Beach Drive slide fight: ‘Potential solutions’ being explored

(Photo taken this morning by WSB’s Patrick Sand)
With the next rainy season right around the corner, a drilling crew was sighted in the Beach Drive slide zone last week, and several people e-mailed WSB to ask if we knew what they were up to. You’ll recall that the fight over who’s to blame for the slides and the resulting road damage and home dangers is now part of two lawsuits – one filed by the city in 2009 against an upslope homeowner, and a newer one filed by nearby homeowners earlier this year (here’s our May report). Online files on the latter suit reveal a counter-claim recently filed by the upslope homeowner; we checked with the city on the overall status of the case, and here’s the response received from the City Attorney’s Office:

While neither lawsuit has been resolved to date, the parties have agreed that additional information is needed to determine next steps and develop an appropriate fix. The work that occurred last week involved drilling in several locations on the hillside to allow engineering analyses of potential solutions.

That’s all they can say since the matter is still “in litigation.” Meantime, we have an inquiry out to SDOT to ask if any road work is planned before winter, given that whomever is to blame, it’s indisputable that the road alongside the slide remains in bad shape (and wintry conditions like ice – remember this? – compound the problem).

ADDED 5:48 PM: SDOT’s Rick Sheridan answered our inquiry (the short answer is “no”):

In mid-July SDOT crews completed asphalt resurfacing on Beach Drive SW between SW Snoqualmie Street and SW Jacobsen Road (the 4600 block), just beyond the slide area. That work was made possible by the mayor and city council directing property sale funds to spot paving.

The roadway to the south, by the slide area, is in need of full pavement reconstruction. However, repairs in that area will need to wait until the slope is stabilized around the 6300 to 6500 blocks.

In addition, that section of Beach Drive must compete with busier streets in West Seattle and elsewhere for scarce paving dollars. Two examples of other streets that carry much heavier traffic volumes and are competing for the same paving funds are Delridge Way SW, which is scheduled for paving in 2014, and the south end of California Avenue SW, for which there is no funding available at this time.

22 Replies to "Beach Drive slide fight: 'Potential solutions' being explored"

  • Alki Area August 31, 2011 (2:26 pm)

    Great! Maybe then they can FINALLY actually pave that horrible stretch of road which is currently just series of potholes and low spots with a line painted down the center.

  • nulu August 31, 2011 (2:56 pm)

    The drilling was likely to retrieve core samples of the hillside to help geo-technical engineers determine the stability of the hillside.

    The fact that this hillside still has unresolved sliding issues after a hundred years of engineering and drainage work illustrates that this is not another simple case of blaming the last person to build uphill, who I have absolutely no connection to.

    I wonder if the city was doing the core sampling on its right of way between the new house of the 2009 unresolved lawsuit and Beach Drive?

  • WestSeagirl August 31, 2011 (3:07 pm)

    Well I hope Peter Saladino owner of the “upslode home” and president of Charter Construction is held accountable for the damage he caused when he clear cut the trees for better view. He may say he did all the right things but clearly he did not.

  • Nulu August 31, 2011 (5:41 pm)

    “WestSeagirl’s” comment is so ignorant of the facts about trees holding up hillsides that is difficult to respond.

    Her personal attack and blame wholly on one party is shameful particularly in the context of this hillside’s notorious history of dozens of slides.

    “Alki Area” may not have been around Beach Drive long enough to know just how many times that road has been repaved…And after a few years, the road will again start galloping.

  • Noelle August 31, 2011 (5:44 pm)

    I hope they find a solution soon! It would be awesome to get that hill side in good shape, before an earthquake makes it an even bigger mess.

  • dhg August 31, 2011 (5:53 pm)

    Don’t be nasty, Nulu. That part of the road used to be a green shady oasis on hot days when biking between Alki and Lincoln Park. The trees were very mature and extended branches across the road. After construction above the roadway the trees were thinned, sliced and finally failed. It did not look anything like a mere coincidence that the instability became severe after houses above it were built.

  • NotMe August 31, 2011 (5:54 pm)

    (yawn) Oh, not THIS again…

  • Alki Area August 31, 2011 (7:51 pm)

    Nulu is a bit hostile, I take it is involved in the legal dispute (sounds like in the high side).

    I’ve lived here for decades, so just let the adults talk here ok. Yes they’ve patched and paved that road, but not repaired it significantly in decades. Just small patches and surface asphalt despite the fact that the hillside it sits on is sliding away (the sidewalk on the west side had completely fallen away for years, then the road cracked and started separating. It’s a mess. If you’d lived here long enough you’d know that.

    Yes, the tree’s are the cause. The hill wasn’t stable (like many) to begin with, but clearing the trees vastly accelerated the process. Go take a geology class at the UW and learn about land management and soil stability. Trees have VERY deep roots compared to grass, moss and light shrugs and are the PRIMARY stabilizer for hillsides.

  • madashell August 31, 2011 (8:10 pm)

    I’ve lived in WS over fifty years. That slope’s NEVER been that bad. The “castle” upslope was a gamble. Guess who’ll lose. The taxpayer.

  • Beach Drive Runner August 31, 2011 (8:11 pm)

    In the 25-plus years that hillside has been along my almost-daily running route, there was NEVER a problem there until the trees were removed. Along with the shade and the many birds, the stability of that hillside was lost to all of us when the trees were removed.

  • Nulu August 31, 2011 (8:17 pm)

    yawn again!
    I hope “dhg” will share this information and cause of the hillside sliding with Seattle DPD. With this expert testimony and novel new information, the city can settle this 100 year old problem and stick it to the homeowner.

  • Les Treall August 31, 2011 (8:27 pm)

    Thanks Nulu, you are right. Trees don’t stop landslides, they just go along for the ride. Landslides occur below the root balls of trees. They can reduce erosion, but they can actually cause slides. The city keeps putting out the misinformation that they prevent slides but it is just a political excuse to prevent development and keep the green.
    We would all be better off if they would force people that want to build on steep slopes to remove all folige and stabilze the site before constructing the buildings, then when construcion is complete trees can be planted and they would have a chance to stay for awhile.

  • Chris August 31, 2011 (9:10 pm)

    so why build there in the first place? I don’t want to pay for someone else’s stupidity.

  • Been There August 31, 2011 (9:39 pm)

    Celebrating 150 Years, Architectural History of West Seattle’s North End by Brooke V. Best has a photo of that stretch of Beach Drive taken WAY back in the day and in the photo there is a house sliding down the hill and the road is closed. It looked like a complete disaster. As Nulu has tried to repeatedly to point out, this is not a new situation, geologically speaking. I just returned the book to the library. It is a fascinating read.

  • WS commuter September 1, 2011 (9:41 am)

    There is a lot of over simplifying here by Nulu, et al. This was a surficial slide … not a rotational failure.

    Do high slopes in the PNW fail for any number of reasons? Yes. But they DO fail – specifically – when surface features such as trees and shrubbery are removed. Do I know that the tree cutting, etc. caused the slide? I don’t. But I know where I’d bet my money.

    The upslope owners could not have recieved competent geotechnical advice to remove that vegetation. They were almost surely advised not to do exactly what they did.

    And to be sure, the solution will probably be a very expensive soldier pile wall – think $400K-$500K, at a minimum.

  • m September 1, 2011 (9:48 am)

    I’m with WestSea Girl on this one…whatever to Saladino…He’s the one who insisted on building in a slide zone.

  • nulu September 1, 2011 (10:03 am)

    Good question “Chris”.

    Why would the city build a road at the bottom of sloughing, constantly sliding unstable steep slope?
    Didn’t they know that the hill would just keep sliding and the road would forever need reconstruction and repair?

    Why would anyone build an expensive waterfront home at the base of a known sliding hillside?
    Why would such a homeowner expect the hill to stop what it has been doing for thousands of years? Why would they expect the city and “Chris” (and me) to pay for “someone else’s stupidity”?

    But why build in the first place?
    It’s the views of Puget Sound and the Olympics.
    It’s a dirty little secret acknowledged by any realtor and more importantly by the market. People love “unobstructed views” and let their money reveal the truth.

    Personally, as I have stated here in the past, I have no financial interest in this hillside. I do not know or work for any of the people involved, nor do I own any land there.

    I am simply appalled at the level of ignorance expressed by some here on what is certainly a long standing, complex and technical issue. It should be embarrassing enough to write from such naive beliefs, but to personally name and vilify others is too much.

    In the late sixties as a Denny Junior High student my friends and I were recruited by a homeowner to spend a weekend digging out mud that had slid into his house on Beach Drive below Atlas. As long as I, and anyone else can remember, that section of Beach Drive has had instability.

  • Chris September 1, 2011 (8:29 pm)

    Nulu, I am not sure what you are responding to using my name. I was talking about the staircase in the home that doesn’t have a railing. I’ve listened to countless homeowner’s lamenting about not want to put a railing on their staircase for all kinds of aesthetic reasons regardless of the potential substantial human risk to people using the stairs.

    I think that reflects a general homeowner’s attitude of disregard for safety that they use all kinds of rationals to defend. Maybe you don’t agree with my opinion but if you are going to respond to me by name at least respond to the point I was making.

  • Nulu September 1, 2011 (9:18 pm)

    “so why build there in the first place? I don’t want to pay for someone else’s stupidity.
    Comment by Chris — August 31, 11 9:10 pm”-

    Stairs? Railing? Huh? What?!

  • heylady September 2, 2011 (10:42 am)

    I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said “Trees ARE the view”. I love that!

  • Nulu September 2, 2011 (12:20 pm)

    I applaud those that value trees above all else, “Trees ARE the view”. There is available “tree view only” land in our region and the price is far less than more marketable multi-view parcels. If “heylady” had followed that car home, I hope it would have led to just such a neighborhood.

    I also appreciate those that value the multi-views that truly set Seattle apart: the Trees, the Mountains, the Water and the Sky. These elements combine to make something unique. Seattle people express the desirability of this uniqueness in their willingness to pay higher prices for homes that enjoy our unique multi-views.

  • Fed Up September 2, 2011 (4:20 pm)

    I am so fed up with this blight and danger to our community. Saladino claimed to be the victim here on this blog in a “pity me” post last year sometime; all signs are that he remains defiant and sees no obligation to rectifying this mess. Now the troubles extend far past the hillside to the road as well. How come the rest of us homeowners are raked over the coals by DPD to the letter of the code, but people like Saladino can do whatever they want? I don’t understand why the city was not interested or able to enforce the code and violations when it was ignored.

    Nulu, I’m not interested in your reply.

Sorry, comment time is over.