San Clemente home threatened as hillside continues to erode after rain

David González Image
Wednesday, February 21, 2024
Eroding hillside threatens home of San Clemente couple
More and more of a San Clemente hillside continues to erode, inching slowly closer to a home.

SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. (KABC) -- A hillside behind a San Clemente couple's home has been sliding for years but with all the recent rain it's getting too close for comfort.

"We're concerned where that's going because it just gets worse and worse and we really do feel that could impact our land," Christina Lenz said.

The impact to their home has been minor so far but the wet weather has them worried.

"It keeps on going down the hill," Robert Lenz said. "It keeps on falling."

The cul-de-sac outside of their home is blocked off and covered in tarps and sandbags.

"You can see that at the end; asphalt has fallen off," Christina said. "The concrete that was around the edge is gone and there's like a big gap down there."

The couple is nervous about what's going to happen as the landslide inches closer to their property on Avenida Columbo.

"It's amazing that you're here because we wanted to check with the city to see what their long-term plan is because it needs to be fixed. Not just a Band-Aid on it. It needs to be fixed."

David Rebensdorf, public works director for the city of San Clemente, tells us over the years they've installed caissons on the hillside to protect a nearby sewer lift station and drainage system.

However, he said the slope where the landslide is taking place is private property.

Rebensdorf said no long-term solution has been identified to address the issue.

The Lenzes hope this all doesn't derail their goals of selling their home in the future.

Christina said, "It's going to make people nervous about - is it a good purchase. Is it a safe purchase?"

The San Clemente City Council Tuesday night will look at ways to protect coastal bluffs and hillsides like this.

Train tracks still blocked

Elsewhere in San Clemente, problems continue with a section of train track that has been closed off because of a different landslide.

Part of a Metrolink train line connecting Los Angeles to San Diego has been closed since a Jan. 24 landslide covered the tracks.

Passenger train service through the area was halted as repair work is done to the hillside.

Freight trains had been allowed to pass on a limited basis at night, with frequent inspections of the track. On Tuesday, rail authorities said freight service was also being halted after more movement was observed on the hillside.

The slope of a hillside in San Clemente located near an elementary school collapsed during the recent storm.

The state is providing $7 million to help with repairs in the area and work to shore up the hillside and prevent falling debris from reaching the tracks.

In the meantime, rail passengers are being rerouted on buses through the area.

Passengers - some of them commuters and students who use the line on a daily basis - told Eyewitness News the rerouting is an inconvenience that significantly lengthens the time of their commutes.

"Coming from Solana Beach, you're only on the train for 10 minutes," said Stefano Cefalu, a San Diego student. "So it's just kind of silly to get on a train for 10 minutes, get off and be on a bus for the rest of the time."

It's not clear when passenger rail service might resume.