Update: Beach Drive closure will continue at least till tomorrow

As first reported during our afternoon updates on the rainstorm’s aftermath, a slide has closed Beach Drive in the 6000-6200 block (map). The video above is our :30 survey of the scene, while checking it out just before sunset. The mud brought debris onto the northbound lane and took out a tree that, as the video shows, snagged utility wires on the water side of the street. Here’s a static view of what slid:

This is immediately north of the spot where a similar slide closed the road this past January. SDOT finally sent official word of the new slide/closure within the past hour, saying it’s one of two streets in the city closed for “slope stability issues,” and that it “will remain closed overnight and will be re-assessed in morning once there is daylight.” A resident who said she lives over the slope that slid – explaining, “That’s our tree” – pointed out another spot with cascading water/mud down the slope further south, over the small retaining wall put up following the January slide:

Last year’s slide closed the road for less than a day but left it narrowed to one lane at that spot for more than a month; the city was reported to be working with upslope property owner(s) on a permanent solution, though we don’t have final word on whether that included anything beyond the roadside retaining barricade.

30 Replies to "Update: Beach Drive closure will continue at least till tomorrow"

  • b-squared December 12, 2010 (8:07 pm)

    i hope the “upslope property owner(s)” have been held accountable for this. it’s hard to imagine that their stormwater handling and/or view-enhancing landscaping isn’t contributing to this condition.

  • TJ December 12, 2010 (8:25 pm)

    Is there anyone at all who knows the status of the hillside work that the upslope owners supposed were being forced to undertake? I just cannot believe that more than a year has passed and nothing has been done, when DPD rakes homeowners over the coals for any building permit that’s submitted. I asked WSB for a status update a couple months ago but heard nothing. Please, please — can you get an update on this? It is intolerable and inexcusable to have the safety and beauty of our community ruined by people who violate building codes and are then permitted to get away with it.

    • WSB December 12, 2010 (9:07 pm)

      TJ, someone may know. I don’t but will be trying to find out. We did have a couple followups in the first few months afterward but there are a million things on our followup docket, from court cases to development projects and more, and while we do our best for 18+ hours every day, some things fall off – and some things, we look into, reply to people, and they never turn into stories (in other words, there’s a fair amount of work we do that you wouldn’t know just by looking at the site) and if we failed to answer a request you sent, I apologize – TR
      p.s. The DPD described what’s alongside the road just south of today’s slide, and beneath the running water/mud in our second photo, as a “temporary ecology block catchment wall” last February.
      p.p.s. If you live nearby and are familiar with the issues, this is probably old news but this is the most recent DPD item for the property owner they talked about working with. No speculation or accusations, please, we will be checking with DPD first thing in the morning regarding whether that was the result of the conversations or whether something else was still supposed to be pending. And again, what slid today was immediately north of that spot – past where the ecology blocks ended/began, as our video shows – though whether the ecology blocks ended at the property line or not, I don’t know.

  • dq December 12, 2010 (8:51 pm)

    and i’m guessing the 37 and 53 will be rerouted because of this…

  • Rhonda Porter December 12, 2010 (8:55 pm)

    I wonder how the city allows building newer homes on this type of property that seems to be prone to landslides.

  • Alki Resident December 12, 2010 (9:17 pm)

    I agree with TJ.We residents drive by this every day and automatically look up at this hill wondering,just when it’ll finally go.Too long has passed,too much babysitting and blocking it off.Why cant someone fix it now before a major road closure happens more long term,interrupting peoples lives and commutes?Why someone would want to build a nice home on such an unstable hillside is beyond me.

  • MargL December 12, 2010 (9:36 pm)

    It’s not just a road closure issue!
    Some friends of mine live right across the street from that lovely ‘temporary ecology block wall’. I’m more worried about their house getting slammed with a bazillion tons of rock and dirt.
    Apparently there’s a part of that slope that’s city owned or used to be an old road. You can see it on the King County parcel map – slices thru the parcels on the slope. Wonder if that’s causing some issues with negotiating who’s responsible for drainage issues?

  • tree December 12, 2010 (9:44 pm)

    Doh! Didn’t know about the power lines when we drove under that tree about 30 minutes after the slide (along with many others). The poor tree’s branches were hitting the car. I think this is very serious and we are lucky someone wasn’t killed driving on the road or just hanging in their house. So much more could come down – the entire hill for that matter. Looking forward to updates.

  • Nulu December 12, 2010 (9:56 pm)

    One problem might be the city’s right of way that is between Beach Drive and the up-slope homes. Some of these comments are nasty and inaccurate, “I just cannot believe that more than a year has passed and nothing has been done.” Last March is not more than a year.
    “It is intolerable and inexcusable to have the safety and beauty of our community ruined by people who violate building codes and are then permitted to get away with it.” This is another false statement. These houses experienced incredible scrutiny of building officials. Indeed, the new structures may actually be holding up the hillside. People forget that this hillside has been sliding for hundreds of years. The up-slope houses are not sliding. A more logical question is why would anyone cut out the base of a historically unstable hill for a roadway (Beach Drive) and then allow people to build houses below? It is a bit like those people who continually build and rebuild in flood planes or all of those homes built on the liquification flats of Alki when they will be destroyed by our predicted big earthquake?
    Why would someone build on the hillsides is likened to why the bank robber robs the bank? –It is because that is where the money/views are.

  • Denise December 12, 2010 (10:24 pm)

    Your map link under the video doesn’t work. It takes me to a still photo of the slide.

  • Brian December 12, 2010 (10:27 pm)

    “These houses experienced incredible scrutiny of building officials.” Incredible scrutiny. More likely the building officials conducted incredible scrutiny of the potential property taxes that could be levied upon the foolish individuals applying for permits to build in an area that is an historically unstable slope prone to slides. Might want to go ahead and check out some actual resources available to the public before posting…like, for instance, this website: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/sea/landslides/index.html
    Rich folks with more money than sense have been building in these sensitive areas for years, then attempting to recover damages from the city when nature takes its course…after constructing their three story mcmansion for two people and surreptitiously girdling trees on the slope to improve their views. Hang out over in Magnolia along the bluff above the marina, and ask some of those folks whose fault it is that their house slid into the sound. Yep, that is where the money/views are…however briefly.

  • Lura Ercolano December 12, 2010 (10:38 pm)

    I don’t know what’s planned for the hill, but I do know that it is normal to give a slide area time (i.e. years) to settle and condense before making final judgments on whether/how much it is moving, and what needs to be done about it. “Fixing” it while it’s still moving tends to, well, all the “fixing” tends to slide down the hill.
    Thanks Nulu for reminding us that the hill has been moving for centuries.
    I’d also point out that significant earth movement has occurred/continues to occur from at least the 5900 block to the 6700 block of Beach Drive. It’s not all the fault of a single bad homeowner.
    Wasn’t it fall of 2009 that they rebuilt part of the road around the 6600 block, because it was sliding down the hill? And it is still moving – the repaired section has a definite tilt.
    From about the 5900 block to the 6800 block, there are numerous signs of earth movement.

  • 2 December 13, 2010 (9:49 am)

    I can see why there are strong feelings. The removal of trees would weaken the hill and the pressure of the enormous homes above over time would increase the downward pressure on that said hill. Regardless of what was going on when they were zoned and permitted by the city. And I disagree that they are holding the hillside in place. Possibly behind but not in front. They need to come back out and look at it again. It’s basic physics.

  • Marie December 13, 2010 (10:10 am)

    For those who may not have seen this, I posted an article just after the slide on Beach Drive last winter, discussing the issue of trees and mudslides. You can read it here: http://www.whereiamnow.net/2010/02/trees-and-mudslides.html There is a lot of misinformation about what does and does not contribute to slides. During the 90s, I learned a lot about this in my landscape design/consulting practice. I’ve tried to separate fact from fiction here and hope it helps people understand what happens and avoid further problems.

  • Nulu December 13, 2010 (11:39 am)

    I hope “2” can follow the link to Marie’s thoughtful and educated post. It only pertains to trees but correctly dispels the ignorance of some of these posts.
    I only wish that geo-technical and structural engineers could weigh in with similar information that would embarrass “2’s” irrationally simplistic and ignorant, “It’s basic physics” statement.
    I feel sorry for the hillside homeowners that are subjected to such ignorant, hurtful comments.
    A little factual knowledge would help.
    Perhaps WSB could provide a factual primer available to paste in as this is a yearly issue just as those of earthquakes, power outages, snow storms and other natural disasters.

  • soosan December 13, 2010 (1:48 pm)

    Wow, not surprised that the spot just north of the barricade slid–anyone passing by in the last three months could have called it.

  • Marie December 13, 2010 (5:25 pm)

    Thanks, Nulu, for your kind comments on the post.

  • Rhonda Porter December 13, 2010 (5:48 pm)

    I’m not blaming any home owners… I do wonder about the city’s process in making sure hillsides, especially those that have been sliding for years, are safe to build on for the home owner and those situated below.

    • WSB December 13, 2010 (5:53 pm)

      I started to do some research on this before the day just went nuts and it’s been all about new stories – There is a covenant on file in connection with the permit sought last year by the owner of the property over last year’s slide. Basically, he had to sign an acknowledgment that the property is slide prone and he can’t hold the city accountable for anything if a slide happens and he suffers some loss. I do not know whether this is standard procedure for anyone seeking to develop in these areas, and will be asking DPD that when I get back to the followup on all this. This particular document does NOT say anything about the property owner’s liability for any losses to the city, just that the property owner cannot hold the city liable for anything unless it was completely the city’s fault – TR

  • Nulu December 13, 2010 (7:52 pm)

    I can confirm that the covenant is just a small easy part of the permitting process.

  • TJ December 14, 2010 (12:00 am)

    Nulu — you must be friends with the property owner or maybe even the property owner yourself. Anyone who watched that house go up will remember all the trees they chopped down on that hillside in the process. Wonder why they’ve had slides on that hill each of the last two years? Think about all those missing trees.

    WSB mentioned last year that the property owner — who also runs one of the city’s premier general contracting firms — violated the building permit and did not install the intended drainage.

    All of this contributes to the incredibly strong feelings about the abuse that’s gone on at that property — with no sign of any consideration for the danger and ugliness they’ve inflicted upon the rest of us. They clearly don’t have to drive by that hill on the way to their garage or front door, so what do they care? I find it astonishing that someone would build such an expensive home and have no interest in what their “front yard” looks like since they don’t have to look at it.

    It just adds insult to injury that the property owner runs a premier general contracting firm. Not only does he know better, but he has resources at his fingertips to correct the problem. Complete lack of action since the slide last January shows utter disrespect for his neighbors.

  • Kathleen December 14, 2010 (10:42 am)

    excerpt from the Morgan Community Assc Report. “BEACH DRIVE SLIDE: The MoCA president also had information from SDOT about what’s been going on since the mudslide that temporarily closed Beach Drive in the 6000 block in January. Bottom line, the city Department of Planning and Development is working with two Atlas Place property owners (uphill from the slide zone), 6067 and 6053, According to Deb Barker’s correspondence with SDOT, the homeowners are supposed to put in drainage pipes that will go all the way downslope to the road, instead of draining to mid-slope. The newer of the two homes, she said, was supposed to have one such pipe when it was built, but did not; the other was built so long ago that it’s impossible to know what it was originally supposed to have.”
    Now, look at the picture on page A4 of today’s Seattle Times. You can see they never did anything about extending the drainage, and what the water dumping there did.
    Huh. Water moves dirt. Duh. It’s ridiculous.

  • Nulu December 14, 2010 (3:45 pm)


  • Peter December 14, 2010 (3:45 pm)


    I am Peter Saladino. I own the house at 6067 Atlas Place SW. I am a Contractor and the son of a Landscape Architect.


    1. We followed the complete permitting process including all drainage requirements during construction. (Believe it or not the house weighs far less than the soil it replaced and stabilizes the hill).

    2. I submitted a plan in 2007 during our 1st landslide to completely mitigate and repair the whole slope (including the city’s property) under my house at my expense. This effort was thwarted by neighbors that “didn’t want to look at walls” and the city who felt it wasn’t an emergency.

    3. We did no clearing of any trees from the property to improve views. On the contrary the trees that were there gave us privacy from the street below. All vegetation that has been removed has been from landslides. We love landscaping! This is painful.

    4. I have spent more money arguing with the city about the proper repair for the hill and doing temporary fixes than it would have cost to fix the hill.

    5. My family of 6 lives in this house. It scares the hell out of us every time the soil moves. My 2 year old son’s window exploded during last years slide. I am extremely worried about my neighbors below, but my hands are tied.

    6. I personally apologize for any inconvenience or angst this landslide has caused my neighbors in West Seattle. I have tried with all of my resources and energy to have this problem fixed.

    7. We are close to a solution with the City. Thank you for your patience.

    Peter Saladino

  • Nulu December 14, 2010 (5:57 pm)

    “Now, look at the picture on page A4 of today’s Seattle Times. You can see they never did anything about extending the drainage, and what the water dumping there did.
    Huh. Water moves dirt. Duh. It’s ridiculous.

    Comment by Kathleen”

    Priceless Kathleen!

    Please look at the third picture of this WSB piece. It was taken days before the Seattle Times photo and it clearly shows the drain pipes exposed above the slide.

    Kathleen also quotes Deb Barker’s on a MoCA meeting report to claim that, “was supposed to have one such pipe when it was built, but did not.”
    If Kathleen had read the WSB piece and followed the link to DPD permits she could see,
    Of note here and contradicting Deb Barker is, “CONVEY TEMP STORMWATER VIA SURFACE-MOUNTED LINE FROM NEAR PIPE BREAK WITH MINIMAL EXCAVATION.” Please notice “pipe break” which is different than no pipe. I would guess from the DPD that there was a pipe, but it broke. I hope Deb Barker could clear this up and I will email her.
    Also myself and others have pointed out that the City and County GIS maps show a public right of way where the slide occurred.

    None of these facts get in the way of Kathleen’s ignorant, hurtful rant, “You can see they never did anything about extending the drainage, and what the water dumping there did.
    Huh. Water moves dirt. Duh. It’s ridiculous.”

    TJ falsely weighs in against me personally with, “Nulu — you must be friends with the property owner or maybe even the property owner yourself.”
    Wrong, as the property owner’s post confirms, Nulu is not the property owner.
    Nulu does not know and has never met the property owner.
    Nulu does not work for the property owner, his company or any other company.
    Nulu just felt sorry for the callous disregard of facts and the hurtful way this family is being portrayed.
    Nulu is saddened by the load of nasty mis-statements made by TJ.
    How would you like to be treated this way?
    I hope that some of you can muster an apology to Mr. Saladino and his family.
    They have been wronged.

  • steve December 14, 2010 (6:14 pm)

    I appreciate the owner’s willingness to comment on this blog. It’s amazing how this type of incident brings out so many uninformed and inaccurate speculations/comments. Several assume the development has caused the hill to slide. Those posters have not provided any proof supporting those statements. I doubt anybody making those statements understands what it takes to build a house on a “critical” site. The costs and time associated in planning, engineering, gaining city approvals are high and requirements are stringent. The engineering is provided by qualified geotechnical and structural engineers. I especially don’t understand the “tree” comments on this blog. If you live in a building chances are tree(s) were removed to make room for its construction, not mention trees probably supplied most of the materials.

    I understand the owner’s frustration in working with the city. I’ve found the city departments usually great to work with, but when there are unusual circumstances it can become very difficult and slow. The city is understandably not geared for those types of situations even though seemingly reasonable solutions may exist.

  • TJ December 14, 2010 (11:17 pm)

    Mr. Saladino,

    Thank you *so* much for taking the time to share all of these details. I don’t want to waste any time in apologizing for making what are obviously some very incorrect statements and accusations. I know how difficult it can be to deal with the City on these matters and am very sorry to hear how difficult this has been for your family. I am sorry that I was misinformed and for any additional harm I caused by propagating that misinformation. There has been little information available about the status of your hillside repairs, and what little there has been has apparently been incorrect, leading to the sense of frustration conveyed earlier. I am glad to hear that you all remain safe and hope that the City works with you to conclude this smoothly and without any additional stress for you and your family.

  • Mike December 29, 2010 (12:33 pm)

    I own the home at 6031 Beach Dr SW, directly below the slide area of the Saladino property on Atlas Pl. I have read the WS blog occasionally, and can’t help but notice all the “expert” opinions being voiced about the Beach Dr. slid. A recent post prompts the following comments to clarify a few stated “facts”.

    I will try and separate my comments into fact and opinion.

    I have lived here since 1975, before any of the newer homes on Atlas Pl. were built. I have read the Seattle Landslide Study and am well aware of the history of slides below Atlas Pl, going back to the 1920s. There are several natural springs in that hillside. That said, since I have lived here, from my viewpoint there has been no noticeable movement on the hillside above me prior to 2007, when construction was underway on the Saladino site and the first slide occurred. That is a fact. There was a small slide in 1997, to the south of the Saladino property, but the cause was attributed to some blockage of a drainage stream on the adjacent property due to activity from those property owners. All these slides are obviously caused by heavy rainfall. To be able to quantify excessive rainfall amounts which might be contributory to a slide, I wanted to check the measured rainfall from both that first slide in 2007 and also last January (2009), and compare it to historical rainfall amount since 1975, to see if the recent amounts were larger than in previous years.

    I obtained daily rainfall records at SeaTac since 1975, and reviewed the rainfall levels in November, December and January for each year. I tabulated monthly amounts and more notably the amount which fell in short term (3-10) day periods, to see how recent years rainfall compared to the past 35 years, and ranked them into top 10 events. The slide which occurred in Dec., 2007, ranked 9th on the list, with 5.6 inches (however, 3.8 inches fell in a single day). Ranked #1 was Nov. 2006 (10.95 inches), ranked #2 was Nov. 1979 (8.5 inches), and ranked #3 was Nov. 1998 (8.4 inches). For comparison, in Jan. of last year, when the second slide occurred, we had 4.7 inches over a 12 day period (ranking it 15th), and this year 4.6 inches. In my opinion, once the hillside was weakened in 2007, a “fault” opened and the hill was now vulnerable to lesser amounts of rainfall to cause additional sliding, and has now progressed further to the north. Whether the slide below the Saladino property was caused solely by that construction, or a combination of cumulative building on Atlas Pl and Atlas Pl drainage issues (natural drainage patterns have perhaps been altered), no one can say for sure. But it is a fact that for the past 35 years we have had many significant rainfall events, and the hill did not slide until December 2007, following substantial construction on that site. Coincidence? In my opinion, I don’t think so.

    After the slide in 2007, Mr. Saladino has stated, “ I submitted a plan in 2007 during our 1st landslide to completely mitigate and repair the whole slope (including the city’s property) under my house at my expense. This effort was thwarted by neighbors that “didn’t want to look at walls” and the city who felt it wasn’t an emergency”.
    There is more to that statement than is simply stated here. He had discussions with the City, but his plan involved having the City vacate the Gordon Pl right of way (which the City was unwilling to do for a private property owner), and there was no supporting strucutral or geo-tech engineering data provided to substantiate the construction of the retaining walls. No formal plan for formal review was ever submitted. To his credit, he did offer cover the cost of his proposal, which is substantial. The neighbors (including my wife and I) met with Mr. Saladino after he had met with the City and we asked several questions regarding the structural design and integrity of the proposed retaining walls, about what landscaping might accompany such a plan, would there be any additional fill behind the walls, drainage issues, etc. Some of the neighbors were very concerned about safety and were very much in favor of retention walls. In my opinion, his plan was not turned down because of some disapproving neighbors, but because of the complexity of the land use issues and not providing the City adequate geo-tech and structural engineering data to support it. The City was not prepared to hand wave an approval. There are always two sides to a story and in general, the City chooses not to discuss negotiations with private parties in public. Hence, we have now had nearly three years of negotiations.

    There were some comments in the blog about temporary drainage conduits. Following the slide last January (2010), five new temporary drains were installed to direct water from the hillside down to the storm grates on Beach Dr (total of 6). Prior to the slide, I sent an e-mail to the City notifying them that the one to the north (from 6053 Atlas Pl.) was working as intended, but the other 4 of these drains were not working at all, there was no water running from them. They were not working as intended per DPD request, so water continued to run onto the hillside.

    I comment on these not to focus on blame or point the finger, but because I felt there needed to be some additional information to clarify some of the statements in the blog.

    Which brings us to the current situation. We can’t turn the clock backwards. We are where we are, and we now need to move forward positively. Now a third slide has occurred, and still no visible plan to mitigate. The neighborhood needs a permanent, safe solution. As I understand now, Mr. Saladino has applied for a permit to utilize the Gordon Pl. right of way to build a retaining wall(s) which crosses both his property and the right of way, one which actually follows the slope of the hill rather than is limited to property lines. That is a positive step. I hope the City and Mr. Saladino can find a common solution that will benefit not only Mr. Saladino and the City, but also Mr. Saladino’s neighbors on Atlas Pl., the residents who live below the hillside, and all those who use Beach Dr SW on a daily basis. Even though this has taken a frustratingly long time, it is important that a proper solution be obtained. What we don’t need is a quick fix to come sliding down the hill because it was improperly engineered, i.e. structural pilings if necessary. We continue to be paitent.

    I can only hope the existing eco-block wall on the lower part of the hill on Beach Dr. SW, in the City right of way, are temporary in nature. It has grown to 345 feet long, is unsightly, eliminates parking, and blocks much of the drainage on the east side of Beach Dr. SW which in turn results in additional water and mud draining across to the west side of the street. The current slide now also covers the fire hydrant that services local residents. There are several areas in Seattle, where the City has built retention walls in the right of way adjacent to the street to keep the street clear from slides. I hope an integrated plan emerges which will secure not only the upper hill, but also the lower hill at street level.

Sorry, comment time is over.