$10 million settlement reached in 2011 San Clemente landslide

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A settlement of more than $10 million has been reached with San Clemente residents whose homes were damaged or red-tagged in a 2011 landslide. (KABC)

Ann Cole can only visit her San Clemente home of more than 40 years -- boarded up since the hillside behind her place gave way in January 2011.

Eyewitness News was with her back then when she received the sad news: Her place and three others red-tagged -- unsafe to live in.

"I would love to be back in my house before I go to the Lord," said the 93-year-old, speaking exclusively to Eyewitness News.

Cole and 10 other homeowners who live along Via Ballena are a step closer to getting back to the way it was before the slide after a settlement of more than $10 million was reached with the city and Shorecliffs Golf Course. The 18-hole course sits below the homes.

The homeowners' attorney, Serge Tomassian, filed a lawsuit in 2011 alleging the city failed to maintain a drain pipe through the slide area and dumped thousands of gallons of water into the storm drain days before. Tomassian also alleges the golf course failed to maintain the part of the slope it owns, allowing a drain spout to be buried under about 10 feet of soil.

"The water had no where to go but basically be outletted to the slope, and we believe that was a big cause of the massive landslide of January 2011," said Tomassian.

As part of the settlement, the defendants admit no liability.

Tomassian says he's now pushing for an emergency permit to try to get repairs done as quickly as possible.

"The slope is still moving as seen by the damage in these homes that have occurred since 2011," said Tomassian.

Frances Beier, 88, lives down the street from Cole. She's still living in her house, but she says she's noticed it slants more toward the cliff in her backyard, and cracks -- some up to 3 inches wide -- are growing.

"I have cracks in every room," said Beier.

As she showed us her living room, she noted the slope of the floor.

"I feel like I'm walking downhill, and I know the floor isn't level," she said.

"If it's designated an emergency, repairs can start tomorrow," said Tomassian.

"There's still some failures occurring along the edge of the bluff where it's almost vertical. They're fairly minor since that large failure (of 2011)," said San Clemente City Engineer Bill Cameron.

Cameron admits he has not seen inside the affected homes in years to see if there's any further damage. He says the city needs to get permits from various agencies, including the Coastal Commission, before any repairs can begin.

"We need to know what all the costs are before the project starts," said Cameron.

"We understand that concern, but it has to be weighed against the cataclysmic damage that can occur here if El Niño pans out in the months of March or April," said Tomassian.

Tomassian says under the settlement, hillside repairs will be about $6 million. That will include a storm drain that will run along the golf course.

The city says it's not stalling.

"In fact we're trying to expedite the review of the project. We would like to see it built so the area can be repaired and not have further damage," said Cameron.

The city says construction could begin as early as this fall. Cole remains hopeful as she looks at her home.

"I want to rebuild, absolutely," she said.

The owners of the Shorecliffs Golf Course did not want to comment.
Related Topics:
lawsuitlandslideSan ClementeOrange County
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