Read More »
SAN DIEGO – Jeanne Plante didn’t pay much attention this summer as city engineers worked to figure out why the busy road up the hill from her house was ominously cracking apart. When the ground below the road suddenly collapsed this week, taking four houses with it and burying two others, Plante was caught off guard. Now, she and her neighbors want to know why it took so long for the city to recognize a major landslide risk was imminent, and what officials plan to do to prevent similar failures in the neighborhood. “If it happened to them, what’s to stop it from happening to us?” she said shortly after she was allowed to return to the $1.7 million gray-stone property, which sits about 100 feet downslope from the toe of Wednesday’s landslide. “And if they don’t cover what happened up there, could we get hit twice?” City geologists say the collapse has apparently stabilized now that the stress has been relieved on the weak earth, which caved beneath a 50-yard stretch of road. Four houses sank into the 20-foot-deep fissure, while tons of dirt carrying fully grown pines and eucalyptus shoved a wall of road asphalt and broken curb into two houses on the next street below. Seven houses were so severely damaged residents can’t even get inside, and 22 more are off-limits except with safety escorts. Residents who live near the slide zone criticized the city for not warning that a slide was possible after concerns about water main leaks, sinking curbside meters and creeping gaps in the sidewalk first cropped up in July. “We are helpless,” said Joseph Tsai, a retired engineer who moved to Mount Soledad 12 years ago. “It depends on the city to address the problems.” City officials have said they were considering new vehicle weight limits and other stopgap measures early in the week but didn’t realize a collapse was imminent until shortly before it happened around 9 a.m. on Wednesday. Residents of the four houses directly atop the collapse were advised late Tuesday not to sleep in their houses, but they weren’t forcibly evacuated that night; homeowners whose properties were buried said they had no warning that the mountain was crumbling. “There was no indication they were at risk,” said Bill Harris, a city spokesman. Harris said the city is conducting a comprehensive investigation of the events leading up to the collapse. But he said no decision has been made about how to make sure the hillside remains in place, and the city currently has no plan to broaden testing beyond the immediate slip zone to determine whether other parts of the neighborhood are threatened. Experts said the likelihood of a second collapse on a similar scale is low, but smaller slides may be possible as the earth settles in its new, lower, resting place. Meanwhile, pavement has been cracking on streets in another nearby Mount Soledad neighborhoods, and residents have hired geologists in an attempt to determine whether a similar slide is imminent there. “I’m worried that this hill is going to collapse,” Cindy Goodman, who lives in a $2 million home in the area, told the San Diego Union-Tribune.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!