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article imageEroding hillside forces California coast residents to evacuate

By Nathan Salant     Jan 27, 2016 in Environment
Pacifica - Residents of the last inhabited apartment building on a cliff overlooking the ocean in Pacifica were informed Monday that they would have to move — now.
City officials yellow-tagged the 20 or so still-occupied apartments at 310 Esplanade Ave. after another chunk of erosion-threatened hillside collapsed into the Pacific.
This winter's pounding rainstorms that seemed such a blessing for the drought-parched state appear to have accelerated the demise of the hillside that once held three apartment complexes that were home to dozens of residents.
The two other apartment buildings, 320 and 330 Esplanade, were evacuated in 2010, according to the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.
"It's been good, real good, living here," said one resident, Brandy McDaniel, as she carried a mattress to a moving van.
"Moving out sucks, but what can you do?" she told the newspaper.
Pacifica declared a state of emergency last week after storms and waves continued to pound the cliffs, which have resisted efforts to shore up and eliminate the danger.
It now appears likely that the three apartment buildings cannot be saved and will have to be demolished, the newspaper said.
A few doors down from her unit, McDaniel pointed out a balcony that was partially torn away by the collapsing hillside.
A few months ago, she said, she was doing a painting project for a neighbor on that very balcony.
“If I was standing there now, I’d be dead,” she said. “It’s time to go.”
McDaniel said she and her roommate found a more expensive apartment a block away.
But not all of her neighbors agreed that it was time to move out.
Michelle McKay, who has lived at 310 Esplanade for five years, took a petition door-to-door to demand the right to stay and urged others to go down to City Hall to protest the evictions.
“This is all sensationalism,” she told the newspaper.
“We’re not going to let them put us on the street," she said.
About a mile away, at Pacifica Baptist Church, the Red Cross set up an emergency shelter and took in five residents from the complex, who slept on gray cots in a church meeting room and ate free McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches.
Esplanade Avenue evacuees "did not seem too upset and were grateful for a warm place to sleep," shelter manager Don Wright told the newspaper.
Wright said the shelter would be open this week or longer, depending on need, while the Pacifica Resource Center, a local nonprofit, helped residents find longer-term housing.
“We can squeeze in about 20 people,” he said.
Some residents spent Monday night in their yellow-tagged apartments, even though they were only allowed to remove possessions, the newspaper said.
If the building gets red-tagged — a possibility as more storms roll in — nobody will be allowed inside for any reason.
“A yellow tag is not a suggestion. It’s an order,” Pacifica Police Chief Dan Steidle told the newspaper.
“If people are in the residence and are refusing to move, we may have to take criminal action, but that’s a last resort," he said. "We’re doing our best to get them the services they need.”
The owner of the building, Millard Tong, told the newspaper through a representative that the building was still safe and he would be challenging the eviction orders.
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