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2 O.C. Yards Slide 35 Feet; More Homes Are Threatened

July 22, 2006|Garrett Therolf | Times Staff Writer

Two San Clemente families were forced out of their hillside homes Friday as their backyards slid more than 35 feet down a canyon wall.

Steven and Paula Cunningham woke shortly after 5 a.m. Thursday to the sound of cracking. They discovered that portions of the backyard had slipped about 8 feet. By Friday, as the sliding continued, the damage extended to a neighbor's yard and threatened to spread to even more properties, City Engineer Bill Cameron said.

The homes on Via Ballena look out over a 70-foot-deep canyon where part of the Shorecliffs Golf Course is located.

The city agreed to a $10-million settlement last year with about 20 homeowners along a section of the golf course that was damaged by a landslide that started in the late 1990s.

The homeowners had alleged that irrigation problems had contributed to the slow-moving slide.

Cameron noted, however, that half a mile separates the sites of the slides and that there is no reason yet to believe that similar irrigation problems have led to the latest damage.

At least one homeowner affected by this week's slide plans to hire a geotechnical firm to investigate, Cameron said.

The neighborhood, he said, was built mostly in the late 1960s and early '70s, when thousands of homes were constructed on precarious hillsides under building codes that were more relaxed.

In the early '80s, San Clemente instituted requirements for additional soil testing before construction and more gradual slopes near homes.

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