Monthly Archives: January 2010

Spirit, xkcd.com

A tragicomic comic look at the amazing story of the Spirit Mars Rover.

xkcd.com Spirit via Boing Boing.

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Clock is Ticking for 320 Esplanade

While work progresses and the future of 330 Esplanade seems more secure, a neighboring building which experienced a very similar dirt fall awaits seemingly necessary attention.

According to this San Francisco Examiner story, “Chances of saving Pacifica apartment building increasing” the superintendent of the teams working on 330 Esplanade, Tony Fortunato, said Sunday that even though the cliff continues to erode, its chances of lasting and keeping the apartment building above are improving.

Things are going well. I’m starting to feel better every day.

Although saving 330 Esplanade from destruction is a necessary first step, it will not be sufficient for Pacifica to re-allow residence of the building. Pacifica Building Department official Doug Rider’s complete set of requirements has not been released to the press, but he has made it known that a number of additional steps need to be taken for future resident and seismic safety.

Meanwhile 320 Esplanade is partially evacuated following a significant bluff failure on Thursday January 21. Residents observed that much of 320 Esplanade actually has less bluff top remaining than 330 had when it was evacuated.

Fortunato reported that his company, Engineered Soil Repairs, has not been hired to work on 320 Esplanade Ave. Commenting on the dire progress of continued erosion beneath 330 Esplanade, Fortunato said,

Time definitely isn’t on their side.

Fortunato went on to say that his company’s next project will likely be to save and repair Lands End, a public access point down the road from the Esplanade Avenue apartments where pounding waves are also causing erosion.

Read more at the San Francisco Examiner: Chances of saving Pacifica apartment building increasing. See the related KTVU-TV 2 (Fox) story Apartments On Eroding Cliff Could Be Saved.

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January 27 – Work Progresses Behind 330 Esplanade


Crews continued to work long hours to drill 50′ steel rods (“soil nails”) into the bluff under 330 Esplanade. Work started at the top of the bluff in order to anchor the most fragile, crucial part of the bluff first, and to make it safe for workers lower down. In this picture taken from a KPIX-TV 5 (CBS) video you can see the major parts of the project:

  • Crew Basket. The crew is hanging from a big crane, extended out over the vacant building. We wonder if that crane is allowed to operate above an occupied building, such as neighboring 320 Esplanade.
  • Drill and Grout. As the crew drills the 50′ long rods into the bluff, the hole is filled in with a cement grout.
  • Steel plates. Once the rod is embedded in the bluff with grout, the hole is capped and the bluff is anchored with a rectangular steel plate.
  • Sprayed cement. As the work progresses, the crew seals the sandy dirt face of the bluff with sprayed cement.

See all of my pictures of the Esplanade crisis:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisd2006/collections/72157622920945823/

For a complete chronology and links to many more photos see Evacuation underway at 330 Esplanade.
http://adequatebird.com/2009/12/17/evacuation-underway-at-330-esplanade/

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‘Triolet on a Line Apocryphally Attributed to Martin Luther’ by A.E. Stallings

He's a Devil in His Own Home Town

Why should the Devil get all the good tunes,
The booze and the neon and Saturday night,
The swaying in darkness, the lovers like spoons?
Why should the Devil get all the good tunes?
Does he hum them to while away sad afternoons
And the long, lonesome Sundays? Or sing them for spite?
Why should the Devil get all the good tunes,
The booze and the neon and Saturday night?

‘Triolet on a Line Apocryphally Attributed to Martin Luther’ by A.E. Stallings via Poetry Dispatch.

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Today’s word is above*

* Not a major entry today, but it

* Not a major entry today, but it’s amazing what you
can do with a spare comma.

My First Dictionary Today’s word is above*.

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Answers To Requests for Financial Assistance: No, At Least Not Today

Yesterday a long list of officials weighed in on the availability of government financial assistance for building owners along the bluffs in Pacifica. Unfortunately they all – Congresswoman Jackie Speier, the Regional FEMA Director, Pacifica’s Mayor Sue Digre and the City Council – said ‘no’, at least for now.

During the day US Congresswoman Jackie Speier convened a nearly three-hour meeting that included local officials and FEMA’s Regional Director. During the meeting they toured the site at Esplanade and afterwards Speier said it would not be eligible for Federal aid:

There really is not FEMA money available for something that is considered a pre-existing condition and this particular stretch of Esplanade has been subject to erosion for over some period of time.

In talking with another reporter, Speier said:

FEMA cannot provide aid when there’s a pre-existing condition. There also has to be a state of emergency that has to be declared at the local, state and federal level — none of which has occurred here.

Speier met with city and state representatives that reportedly said that if emergency measures have to be taken to preserve public property and residents, there’s a possibility state funds may be available.

Yesterday evening, at a regularly scheduled Pacifica City Council meeting, the city said that it was disappointed Esplanade didn’t qualify for FEMA funds but it will continue to try and find more money somewhere. Residents had hoped that the Council would declare a local state of emergency, but officials said that the situation wasn’t yet bad enough to be declared a state of emergency.

So for now the individual owners of the threatened apartment buildings on Esplanade will continue to foot the bill for the emergency work.

Sources for this story:

See all of my pictures of the Esplanade crisis:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisd2006/collections/72157622920945823/

For a complete chronology and links to many more photos see Evacuation underway at 330 Esplanade.
http://adequatebird.com/2009/12/17/evacuation-underway-at-330-esplanade/

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Neighbors on Pacifica Cliff ask City Council for Financial Help

The primary source for the following is KGO-TV 7 (ABC) Neighbors on Pacifica cliff ask City Council for help. See their video and article for the full story.

Condo owners at the Pacific View Villas complex on Palmetto Ave and some neighboring residents next to the endangered buildings on Esplanade Ave attended Monday’s Pacifica City Council meeting, and asked for financial help. There is no rock rip rap or seawall behind their properties and the bluff has eroded significantly. Unfortunately, although the menace of the erosion trending toward their properties seems clear, paying for measures to halt the erosion does not. Owners were concerned that they could not afford a remediation project. No particular estimate for the project was mentioned but figures ranging from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars were discussed.

This article does not mention the City Council’s response, but it does say that when it comes to the government helping out on this project or others in the future, there is not much the city can do. I guess we have to read between the lines for the reasons… private property not the City’s concern, overall lack of funds, etc.

This is not the first time other owners have stepped forward with erosion-related concerns on properties nearby Esplanade Ave. On December 29th, two days after the original bluff collapse and evacuation, Julia Scott in the San Mateo Times reported on the problems facing Joan Levin. Levin owns a home adjacent to the Pacific View Villas condos. See Scott’s article in the San Mateo County Times on insideBayArea.com for details: Pacifica woman ponders moving home away from eroding bluff.

Also on Monday, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, came to see the erosion first hand.

FEMA cannot provide aid when there’s a pre-existing condition. There also has to be a state of emergency that has to be declared at the local, state and federal level — none of which has occurred here.

See the video and accompanying article for discussion of why there’s no state of emergency, and to see the beautiful property that the owners are trying to protect.

See all of my pictures of the Esplanade crisis:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisd2006/collections/72157622920945823/

For a complete chronology and links to many more photos see Evacuation underway at 330 Esplanade.
http://adequatebird.com/2009/12/17/evacuation-underway-at-330-esplanade/

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Crews begin process of pasting concrete wall over cliff of Pacifica apartments

San Francisco Chronicle – SFGate, Spectators riveted as Pacifica buildings teeter

Tuesday January 26, 2010. San Mateo County Times on insideBayArea.com, Crews begin process of pasting concrete wall over cliff of Pacifica apartments, By Julia Scott

Another excellent article by Ms. Scott, but I had my doubts about whether the owner of 320 Esplanade will cooperate on extending the concrete wall behind his property. Following are some excerpts… please see her entire article for details. My thoughts about 320 Esplanade are below.

Another 20-foot-by-5-foot chunk of bluff fell away from behind 320 Esplanade on Sunday, said Fortunato. … It now appears as if the soil has started to fall out from under the building. Fortunato said that’s an illusion. Yes, the bluff is under the walkway now, but another five feet still separate it from the foundation of the apartment building.

Pacifica Building Department official Doug Rider is watching for erosion every day. He acknowledges that five feet of bluff could disappear overnight, but couldn’t really say what his criteria would be for red-tagging the rest of the apartments at 320 Esplanade. The residents at 330 Esplanade actually had more of a backyard when they were evacuated then a portion of 320 Esplanade does now. Still, Rider maintains that it is safe to live there — for now.

The owners of 320 Esplanade will almost certainly decide to extend the concrete wall onto their property as well, which would mean two construction rigs working side by side by the end of the week, said Tony Fortunato of Engineered Soil Repairs.

Here are two possible reasons I’m not sure Millard Tong, the owner of 320 and 310 Esplanade will go along with extending the concrete wall onto his property, at least not easily:

  1. The first reason is that Tong already has a permit application before the Coastal Commission for a two-phase project to shore up his buildings. Phase One was approved on April 10 2009, and the rock rip rap that was laid last summer was the result. (See the Pacifica Riptide article Coastal Commission: Esplanade Bluff and Riprap, my post April 2009 Coastal Commission Permit Approval for Rip Rap or the PDF Deputy Director’s Report, North Central Coast, April 10, 2009 (F3-4-2009).) The Decision explicitly limits the work to “Phase 1” of an existing larger project applied for under regular calendar permit 2-03-018. (See CONDITIONS OF APPROVAL item #2.) I’ve searched all over, in the Coastal Commission website, San Mateo County and elsewhere , and can’t find permit “2-03-018”.

    Although I have not seen the application myself, Phase 2 has been described as including a concrete wall rooted 15 feet below sea level to deflect the velocity of the ocean’s waves, and a concrete-and-steel stitch pier retaining wall sunk into the top of the cliff to hold the bluff together. I understand that Tong hoped to get the permit approved and planned to get the work done this summer, perhaps starting in June. (As far as I can tell a “stitch pier” is not all that different from the soil nail system being implemented now but the scale of the project may be quite different.)

    It seems to me that a project planned well in advance, to take place during the summer, would be a lot less expensive than one done on an emergency basis during the winter. Perhaps the situation has changed and now 320 (at least) is in jeopardy, or perhaps the proximity of a crisis presents an opportunity for Tong to get the permit passed by the Coastal Commission. Barring either a crisis or an opportunity, I’d bet he’ll wait.

  2. The second reason arises from something Tony Fortunato said back on December 23rd or 24th as 330 Esplanade was being evacuated. Fortunato said that it would have been necessary to evacuate 330 even if Pacifica hadn’t red-tagged it because the crane could not operate above an occupied building. If this is true, then Tong would have to house his tenants off-site during the project, or close his building entirely. Again, I don’t see him volunteering for that, at least not lightly.

I guess we can wait and see what happens – time will tell what the owners decide – but I’d really love to see that two phase permit, “2-03-018”.

See all of my pictures of the Esplanade crisis:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisd2006/collections/72157622920945823/

For a complete chronology and links to many more photos see Evacuation underway at 330 Esplanade.
http://adequatebird.com/2009/12/17/evacuation-underway-at-330-esplanade/

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Work Scheduled to Start Today – Monday 1/25/10 3:00 PM

Monday 1/25/10 3:00 PM

  • KGO-TV 7 (ABC): Chunk of eroding Pacifica cliff falls into the ocean – Wayne Freedman. Interesting to learn that crews hope to begin covering the upper part of the bluff behind 330 Esplanade with steel plates later this afternoon, and then to fill behind the plates with grout to cement the dirt in place. The plan is to insert 250 rods 50 feet horizontally into the cliff and create a giant sea wall by coating the cliff face with fiber-reinforced concrete. Two groaners in this article, at least for me:
    • How much dirt fell this morning and behind which building? I would guess it was not 320 Esplanade judging by the lack of any new “…residents nervous / moving out” type stories. “Smaller than the one last week but still worrisome.” Great video of the cliff and it’s nice to see Tony Fortunato on camera. But overall – yuck.
    • The web text accompanying the video ends with an odd sentence that needed clarification: “The rocks placed at the base of the cliff and a proposal to build a 540 foot seawall, are estimated to cost about $4 million.” Wouldn’t that long a seawall extend behind both 330 and 320 Esplanade? If so, how can the crane operate safely above the heads of the residents remaining in 320 Esplanade?
  • See also “RAW VIDEO: SKY7 over eroding Pacifica cliff” for the latest in cliff erosion disaster-porn. Interesting thing here is the attention given to a fresh-looking fall behind 360 Esplanade.
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Through Their Lens: Bats1234

“This Battlestation Is Fully Operational” by Bats1234

“This Battlestation Is Fully Operational” by Bats1234

Excerpted from Caliber, a must-see photography website with a lot of images from San Francisco:

Talk about your chosen image? When was it taken? Where? Why did you take it? What did you think of your image once processed?

This photo was taken in an open stairway at the Embarcadero Center – a place that has always fascinated me.  The Center is a failed urban experiment of concrete walkways, offices, and businesses.  Built in the late 1960’s and 70’s, it’s bold and cold – a giant habitrail that never quite lived up the planner’s vision of warm and efficient workplace, shopping center, and gathering spot.  The picture captures that – the massive power and abandoned coldness of the Center’s underbelly.

CALIBER Through Their Lens: Bats1234.

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PHD comic: Statistics, Polls and Science…

PHD Comics: 01/20/10 PHD comic: ‘63% of internet readers will like this comic’.

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Sunday 01/24/10 Work on reinforcing the bluff, more rain on the way

Sunday 01/24/10 Work on reinforcing the bluff, more rain on the way

  • From Saturday, KTVU-TV 2 (Fox) PACIFICA CLIFF: Helicopter Video Of Work Beginning Saturday To Shore Up Pacifica Cliff
  • San Francisco Chronicle – SFGate, Spectators riveted as Pacifica buildings teeter. About 15 workers have been toiling through 12-hour days, drilling rebar 50 feet horizontally into the cliffs. When 250 rods have been inserted, crews plan to create a giant sea wall by coating the cliff face with fiber-reinforced concrete, a supervisor for one of the contracting firms, Drill Tech, said Sunday. Sample image, click the article link for details and more images.
  • KGO-TV 7 (ABC) City watches Pacifica apartment project – Amy Hollyfield. This piece combines a confused, incorrect description of the work to reinforce the bluff with a brief excerpt of an interview with Pacifica Mayor Sue Digre. In response to a question about the city’s role, the Mayor responded: “We have no right to tell the building owner what to do.” Ms. Hollyfield ends with an important reminder: “At this point the city hasn’t spent any money on the effort to save this cliff.”
  • 2:40 PM PST SUN JAN 24 2010. National Weather Service: Hazardous Weather Outlook.

    A HIGH SURF ADVISORY IS IN EFFECT ALONG THE COAST…STARTING AT 4 AM
    IN SONOMA COUNTY AND NOON FROM SAN FRANCISCO SOUTHWARD TO MONTEREY
    COUNTY. THE HIGH SURF ADVISORY WILL EXPIRE AT 11:59 PM MONDAY NIGHT.
    PLEASE SEE THE HIGH SURF ADVISORY PRODUCT FOR MORE DETAILS.

    * HIGH SURF ADVISORY…COASTAL HAZARD MESSAGE WHUS46 KMTR SFOCFWMTR *

    IN ADDITION TO THE HIGH SURF…PERIODS OF RAIN ARE FORECAST THROUGH
    TUESDAY WITH THE HEAVIEST RAIN EXPECTED MONDAY AFTERNOON AND EVENING.
    THERE IS ALSO A SLIGHT CHANCE OF THUNDERSTORMS ON TUESDAY. THE SOIL
    IS SATURATED AFTER A WEEK OF SIGNIFICANT RAINFALL. THEREFORE…
    ADDITIONAL RAINFALL WILL RESULT IN RAPID RUNOFF. STREAMS AND CREEKS
    ACROSS THE AREA WILL RISE QUICKLY IN RESPONSE TO HEAVY RAINFALL.
    MINOR URBAN AND SMALL STREAM FLOODING IS POSSIBLE…ESPECIALLY ON
    MONDAY AFTERNOON AND EVENING.

    =============================

    HIGH SURF ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM 4 AM MONDAY TO MIDNIGHT PST MONDAY NIGHT…

    A HIGH ENERGY WAVE TRAIN IS EXPECTED TO BRING LARGE WAVES TO THE
    NORTH COAST BY DAWN MONDAY MORNING. THESE LARGE NORTHWEST SWELL
    WILL PERSIST ALONG THE COASTAL WATERS THROUGH MONDAY AND WILL
    RANGE FROM 13 TO 15 FEET WITH PERIODS OF 16 SECONDS. SWELL OF THIS
    SIZE WILL PRODUCE LARGE BREAKING WAVES AND STRONG RIP CURRENTS
    WITHIN THE SURF ZONE.

All of my pictures on the Esplanade evacuations:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisd2006/collections/72157622920945823/

For a complete chronology and links to many more photos see Evacuation underway at 330 Esplanade.
http://adequatebird.com/2009/12/17/evacuation-underway-at-330-esplanade/

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