An Appeal Will Be Held for Construction on Tramonto Landslide

The homes on the cliffside of Tramonto Drive eventually slid down the hill. The 1958 slide also destroyed  the through streets of Castellammare, Posetano and Revello.                                                                                    Photo: Los Angeles Examiner, stored at the University of Southern California

At the intersection of Tramonto Drive and Coperto Drive in the Castellammare area of Pacific Palisades, the view of Santa Monica Bay extends from Catalina Island to Malibu. The panorama is spectacular. The cliff is shored up with a bulkhead, which holds the road in place.

In 1958, the Tramonto slide took out the homes on the cliff side of that street. The slide is still active.

The homes on the cliff ended up below. The concrete is still visible.

Then, the slide took out the homes directly below Tramonto on Revello Drive and the street itself.  One can still see a concrete foundation and bricks from homes that may have been along that street.

End of Revello Drive

Revello is no longer a through street. It dead ends on both sides.

Now, the City has approved four large houses with pools and basements to be built on the active slide, in the area between Tramonto and Revello. The largest house proposed is 9,051-sq.-ft. with a 5,887-sq.-ft basement, a pool/spa, garage, decks and two retaining walls.

Based on the analysis provided by Demos Development, the City has concluded that the Project if done with mitigation will have no significant impacts,

Palisades residents are appealing the decision to the West Los Angeles Planning Commission at a hearing scheduled April 19, at the Felicia Mahood Multipurpose Center.

As Castellammare resident Murray Levy said, “We’re not against development, but we’re against anything that threatens the roadways and residents’ ability to evacuate.”

Levy has lived in the area for 50 years said, “Over the years I’ve had casual conversations with LA City survey crews investigating the possibility of re-connecting the three streets that were broken by the 1958 slide, Castellammare, Posetano, and Revello.  They’ve told me that the land is still moving and that it’s impossible or prohibitively expensive to replace those streets.”

When this editor went to take a photo on April 15 of the proposed area for the four houses that are to be built on 11 lots (three on Tramonto and eight on Revello), it was easy to see why neighbors are concerned.

The Tramonto slide is where the developer would place four homes. There is no road to access the lots.

Revello is a narrow road that in some places only a single-lane. It is not a through road and there is no turnaround. That street, which was buried by a landslide, will need to be rebuilt. Currently, one cannot access the proposed building sites – there is no road.

Once the road is rebuilt, the developer is projecting that about 33,000 tons of landslide material will need to be excavated – which means trucks going up and down Tramonto and Pacific Coast Highway.

Castellammare, like many areas in Pacific Palisades, is slide-prone.

In 1958, a photo of the homes above the Tramonto slide, taken by the Los Angeles Examiner and housed at the University of Southern California, had a caption that read  Roy M. Kirtland, a neighbor, prepares to shoot a picture of “unsafe: home at 17544 Tramonto Drive, Castellammare, (Pacific Palisades). He stands on a sidewalk, part of which has slipped three feet down the hillside. (Interestingly 17544 is one of three addresses with 17538 and 17550 that the developer plans to build.)

A L.A. Times 1993 story about Castellammare (“ Big Trouble in Paradise: Homes Gone : Real estate: For some, the lush life has slid out of sight, as wrecked homes inspire grief and lawsuits.”) wrote “The neighborhood, which dates to the 1920s, straddles half a dozen slides–30-foot layers of clay-like earth that are always inching downhill but get extra slippery when it’s wet. . . .Longtime residents remember the last big slide, in 1969. It prompted Los Angeles to bury pilings to bolster streets and spelled the doom of three homes plus a cliff-side house that threatened to tumble down onto Pacific Coast Highway. . . . .

“Here’s a house-by-house look at the damage on Castellammare Drive and Porto Marina Way. Castellammare Drive: 17884: Evacuated; extensive side damage; city condemnation process begun. 17885: Some settling and cracking. 17901: Already abandoned as a result of the 1983 and 1989 slides. 17908: Evacuated; severe slide damage; condemnation process begun. 17912: Evacuated; severe slide damage; condemnation process begun. Porto Marina: 17909 and 17919: Threatened by sliding from above; residents ordered to evacuate; condemnation process begun 17945: Separating from foundation; condemnation process begun; residents ordered to evacuate. Other Damage: Porto Marina Way: Broken bulkhead, broken guardrail and extensive slide damage to road in front of 17909 and 17919; a vacant lot across the street from 17919 has essentially vanished; sliding down the hill into the brush and trees above Pacific Coast Highway.”

Severe rains triggered the entire landslide zone from the bulkhead at Tramonto Drive to PCH in 2005. Overnight the entire slope dropped approximately 15 feet, buckling some of the historic concrete stairways in the neighborhood and resulting in the red and yellow tagging of several surrounding homes.

This is the bulkhead on Tramonto Drive holding it in place.

At the urging of Castellemmare residents, The Pacific Palisades Community Council sent a letter to the West L.A. Planning Commission after voting unanimously to: a) Request an EIR for this project and, b) Urge the City to ensure that all necessary steps are taken to protect the community and enforce all regulations that may impact at least two narrow public hillside roads (and by extension, Pacific Coast Highway) from the adverse impacts of this enormous excavation. c) For time limits on excavation to be scrupulously enforced by LADBS.

Levy said, “I fear that this project could wind up like some of the other building projects in Castellammare.  Builders start with good intentions but then run into technical and/or financial problems and walk away, leaving exposed, unstabilized excavations.”

The West Los Angeles Planning Commission meeting will be held on Zoom, click here  and use MEETING ID: 865 4486 3727 AND PASSCODE 497622.

Members of the public can participate in the meeting in person. The meeting starts at 4:30 p.m. Or one can participate remotely to the West Los Angeles Area Planning Commission by accessing the link above or call (213) 338-8477 or (669) 900-9128 and use Meeting ID No. 865 4486 3727 and then press #. Press # again when prompted for participant ID. Please use Meeting Passcode 497622.

Roy M. Kirtland takes a photo from the home on the Tramonto cliff documenting the hill sliding.
1958 Los Angeles Examiner photograph housed at the University of Southern California.

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7 Responses to An Appeal Will Be Held for Construction on Tramonto Landslide

  1. Cindi Young says:

    Thank you for your thorough reporting on this issue. The Castellammare Mesa HOA has clearly stated that its appeal is not against development in general. However, this particular project, proposing four large homes on 12 lots in the middle of an active slide and without the support of an Environmental Impact Report, has all the markings of other projects that have failed in Castellammare due to active landslides.
    Most importantly and in complete disregard to community safety, the project proposes to use public right of way (PROW: the portion of Tramonto Drive that fell during the 1958 slide and was never restored by the City) as part of the private driveway for one of the homes. Tramonto Drive is currently at a substandard width of 22 feet across the Bulkhead. Yet, it is still the main artery for 300+ homes AND the only entrance to the community that accommodates large emergency vehicles. Use of the PROW for a private driveway will prevent any future restoration of Tramonto Drive. It will also preclude necessary maintenance and upgrades to the Bulkhead which stabilizes this portion of the roadway.
    The amount of grading scheduled for this development could put the Bulkhead at risk. If this project goes forward and excavation of the slide area is approved, there is no viable haul route to remove the 33,000+ cubic yards of soil noted in the developer’s Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND). The 1958 slide truncated the roads. Years of erosion and lack of City support/funding have kept them buried.
    It would take a single site visit to convince anyone in authority that the Tramonto Slide — from the toe on PCH up to and including the Tramonto Bulkhead — needs to be stabilized before any development is possible.

  2. Deann says:

    Thank you for this important information. As a child I was lucky to have grown up in Castellamare. The only hard part was living thru the trama of the houses sliding. I can still remember the sounds made as the houses shifted, eventually collapsing. It was hard to watch our friends suffer losing their homes.
    Anyone driving on PCH can see that the slide is still active and moving more and more onto PCH. How can the city even think that building on an active slide is OK? The whole area is fragile and the city should be helping to strengthen the existing streets instead of gambling that this construction will not have an adverse affect on essential lifelines for the community.

  3. K.C. Soll says:

    Hear, hear!

  4. Nathan Cowles says:

    1. The proposed development project is dependent upon the City granting the developer public right-of-way for PRIVATE use.

    2. The developer needs the public right-of-way for driveway access to the proposed development.

    Should the City grant the developer the public right-of-way for private use:

    1. The City will have shifted the existing established and understood context and potentially compromised neighboring property owners in various ways.

    2. The City will relinquish the maintenance responsibility of the bulkhead. This will become developer’s responsibility to maintain and ensure safety.

    4. Should the City agree to this conversion from public to private, the City sets a precedent whereby the developer has further ability to develop within the right-of-way. ***The developer has only presented an initial phase at this time to get the City approval for driveway access to the site. With approval, it is possible for additional construction within the right-of-way along Tramonto Drive***

  5. reuel Sutton says:

    While not against development, the area of Tramonto Drive/bulkhead needs to be of a
    concern as it is the main entrance to the Castellammare Neighborhood. The City cannot
    rid itself of the responsibility of this portion of Tramonto Drive by giving the above mention property to the Developer.

  6. Janlle Pauer says:

    There is ponding in the area above the ongoing slide at Porto Marina and PCH. The city has been alerted by neighbors but the area has not been pumped. Water is continuously coming down the hill creating the ponding and the unstable land. I can send you pictures. The location of the pond is in the field where Castellemarre was wiped out by a slide years ago. The area is next to the entry for the beach overpass on Castellmarre.
    Janelle Pauer

  7. S. Martin says:

    We know the City of L A hasn’t always made good decisions based on risks, impact to existing homeowners, or even aesthetics, etc. This is a crazy idea – Excavating and developing on an existing slide area which will likely undermine the hillside already at risk. Perhaps the initial proposal has been approved because of the almighty dollar! Let’s keep pushing, at least, for an Environmental Impact report and then a big NO!

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