After discovering a series of bluff tops on the verge of collapse, city officials Tuesday closed a nearly one-mile stretch of El Camino Real for fear that another round of rain could cause landslides.
The two-lane road between Camino Capistrano and Avenida Pico was closed at 7 p.m. Monday after City Manager Michael W. Parness was presented evidence from a private consultant that a number of the undeveloped bluffs above the road were slipping and appeared ready to fall.
Parness said the coastal road would be closed probably through the weekend as geologists and engineers work to shore up the bluffs, which stand as high as 50 feet. He added that the city wanted to be on the safe side, since the forecast called for a 40% chance of rain Tuesday night and today.
"We're taking a conservative approach, particularly with the possibility of rain," Parness said. "There was cracking from last weekend's rains and there is the possibility that a slide could take place. The amount of rock which could come down is significant."
San Clemente residents, meanwhile, are being asked to use alternate routes, while motorists journeying south into the city from Dana Point are being routed onto Interstate 5. Limited access will remain for residents of a mobile home park within the closure area.
The first sign of trouble was detected by crews dispatched Sunday to clean up some dirt debris that had fallen onto the road, Parness said. Crew members noticed that some of the bluffs on a 250-acre tract of undeveloped land were unstable, with rock outcroppings protruding dangerously overhead.
Parness said that he asked the Lusk Co., which owns the property, to take a closer look. The company, which once offered the property as a home for the Richard M. Nixon Library, sent out a geology consultant to examine the bluffs, and the consultant reported back to Parness' office Tuesday with pictures that showed the bluffs needed to be shored up.
Parness said the city would meet with officials from the California Coastal Commission today to decide what to do. He said the work could begin Thursday and might take two days.
Coastal San Clemente has been the scene of four major mudslides in the past 16 years, the latest of which occurred last April 25 when nearly 2,000 cubic yards of dirt broke loose and spilled across Coast Highway.
Road Closure Due to unstable slopes El Camino Real will be closed for several days.