More of Cliff Slips Away in San Juan : Landslide: Woman finds neighbor’s back yard has joined hers. Pine trees, shrubs and dirt moved.


A cliff made unstable by the recent heavy rains shifted another 25 feet on Tuesday, sending rock, mud and shrubbery into the back yards of three neighbors and drawing a flock of curious visitors to see the damage.

The green lawn in Jack and Ann Swallows’ back yard, which was covered with thick plastic sheets and sandbags following a similar slide Saturday, broke off about 10 feet from the back wall of their house early Tuesday morning.

Gladys Leigh, who lives on Dana Mesa Drive below, said she peered out of her back window at about 12:15 a.m. and saw “the Swallowses yard in my back yard”.


“I said, ‘Oh my God! What’s happening here?’ ” she said.

Pine trees, shrubs, and soil that had been in the Swallowses’ back yard are now resting against the back wall of her house. The slide also shattered Leigh’s block wall and spilled onto busy Del Obispo Street, covering the sidewalk with dirt and shrubs.

Since the slow-moving slide toppled trees, shattered retaining walls and dumped earth into two residences last Saturday, residents of five homes have been sleeping at neighbors’ and staying at local hotels. Leigh has slept on the sofa in her living room--located in the front of her house--during the last three nights.

On Tuesday, however, city workers nailed “Do Not Enter, Unsafe to Occupy” signs on three houses--Swallowses’, Leigh’s and that of her next-door neighbor, Clarissa Alvarez.

Leigh said she plans to stay with a friend until it is safe to return home. The Swallowses are staying with neighbors, and the American Red Cross has moved Alvarez and her three children to a nearby hotel.

City workmen placed plywood sheets against the back walls of the houses occupied by Leigh and Alvarez to prevent damage from further slippage. The workmen also helped Alvarez and her three children move their furniture to the front section of the house.

Later in the day, a maintenance crew installed a 50-yard-long pipe to replace a drainage ditch that was shattered by the slide.

Leigh and other homeowners blamed the slide on the recent heavy rainstorms.

“I’ve been wishing for rain because of the drought,” said Leigh, who has lived here for the last 22 years. “You know how the saying goes: ‘Don’t wish for something because you might not want it.’ ”

Ron Sievers, the city’s director of public lands and facilities, said that the slide occurred on private land but added that “the city is obligated to ensure all our residents are safe.”

“What we thought was possible happened,” Sievers said. “We cannot tell what’s going to happen next. We are just trying to make sure everyone is safe.”

Throughout the day, sightseers drove into the normally quiet neighborhood and stopped to look at the destruction caused by the slide. “We don’t need these kind of tourists,” said an angry resident who complained to a city official about the lines of cars parked along Dana Mesa Drive. “These sightseers are causing traffic jams on our street.”

Geoff Morgan, whose house escaped damage when a pine tree toppled by the slide fell about two feet from his home, said he grabbed his video camera and captured scenes showing how mounds of ice plants slowly crept down the slopes.

“There’s nothing much you can do,” said Morgan, 35. “You just have to look at it and say, ‘It’s amazing’ or ‘It’s awesome.’ ”