Coastsider’s Devil’s Slide coverage


Posted by
Tue, April 4, 2006


On April 2, 2006, Highway 1 at Devil's Slide was closed for the third time since 1983, because the landslide it is built on was slipping into the ocean yet again. It was a disaster for the community, turning commutes into hours-long ordeals, hurting businesses on both sides of the closure, and creating an air of uncertainty and mistrust of the authorities whose job it is to repair the highway.

It was also a watershed moment for Coastsider. Literally overnight, our readership quadrupled and we became a household name in the community. One of the things we're proudest of is that when it was impossible to know what was going on out there, we were able to bring photos, video, and news from the side of the mountain. We learned a lot about covering breaking news and doing video, but it would also have been impossible if we had not refined our online production techniques while covering the community for two years when the Slide went out.

We've gathered all of our coverage of the Slide closure on this page, to provide the community with a little perspective and quick reference to the biggest story on the Coastside.

News
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Barry Parr
July 24: Devil's Slide will be a single lane only "as needed" at non-peak hours
July 20: Devil's Slide to reopen August 4
July 9: Letter: Why hasn't anything been done about the evening commute?
May 26: Caltrans seeking consensus, not approval, from HMB on traffic light
May 24: Highway 92 travel times are now online
May 18: Caltrans gives HMB a chance to discuss traffic light
May 16: Caltrans will be at HMB City Council tonight
May 15: Devil's Slide will be open in late September, says Caltrans
May 11: Caltrans plans to announce schedule Tuesday
May 8: Jackie Speier will "shop till she drops" in HMB Tuesday
May 2: Caltrans expects Devil's Slide design and timeline in about two weeks
Apr 27: NY Times discovers Devil's Slide
Apr 26: Caltrans resumes drilling, excavates slipout at Shamrock Ranch
Apr 19: HMB City Council meeting focuses on Slide problems
Apr 18: Coastsiders estimate highway repair will take 103 days
Apr 18: Caltrans blasts loose rock above roadway to prepare for work crews
Apr 17: Caltrans crews to begin clearing debris Tuesday
Apr 11: Caltrans padlocks road, closes trails on Slide to hikers
Apr 11: Governor declares state of emergency in seven counties
Apr 7: Caltrans will blast loose debris from the cliffs early next week
Apr 6: Devil's slide and Shamrock Ranch slip-out are both deteriorating
Apr 6: Workers are removing loose rocks above Devil's Slide to prep for drilling
Apr 5: School District temporarily changes schedule and adds bus during closure
Apr 4: Rock slides delay Slide reopening, endanger visitors
Apr 3: Devil's Slide will be closed for at least two more days

Videos
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Cheri Parr
July 31: Photos: Caltrans paving Devil's Slide on Thursday
May 28: Video: Tour Devil's Slide and repairs with Caltrans geologist, by Darin Boville
May 15: Video: Caltrans explains its Devil's Slide repair plan, by Darin Boville
Apr 20: Video: Some Sunny Day, by Darin Boville
Apr 12: Caltrans geologist explains the Slide, by Darin Boville
Apr 18: Caltrans blasts loose rock above roadway to prepare for work crews
Apr 7: A wet and stormy afternoon on the Slide, by Darin Boville
Apr 5: The Slide and Shamrock Ranch, by Darin Boville
Apr 3: The Slide 18 hours after closing, by Darin Boville

Photos
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Cheri Parr
May 26: Album: Rebuilding Devil's Slide, and a persistent question, by Cheri Parr
May 17: Photo: Almost to the edge of the known world
May 16: Photos: How Caltrans is drilling those holes under the roadbed
May 7: Photo: We're all getting a little anxious
Apr 27: Photos: Caltrans removes rock hazard and gets to work
Apr 15: Photo: Geologists rappel on Devil's Slide
Apr 7: Album: A wet and stormy day on the Slide, by Cheri Parr
Apr 5: Album: The Slide and Shamrock Ranch are deteriorating, by Cheri Parr
Apr 3: Album: The Slide 18 hours after closing, by Barry Parr

Perspective
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Mike Wong, 1995
A slippery slope: Devil's Slide in 1983
A slippery slope: Devil's Slide in 1995
Fly through Devil's Slide using Google Earth

Resources
Caltrans Devil's Slide updates
Caltrans webcam at intersection of Highways 1 & 92
KNEW Slide coverage

Comment 1
Tue, May 30, 2006 2:32pm
ljm
All my comments

My husband and I find ourselves checking Coastsider every day—it’s our only reliable source of information about the Slide and how it’s affecting our lives and culture here on the coast. We can’t thank Barry enough.

It’s funny how many of our friends who live outside of California are just now learning about it and feel it’s important enough to call us to hear our POV; frankly, I can’t imagine being interested enough to follow similar news in /their/ hometowns. Regardless, I now send them the link to coastsider.com.

Kudos to Coastsider.  Can’t imagine what it was like in 95 when the slide with minimal communication relative to what we have now.  Continue to prosper and succeed Coastsider!  Job thus far excellently performed.
Linda

Many of our friends and coworkers over the hill have no idea how much our lives are impacted due to the Devil’s Slide closure. This Web site is the perfect resource for them to see what we are all going through during this tough time. I have shared the link with many!

Thank you for compiling this information and storing it in such an easy-to-read-and-find way.

I was at a party last weekend and there were people from all over the Bay area who had no idea what Devil’s Slide looked like when it was damaged this time as well as years ago. I was able to open your Web site and click through all of the history and photos and show everyone the progress of the road.

This is a great forum for all coastsiders to voice their opinions and share their thoughts. I am thankful it exists and is updated on a daily basis!

We are still very frustrated with the traffic light issue (yes, I did send my email to CalTrans!) but will continue to look here for updates. I am again disappointed by the political system.

I know it is not easy for people south of 92 to understand how bad it is and how much our lives are affected. My family no longer has time to get to the coastal trail for morning exercise. We don’t have the time for a home cooked family breakfast where we sit and talk about our plans for the day. My 6 year old son who is an early riser, now has to rush to get out so he can be at school on time in San Mateo. We can see route 1 from our house and the anxiety builds up from 5:30 am until we are finally over the hill. My spouse commutes for over 2 hours each morning and another 2 hours at night. I sit in traffic sometimes at 3pm for over an hour and rush hour is 1 1/2 hours to go 14 miles.

Thanks for the links to the maps, cameras, etc. It has been a big help. Also, thanks for allowing us to post comments!

Sincerely,
GraceAnn

Barry,
    You and your team have done an outstanding job of leveraging information technology with your genuine journalistic drive to improve the public’s grasp of what’s really happening. This time around the Coastside is much, much better informed about the Slide and its challenges. You’re setting the standards.  Keep it up.
Mike

Mr. Parr, I have to tell you, in all the conversations I’ve had regarding the slide, the two major topics are questions about how and when they’re going to fix it and rave reviews on your coverage of it.  They go on to compliment your
overall coverage and talk about what a tremendous impact you’re having on the delivery of unbiased news here on the Coastside.  Not only do we turn to you on a daily basis now, but members of our family across the country are keeping up with what’s going on in our area.  Thanks for providing a terrific service.

Celeste Gantz

I well remember the 1983 slide as well as the 1995 slide. Information was adequate in 1983. However, Eric Rice, Half Moon Bay Review, did a good job of keeping us informed in 1995.

Now, thank goodness, we have the Coastsider.com leading the way with new improved reporting techniques. The reporting by Barry Parr, comprehensive slide shows and streaming video by Darin Boville with voice over is in but one word—awesome.

He tells it like it is while keeping coastsiders well informed and from getting too uptight over the closure and slide rebuild.

I am most grateful that we have another media source on our coastside. We owe the coastsider.com a HUGE “thank you.” Keep up the good work.

John Lynch

Coastsider,
Please keep up the great coverage of Devil’s Slide, because we need your constant scrutiny to hold feet to the fire on this critical issue facing us all.

- Jack McCarthy

I join the other commenters in commending coastsider.com in providing fantastic coverage regarding Devil’s Slide this year.  You were there when we needed you, and the site has just continued to grow in value and interest.  I’ve referred all many friends to it, and everyone (Coastsiders and “everyone else” alike) has appreciated it.

I must admit, though, that I’m a little disappointed that Devil’s Slide has completely dropped off the radar.  I religiously check the CalTrans site updates and enjoy seeing the photos confirming real progress.  However, coastsider.org hasn’t posted an update in over a month.  For some of us this is still a significant factor in our daily lives - we need to know if the repairs are on schedule!

A recent CalTrans update begs a serious question:  is this progress in line with the original schedule/expectations?  Or faster?  Or (please, no!) slower? http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist4/stormdamageroute1/docs/daily_update_62006.pdf

I heard a rumor that the work had fallen behind schedule, but can’t find any information on how the work is tracking to expectations at all.

Can you help us be better informed on this, even though it’s becoming “old news” for some?

Thanks.

How can Devil’s Slide be anything but “old news”? Caltrans spin won out over a gullible public once again, and they’ll spend their emergency repair money without the inconvenience of pesky cars on the highway. The roadbed has been driveable since early in May. That’s all you need to know. Everything else is just a bureaucratic and political game.

So what if letting automobiles use the road (what a concept—roads for vehicles) would have delayed completion of the repair scheme a few weeks? The overwhelming positive aspects of having the road open in terms of saved human time, fuel, reduced pollution, and improved local business would have made the delay a pittance by comparison.

Carl May

I agree with you Carl.  This has been a 7.5 million dollar boondoggle for Caltrans and their contractors.  Had the army corp of engineers been called in the road could have been opened in a matter of days not a half a year.  The problem is that Caltrans knows how to play the beareaucratic game too well.  Had they only been able to procure 1 million dollars from the state for repairs we would be driving up hwy 1 and businesses would be happy already.  Instead they got 7.5 million and they WILL spend all of it before the road is “deemed safe”. 

There is a false belief that the road is in danger of falling into the sea.  Trust me if that were the case no matter how many holes they dill into the mountain the road would still fall.  Geologically the road is slipping down the mountain and has been doing to for 70 yrs.  It drops a few feet every 10 years or so( in think it is 50 feet below the original elevation).  The movement is usually undetectable but every ten years or so we get an exceptionally wet winter that speeds this evolutionary process ahead. 

If you do the math on the 7.5 million over 120 days of work, it come out to $62500 dollars per day.  If each worker is getting 80 dollars an hour(probably high) that equates to about 35 workers on the slide 24 hours a day for 120 days.  Somehow i just don’t think that is happening.  My guess is the contracting companies are each making over 1 million dollars PROFIT for the 4 month job, and that my friends is what makes Caltrans tick(granting lucrative contracts for work that doesn’t necessarily need to be done—sure would like to know if Bijan Sartipi and co are spending their summer vactions at one of the contractors homes in France).

I agree with Carl.  This has become a boondoggle for cal trans.  They will continue on with their “work” as long as there is still some of the 7.5 million dollars left to spend.  Had the beaureucrats at clatrans only been able to procure 1 miilion dollars we would have had our road back again.  I will keep asking this question until someone answers it, did the plan to fix the road come before the money or did the money come in then a plan developed.  I get the feeling Caltrans went to the contrators and said I’ve got 7.5 million to fix the road what can ya do??  Then a plan was developed.  IF you look at all of the materials used for this the total can not exceed 1 million, that means the contractors are making about 6.5 mil in “labor costs” or about 55 thousand dollars per day for labor.

If the ave worker is gettting 50 dollars an hour(proabably high) we would have almost 58 workers on site 24 hrs per day.  Some how I do not think that is happening.  My guess is there is no more than 20 or 30 there at any one time.  The way I see it the firms that got this job are probably clearing 2-3 million dollars profit.

I agree with Carl.  This has become a boondoggle for cal trans.  They will continue on with their “work” as long as there is still some of the 7.5 million dollars left to spend.  Had the beaureucrats at clatrans only been able to procure 1 miilion dollars we would have had our road back again.  I will keep asking this question until someone answers it, did the plan to fix the road come before the money or did the money come in then a plan developed.  I get the feeling Caltrans went to the contrators and said I’ve got 7.5 million to fix the road what can ya do??  Then a plan was developed.  IF you look at all of the materials used for this the total can not exceed 1 million, that means the contractors are making about 6.5 mil in “labor costs” or about 55 thousand dollars per day for labor.

If the ave worker is gettting 50 dollars an hour(proabably high) we would have almost 58 workers on site 24 hrs per day.  Some how I do not think that is happening.  My guess is there is no more than 20 or 30 there at any one time.  The way I see it the firms that got this job are probably clearing 2-3 million dollars profit.

I’m not going to try to defend Caltrans in general or their financial practices - I definitely don’t have sufficient information to do either.  I’m not saying they’re saints, but it does appear as if real work is occurring and that’s what is needed.

However, I can’t ignore these comments - I think you guys are crazy.  Have you looked at the pictures?  They really are working day and night, with numerous giant pieces of heavy machinery, and dozens of workers out there.  Not seen in the pictures are the costs for the engineers, project managers, materials, and other logistical support necessary to make a project like that happen and stay on track.  $62500/day for all that doesn’t seem farfetched at all.  Of course they could be staging the photos, but that seems a bit more trouble than it’s worth, unless you guys are card-carrying members of the Flat Earth Society.

As far as the road movement - have you been out on the coast by Mussel Rock?  Seen what Highway 1 looks like out there (where they stopped trying to keep it intact)?  Or the houses along the coast in Daly City? There is no doubt the geology of the area is for the land to merge with the sea.  We’re just trying to keep it at bay a little longer.  Lucky for us engineering and technology have become pretty advanced so that the repair is even possible.  If you want to see how poorly just filling in the dips works, we all had front-seat views of the obvious ineffectiveness of this technique on Hwy 1 above Shamrock Ranch.

And driving on the road during all this construction would absolutely prolong the repairs - moving all that equipment and sending the crews packing for several hours every day?  4-6 hours of less worktime means about 20% longer to repair which means another month before the road is fully opened.  Plus it potentially jeopardizes the schedule, the closer it gets to the rainy season. I’m glad they’re just getting it over with - the longer it’s closed the harder it will be to get the tourists back, since they will stop thinking of it as an option.

As far as the army corps of engineers - aren’t they the ones that were responsible for the levees that flooded New Orleans and inappropriate location of the harbor in Santa Cruz?  The road may have been opened in a few weeks, but then closed forever when it dropped to an irreparable state - probably with a few cars tossed in to the bargain, sitting down on the beach, squished.  No thanks.

When all is said and done, it’s a gullible, easily spun public with no desire to examine the actual roadbed geologic issues and investigate how such matters are dealt with elsewhere that allows Caltrans to get away with “murder” every time Devil’s Slide slips a bit. Yes, do look at the pictures; this road has been driveable with traffic control while repairs go on since early May.

The favorable news that the project was half complete and on schedule that Caltrans got in the media yesterday was disgusting. The real news story is all the human time and local resources that have been unnecessarily flushed away by Caltrans’ imperious approach to keeping the road closed.

Carl May

Absolutly loook at the road. As CArl says it has been drivable since the rains stopped in may.  Look at the pictures from 1983 and you will see what real devastation looks like.  Somehow in 1983 the road was fixed in 80 some odd days and remained drivable until the 1995 slide.  Remember we only need a TEMPORARY fix to the road not a permenant fix.  The repairs look more like a 20yr fix that a 4-5 yr fix???

The latest devil’s debacle is all about the money.  I do think there is work going 24 hrs a day but the work is mostly for nothing. This road could have been made drivable for the next 5 yrs, in about a month for far less than 7.5 miilion taxpayer dollars.  BAsed on past failures on the slide, the 6 inches or so the roadbed slid this year would be considered moderate at worst.  In 1983 the drop was measured in feet and the entire section of hwy 1 from the northern most parking lot at montara beach to the charthouse essentially washed into the ocean, yet the road was opened in less time than it took our fearless hwy leader Bijan Sartipi to come up with a plan/money to fix it this time.. 

Why do we settle for incompetence in the country??

Carl, are you a geologist?  I’m very curious as to how you’ve made your analysis of the roadbed geologic and repair issues - some of us would love to be better informed! 

My friends who are geologists have provided me with a basic understanding of how our local coastal “rock” and soil was created and evolves, but apparently you have a deeper understanding that we’d love to share.

Also, I’d love to hear your strategy for relocating the heavy equipment twice each day to allow the road to be drivable while repairs continue.

Julie,

The basic geology of Devil’s slide has not changed since the extensive analyses of the mid-80’s and mid-90’s. That Caltrans continues to try to get people to believe this is a landslide unlike any other is a testimony to the naivete of people around here. My neighbor in Montara who originally got me involved with the slide, Bill Bechtel, was a geological engineer who tried to explain the simple mechanics of Devil’s Slide to the public repeatedly for several decades.

I’m not a geologist, but any person who informs themself of the basics of landslides, who learns the elementary geology of Devil’s Slide as stated repeatedly to the public by independent geologists, and who informs themself of how highways crossing landslides and how disruptions of highways crossing landslides are handled *everywhere* except here will know they are being screwed by the money-grubbing, self-serving bureaucracy of Caltrans’s District 4.

However, you don’t have to know the first thing about geology to look at the simple fact that since early May there has been a driveable roadbed across the short stretch of the slide that slumped in early April. This roadbed has been used by heavy contractor equipment many times the weight of passenger vehicles. At every other place a highway across a slide went out on Highway 1 or 101 in California or Oregon coastal counties this year or any year in recent decades, the first order of business was to get traffic moving across the outage—often while it was still raining! (These highways cross hundreds, if not thousands, of landslides of one kind or another—somtimes continuously across multiple landslides for miles—so roads across landslides are a common feature of the highway system, not a rarity as Caltrans spin would have folks around here believe.)

All the upset, lost time, and extra expense coastsiders have undergone after the first few weeks following the roadbed failure this year has been largely unnecessary. Think about that the next time you see your politicians and media sources playing pitty-pat with Caltrans talking heads and bureaucrats.

Carl May

Hi All,
Just a big HOWDY from one of many pacifica residents looking fwd to seeing the slide opened again.
Caltrans get’s a big slap on the back from me in appreciation for a job well done.
Jim Sullivan in Linda Mar

I’m looking forward to the potatoe sack race between Carl May & Robert Steger over Devil’s Slide on Friday at 5AM. I heard CalTrans has rigged up a pretty good obstacle course for them.