Homeowners upset over hillside's undisclosed history

March 31, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Homeowners living in a mudslide zone area in San Pablo are hoping the state can give them some help. The slide forced them out of their homes earlier this week. Thursday they learned some history about their crumbling homes that might have kept them from moving into the neighborhood in the first place.

11PM Update: At the emergency meeting Thursday night, the San Pablo City Council passed a resolution declaring the hill slide area a disaster.

Leon and Blanka Walkers' backyard is just one of the six houses threatened in the slide. The ground for now has stopped moving, and Thursday the Walkers were at City Hall to hear a soils engineer talk about how to fix this.

At an emergency meeting of the City Council, geotechnical engineer Allan Kropp outlined a short-term plan for holding up the hillside.

"By underpinning the back of that house with portable equipment, that could be implemented over a fairly short time frame even under winter conditions," said Kropp.

The bad news is that sinking piers under one house to keep the ground from moving will run around a $100,000. The city is looking to the state for $10 million to cover damage from the slide and storm related damage throughout the county.

"What we're trying to do right now is obviously get state assistance to help develop some appropriate plans," said San Pablo City Manager Matt Rodriguez.

Mayor Paul Morris has sent a letter to the governor and put in calls to his office.

"He's got a lot on his plate, but I know he can work pretty quickly," said Morris.

To Walker it's something to hope for.

"If they're going to use the money that they get from the government, that would be great," he said. "At this point I don't have that type of money in my pocket."

But for Walker the part of the council meeting that blew him away was the presentation from the soils expert on previous slides in the same area, including one right next door in 1958.

"And as a result of that landslide in this general area three homes have been removed," said Knopp at the meeting.

"I'm flabbergasted by it actually and pretty much devastated because none of that information was ever given to me," said Walker. Adding that had it been disclosed, "You'd be having an interview with a different person right here. It wouldn't be me."

Walker is convinced the city is responsible, but ABC7's legal analyst says it's generally the previous homeowner. Rodriguez says they will look over what has been disclosed to homeowners.

They mayor declined to comment for this story.

A fund has been established in which citizens can make donations to help some of these residents. The account name is "San Pablo Landslide Event" via Mechanics Bank.


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