Hill dwellers guard against future slides

The 14 Millbrae property owners involved in a torrential mudslide in 2000 have formed a nonprofit corporation to fund maintenance repairs they hope will help prevent another slide from occurring.

The seven owners on the 1000 block of Pinehurst Court and Crestview Drive, respectively, will each pay a maximum of $1,000 annually to the corporation to prevent problems that led to the mudslide.

The city will not be a member of the corporation, but it will also pay that amount annually and kick in $225,000 it had saved up from previous settlements to form this organization, City Attorney Joan Cassman said.

Five houses were destroyed and others were damaged on March 9, 2000, after a massive mudslide rolled 200 feet downhill onto Pinehurst. The property owners were given different amounts after the 2004 settlement, which included a clause requiring owners to pay for regular maintenance.

Hill work has already been completed to prevent another landslide, but additional maintenance is needed on a regular basis to ensure that no problems arise, attorneys say.

For instance, crews will check for any cracks in the epoxy material in ditches, inspect for water runoff into soil, remove vegetation blocking ditches or anything else that could lead to future mudslides, according to Berdin and Weil, an Alamo firm representing the homeowners. Heavy rains preceded the 2000 slide.

Owner Carl Mattman, who has lived at his Pinehurst home since 1956, understands that this maintenance fee clause was part of the 2004 settlement, but he is still not thrilled to be paying for the hill, which is not on his property.

“Why should we pay to maintain somebody else’s hill?” said Mattman, whose structure escaped damage in 2000, but with damage to his yard. “So what’s $1,000 a year? It’s the idea of the thing, the principle. We just have to live with it.”

Mattman and fellow longtime resident Glenn Buzolich also said this group will be the first of its kind for the neighborhood.

“There has to be some caretaking of the hill, so we formed the corporation to take care of it,” saidBuzolich, who has lived on Pinehurst since 1960.

The city, one of the parties that settled with the homeowners in 2000, plays a part in the agreement because it owns a sewer easement there.

“We’re also interested in the welfare of our residents and our hillside,” said Mayor Marc Hershman, who was on the City Council during the slide.

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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