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Posted by xaviervir on November 24, 2011

The following article is from the West County Times:

Suit filed over San Pablo landslide

Posted: 11/22/2011 05:41:58 PM PST
Updated: 11/23/2011 09:59:25 AM PST


Click photo to enlarge

A crew of workers from Williams Grading secures plastic tarps together as they work to cover a…

A landslide, apparently triggered by heavy rains, that damaged seven San Pablo homes in March is now the subject of a court battle.

But who will ultimately sue whom remains unclear.

The owners of three homes in the 5900 block of Hillcrest Road sued San Pablo late last month in Contra Costa County Superior Court. They contend that the city’s design and maintenance of drainage over the years contributed to the March 24 slide that damaged their homes and four others upslope on Wyman Street.

The suit also names the Wyman Street property owners as co-defendants, accusing them of negligent property maintenance that contributed to the downhill damage. The property owners’ attorney predicts there will be other complaints and cross-complaints.

Previously, the homeowners on both streets had unified against the city, appearing as a group seeking help from the City Council. In April, the city proposed an “interim fix” of the slide for $100,000 to $150,000, provided all the affected homeowners released the city from liability for the work and indemnifying it for any third-party legal action. Most of the owners balked.

The plaintiffs are Barney and Sandra Givens, Wilma Thompson and Eloise Hewitt, all represented by attorney Alan Mayer of San Rafael. The Wyman Street defendants are Joseph Romey, Elizabeth Henshaw, Leon and Blanka Walker, Barbara Scott and Evelyn Howell, all represented by Walnut Creek-based attorney Martin Ambacher.



Pablo officials acknowledged receiving the suit but did not otherwise comment.In April, City Manager Matt Rodriguez said in a news release that geotechnical experts said no city work or property ownership contributed to the most recent slide, but several homeowners disputed that any expert ever said that.

Historical records document a 1958 landslide that destroyed two Wyman Street homes and one on Hillcrest Road. In the aftermath, the city condemned several lots, including the two Wyman lots, and had hillside repairs done, including drainage work.

In late 1979 or early 1980, the city sold the two Wyman lots; a house owned by one of the defendants is on one of the once-condemned lots.

Last week, Ambacher said the uphill owners will file indemnity cross-complaints against each other and the city, unless they file separate actions. At least two will either include claims for damages in their cross-complaints or in a separate action, Ambacher said.

Mayer, elaborating on some of the alleged acts of negligence on the part of Wyman Street owners, cited “unnaturally diverted water … from roofs, from the downspouts, from the patio areas” that he said was directed into the hill.

He added that a lot of investigative work needs to be done by a lot of engineers, including borings and other subsurface work.

Meanwhile, Mayer has hired a contractor to do what he described as winterization work on the slope, including removal of some trees. A crew with heavy equipment was working this week on the slope behind the Hillcrest houses.



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