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Crown Harbor Homeowner Association

Sewer Laterals

Effective January 1, 2015, the City of Alameda modified how sewer laterals are maintained. In the City of Alameda, the City owns and maintains all public sanitary sewer mains, but the property owner owns and is responsible for maintaining a sanitary sewer lateral. This has some implications for association complexes like Crown Harbor.



A sanitary sewer lateral is typically a four-inch diameter clay or plastic pipe that delivers sewage from the structure or property to the sanitary sewer main.


In terms of City of Alameda ordinances, Crown Harbor is the property owner. Historically the sewer laterals in Crown Harbor have been maintained by the Association. Though Owners are responsible for the plumbing inside their units, the Association is responsible for the line from the unit to the City main. The city of Alameda outlines the division of responsibilities. The laterals are owned by Crown Harbor but there is an easement to allow water from the federal adjacent property to flow into our sewer drains.

When to test

There will be times when the upper lateral portion of the sewer lateral must be tested:
  • Every time a property sells, the upper lateral must be tested.
  • The upper lateral must be tested during a significant remodel valued at $90,000 (or higher) that includes at least one plumbing fixture.
  • Condominium complexes, like Crown Harbor, must test upper laterals within 10 years of the effective date of the ordinance and every 20 years thereafter. Private sewer laterals must be brought into compliance by July 12, 2021.
According to an email from Senior Civil Engineer for the City of Alameda, Emily Dean, Crown Harbor owners do not have to test the upper lateral when selling or remodeling, because the unit owner is not responsible for maintaining the lateral. All that is required is that the Crown Harbor Association test the upper laterals within 10 years and 20 years thereafter.
From Emily Dean []
Sent Monday, February 11, 2013 6:02 PM
To Scott Sheppard
Subject Re: request for info on sewer laterals

Hi Scott,

Thanks for getting in touch, and for being proactive on this subject. Your page looks great and has a lot of great information! I would like to talk about the implementation, if you could give me a call at 747-7941.

The City will not require the individual owners to test the lateral between the home and the common sewer main. We only require that buildings with a private sewer lateral that connects to the sewer main (such as single family residences) test upon sale or remodel. For housing associations where the real property ownership and maintenance responsibility is shared, this requirement is not imposed. Instead, it is the responsibility of the HOA to test all of the private sewer — the part that runs through the private street and the laterals to each house — within 10 years. There are different ways of handling this — likely the most economical is to have the entire system tested at the same time, rather than having laterals tested individually. However, it is up to the HOA to decide how it wants to implement this.

[The] situation in Costa Brava is a little different, in that there are single family residences situated on individually-owned real property. These property owners have responsibility to test their lateral to the connection with the common main prior to sale. The common main is still the responsibility of the HOA, and must be tested within 10 years. The difference between Costa Brava and Crown Harbor is that (as far as I can tell from the CC&Rs helpfully posted on your website) there is no individual property ownership in Crown Harbor. Unit owners own to the sheetrock and are responsible for the plumbing inside the unit, but not the lateral outside the unit. The City can't require a unit owner to test the lateral prior to sale, if they don't technically own it individually...

I know this may seem a little confusing at first, but I would like to help you work it out. As to your question about the upper vs. lower lateral — the terminology is applicable to single family residences connected to the city sewer main. The Association is responsible for testing the private sewer main within Crown Harbor, between the city street to each individual unit.

Also, here is a link to some additional information on the HOA PSL program:

Please give me a call M-Th between 8:30-6:30 and I'll help to answer any questions you have.


Emily Dean
Senior Civil Engineer
City of Alameda
Public Works Department
950 West Mall Square
Alameda, CA 94501
(510) 747-7941

Subsequent to the email, the city of Alameda has set up a web page to define the process: Private sewer lateral.


Testing process

A sanitary sewer lateral must be tested to ensure that it is properly connected — between the upper and lower lateral and then to the main — to be free from leaks. To perform lateral testing, a building permit must be procured, and a plumber must perform the required testing. If the lateral fails testing, it must be repaired or replaced, whichever is required to bring it into compliance.

Here is an example of a scoping process, not a testing process, at 572 Kings Road.



The Association can schedule the testing of the laterals as part of maintaining the community.
shared costs


If the inspection determines that the Association's lateral needs to repaired or replaced, the Association will repair or replace the lateral.


The East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) recommends that residents avoid putting the following down the drain:
  • Soaps, solvents, and cleaning supplies labeled toxic, corrosive, flammable, or ignitable
  • Pills (unwanted prescriptions)
  • Oils, fats, and grease
  • Intimate one-time-use products labeled disposable, or even flushable (such as disposable wipes)
  • Landscaping materials like fertilizers and pesticides
These items are not good for the sewer lines (i.e. clog our pumps) nor the Bay.

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