South Slope Landslide
Jim Doten

Klamath Falls, OR

#1 Feb 9, 2006
South Slope Landslide

We have been silent for long enough concerning the landslide and the damage to homes on Bridgeview Court in the Plat of Vista Hills Subdivision in Astoria. We, along with Linda’s mother, appealed the City of Astoria Planning Commission’s decision to the City Council on December 9, 1998 (Appeal File A98-02). There were many reasons that we appealed the Planning Commission’s decision. The most important was the possibility of landslide. Another reason was the fact that City Staff had the audacity to call the future subdivision “level terrain.” What other falsehoods was City Staff hiding in their “Findings of Fact”?

In a Memorandum to City Manager, Rod Leland, through Paul Benoit (then Community Development Director), from Barbara Robinson, Associate Planner, dated January 26, 1999, Ms. Robinson states “prior to the USCG housing construction, an extensive amount of geotechnical engineering research and testing was done in the area ... several test pits and borings were
done ... specifically to determine the type and stability of the soils in the area. The summary of the geotechnical report is shown on the attached maps. It is clear from the information provided by the geotechnical engineer, and in the report ....” Doesn’t this mean that the City had the Coast Guard’s geotechnical survey at that time? Was City Staff telling falsehoods back in 1999 or are they telling them now? The Memorandum then goes on to explain that deep drains were installed throughout the site “to prevent reactivation of ancient landslides identified in some portions of the property.”

There were many other problems with this proposed subdivision that did not “fit into” the City of Astoria’s Comprehensive Plan and Code, one being the size of the subdivision. The Comprehensive Plan states that the subdivision must be “at least three acres in size.” The subdivision is 2.6 acres. The City’s Comprehensive Plan and Code states that “much of this land is steep and landslide prone,”(referring to South Slope) yet Ms. Robinson states, in the very next paragraph,“the proposed subdivision ... would not warrant a geologic study or report. The subject area is not designated as an area prone to landslide.” We find that there were too many inconsistencies in this subdivision’s approval process. Now, it appears that the City is attempting to locate or obtain the Coast Guard’s geotechnical report. Shouldn’t the City already have the report as stated in the City’s Memorandum of January 26, 1999? If not, why would the City approve a subdivision on a steep hillside allowing all vegetation and old growth trees to be removed, knowing that South Slope is landslide prone, knowing that an ancient landslide area is extremely close in proximity to such subdivision, and knowing that such geotechnical report does exist and could very well have prevented this landslide from happening.

The City got what it wanted – a hillside subdivision with a view – at whose expense though? The City created a nightmare for many homeowners. In our Appeal, we brought the landslide potential to the City Council’s attention and were summarily ignored. Maybe it is time that all local City Councils start to listen to their constituents.

Jim and Linda Doten

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