Efforts to save Pacifica apartment building continue
December 21, 2009
PACIFICA — From state Highway 1 in Pacifica, two cranes can be seen jutting out from among a cluster of otherwise scenic oceanside apartments.
That's what attracted Pescadero resident Gael, who declined to give her last name, to the site Monday, where construction crews were scrambling to drop boulders at the bottom of a crumbling cliff beneath 330 Esplanade Ave. before the bluff erodes entirely and slides the apartment building into the crashing waves.
"I saw the cranes from Highway 1," Gael said, adding that she'd seen the emergency project on the news. "I was like, 'Oh, it's right there, I think I'll stop.'"
Crews have been working on the Esplanade Avenue cliff since Thursday, when residents of the 12-unit building were forced to evacuate. The work is expected to take up to another week, with workers putting in 16- to 18-hour shifts to lift the 4- to 6-ton boulders from the street, over the apartments and onto the base of the cliff, according to Tony Fortunato of Engineered Soil Repairs Inc., the company hired to put in the boulders.
The rocks will provide a buffer between the crashing waves and the sandy cliffs, preventing more of the bluff from eroding, he said.
Tom Clifford, a planning commissioner in Pacifica, said he is not involved with the project but that it dredges up memories of when a Pacifica building he contracted for slid into the ocean about a decade ago.
"It's really upsetting to see several months worth of work fall into the ocean," he said.
Other Pacifica residents strolled up to the construction site, stopping to catch a glimpse of the work. One person even called the area a tourist site.
Judith Rosenberg, who lives in an apartment at 310 Esplanade Ave., three buildings down from the where the emergency construction is taking place, said she is one of the few residents in her building who hasn't voluntarily evacuated.
"It's unnerving," she said, adding that she only moved to the apartment in mid-August.
"I wouldn't buy this property, but on a month-to-month basis it's fine," Rosenberg said. "The views are stunning."
Following the call for the emergency placement of boulders, another company, Michael Roberts Construction, was hired to construct a permanent solution to the neighboring cliff bases.
Mike Avila, the company's contractor, said he and Fortunato are working together to get the rocks to the bottom of the cliff, and will then create a road that leads to the bottom to place even more rocks at the base.
"It's pretty gnarly," Avila said. "This is the worst time of year to do this because the tides are the highest."
"We are at the mercy of the ocean," Fortunato added.
At the end of the projects, Avila and Fortunato estimated about 4,000 to 5,000 rocks will have been placed at the bottom of the cliff.