By Eric Heinz
During the Nov. 1 City Council meeting, residents of the 200 block of Via Ballena in San Clemente spoke about how they want the city to help with repairs to their homes, which were severely damaged in a 2011 landslide.
A settlement agreement between the city, Shorecliff’s Golf Club and the owners was designed in October 2015 and authenticated in March. Attorneys and city officials met on Thursday, Nov. 3, in Irvine regarding the progress of the repairs. The agreement is a combination of $10.8 million among the three sectors to be paid by insurance companies.
City officials said they need to obtain the proper permitting in order to start work on the culverts, storm drains and repairing the bluffs on which the homes sit, but stakeholders are getting impatient.
Some of the permits need to come from the Army Corps of Engineers, the California Coastal Commission and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife as well as others.
“…(F)rom our perspective, the city still will not issue the permits even though the Coastal Commission has deemed it an emergency situation and will forego the permitting and let us proceed,” said Serge Tomassian, the attorney representing the homeowners. “The city won’t do it because they’re trying to budget every item including mitigation measures the agencies could come up with.”
Assistant City Manager Erik Sund said the city cannot start the work until it has the authority to do so.
“We need the proper approvals; we haven’t gone through all that documentation,” Sund said.
According to letters sent to Tomassian’s law firm, a few engineers stated the site needs to be repaired before another torrential downpour, otherwise further damage to the homes could be incurred.
The letters came from American Geotechnical, Inc. and Pacific Coast Land Consulting.
Some of the homes were so badly damaged they’ve been red-tagged, and some people haven’t been able to live in them for five years. One homeowner has since passed away and a couple others are in their 80s and 90s.
“We’re trying (to move forward),” Sund said, “and we’re following the settlement agreement and we’re working forward to get this done as quickly as we can.”
The settlement agreement states the city must act “on an expedited basis” and give all permitting the “highest priority for its review and approval for the landslide remediation,” but it does not define a timeline for those agreements.
Tomassian said the plaintiffs plan to meet with the judge handling the case in December. Sund said there are more opportune times to begin construction rather than the wetter seasons in the winter, and construction wouldn’t be able to take place until at least spring 2017.