Weather and waves hamper cliffside progress

December 28, 2009 6:08:05 PM PST
The effort to save the cliff from eroding in Pacifica is very frustrating and is going extremely slowly. Workers are trying to save the apartment building on top of it.

The cliff looks different, compared to how it looked just 10 days ago. On December 18, the cliff eroded and left just a few feet from the edge of the apartment building. Now, sections of the cliff have broken away up to the deck, leaving no earth in front of it.

On December 17, residents of 330 Esplanade were told it was just a temporary emergency and that they would be back in their homes before Christmas. Now, crews are well into the second week of work and they're still not finished. There is also a growing realization that the work is going to continue for many weeks to come.

Last week, trucks full of boulders were moving down the road, using the big rocks to protect the base of the cliff from being eroded by waves. Over the weekend, a high tide mixed with another big storm surge wiped out the beach road and workers had to go back to hoisting rocks down on to the beach with the crane.

"You know I would've never guessed that. When we were building the road last week, we were building the road during high tide no problem. Came out here yesterday, the high tide was over the road," says Tony Fortunato, part owner from Engineered Soil Repairs Inc.

As long as the high tides and big waves continue, the road will have to be rebuilt every day until the job is done.

"Tuesday, Wednesday, we should be done and then we're hopefully going to roll right into the beginning of the emergency work at the top of the bluff. That's the plan," says Fortunato.

At the top of the bluff, crews are planning to embed sheets of steel that will allow them to rebuild at least some of the cliff that is lost -- the most critical section right at the base of the patio at 330 Esplanade.

Betty Sue Lukins lives right next door to that evacuated building. When asked if she was concerned about the erosion in front of her apartment, she says, "Oh no, because we have the boulders, we got the boulders I think in July, they seem to be working."

Neighbors on both sides of 330 Esplanade say they are not worried about having to move out.

"No, I think everybody's going to stay. It's kind of hard to leave once you've had a beautiful view of the ocean for most of your life," says Lahna Utterback.

The project bosses say it is going to be several months at least before residents at 330 Esplanade will be able to move back into their apartments.


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