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Crews demolish Pacifica apartment building that threatened to collapse into ocean

Wrecking crews began tearing down a vacant apartment building perched on a crumbling seaside cliff in Pacifica on Monday — the culmination of a legal process that began more than a year ago.  

The building at 310 Esplanade Ave. was yellow-tagged and deemed uninhabitable in January 2016 after powerful surf from El-Nino fueled storms eroded the coastline and bluffs. Portions of the eroding cliff had collapsed into the ocean after rains hammered the Bay Area city.

In December, a city building official and geotechnical consultant determined the building posed a threat to public health and recommended it be demolished “as soon as possible,” officials said.

“Storm-driven waves have accelerated erosion of the adjacent bluffs presenting a clear danger to residents, and demolishing this structure is the only way to prevent it from crumbling to the beach below,” City Manager Lorie Tinfow said in a statement.

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The building was constructed in the 1960s. Cleanup of the building site should be finished by the end of the week, city officials said.

In March, a neighboring 20-unit apartment building, which had also been determined to be dangerous for residents, was demolished. The building had been closed since 2010 when city officials declared it hazardous.

The two buildings are owned by Millard Tong, who city officials say has been aware of the bluff’s condition and filed for bankruptcy in 2015.

A third building on the same stretch of coast was also demolished by a private owner last winter.

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In total, Pacifica spent about $3.65 million last year repairing a dozen locations that were damaged by winter storms, including the seaside cliffs. About $2 million of that is expected to be covered by the city’s insurance and about $1 million could come from a state disaster fund, city officials said.

The city has also applied for assistance from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reinforce the cliffs below the Esplanade address, update its watershed pipelines and repair and replace a seawall and promenade. All three requests have moved past the first stage of the approval process, officials announced last week.

joseph.serna@latimes.com

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna on Twitter.

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