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DANA POINT : Slide-Area Residents Get Waiver Deadline

Property owners whose homes were destroyed in a massive landslide must sign a waiver by Friday freeing the city from liability for bluff reconstruction work or face stabilizing their properties without city help.

The City Council voted 3 to 2 in closed session last Tuesday to give the bluff-top property owners the Friday deadline for liability waivers on reconstruction work on the bluff that collapsed Feb. 16.

The landslide destroyed six bluff-top homes, caused two others to be condemned and heaped a pile of rubble on Pacific Coast Highway that has kept the roadway closed ever since.

If the property owners sign the waivers, the city will embark on a $3.1-million bluff reconstruction project to clear the highway and stabilize property along the bluff top, said Andy Anderson, city emergency services coordinator.

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However, if the property owners refuse to waive their rights to sue over the work, the city will embark on a lesser project--estimated to cost $2.85 million--designed to clear the highway and build a retaining wall at its base, leaving the bluff reconstruction to the property owners, Anderson said. The California Coastal Commission recently granted the city a permit for the retaining wall.

“The council is going the extra mile to try and do what we consider the right thing even though we have the authority now to install the wall,” Anderson said. “It’s now the responsibility of those folks to respond accordingly.”

Council members Mike Eggers and William Ossenmacher cast the dissenting votes, saying the council proposal did not go far enough. Under the plan, property owners can still sue the cities of San Clemente and Dana Point over the cause of the slide, which has not yet been determined.

Ossenmacher wants the homeowners to promise never to sue the city.

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“If the taxpayers of Dana Point are taking this alternative to allow them to rebuild their homes again, the very least we should get is litigation relief,” Ossenmacher said. “The city had nothing to do with that slide, nor contributed to it in any way shape or form.”

The city has received written letters of intent to sign the waivers from six of seven current property owners, Anderson said. Only one, Gaylene Potter, has not yet indicated in writing that she intends to sign a waiver, although she has verbally indicated she would do so, Anderson said.

The bulk of the cleanup costs will be provided by the federal government, Anderson said.


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