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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. 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.
  • The sewer laterals in Crown Harbor are maintained by the Association. Though all 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 between the city and homeowner associations.

Typical Location

Crown Harbor Plan

  • To comply with the county of Alameda's Sewer Lateral Program, the Board has engaged the services of New Pipes Inc. to inspect all of the sewer laterals in Crown Harbor. This process has begun and will not inconvenience homeowners whose units have a sewer lateral cleanout immediately adjacent to the unit. Others, who are not so fortunate, will be notified by New Pipes that they will have to allow access to their homes for New Pipes to use a toilet to inspect their sewer laterals. New Pipes is posting more detailed information on garages of all affected units.
  • When one owner received a notice that New Pipes had to remove his toilet to do the inspection, he did a little excavation in his garden and found the cleanout. New Pipes was not too aggressive and/or intelligent in looking for the sewer lateral cleanout. The cleanout is typically outside in the area right next to the downstairs toilet. This owner removed a layer of wood chips and found the cleanout. If New Pipes knew the floor plans, and where the downstairs toilet is located, they could do the same with a minute of work.

When to test

There will be times when the upper lateral portion of the sewer 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.

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.
  • In the event of a unit modification, the selling Owner can arrange with the Association to have the upper lateral tested.
shared costs


  • In the event of a unit modification, the selling Owner covers the cost of the on-demand testing.
  • The Association covers the cost of its routine testing.
  • In either case, if a test determines that the Association's lateral needs to repaired or replaced, the Association will repair or replace the lateral and cover the cost (assuming that all laterals are treated consistently throughout the Association). For instances where negligence by an Owner is found to be responsible for a problem, the Owner is responsible for the covering the costs.


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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