Demolition is now in progress on seven city-owned blufftop mansions in Palos Verdes Estates, marking the last steps in a decades-long saga that's become "probably the most significant project that the city has undertaken in its history," the mayor of PVE tells the Daily Breeze. A 1983 landslide at Bluff Cove destroyed three houses and kicked off a series of lawsuits in which about a dozen of the ritzy homeowners charged that PVE had failed to maintain a faulty storm drain that emptied out at the base of the cliffs, and in effect was responsible for destabilizing the bluffs and damaging or destroying their houses. Once court cases and lawsuits were settled, PVE found itself owning seven houses in the oceanfront development (some people still live in neighboring houses). And they still sit in the way of a "slow-moving landslide."
The houses sat unoccupied for a few years, but were attracting squatters and parties, so from the late 1980s until the final months of 2012 (when they started to show "signs of long-term damage and disrepair"), they were used as subsidized housing for a handful of lucky city employees. According to a 1991 article in the LA Times, the city manager and a few members of the police force—employees who would not have been able to afford to live in expensive PVE otherwise—were among those who lived rent-free in the houses in exchange for keeping them up. (None of them seemed at all worried about their houses falling into the ocean.)
In 2013, the city's geologist told the DB that the land was still sliding three to eight inches a year and "I suspect it will continue at that." But, "he did not rule out a catastrophic failure."
Last summer, PVE voted that, instead of trying to stabilize the cliffside, the best course of action would be to just demolish the damaged houses. (Two of the houses in the original development are still privately owned, and they'll be untouched.) Once all seven of the problem houses are completely razed, the land on which they once sat will be cleared, graded, and seeded so it can either become open park land or be donated to the Palos Verdes Land Conservancy. The demolition and land rehab is expected to be finished in June.
· Palos Verdes Estates begins demolishing unstable Bluff Cove homes [DB]