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New fractures stop Del Mar bluff repairs

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Workers with heavy equipment reconstruct a slope along Jimmy Durante Boulevard in Del Mar.
(Courtesy city of Del Mar)

Efforts to repair a landslide that has kept part of a Del Mar thoroughfare closed for weeks stopped Thursday, May 9, after workers discovered two new fractures in the slope.“The city’s geologist collected additional soil samples and is evaluating options to address these fractures,” states information posted on the city’s website Friday morning, May 10.

Del Mar officials had hoped to reopen the northbound lane of Jimmy Durante Boulevard between Camino Del Mar and the fairgrounds by Memorial Day and in time for the May 31 start of the annual month-long San Diego County Fair, which last year had more than 1.5 million visitors.

However, the continuing movement of the unstable slope and the prospect of more rain over the weekend have required the contractor to take additional precautions and adjust the work schedule. The cause of the April 21 slide remains undetermined, city officials said Friday, May 10.

The Del Mar City Council unanimously approved an appropriation Monday of $660,000 for an agreement with Southland Paving, Inc., to work through nights and weekends on temporary repairs to reconstruct the slope and install concrete blocks. Additional costs are expected for a subsequent permanent repair, according to a staff report. A portion of the expense could be covered by insurance.

Rocks, dirt and brush initially covered about 100 feet of sidewalk, a bike lane and much of the northbound traffic lane of Jimmy Durante. The northbound and southbound lanes are separated by a wide, landscaped median at that point.

During the closure, northbound traffic on Camino del Mar, also known as Highway 101, will continue north past Jimmy Durante and turn right onto Via de la Valle to go east. The city plans to post employees to control traffic during the busiest weekday hours for at least the next week.

Speculation about the possible cause of the slide stirred up a tempest in the small, upper-crust community of Del Mar.

Pat Abbott, a retired San Diego State University geology professor, apologized profusely at the council meeting Monday, May 6, saying he had suggested incorrectly in a television news story last month that construction atop the bluff could have contributed to the slide.

Since then, he has investigated and found “no facts whatsoever” to show that work on the house, which is nearly finished, could have been a factor in the slide, Abbott said. He is often quoted in news stories about sinkholes, earthquakes and other geologic events in the region.

The wetter-than-average winter and landscape irrigation on the bluff remain possible causes or contributing factors, he said.

There’s a chance of heavier rain late next week, according to the National Weather Service office in San Diego.

Long-time Del Mar architect Dean Meredith designed the blufftop house on Seaview Avenue and is having it built for himself and his wife, Monica. They told the council Monday, May 6, they have both suffered greatly professionally and personally because of rumors about the cause of the slide.

“It has been extremely emotional and extremely painful for us,” Monica Meredith said. “We hear every day from people, can you move into your house, is your house falling down, did they have to stop construction ... people are angry that the road got closed.”

A consulting geologist employed by the couple, Les Reed, also told the council, “There is no way the Meredith property, the construction activity, had anything to do” with the the landslide. Reed said he’s been in the business 48 years and has worked on many coastal residential properties.

There’s been a “firestorm of negative response ... spread through social media” and it needs to stop, Reed said.

City officials emphasized that the cause of the slide remains unknown.

“While the underlying cause of the bluff failure is important and efforts are in progress to determine the cause, the city’s highest priority at this time is to stabilize the slope, while protecting the private and public property involved, and doing so in the most safe and expeditious manner possible,” the city website states.


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