Pacifica apartment owners running out of time, and space

By on Wed, January 27, 2010

With the cliffs eroding daily, federal money is not likely for the blufftop apartment buildings on Pacifica’s Esplanade, reports Julia Scott in the County Times.

It remains to be seen whether it’s too late to save 330 Esplanade, which was red-tagged last month, or 320 Esplanade, which was partially evacuated last week. But with the ocean starting to creep up on adjacent homes on Esplanade, Speier is calling for a comprehensive solution rather than a piecemeal approach to protecting one building at a time. [...]

Another option would be to form a neighborhood improvement district that would tax locals to pay for construction work.

While Esplanade Apartments has begun a $6 million engineering "fix" that will hopefully halt bluff retreat before it can undermine the buildings’ foundations, their neighbors to the north at Lands End Apartments ?are preparing for an emergency fix of their own. Previously, the complex has been relatively unaffected by erosion, which explains why its cliff has no shore protection whatsoever. But Lands End has lost 50 to 60 feet of bluff since the summer. The edge of the bluff is now within 55 feet of one of the buildings and 50 feet from their parking lot, according to Rob Anderson, a project engineer with RJR Engineering Group.

Lands End is about to request an emergency permit from the California Coastal Commission to place large protective boulders, also known as riprap, at the bottom of their cliff as a temporary measure. In the long term, Anderson says a whole two-mile stretch of beach along Esplanade and Palmetto Avenues could benefit from a major collaborative engineering effort, like an artificial reef.

Monday, Scott gave us a good description of the $6 million in desperate measures employed by the owners of 330 Esplanade.

Workers will drill more than 200 nails 50 feet into the cliff behind 330 Esplanade, which was evacuated in December, and secure them in the sandy cliff with several layers of concrete. Next, a wire mesh with steel plates will form a smooth shield against rain and wind erosion. A final stage will involve erecting a sea wall in back of 330, 320 and 310 Esplanade to deflect the pounding current, which undermines the bluff from below.

The owners of 320 Esplanade will almost certainly decide to extend the concrete wall onto their property as well, which would mean two construction rigs working side by side by the end of the week, said Tony Fortunato of Engineered Soil Repairs. "The longer you wait, the more you lose," he warned. [...]

Even if the owners of all three apartment buildings chip in together, $6 million could be a lot of money to spend for 50 years of habitation. Millard Tong, owner of 310 and 320 Esplanade, spent a total of $6 million to purchase both buildings back in 2002. And Farshid Samsami and Delfarib Fanaie spent $1.45 million to purchase 330 Esplanade in 2004, records show.

Esplanade Apartments representative Bart Willoughby wants to get money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the project, but those funds are generally used to protect public property.