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San Pedro coastal road crumbles into Pacific Ocean

November 21, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Sunday's rain fall triggered an unstable section of coastal bluff in San Pedro to collapse into the Pacific Ocean.

The coastal bluff along Paseo Del Mar between South Western and Weymouth avenues has been the scene of a slow-moving landslide for months now.

Sunday's steady rain fall triggered the 600-foot section to heave itself into ocean, leaving a massive, gaping hole.

A 900-foot section had already been closed between those avenues for months as the street had begun to buckle. Barricades and chain-link fences have been put up to keep onlookers away from the site. Authorities are continuing to stress that this area is extremely dangerous.

Large cracks and fissures have recently been opening deeper and wider by the day. City engineers said the land was moving both vertically and horizontally at a rate of 4 inches per day, slipping toward the edge of the cliff and into the ocean below.

The peninsula's scenic qualities have prompted decades of homebuilding that some experts blame for further destabilizing the historically unstable ocean bluffs.

There were no injuries in Sunday's massive landslide. No homes are directly in the path of what is believed to be a crescent-shaped landslide.

Some residents have long blamed two drainage pipes running under the road, which the county has been realigning since the land started shifting.

The city has commissioned a geological study to determine the cause of the slide, but county officials say the pipes were checked earlier this year and that only nature is to blame.

Nevertheless, officials are not taking any chances with this unpredictable situation. They are concerned that the slide could go as far back as the hillside to the north.

City officials got an up close look at the destruction Monday as they peered over the dramatic drop that used to hold a much loved road.

"It's just this piece, stretch of land that people who live in San Pedro have come to just love. It's got a great ocean view," said Rep. Janice Hahn (D-San Pedro).

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's office said a new route for the scenic roadway will likely have to be considered.

"This is bad. It just makes me sad. It makes me sad in my heart," said San Pedro resident Angie Blasing.

While that work will likely be done next week, the future of Paseo Del Mar and the hillside above it is still in question.

"Is this continuing to move? Do we expect more of it to fall into the ocean? Is there plans to stabilize it, and what's the long-term prognosis for Paseo Del Mar?" Hahn asked.

City engineers were at the site Monday conducting a survey, trying to determine the limits of the landslide. They said more tests are needed to determine if the hills will continue to slide.

"In anticipation that this would happen and the pipes breaking off, we want to make sure that no storm water came into this area and makes this situation worse," said Hector Bordos with the L.A. County Public Works. "So we want to relocate those drains down the slope to the beach to continue to provide flood protection."

See photos of the landslide in San Pedro.


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