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, 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:

For a complete chronology and links to many more photos see Evacuation underway at 330 Esplanade.

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