The following article written by Mary Scott, Staff Writer, was recently published in the Daily Breeze:
The seven blufftop homes in Palos Verdes Estates show varying degrees of damage: cracked foundations, patios and driveways, problems with drainage and water infiltration issues.
And considering the slow-moving landslide behind them and the retreating bluff in front of them, they're probably too costly --and potentially pointless -- to repair.
The houses from 1009 to 1121 Palos Verdes Drive West belong to the city, which obtained them as part of a settlement with Bluff Cove homeowners during a series of lawsuits in the 1980s. The damage they've suffered was caused by movement of the Bluff Cove Landslide, and exacerbated by poorly maintained storm drains.
Municipal employees -- including the city manager, planning director and police chief -- lived in the homes until the damage worsened and the Palos Verdes Estates City Council in late 2012 asked the workers to move out.
Now, officials see demolition as the best course of action.
The council came to that conclusion last week, considering it could cost from $160,000 to $260,000 just to determine potential ways to stabilize the bluff, and possibly millions more to implement those measures.
The decision was based partly in economics but mostly for safety. Because even if the repairs are made, there is no guarantee there won't be a catastrophic failure of the landslide and the bluff the homes sit on.
"The bluff we're dealing with is episodic. (Failures) don't happen a little at a time. You'll lose 3 feet, 10 feet, all at once. And we've seen that in the past," said the city's geologist, Jim Lancaster of Kling Consulting Group. "The typical retreat is 3 to 6 feet when they decide to go. When you're dealing with something as steep and as high as these bluffs are, if you get a crack back further away -- 15, 20, 30 feet -- it is possible a very large area will fall."
7 Homes above on Bluff Cove owned by the City of Palos Verdes Estates to be demolished. Third and fourth homes from the right are privately owned.
. Lancaster said there's a point on the bluff that "wants" to fall. If it goes, "you will lose homes," he said.
But the demolition must be done carefully so as to not disturb what land stability there is.
"As we're working on the bluff, we'd want to be particularly sensitive not to create further geological issues," city Planning Director Allan Rigg said. "We wouldn't want to go in with a bulldozer and simply start demolishing them."
Rigg said the city's engineers need to draw up a detailed plan of how to delicately tear down the homes and handle the drainage system in place. If mishandled, the bluffs could suffer damage, he said.
"The methods of demolition would have to be specific so as to minimize or alleviate altogether the impact to ground stability," Rigg added.
The foundations of the homes will probably remain. Lancaster explained that crews should cut only to about a foot underground and then cover the remainder of the concrete pads with soil.
The Bluff Cove Landslide continues to move toward the ocean at 3 to 8 inches per year, according to Lancaster. "I suspect it will continue at that," he said.
However, he did not rule out a catastrophic failure. If it does fail, the landslide "probably" would not impact the houses directly above it.
"At least that's the thinking right now," he said. "We don't have enough information to say, 'No, that can't happen.' "
Some have asked the council to repair the damage and sell the properties.
"This is a complicated property," City Attorney Christi Hogin said. "We acquired it because of a lawsuit. You can't put it on the market as is."
Once the homes are demolished, the properties will most likely be left as open space parkland.
But irrigation must be limited, so as to not worsen conditions on the property. Staff members will return to council at a later date with a plan to safely deconstruct the homes and a concept for the future use of the properties.
For more information about Palos Verdes and South Bay Real Estate and buying and selling a home on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, visit my website at http://www.maureenmegowan.com . I try to make this the best real estate web blog in the South Bay Los Angeles and the Palos Verdes Peninsula. I would love to hear your comments or suggestions.