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Soledad landslide suits consolidated

Road reopening nears as three cases become one

As repairs near completion on the landslide-damaged Soledad Mountain Road, three lawsuits involving more than 100 plaintiffs have been consolidated into a single case.

The road is expected to reopen in October, one year after the Oct. 3, 2007, slide that collapsed and damaged or destroyed nine homes and downed utility lines. It caused 111 residents to be evacuated and an estimated $48 million in infrastructure costs in the 5600 block of Soledad Mountain Road overlooking Desert View Drive.

Attorney Doug Butz of Butz Dunn & DeSandis, whose firm is representing the city, said the consolidated lawsuit covers 102 plaintiffs and 61 homes that sustained damage or a drop in property value.

Some of those homes were not damaged, he added.

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“The city’s position is that a geotechnical consultant’s investigation shows no evidence of failure of city infrastructure, or of moisture intrusion into soil resulting from failure or neglect of city infrastructure, causing the landslide,” Butz said. “This is a well-known, active landslide area where there have been prior instances on Mount Soledad.”

Attorney Craig McClellan, representing owners of 23 of the affected residences said he believes his clients have a case.

“We’re saying the city is liable because this was a known potential landslide area,” he said, “and the city failed to do preventative maintenance to keep the pipes in order and failed to fix (water) leaks as they occurred.”

As a result, he added, “the underground water pipes flooded and the influx of water caused a predictable danger - the movement of the land.”

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McClellan said it is likely that the case will be settled sometime next year.

“It seems like it’s been moving slowly, but that’s only because there’s so much paperwork that has to be done. It’s hard to say whether a trial will be involved. The case could be resolved before trial.”

Jamal Batta, city senior civil engineer, said an actual date for reopening Soledad Mountain Road hasn’t been set yet, but could be soon.

“All of the shear pins and excavation work on the road is finished,” he said. Still to be completed are backfilling the slide area in the road, installing sewer and water lines, and undergrounding the other utilities, he added.