Federal, state and local leaders in Pacifica on Wednesday addressed the coastal city’s crumbling cliffs and yellow-tagged structures weakened during this month’s El Niño-fueled storms.
Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco, San Mateo counties), representatives from State Senator Jerry Hill and Assemblyman Kevin Mullin’s offices, San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley and Pacifica city council members and staff organized a news conference to update the public on the damage in the city, and what’s being done about it.
Speier also toured the waterfront areas with Mike McHenry, one of nearly 40 people being forced to move out of his Esplanade Avenue apartment building because it is dangling off the cliff's edge.
"We need help now," Speier stressed. "We've got to get a serious fix."
Stressing that the Pacifica Pier and Highway 1 are particularly vulnerable locations, Speier is calling for federal dollars to be spent on protecting land in the ocean’s path.
"An El Niño is just like a Superstorm Sandy, expect it happens over a great portion of time," she said.
For his part, McHenry said he is grateful that the city plans to offer financial housing assistance to help those who have been displaced find new homes.
"Hopefully, I'll sleep on couches," he said. "If not, I'm not going to allow myself to sleep in the street."
On Monday night, the city council approved a state of emergency declaration, which frees up federal and state funds to help repair the damage left behind: A sinkhole, damaged sea wall and several homes deemed uninhabitable to live in.
Eroding cliffs along Esplanade Avenue have already led the city to declare three apartment buildings on the 300 block unsafe to life in, though some residents are digging in their heels and staying anyway.
"This is my home," Michelle Mackay said on Tuesday. "A lot of us don't have a place to go anyways. The rents are too high. We are living paycheck to paycheck. What are we going to do?"
Mackay also questioned whether her apartment building is truly in danger of toppling off the cliff.
The Pacifica Pier has sustained storm damage and is partially closed. Beach Boulevard remains closed near Santa Maria Avenue because of the failure of the seawall there, too.
A dramatic drone video taken by Duncan Sinfield and posted to YouTube shows bluffs falling into the ocean below.
T.J. Tullo lives across the street from the affected buildings and has watched his neighbors pack up and move out over the past few days.
"You always think, it’s not going to happen to me but it’s happening to plenty of people right here," he said. "It's a nice area and I hope they do everything to protect it."