SAN CLEMENTE : City Targets 6 Condemned Homes

More than nine years after several homes were condemned and abandoned following the massive Verde Canyon landslide, city officials are considering steps to have the eyesores demolished or repaired.

City Manager Michael W. Parness said the city seeks to declare the six condemned homes a public nuisance and require the property owners to repair or demolish them.

“It is a nuisance, and we certainly have the justification for proceeding,” Parness said.

In April, city officials will be seeking formal approval from the City Council before initiating the nuisance abatement process, although a council vote is not required.


“It’s not like we’re talking about an abandoned car or trash,” Community Development Director James S. Holloway said. “We’re talking about six single-family residences. There’s budget implications and significant policy implications.”

If the homes are declared a public nuisance and property owners refuse to take any action, the city could order demolition of the homes and assess the property owners for the cost.

Officials say they’re not sure how long the process could take, or what it could cost since much depends on how much cooperation the city would receive from the property owners.

During the 1983 slide, three homes at the end of cul-de-sacs on Via Catalina and Via La Jolla were carried down the canyon and destroyed. Another seven on Via La Jolla, Via Catalina and Via La Mesa, one of which has since been torn down, were condemned and have become boarded-up haunts for vandals and transients.

At least once in recent years, the city has ordered the property owners to clear tangled vegetation from their yards and board up windows on the homes, but has not ordered demolition or repair work.

Parness said the city had been ready to start the nuisance abatement process on the homes more than a year ago, but postponed it when a developer said he would be willing to end the blight.

But that developer’s plan, which has since grown to include a controversial proposal to build 30 homes in the bottom of Verde Canyon, will take a great deal of time to resolve one way or the other, prompting officials to start moving again on the nuisance abatement plan, Parness said.

Although they remain deeply divided about the development proposal, Verde Canyon residents applauded the city’s abatement proposal.

“It’s long overdue,” said Paul Lukes, a canyon resident leading the fight against the proposed development plan. “It’s time the city came forward.”

Linda Kirkpatrick, a development plan supporter who lives on the corner of Via La Mesa, said the city’s plan is an important first step but that there are deeper problems in the canyon that also need to be fixed.

“The condemned homes are the symptom, and the illness is the canyon,” said Kirkpatrick, who along with her husband, Curry, bought one of the condemned homes next door and demolished it several years ago.

Although a specific Verde Canyon development plan has not yet been brought to the city, a developer is proposing to spend an estimated $6 million to stabilize the canyon and rebuild the 10 condemned properties. But to make the plan economically viable, officials with Verde Canyon Redevelopment Inc. say they would need to build 30 new homes in the bottom of the 18-acre canyon.

Opponents say the canyon should be preserved and that development work could further undermine already unstable canyon walls.