Crews in Pacifica race to protect crumbling cliffs

December 21, 2009 5:32:34 PM PST
Emergency crews trying to save an apartment complex from a crumbling cliff seem to be winning the race against time, but there is still a lot of work to do.

Workers are moving feverishly to cut an access road to the beach below the apartments. They need to get more equipment down there to place giant rocks to protect against the pounding surf.

Since Friday, workers using big cranes have been hoisting rocks over the apartments at 330 Esplanade and putting them down on the beach to protect the cliffs from the breaking waves. It is a slow process and they are racing to get more rocks on the beach before the surf comes up and causes more damage.

Their latest effort is a road, cut down the face of the cliff about a half-mile south of the endangered apartment complex.

"It's because we need to get an excavator over there where we can place things, place rock better," explained engineer Tony Fortunato.

For the past four days, crews have been hoisting boxes of rock down to the beach with two large cranes, but the boxes only hold 6 to 8 tons at a time. They have gotten 3,500 tons down so far, but there is a lot more to go. A road will allow tractors to haul rock much more quickly and to set it in place more strategically.

"I think we'll be in better shape by Christmas Eve," Fortunato said. "I think we'll be looking pretty good."

Two construction companies are working on the project now. A source close to the ongoing negotiations between the various property owners says the emergency repairs in front of 330 Esplanade will run in the neighborhood of $400,000.

"After those repairs are done, then the attorney's step in if necessary, and you know," said Chief Engineer Steven O'Connor.

The chief engineer will not confirm it, but an ABC7 source says the cost of a more permanent fix will top $1 million. As of Monday night, there is no agreement between the property owners as to how the cost of the more permanent repairs will be split.

The property lines along the stretch of ocean front show that the boundaries are complicated by the fact that the owners of the apartment complex at 360 Esplanade actually own a good deal of the beach in front of three neighboring apartments to the north.

Last week, when waves were slamming into the cliffs, all the property owners agreed emergency measures were needed. Now that the immediate crisis has passed, the old dispute over who should pay for what has resurfaced.

"But, the important thing is that all this work is going to be done now to basically get it shored up," said O'Connor. "People save and then everybody can sit back in the comfort of the attorney's office or discomfort of the attorney's office and sort out if there's going to be any sharing of cost."


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