A hillside in the Claremont Hills area of the Oakland/Berkeley Hills that has given way in wet winters before — and that has been shored up at great expense by at least two property owners over the last two decades — gave way to a significant landslide again last week. And property owners below it remain fearful of further slides.
If they're not fearing wildfire in the Berkeley Hills, they're dealing with landslides. And at least one notoriously slippery bit of hillside that one or more property owners has spent beaucoup bucks to stabilize over the years is back doing its thing, and wiping away a swath of that stabilizing work.
The landslide dumped a ton of mud and debris onto Alvarado Road in the Claremont Canyon area early last week, as Berkeleyside reported, creating some egress issues for residents. And longtime residents are having flashbacks to other wet seasons — in particular the spring of 2006, when homes on Alvarado were yellow-tagged due to the slippage above them.
The threat was most imminent for a home that was built above them in 2005, at 21 Drury Court, and the Twitter thread below — as well as this Bay Area News Group article from 2006 — illustrates the extent of the problem, and how far back this drama goes.
Here is the aerial photo showing the work that was being done. pic.twitter.com/x7E67msr87— Don Penim (@Don_Penim) January 16, 2023
Here's a photo of the mudslide that's closed Alvarado Road.— Brian EdwardsTiekert (@bedwardstiek) January 17, 2023
This slope started collapsing in 2016, two years after the big house above it got built; the de-vegetated terrace next to the slide is what's left of the homeowner's stabilization effort. pic.twitter.com/X7XVujBxkD
It took me a while to figure out where this was but streetview and satellite views really helped once I did.— JohnB (@JohnB) January 17, 2023
It seems like they were building it for years - and whatever legal perimeter limits they had were superseded by physical limits. pic.twitter.com/PYsU6yKzMr
As Bay Area News Group (likely, at the time, the Oakland Tribune) reported, the owner of that multi-million-dollar home perched precariously over that slope, along with the owner of the parcels below that were actively sliding, Y&H Co., engaged engineers and soil specialists to figure out how to deal with the hillside. "Make no mistake, the slope will slide again once the rainy season hits full-stride, geotechnical engineers who studied the area have concluded," the Tribune wrote.
The addresses in question all appear to be in Berkeley, but the Oakland City Council was discussing how to help at the time, concluding that they couldn't incur liability by providing funds that would benefit private property owners. The initial cost at the time was $200,000, but Berkeleyside and others surmise that "millions" have likely been spent since then to stabilize this hill, in spite of Mother Nature.
Fast-forward almost 17 years, with no doubt more years of work done to stabilize the hill, and a few atmospheric rivers caused more mud to move — though the house on Drury Court still seems to be okay.
Around the bend, also in the Berkeley Hills above the Clark Kerr campus of UC Berkeley, the hills neighborhood known as The Spiral has now seen 14 homes red-tagged due to threats from land moving above them. One home on Middlefield Road saw a significant mudslide slam into it, as seen below, and as Berkeleyside reports, homeowners have no timeline for when they might be able to go home.
Diverting water from a leak within the slide today. Crews were on scene for several hours mitigating future risks and further erosion, alongside PW, OES, PD and Building and Safety. Fortunate to report no injuries. With one more storm system on the way, please stay safe! pic.twitter.com/DHnZXtnx2F— BerkeleyFirefighters (@BerkeleyProFire) January 17, 2023
Landslide danger looms for some residents in the hills above Oakland and Berkeley after heavy rainfall over the past two weeks. https://t.co/ECFPED80MI— NBC Bay Area (@nbcbayarea) January 17, 2023
Some homes already have seen significant damage from slides: pic.twitter.com/uiPqfogDm0
The effort to remove mud and debris from the hills above the red-tagged homes is ongoing, with the hope of prevent further mudslides if and when the rain returns.
Top image via Google Street View