Soledad Road still recovering


On Friday, the one-year anniversary of the Oct. 3, 2007, landslide on La Jolla’s Mt. Soledad, attorneys representing 61 homeowners and more than 100 plaintiffs expect to be in court to determine how the case will proceed.

Meanwhile, Mt. Soledad residents who were directly impacted by the landslide remain in a state of limbo, both legally and residentially, as they attempt to recoup losses through the court system and return to or replace their destroyed or damaged homes.

One of the “dispossessed” is Alison Crabbe, who lived in one of the three homes razed on Soledad Mountain Road.

“We’ve been renting since the landslide,” she said last week. “It’s not home. We’ve just kind of been in limbo, not able to make any plans or do anything to move forward.”

Crabbe said not knowing how things are going to ultimately play out is troubling.

“My frustration, primarily, is just the waiting,” she said. “It seems the city would want to get this all resolved and take care of people who lost their homes. We just want our home back. We lived there 23 years, started a family there, planned on retiring there.”

She said she knows of some displaced families who will get to move back once the road is repaired, but added, “We don’t really know anything.”

Morning disaster

The landslide occurred at 8:57 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2007 in the 5600 block of Soledad Mountain Road overlooking Desert View Drive and completely collapsed the roadway. An estimated $48 million in damage - $22 million to private property, $26 million to public works including utilities and road repairs - was caused.

A year later, three of the affected homes on Soledad Mountain Road - which is set to reopen this month - have been bulldozed, two others remain red-tagged as uninhabitable and four continue to be yellow-tagged, deemed partially uninhabitable.

Below Soledad Mountain Road on Desert View Drive, two homes are still red-tagged and another remains yellow-tagged.

Craig McClellan who represents 23 of the 61 affected homeowners, said, to date, no one has been compensated.

Three lawsuits filed after the landslide recently were consolidated into a single case.

“The ones who’ve had their homes red- or yellow-tagged have had to move out and go elsewhere,” he said. “Some have moved in with in-laws. Others have had to find places to rent.”

Disaster victims have had mixed success making financial arrangements with mortgage companies.

“We’ve had luck with some companies in getting mortgages reworked to allow for people to find other places to live and rent,” said McClellan. “Unfortunately, some mortgage companies refuse to deal with it.”

On the road back

Jamal Batta, city senior civil engineer, said Soledad Mountain Road is scheduled to reopen sometime this month, although there is no date yet.

“We still have a few activities to finish before we can open the road, undergrounding for SDG&E, AT&T and Warner Cable, as well as doing curbs, gutters, sidewalks and paving and striping,” he said.

Rob Hawk, the city’s senior engineering geologist, said repair work to “completely stabilize” Soledad Mountain Road should be done by mid-October. The next and final phase of construction will involve installing 44 more shear pins into the alley on Desert View Drive and should be done in the spring.

“It’s a smaller job in that we’ve got half the number of shear pins as we did with the road,” he said, “but they’ll (pins) actually be larger because they’re holding up the larger portion of the hill. It’s going to be challenging because we’re working in a much more confined space.”

Still at odds

The city and Mt. Soledad homeowners remain at odds over the cause of the catastrophe. The city’s position is that the slide was a natural disaster that occurred in an area with a history of such events.

Impacted homeowners have a different take.

“It was leaky pipes that were in the ground that flooded Soledad Mountain Road,” claimed attorney McClellan. “Sewer pipes also leaked causing more damage.”