/Ar dating and who established Berkeley’s Geochronolgy Center. Lenert and Curtis engaged in numerous studies evaluating aseismic creep of the Hayward fault in the Berkeley Hills, which they published between 1980-85 (listed in World Cat).


Milstone Geotechnical was founded by Barry Milstone in 1990 in Los Gatos (described in the Cotton threadline).


Rockridge Geotechnical was founded by Craig Shields in 2006 (described in Harding Lawson threadline).


Dames & Moore Threadline


Dames & Moore San Francisco office (1941-2003)

Dames & Moore was formed in Los Angeles in 1938. Their first branch office was opened in Seattle in early 1941 and a second in San Francisco, in the late summer of 1941. This expansion resulted from the firm’s involvement on a series of projects for the U.S. Navy and Army, using its soils and foundation engineering skills to assist in the construction of military facilities. During the war D & M also used its expertise in developing “field soils kits” for the Navy Seabees (construction battalions). In 1945 the senior office engineer in San Francisco was William W. Brewer, PE who, along with LeRoy Crandall in Los Angeles, became the firm’s 3rd and 4th partners in November 1947. Brewer was the managing partner of San Francisco office, even after Bill Enkboll and Bill Moore transferred to San Francisco from Los Angeles in 1953-54. Bill Moore was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering in 1978.

SFO Principals: Bill Brewer left the firm to start his own consultancy in 1958, leaving partners Bill Moore, William Enkboll, PE and Robert T. Lawson, PE, with Associate Charles L. Nichols. When Lawson departed in 1960 to form Harding Lawson Associates, Nichols was offered partnership. William W. Brewer became a managing partner, Leon Winters, PE as Chief Eng’r and partner, Robert D. Darragh, PE as a partner, Donald F. Javete, PE as a partner, and coastal engineer H. Morgan Noble, PE (profiled below) became a partner in 1969. Carl W. Garbe, PE was also a partner, who ran their Redwood City branch office in the 1960s, overseeing the enormous filling of what was to become Foster City, establishing himself as an industry leader in the handling and placement of dredge spoils.

By the mid 1960s, some of the SFO office principals included: Leon Winters, PE, Joe Jeno, PE, Roger A. Lowe, PE, John W. Desmond, PE, Howard Donley, PE, and Peter Quinn, PE. In 1963 structural engineer Neville C. Donovan, PhD, SE (BSCE ’54 Auckland U; MS Princeton; PhD ’59 Ohio State) joined the firm, where he chaired the group that prepared the ATC-3-06 report and pioneered the use of probabilistic seismic hazard analysis procedures, which he later applied to D&M’s work on the Alaska Pipeline. Some of the 1960s associates included Karl Gauzer, Richard M. Wary, PE, James Angemeer, PE, Bill Wood, PE, and Jogeswar P. Singh, PE.

In the 1960s the D&M staff included engineering geologists George D. Roberts, CEG (1963-65; and again in 1967-75), Francis A. Stejer, CEG (from Porter, O’Brien, and Armstrong in ‘65), George N. Borgman, CEG, Seymour Goodmacher, CEG, Monzell R. Louke, CEG, Donald W. Maltzahn, CEG, Dick Richards, Ray Rice, CEG, Eric J. McHuron, CEG, and Will A. Thomas, CEG. Roberts had previously served as the Corps of Engineers South Pacific Division Geologist, followed by assignments in the Kansas City, Little Rock, and Los Angeles Districts before retiring from the Corps 1962, then re-joining them in 1965-67 before retiring a second time. From the late 1970s to mid 1990s Dames & Moore’s senior geologist was Ray Rice, CEG (BSCE, BS Geol ’64 Lafayette College; MS Geol ’67 Rice Univ), was succeeded by Eric McHuron, CEG (PhD Geol ‘76 Rice Univ), who later joined Roger Foott & Assoc.

In the 1970s some of the key geotechnical principals added were Julio E. Valera, GE (PhD ’68 Berkeley) as a partner, Ed Rinne (BSCE ’61 MS ’63 Berkeley) became a senior principal, J. P. Singh (profiled below) and Sukhmander Singh (PhD ’79 Berkeley; later CE Dept Chair at Univ Santa Clara). Roger Foott, ScD, GE (profiled below) joined the firm in 1978 and became a managing partner in 1983. Demetrious C. Koutsoftas, GE, NAE (BSCE ’71; MS ’73 MIT) joined the firm in 1973 and became a principal. He managed the Hong Kong office before transferring to San Francisco in 1985 (he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2006, while working for Arup). Willem C. B. “Billy” Villet (partner), Eddy Lau, William “Bill” Wood, John Gibbons, and Robert M. “Bob” Pyke (PhD ’70 Berkeley). I. M. Idriss (PhD ‘66 Berkeley) worked for the San Francisco office from 1966 to 1975, when he joined Woodward-Clyde at their Santa Ana office. Later partners included Charles V. Logie, William Paratore, and several others. D&M was acquired by URS in 2000.

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