How an ‘ancient landslide’ keeps threatening a railroad, homes in San Clemente
In the hills above Carmel, where the waves crash against rocky cliffs, two small cottages sit on a hilltop. That will soon change as the owners prepare for construction by tearing walls down.
Construction workers are in and out of the yard, tearing down the building on the left, a home built nearly 100 years ago, and a newer structure adjacent to it.
Construction on the hillside is being done by a developer looking to take advantage of the area’s high population and lucrative real estate market, says Jeff Koehler, a longtime resident and member of the Santa Ana Mountain Regional Park Commission.
The project is a “tremendous investment,” he says, adding that the city “is making a tremendous sacrifice to provide housing for people in a depressed area like this.”
The hillside development, called Montage at Cerritos, is being made possible, in part, by a landslide that occurred in 1968, burying part of a hillside cottage community along the Carmel River to the east.
Construction on a new Montage cottages has begun, but the landslide’s threat lingers — and so do residents’ worries about where the project will land on the hill once the new Montage community comes into being.
The latest news from the landslide came Wednesday, when the California Division of Hazards is investigating the landslide’s threat to the nearby railroads, homes and public access.
That means it’s time for a long history lesson about the landslide, how it may be coming to pass, the homes at stake, and what the future may bring.
The landslide occurred in 1968.
“It was like a flash flood,” says Bob Stokes, head of the park commission and a Cerritos resident. “For hours, it’s just a steady flow of water pouring down and burying everything.”
The first thing residents of the area noticed, says Jeff Koehler, was their cabs and cars filling up with water.
“The first time they got the water, the cabs filled, the cars filled, and the water just kept