Telegraph Hill rockslide prompts partial evacuation

A rockslide near San Francisco's Telegraph Hill has crushed a car and caused the partial evacuation of an apartment building (Monday, January 23, 2012).

January 24, 2012 12:43:36 AM PST
City crews are keeping watch on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco after a chunk of it broke loose Monday morning, crushing a car in its path. The section that collapsed is almost directly below Coit Tower near Montgomery and Lombard streets.

There's still a concern that the hillside could slide again, which is why the city has deemed three condo units unsafe, for now. Crews have since been working on installing some concrete barricades and some net fencing to prevent the rocks from slipping any further and possibly reaching the building.

"If we have any further rock fall, we're hoping at least it won't get past here [the barricade] and any looser rock will not get through the safety net that we're going to put here," said Mohammed Nuru, interim director of the Department of Public Works.

That's only a temporary solution until Tuesday when geotechnical engineers hope to determine the stability of the hillside. Until then, residents in three Parc Telegraph units that are closest to the slide, have been told to vacate.

Around 9:30 a.m. several boulders came tumbling down the hillside and the force of the rocks crushed several steel posts, damaging the only car parked behind the apartment building, located at Montgomery and Lombard Streets. The rockslide came dangerously close to the building, but no one was hurt.

Dawn Walker, who lives on the sixth floor of the building, said she wasn't sure what happened at first. She said, "I didn't know it was a rock, I thought it was an earthquake."

"My responsibility, I just want to get the people out of the building that would be affected if any more rocks came down," said Fire Batt. Chief Ed Gonzales.

That's why the fire department ordered the evacuation of some of the lower units. Those residents who were at work at the time were not allowed to go back in.

The Department of Public Works is the agency responsible for checking the integrity of the hillside. According to them, the heavy rains and saturation contributed to this slide. Win Bryson lives near the hillside. He's seen others smaller slides before.

"Last year when we had a heavy rains, mostly late in the season, you'd get a fall, not as big as this one, though," said Bryson.

Telegraph Hill is prone to these types of slides. Back in 2007, a number of homes above Broadway were red-tagged when a section of the hillside broke off. Crews have since drilled bolts and added netting to stabilize the hill. The city says that may also be the long-term remedy at the site of Monday's slide.

Residents of the building seem to be taking all of this in stride. In fact, some find all of this attention amusing. This section of Telegraph Hill is the same spot where a burglar had been hiding out for more than 24 hours three weeks ago.

"It's San Francisco. You get earthquakes, you get rain you know. You have burglars who jump over cliffs. It's just part of living in the city," John McCarthy, a building resident.