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Meredith house not to blame for April 21 bluff collapse on Jimmy Durante

A Del Mar architect’s home-building project had nothing to do with the April 21 bluff collapse shutting down northbound Jimmy Durante Boulevard to traffic.

Patrick Abbott, the geologist who told news media the project might have been a contributing factor, delivered a public apology for his remarks in an appearance Monday, May 6, before the Del Mar City Council.

“It was speculation, which I should not have done,” Abbott said, adding that he confirmed his error through consultations with professionals familiar with the project.

“Therefore, I was wrong,” he said. “So based on the current evidence ... it means the new building there, the new house, is not responsible in any way, shape or form for the bluff failure.”

The apology came during the council’s consideration of an emergency contract with Southland Paving to clear the road, reconstruct the slope, and install a barrier.

Council members voted 5-0 to approve the contract and allocate $660,000 for the work.

Del Mar Public Works Director Joe Bride told council members the northbound lane should be reopened by Memorial Day if not sooner, in advance of the San Diego County Fair.

The fair will be held from May 31 to July 4 on the Del Mar Fairgrounds, whose main entrance and onsite parking lots are located on Jimmy Durante north of the collapse site.

Following the incident, veteran architect Dean Meredith, who is building the house for himself and his wife, Monica, complained that Abbott’s insinuation has generated an avalanche of negative publicity directed at them.

“He’s a good man — everybody makes mistakes,” Meredith told the council Monday. “Unfortunately, his mistake has damaged my career as an architect. ...

“You work 50 some years building a career and, unfortunately, three minutes on (TV) could take this potentially away.”

Meredith stressed his blueprints had been thoroughly analyzed and received all required approvals from the city.

Those studying the failure agree it stemmed from recent heavy rains combined with the inherent fragility of the steep slope, one of many in Del Mar vulnerable to collapse.

Abbott’s retraction received support from Les Reed, whose geotechnical engineering firm worked with the Merediths on the plan for their bluff-top home on Seaview Avenue.

Following the collapse, Reed said, he determined the property, which is south of the slide area, could not have played a role, a conclusion supported by the city’s staff.

“It was very clear that the failure that took place was not below ... the Meredith property,” Reed said. “It was to the north. ... There is no way that the Meredith property construction activity had anything to do with that failure.”

Mayor Dave Druker and Councilman Dwight Worden said they believe Dean Meredith’s outstanding reputation as an architect will overcome the fallout.

While praising Abbott for being forthcoming about his mistake, council members expressed concern the city staff had not disseminated information concerning the bluff failure sooner to the public.

“I would hope this will help everybody understand how in an emergency and these types of things, communication is so very important,” Druker said.


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