El Niño storms erode Pacifica bluff as homes teeter on the edge


Apartment buildings lining a rocky cliff overlooking the ocean in Pacifica, Calif., are in peril after recent El Niño storms severely eroded the crumbling bluff.

Video recorded from a drone posted on YouTube over the weekend shows several buildings on Esplanade Avenue teetering on the cliff’s edge as other portions of the bluff appear to have disintegrated into the crashing waves below.

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City Manager Lorie Tinfow declared a local emergency after the storms not only wreaked havoc on the cliffside, but also caused damage to Pacifica Pier and the Milagra Watershed. Rains also triggered the failure of a seawall along Beach Boulevard and Santa Maria Avenue in the coastal Bay Area city, about 15 miles south of San Francisco.

“El Niño is hitting the city’s coastline very hard and creating almost daily reports of impacts to both public and private property,” Tinfow said in a statement.

The apartment buildings in the 300 block of Esplanade Avenue have been deemed uninhabitable and the property owners were working with the city to demolish them.

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Residents had been living in another 20-unit apartment building along the same cliff until Monday, when city officials decided it was no longer inhabitable.

Chief building official Mike Cully said cavities were forming along the bluff, compromising south, west and north sides of the building. Cully anticipated the slopes would become more stable in the next few days as they fall back and settle in.


Tinfow called for state and federal assistance to help with the city’s failing infrastructure.

Pacifica Police Chief Dan Steidle said officials reached out to the American Red Cross and Pacifica Resource Center to assist affected residents.

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Last week’s rainstorm caused minor flooding throughout the Bay Area and dropped more than an inch of rain on Pacifica. King tides -- unusually high tides that occur near the solstices -- pummeled the coastline for days.

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