Homes slowly sliding downhill in Everett neighborhood
When rains return, ground may move faster
Mark Mulligan / The Herald
A house on Burl Place in the Valley View neighborhood continues to slowly collapse and slide down a hillside Thursday in Everett.
Mark Mulligan / The Herald A house on Burl Place in the Valley View neighborhood continues to slowly collapse and slide down a hillside Thursday in Everett.
Even during the relative dryness of the past couple of months, some slippage has been detected on a hillside in southeast Everett where slides forced evacuation of three homes last March, an Everett city official said.
This means the earth could well move faster again when the fall rains come, city engineer Ryan Sass said.
"The only real change since spring is that things slowed because things dry out," he said.
The homes are located in the Valley View neighborhood along Panaview Boulevard and Burl Place on a hillside overlooking the Snohomish River valley.
Some who live in the neighborhood say the city caused the slides by changing the area's drainage system seven years ago. A group of homeowners is shopping for a geotechnical firm to study the hillside and for an attorney for a possible lawsuit, homeowner Jay Himmelman said.
"We have no other choice," he said. Himmelman's home is intact but his back yard has dropped 6 feet in places. He's got plastic draped over it to keep it as dry as possible.
Everett officials say they've inspected the area and the city is not to blame.
"We haven't been able to find anything we're contributing to that we can change," Sass said.
As a result, there's not much the city can do, other than to monitor the area for safety and make sure utilities and roads are not affected, he said.
The city hired HWA GeoSciences Inc. of Bothell to measure movement on the hillside in the neighborhood this summer, Sass said.
"Naturally it's slowed down a lot since the dramatic movement we had, but it is still moving," he said. "It's definitely impacted the yards but the houses are still stable."
Last March, the ground fell from the back of one home, causing it to tilt at a 45-degree angle. There it sits. The back yards behind two other homes dropped 15 to 20 feet, putting those houses' foundations in jeopardy. Parts of other yards have cracked and slipped.
The city declared two of the homes, including the one leaning down the hill, off-limits and the third unlivable.
In May, 13 homeowners sent a letter to city asking it to stabilize the slope, rebuild the leaning home and repair another.
In the nine-page letter, the residents say the city's 2004 expansion of the neighborhood storm water drainage system sent far more water flowing down the hillside behind their homes, causing erosion in a small creek at the bottom of the slope.
About 10 trees more than 100 feet tall at the bottom of the hill have fallen, according to the letter.
The erosion, Himmelman said, "is creeping up (the hill) and the sides are caving in. It's a no-brainer."
In 2004, the city nearly doubled the size of a pipe emptying water from the neighborhood into the creek, from 18 inches to 30 inches, and made other changes to the drainage system. A home in the neighborhood had flooded twice, prompting the city's action, Sass said.
Now, the pipe is not channeling water from a larger an area than it was before, city officials have said.
"We've seen geotechnical challenges with these houses and this neighborhood that go way back before any changes to the drainage system," Sass said.
Steve and Diane Mosman live between the two off-limits homes. Their house is set back a little farther from the hillside and they've been fortunate, though an area just beyond their back yard has dropped off about 20 feet, Steve Mosman said.
They have a clear view of the leaning house from their kitchen window, and it appears not to have moved for a couple of months, they said.
Still, they're prepared for the worst.
"In case our house falls down," Steve Mosman said, "we have a nice camper on wheels."
Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.