Controversy Over PVE's Decision to Remove Their Bluff Cove Homes.
The removal of the City's Bluff Cove homes in late 2015 was not without controversy. Various concerns that were brought to the attention of the City Council and City staff were as follows:
By PVE Trails & Open Space Conservancy
- The City may not understand the complications caused by the removal of all 7 homes at once. Perhaps just removing the two city owned houses at the far south end of Bluff Cove first would be a better way to begin. It would have allowed more time to consider alternative uses and consequences involving the other 5 homes on 7 lots PVE owns on the north side of Bluff Cove. However, this approach was rejected by the City Council.
- The adjacent owners have stated that they have geological reports indicating their properties are on relatively stable land. Such reports prepared for the City owned property may have had more limited testing, reportedly indicates the soil conditions are better on some of the lots than others and may simply be more conservative.
- In particular, besides having some reports that were very limited or preliminary, it appears some of these indicated that the landslide risks are not as severe on all lots.
- There may have been insufficient investigations to sell some of the homes, and the Council's position that a home or two could not be sold without major liability concerns may have not been fully explored. This may have cost PVE residents $2 to $4 million in sale proceeds for one or two homes.
- The removal of the homes and the resulting vacant land could actually have a more destabilizing impact upon the bluff than if the homes remained and, if the fear of the adjacent owners materialize, this removal process and potential liability could actually be much more costly to PVE and its residents.
- The alternative use of the City's Bluff Cove property, for vacant open space by the City Council, may not have adequately consider other possible better uses. Besides selling homes as private residences, another alternative could include the modification of one or multiple homes as a small community center or interpretive center limited mostly to PVE residents. It could be similar to other PVE concessions, which would have no ongoing cost burden to the City. The sale of a home or two could have also provided funds to develop such a use.
- The expected timing of the removal of the homes, in the beginning of the rainy season, may not be prudent.
- Once the homes are removed, except for their foundations about 2 feet below the surface, it would be very complicated if not impossible to rebuild any structures in the future on these City lots, even if it was for community use.
- The removal of these homes could cause damage to the remaining homes and having adjacent vacant "open space" next to these homes could make them less safe.
- There was a 2008 legal ruling known as the "Monks" case, which occurred in the adjoining City of RPV, that may be noteworthy. It was ruled that "A permanent ban on home construction cannot be based merely on a fear of personal injury or significant property damage." Even though the situation at Bluff Cove does not involve a construction ban, this case may still have had some relevance. After all, if PVE decided to demolish millions of dollars of homes belonging to PVE residents based on "fear," and not on appropriate documented evidence supporting the removal of EACH City-owned home, it may legally have beeen considered to be inappropriate. Most important is that this multi-million dollar issue is dealt with in a manner that provides the best benefit to the PVE resident taxpayers.
- It appears the City had no definite open space plans prior to the demolition of the Bluff Cove houses with regards to specific new plantings, signs and fencing to restrict access to the edge of the cliffs, trail (and a viewing area as part of the California Coastal Trail, which could provide some additional funds for the development of the area), access points, traffic turnarounds, alternate parking, annual maintenance costs, trash receptacles, the impact of parking for the property upon other nearby residents... Many of these issues that should have been contemplated will need to be resolved in the future, and possibly before someone's personal safety is properly addressed.
- The City budgeted about $1.4 million to remove the homes, and were unsuccessful in obtaining any bids in their first attempt. As explained due to the concerns above, is this the best use of the City's funds? And, have additional funds for this project properly been contemplated?
- It's understood that the City Council wanted to put the Bluff Cove matter behind them, and didn't want to take any additional time to better consider numerous issues mentioned above. However, did the City oversimplify the situation by considering that if there if one part is bad, than it is all bad? Did they try to apply a one-size-fits-all solution? Over time, have they created unnecessary problems for the City's Bluff Cove property?
An appeal was made by several residents of PVE and other concerned citizens informing the City Council and City Managerof the concerns expressed herein, and to request; 1) that additional studies as mentioned be obtained and, 2) not to remove all the Bluff Cove homes at once. Obviously, those appeals were ineffective. Now that this open space will be accessible soon, we'll begin to learn if these concerns were ill placed.