Beach Drive slides spawn another suit (and draws choppers)

Last night, KING 5 aired that report with the latest on the Beach Drive mudslide/wet-road mess – a lawsuit filed by more than two dozen property owners. Today, we’re following up (as are other TV stations, which is what choppers were doing over the area this past hour, thanks for the calls and notes!). We’ve reported on the dispute before – here and here – involving the mudslides in the 6000 block of Beach Drive. The neighbors had warned in January (as noted in this WSB report) that they might hire legal counsel, because they were upset the city didn’t seem to be doing enough to address the situation, even with legal action (reported here) against upslope property owner Peter Saladino, whose 2007-built project they blame for much of the trouble.

Now they have, according to the court documents – which you can read here – 28 property owners filed a claim with the city for damages, and, saying it went nowhere after two months, followed it up with a lawsuit filed two weeks ago against the city and Saladino. The suit alleges, among other things, “Each of Plaintiffs’ residential properties has been adversely affected by the ongoing instability of the slope between Atlas Place SW and Beach Drive SW,” and that “Defendants have caused or perpetuated a trespass by allowing mud, debris and water to invade and damage the Plaintiffs’ properties.” They’re seeking unspecified damages, though according to KING’s report, they’re hoping to work out a deal with the city rather than taking the case to trial (which wouldn’t happen before next year). Their pre-lawsuit efforts included speaking to the City Council Transportation Committee (chaired by West Seattle-residing Councilmember Tom Rasmussen) last January (coverage here).

15 Replies to "Beach Drive slides spawn another suit (and draws choppers)"

  • wsgolfer May 25, 2011 (12:59 pm)

    I’m not a lawyer, but this seems like a reasonable complaint. The owner of the property removed a large number of trees solely to improve their (already awesome) view. These trees undoubtedly helped keep the erosion on this critical slope at a minium for years. The year they got removed, severe erosion began.

  • Neighbor May 25, 2011 (1:42 pm)

    If the city approved the project uphill and the geotechs signed off on why aren’t they libel? In landscaping there is a saying that the last person on the hill is responsible.

  • kate May 25, 2011 (1:43 pm)

    Every time I ride by that slide area it infuriates me. Why do some wealthy property owners have to be so greedy for more? I’ve been riding by the “poisoned for a view” sign near Salty’s and that makes my blood boil, too. Sad that a few people with so much wealth have to wreck things for others and make such problems.

  • Elizagrace May 25, 2011 (2:35 pm)

    So maddening. It is true, if the city signed off on the permits, you would think they would be liable.

    However, if there was no allowance for clearing (which I can’t imagine they would have allowed) and the property owner cleared the hill of the trees anyway then it would make sense that they are responsible.

    So, who dun it?

  • Lura Ercolano May 25, 2011 (4:07 pm)

    Before you assign blame, keep in mind that there is major earth movement going on for 1/2 mile north and south along the road. It isn’t like it’s just by one house, or where one patch of trees were cut.

    I don’t think the city caused this, but it seems part of the function of government to oversee a solution.

    I don’t know what all the lawyers have in mind, but I could logically see it proceeding to a settlement where some sort of local improvement district is created, and the 28 property owners each get assessed an average $100,000 (proportional to property value), and the city street department matches that, and for 5.6 million dollars the hillside gets a long-term well-stabilized solution that will last for 30 years. Some of the money could be re-couped by subdividing the stabilized hill.

  • B-squared May 25, 2011 (4:09 pm)

    For fun, the link below is a USGS Geological unit map of Seattle. The slide area on Beach Drive is identified as “Lawton Clay” with “Landslide Deposits” on top. I recently learned that the neighborhood is called “Spring Hill”. Probably not the best place to build a trophy home. Removing vegetation would only be salt in the wound i suspect.

    • WSB May 25, 2011 (4:14 pm)

      Love geology and backstory; thanks for the link, B. The Junction area in general included “Spring Hill,” from which the name of the well-regarded restaurant, well, springs … TR

  • NKB May 25, 2011 (4:50 pm)

    Did the owner use his own construction company to build the house?

  • madashell May 25, 2011 (4:56 pm)

    Since the 30’s? I’ll tell that the construction of the luxury home by the owner of Charter Construction started the major destabilization of a hill that stood there for over sixty years after the Beach Drive widening!

  • amom May 25, 2011 (7:16 pm)

    This isn’t the first time the City granted permits for new construction without due diligence. The home behind us was built on a lot with old-growth trees, owl nests and also on a steep hill. The land was cleared without a permit, the work began without a permit and without liscenced workers installing the foundations. The contractor had his money and the city didn’t care about the land, the erosion and the possible negative effects on the neighborhood. Are you surprised that since we’ve had flooding on our property that was never a problem? Or that the city didn’t fine the company for building without a permit? Or that they continued to grant permits to a company, knowing that they participate in such practices?

  • w.s. maverick May 25, 2011 (7:27 pm)

    when you live on a hill what do expect to happen. look at california

  • sliders May 25, 2011 (8:25 pm)

    Every time I drive this road in the rain I worry that this slide will finally come down fully. I would be infuriated if I was a home owner. It’s sad also to see all those mutilated trees.

  • Mike May 27, 2011 (10:37 pm)

    When the people up top slide down (like those in Magnolia are dealing with now in their multi million dollar homes literally hanging over Palisades), then they’ll know what bad building practices can do for you.

  • LC May 28, 2011 (11:51 am)

    This isn’t simply a matter of the City signing off on building permits. The slide was initiated by Saladino cutting an access road into the bank without a permit. His construction blocked a spring (which he must have known about). Blocked spring + compromised bank + no retaining wall = big mud slide. If the spring had been allowed to run naturally this may not have occurred. Also, if the City had allowed certain property owners to top large maples that were leaning out from the bank over Beach Dr, so that the maples could grow as bushes instead of top-heavy trees, their root system would have continued to stabilize the bank. The City was warned by property owners about these trees multiple times, and eventually the trees did topple when the bank became saturated. The combination of these two situations caused destruction that was foreseeable and avoidable. Both parties are absolutely to blame. I am so glad I no longer live on Atlas and feel awful for the property owners who were my neighbors and are having to live through this.

  • soosan June 16, 2011 (11:33 pm)

    I ran down Atlas the other day–there seems to be a new house (with a large foundation) going in directly above the slide, just about five houses north of what we call “Hubris House.” How can that be happening?

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