San Pedro cliff chunk, road slide into ocean after rain

LA Landslide

Nick Ut/AP

A photo of Paseo del Mar from early last week. This shows the initial cracking and collapsing in the road. Heavy rain on Sunday caused a nearby cliff to break off entirely and slide into the ocean.

Los Angeles City officials Monday are urging people to keep away from San Pedro’s Paseo del Mar. Onlookers were urged to keep away after heavy weekend rains sent a large chunk of the previously shuttered cliff-top road between Weymouth Avenue and Western Avenue sliding into the ocean Sunday.

Nobody was hurt by the landslide.

Power lines began to sway around 3 p.m. Sunday and a large chunk of the road collapsed, leaving part of the cliff in the ocean. The slide affected an area bordering the White Point Nature Preserve.

"The landslide area remains unstable and presents a life-threatening hazard. Please follow the posted signs and keep out of the area," Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said in a statement, adding that the Los Angeles Police Department has increased patrols in the area to keep onlookers away.

Because of the instability of the ground movement and its rapid deterioration, this site area is extremely hazardous to vehicle, cyclist, pedestrian and pet traffic.

Villaraigosa said city engineers are working to determine what caused the initial landslide and are under orders to reach a contract with an outside geotechnical firm to help conclude a study.

The study will help identify weak and susceptible rock structure below the ground and enable the city to use monitoring instruments within the ground to evaluate where the surrounding land is stable.

“Certainly things are going on underneath the ground that we can’t see," said Cora Fossett with the city's Department of Public Works, "and that’s why we want to bring on the specialist so they’ll be able to give us more insight and give us their expert opinion.”

Fossett says signs of the landslide began to appear over the summer. It’s not clear how long it’ll take to fix the road.

The portion of the road that fell away Sunday was between South Western and South Weymouth avenues and fell within a 900-foot section closed by the city in September. This stretch of coastal bluff road is likely irreparable and a new route for the scenic roadway will have to be considered, said Peter Sanders, spokesman for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

"We're lucky no one got hurt," said Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, who was on his way to speak at a chamber of commerce meeting on the Palos Verdes Peninsula when he received a call from a constituent about the new collapse, the Daily Breeze reported.

Fissures first appeared last spring; engineers have been monitoring potential landslide risk. Since then, workers have been putting up fences and warning signs, as well as relocating sewer and utility lines away from the area.

The peninsula's scenic qualities have prompted decades of homebuilding that some experts blame for further destabilizing the historically unstable ocean bluffs.

The mayor thanked the residents of the White Point neighborhood "for their patience and cooperation during this time."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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