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A couple of days ago, the Mayor’s Office released a CD of documents pertaining to the landslide on Soledad Mountain Road “in furtherance of the principles of transparency and equal access to public information.”

I got a copy of the CD yesterday and have just had a chance to start looking through the 1,080-page pdf document that’s on it.

The pdf contains e-mails from the higher echelons of the city’s Water Department and Councilman Kevin Faulconer’s office from the days before the landslide occurred. In the light of everything I’ve learned about landslide liability in the last few days, I’m finding the e-mails really interesting. I didn’t realize that people were suggesting weeks earlier that there could be a major event.

Here’s a note from Thyme Curtis, council representative for Faulconer, sent on July 19:

A constituent named Tom Crab (phone number removed) just called and is very concerned about Soledad Mtn Road, specifically in front of 5715 Soledad Mtn. Road. He said that the street has been sinking and cracking for the past few months, and back in March 2007, he reported a crack in the street that was subsequently patched. Last night a pipe cracked and is currently being fixed by city crews, but Mr. Crab believe something more is going on underneath the street, that it is sinking or moving. He’s hoping a geologist or engineer can take a look before something major happens.

Here’s what the director of the city’s Water Department, Jim Barrett, wrote in an e-mail to Patti Boekamp, interim director of the city’s Development Services Department, earlier the same day:

A three inch drop in four months is not normal … even for trench subsidence.

This is particularly interesting for me after a conversation I had with geologist Steve Borron of the firm American Geotechnical. It’s important to remember that Mr. Borron’s firm has been hired by the homeowners, who are bringing hefty litigation against the city.

Nevertheless, Borron’s take on the landslide is interesting.

He said the city has been incredibly lucky because nobody was injured in the landslide. The city had notice that something was going on at Soledad Mountain Road, he said, and they should have acted quicker to ensure that nobody was in the area when the landslide eventually happened.

They’ve been monitoring this, the city, and I don’t know if it was a direct order, or if it’s just the bureaucracy of the city to try and keep things from happening quickly, but somebody understood that if they didn’t do a repair to stop it, that they could potentially get state and federal disaster aid, plus the insurance money. It’s like the needs of the city outweigh the needs of a few residents, and that’s what I don’t like.

In the fallout resulting from the landslide, there’s already been a lot of talk about whether the city should be liable for the economic consequences of the landslide. But with the e-mails I’m reading, maybe another question is whether the city knew the landslide was likely to happen, and should have ensured that nobody was anywhere near it when it finally went.

I’ll keep reading this monster pdf.

WILL CARLESS

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