Focus of Pacifica cliff repair shifts to second phase

December 30, 2009 11:30:57 AM PST
Construction crews are putting the finishing touches on a rock wall designed to help protect a Pacifica apartment building sitting on a crumbling cliff. Now, the attention turns to stabilizing the top of the cliff where the building sits.

Ideally, the second phase of repair work would have begun Wednesday, but that did not happen. It could be at the earliest a couple more days, because the final engineering calculations are still needed.

The now-complete rock wall looks solid. It is intended to protect the cliff from washing away in the waves looks solid and hopefully keep the apartment building at 330 Esplanade Avenue from falling into the ocean below.

Residents were forced to evacuate when a big chunk of cliff crumbled away a week before Christmas. Since then, crews have been maneuvering thousands of boulders into place. On Wednesday, they worked to wrap up work at the bottom of the bluff, fine-tuning some of the rock wall.

"330 is pretty much completed. Coastal Commission came down and looked at it. We're going to tune it up a little bit per their requirements," said engineer Tony Fortunato.

But, the shoring up is far from over. Now the emergency repair shifts to phase-two, the bluff-top. Fortunato with the Soil Engineering Company who is doing the repairs says they are reviewing several methods for stabilizing the still-eroding top of the cliff. The one they will probably go with is called a "Soil Nailing System" and it is a dangerous job.

"We'd hang guys over in a basket and drill back and place these rods that go back, and they grout them. And, it's called a Soil Nailing System, which would help shore up the upper bluff, you know, make it safe," Fortunato explained.

The City of Pacifica still has to approve the use of a horizontal steel rod system and engineers have to pre-determine precisely what angle to insert them to hold the soil together. If permits are fast-tracked the work could begin in a couple days.

When asked how he knew the rods really work, Fortunato said, "Well, we've done them before and they've worked. So, it's a proven method. It's just matter of, it's a matter of if it will work here. And, we've had geologists out there and I think everything's pointing in the direction that it will work."

Contractors say the cliff has now eroded right up to the edge of one of the front porches of the apartment units, but they still believe they can shore up the cliff and save the building. Still, it could take months before residents can safely move back in.


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