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CNN Today

El Nino Erosion Slides Coastal California Neighborhoods Toward the Sea

Aired January 7, 2000 - 1:25 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: The weather is seldom so bad that it undermines entire neighborhoods, but then again, most of us don't live on a bluff overlook the Pacific.

CNN's Don Knapp with the latest chapter in a homeowner horror story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DON KNAPP, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Drought is a concern this dry Northern California winter, so you wouldn't expect landslides to be a problem. Two years ago, El Nino's heavy rains and pounding surf undermined huge sections of the coast. Here in Pacifica, homeowners, consultants and politicians talked of grand plans to stop the erosion.

(on camera): Although expensive, highly-engineered solutions were discussed for this neighborhood, they never materialized, and, in the end, it was nature's solution that prevailed.

(voice-over): As the sea claimed the land, machines finished off broken houses and hauled them away. A few miles to the north on another bluff overlooking the Pacific, owners of 17 homes in Daly City continue to battle slides triggered by El Nino.

TOM WILSON, HOMEOWNER: The problem now is the street drops so much, all the city pipes underneath break. They repaired these four times since Thanksgiving.

KNAPP: Tom Wilson's driveway has dropped so far, he can hardly get his car into the garage. Daly City is considering a number of fixes.

TERRY ROBERTS, DALY CITY PUBLIC WORKS: The most expensive one is a massive retaining wall. But at $22 million, nobody can afford it.

KNAPP: One plan would temporarily move all 17 houses off the hill while the land is shored up. Homeowners would pay to move their own homes.

WILSON: You can't tell these people to leave, you know. You don't leave your home that quick. You know, you can't go out and buy another house.

ROXANNA SAROYAN, HOMEOWNER: That rain that we had -- what was it -- about a year, or two years ago: That really pronounced the drop.

KNAPP: Roxanna Saroyan has learned to live on the slippery slope.

SAROYAN: You know, you pay the gardener to put terrace in your backyard and here nature is doing that for us without a cost.

KNAPP: Daly City keeps homeowners advised of engineering options and tries to find government money to pay for them. But two years after El Nino, residents still watch their neighborhood slide toward the sea.

Don Knapp, CNN, Daly City, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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