Pacifica buildings still teeteringBy Shaun Bishop
Russ Murdoch has lived in an apartment on Esplanade Avenue for more than three years, enjoying the breathtaking views of the ocean outside his back window.
But he also has to live with the sounds of the cliff below his complex falling, bit by bit, into the surf below. In December, the bluff eroded so much below the complex next door to Murdoch, at 330 Esplanade Avenue, that the city red-tagged it and forced the residents to evacuate.
A second building further up the street at 320 Esplanade Avenue was evacuated about four months later after another large piece of the cliff fell.
As the rainy season returns, officials say the owners of the precariously placed buildings at 330 and 320 Esplanade Avenue are no closer to stabilizing the bluffs and stopping the erosion due to a lack of funding for the work.
Initial efforts early this year to secure the cliffs with soil nails and a thick concrete wall were cut short as the owners have apparently been unable to raise the required funds, officials say.
Chief Building Official Doug Rider said efforts to obtain federal or state emergency funding for the repairs were unsuccessful.
He said the complexes are not in danger of falling into the ocean at this time, though he receives weekly updates on their condition.
"The buildings are empty, so nobody's life is threatened by them sitting there," Rider said. "It's still private property, so the city's role is to wait and see because [the owners] have expressed a desire to save the buildings."
The owners could not be reached for comment.
For Murdoch, a 38-year-old attorney, he's nearly had enough of feeling a bit uncomfortable every time it rains. He's been looking for another place.
"I've been saying since last December that we wouldn't stay here another winter," Murdoch said, "and in all likelihood we won't be here through the rainy season."
If the cliff were to erode far enough underneath the buildings, Rider said the city could condemn them and seek a court order that would allow their demolition. He emphasized that the city would pull the buildings back from the edge and would not let them fall into the surf.
Scott Thompson, 28, who lives at 310 Esplanade Avenue, said he jokes about the cliff crumbling and worries about it a little bit, but he doesn't have any plans to move. He likes the location near the beach and the Safeway close by.
"Overall, it's a good place to live," he said.
Copyright ©2010 San Francisco Examiner. Published 10/30/2010.