Beach Drive slides: Neighbors disappointed, might hire a lawyer

Beach Drive resident Mike Winter, who lives across the street from the repeat-slide zone that was discussed by the City Council Transportation Committee on Tuesday, kept his promise to summarize last night’s closed meeting between city officials and neighbors. He just sent the summary – including word that the neighbors, disappointed, are looking into hiring a lawyer. Full report after the jump:

Last night 21 community members from Atlas Pl and Beach Dr met with City officials at our home to discuss the “Beach Dr SW landslide” situation. Attending from the City were Diane Sugimura and Susan Chang from DPD, and Peter Hahn and Mary Rutherford from SDOT. The community’s goal was to listen to what the City had to say, determine what the fix for the hillside might be, and the timetable to accomplish it. I stated we were looking for a comprehensive plan to fix the entire hillside, which addressed both private property and the undeveloped Gordon Pl. right of way. We also stated we wanted to stop pointing fingers and work together to solve this problem.

The City gave a little background as to the pending action against the upslope property owner, but gave no real additional information from what was said in the City Council meeting the previous day. After much discussion, it became essentially clear that the pending suit against the property owner, which has now been delayed at least another 2-3 months at a minimum, only addressed the specific code violations named in the suit, and the amount of damages to be paid in fines. There is nothing in the “negotiations” which actually address the plan to fix the hill. We have been under the false impression that these negotiations would finally produce an integrated plan. To our great dismay, it was only addressing the upslope property owner.

A comment was made that for a solution, which would involve the entire hillside; a complete geo-tech survey of the entire area, covering private property and the public right of way would be needed. A question was raised if the City had ever done a comprehensive geo-tech survey of all the properties involved. The answer was no, only some partial surveys done by some private property owners.

As the discussion continued, it became clear the City could not satisfy the goals we stated at the beginning of the meeting.

To summarize the meeting;

At this point the City has no plan to do anything proactive to fix the hillside, especially with a comprehensive, integrated plan.

The City has no plans to do anything about stabilizing the Gordon Pl right of way.

When asked if there was a plan to remove the ugly, messy, 345 foot eco-block wall, the City stated the purpose of that wall was to keep further mud and debris from flowing on the street and closing Beach Dr. When asked whether the City considered this as a possible permanent solution, the answer was yes. They have no plan to move the wall back to their right of way east of the curb.

Since there is no plan to do anything, there is obviously no timetable either.

It appears that all the City is prepared to do is hunker down and wait for the lawsuit to proceed, and only react as necessary with band-aid solutions.

At the close of the meeting, I stated the community is looking into hiring an attorney who specializes in landslides and water law, notably Karen Willie.

We’ll be pursuing city reaction and other followups. Here’s our update from yesterday with a link to the documents in the aforementioned city lawsuit.

17 Replies to "Beach Drive slides: Neighbors disappointed, might hire a lawyer"

  • I. Ponder January 27, 2011 (4:14 pm)

    “We also stated we wanted to stop pointing fingers and work together to solve this problem.”

    That’s very civil and all. Good luck with that. On the other hand, the city (also known as the taxpayers) should not be the party responsible for paying for this mess. When people build on steep unstable slopes in the belief that they can engineer stability, they are responsible when their grand scheme goes wrong. The construction that caused the mess no doubt cost several million dollars. They need to spend whatever additional $ it takes to fix the damage they caused. That’s the “true cost” of the house. Wasn’t there some construction bond or insurance?

  • CB January 27, 2011 (5:37 pm)

    Good to know nobody is going to do anything.

  • NotMe January 27, 2011 (6:02 pm)

    I. Ponder has a point…

  • sophistatiki January 27, 2011 (6:55 pm)

    I’m sure they will do something when that multi million dollar house slides down the hill and crushes someone

  • Been There January 27, 2011 (7:41 pm)

    @ I. Ponder – I am thinking the same thing. Taxpayers should not be on the hook for construction/engineering mistakes. I am glad DPD and SDOT are standing firm.

  • Nulu January 27, 2011 (8:22 pm)

    I ponder who is responsible for all of those times the hill has slid before, the time before “the construction that caused the recent mess”?

    I ponder what the graders carving Beach Drive out of this bluff a century ago thought?

    I ponder how I Ponder knows precisely what and who is to blame.

    And I ponder if anyone ponders before a hurtful acusation?

  • Mn January 27, 2011 (8:47 pm)

    Agree 100% ponder
    Well said

  • cj January 27, 2011 (8:55 pm)

    I have to assume that somebody sold the property to someone. Is there no type of evaluation of land for building safety before deeds are passed around?

  • Moose2 January 27, 2011 (9:16 pm)

    Good points by I Ponder. If this was caused by private action (as the lawsuit implies), then surely it is up to the person responsible to pay for repairs, rather than the taxpayer. This would seem to validate the need for very strict controls of what gets built on steep slopes, to protect those around (above & below) the construction.

  • Lorelee January 27, 2011 (9:45 pm)

    I ponder- Right on.

  • li'l_gal January 27, 2011 (9:47 pm)

    Nulu, I didn’t see where Iponder was blaming anyone but the home owner/builder that decided to buy a house on a steep hill. Now those folks want the rest of us to pay for his repairs, too?
    My house is on a flat surface with no hillside nearby… yet it’s sinking on one corner and doors “stick.” My hardwook floors (solid oak) are cracking apart in the center, and you can feel a definite decline as you head to the back of the home. Do the taxpayers get to pay for my house, too?

  • Lura January 27, 2011 (11:03 pm)

    Well it is fortunate that this board has so many PhD geotechnical experts and civil engineers involved already. Their expertise – freely offered – will surely help hold down the costs of the fix.
    Thank you Nulu for bothering to post. I am sure it gets frustrating when so many responders are totally sure what caused/is causing the damage.
    This keeps getting described as the slide in the 6000-6200 part of Beach Drive. What about the huge 1997 slide in the 5900 block? It’s still being dealt with – the house getting a new foundation is due to that slide.
    Even if recent construction did worsen the hill, legal action will have a hard time assigning culpability when that earlier slide was less than a block away.

  • wsnative January 27, 2011 (11:32 pm)

    Caveat emptor………

  • Upset January 28, 2011 (9:04 am)

    I really hope that Mr. Winter’s summary makes it to Tom Rasmussen asap. Tom’s a great councilmember to have on our side, and at the Transportation Committee meeting he seemed genuinely interested in making sure there are no more delays to a real problem.

    Mr. Winter, have you contacted Tom with your concerns after the meeting? It would be a crime to wait to the executive session at the end of the month.

    I know how terrible DPD and SDOT are to work with, but even I am shocked that they have no plan to ensure the safety of the hillside and clean up the mess.

    What would happen if we all stopped paying our property taxes? Surely they wouldn’t let *us* get away with it. Why aren’t they required to hold up their end of the bargain?

  • Upset January 28, 2011 (9:07 am)

    Oh and has anyone else thought about applying some strong neighborhood pressure directly to the property owner on Atlas?

    Nulu, don’t waste your time commenting. I’ve stopped reading your posts, except for a good laugh, as I assume many of us have.

  • Been There January 28, 2011 (11:05 am)

    All the affected surrounding nabes would probably be better off if instead of pooling their financial resources for a lawsuit, they pulled together and chipped in $10, 20, 30K+ each and used that money to try and repair the situation to save their properties and said property values. I say this as someone who owns a house in an area designated by DPD as an Environmentally Critical Area; steep sloped and potential landslide.

  • Nulu January 28, 2011 (12:15 pm)

    Been There makes sense, but it might have been a while since Been There dealt with DPD’s regularly revised Critical Areas Code.

    I can understand how people become upset when they realize that there are no easy solutions.
    They had just demanded and immediately received an unprecedented visit and private meeting with the Heads of DPD and SDOT.
    Now they are upset the anticipated help did not materialize.
    They are living at the bottom of a notorious (15 slides!) sliding bluff and are upset and looking for someone to blame.
    They are realizing that the city nor the last guy to join there sliding club has a solution (at least not a politically viable one).

    Check out DPD’s map showing an incredible 15 slides that have occurred on this hillside (

    Perhaps some of the upset people have looked at the DPD map to realize that their own property is included in the Critical Area Designation for Steep 40% Slope or Possible Slide.

    What does that mean?

    In the short term, those with property that includes or is close to a Critical Area are not allowed to move a wheelbarrow of dirt without a technical violation of the sort your uphill guy, responsible party/home destroyer received.
    How does one get a permit to move that wheelbarrow of mud? You must apply and then get a permit which first requires a 2′ contour topographical survey stamped by a licensed surveyor. Next you will need soils testing which requires a licensed geotechnical engineer supervising multiple drilling of soil core samples. The core samples are labeled, analyzed and stored, before the engineer writes and signs off on the soils report. But wait, we are in the time frame between Halloween and April Fools. A rainy season extension must be drafted and all work inspected and reported on by the geotechnical engineer. These costly steps are just the beginning.

    In the long term the only solution, is the one that is not being discussed because it would be suicide by any official.

    The long term solution would be for the city to take all of the critical areas by eminent domain.
    In this location the city would need to acquire all of the homes and properties from 20 feet clear of the top of the Critical Area to all the way down to Puget Sound. All of Atlas Place would be vacated and Beach Drive would also be closed for at least 1/2 mile or as far as you can find those galloping sidewalks and roads.

    After taking over the entire Critical Area, the city would have a bluff simular to those at Lincoln Park that will continue to slough and slide.

    I believe everyone can find a reason to be upset.

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