SAN CLEMENTE : City to Help With Fees District Inquiry

The City Council has agreed to help a group of residents on slide-scarred La Ventana investigate the preliminary costs of forming a neighborhood assessment district to pay for hillside repairs and prevent future disasters.

Five bluff-top homes on La Ventana were destroyed during a massive landslide in late February that also closed a section of Coast Highway below in Dana Point and temporarily shut down a critical stretch of railroad tracks.

In a 4-0 vote last week, the council approved developing a document to seek proposals from engineering firms to determine the costs involved in establishing what is known as a Geologic Hazard Abatement District.

Interested firms would be asked to prepare a "plan of control," outlining the risks of future landslides along the bluff, the costs of possible options to prevent additional slides and how such costs could be distributed among affected property owners.

Once initial cost estimates are known, bluff-top residents along La Ventana could decide if they want to pursue the idea, Community Development Director James S. Holloway said.

Developing a plan of control is the first step required to consider forming a district, Holloway said. At this point, the city is only looking to help residents determine the costs of forming a district, which would cost about 10 to 20 hours in staff time, he added.

Peter Shikli, who lost his home during the slide, said he appreciates the help from the city in exploring district issues. "I don't think anybody knows if it's a good idea yet," he said.

Concerning residents on the other side of La Ventana who have said they would oppose being assessed to pay for slope repairs, city officials said only that those living on the bluffs would likely be involved if a district were formed.

"The district may only include those properties which are at risk from slope failures," Holloway said in a report to the council.

Holloway pointed out that the district concept has been used successfully in Rancho Palos Verdes in preventing landslides and associated lawsuits.

Dana Point officials are considering joining San Clemente in the preliminary effort, Holloway said.

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