Slipping away

  • By Eric Stevick and Debra Smith Herald Writers
  • Wednesday, March 23, 2011 10:00am
  • Local NewsEverett

EVERETT — A deep rumble woke Steve Mosman on Wednesday morning.

He rushed to his bedroom window and saw that a massive chunk of earth below his neighbor’s home had just crumbled away. The hillside house appeared frozen in mid-collapse, its frame contorted at an odd angle. It looked as if it might topple down the hill at any time.

“We heard a train rumble. That’s what it sounded like,” he said.

For weeks, Mosman and his neighbors along Panaview Boulevard and Burl Place in the Valley View Neighborhood have watched the soggy slope below their homes slide away.

It started in December when one neighbor noticed cracks in the front driveway. Then a long fissure in the earth appeared in back yards. That crack deepened, and one of the houses began tipping off its foundation. Trees on the hillside, some 100 feet tall, started to list.

In recent days, Mosman said there were “creaks, pops and snaps” coming from the house.

City officials issued “no entry” red tags to two of the homes. A third home received a yellow tag, which means the owner can retrieve belongings but shouldn’t stay.

City officials said the earth is moving well below the surface.

“We have a crack that goes right underneath the foundation of the property,” city spokeswoman Kate Reardon said.

She said the city conducted an initial review of utilities in the area Wednesday, and there is no indication that the city’s water system contributed to the slide.

The owner of the home that is slipping over the side has been sent a letter requesting he demolish the house, city officials said. If he chooses not to, the city can complete the demolition and put a lien on the property to pay for the work.

However, for now it may make better sense to leave the house alone, rather than introduce heavy machinery to an unstable hillside, Reardon said.

City workers plan to continue to monitor the area.

Not long ago, neighbor Cynthia Stultz could not see the home from her house, roughly a block away. Now the house has slid into view.

“I feel very bad for them,” she said. “I’m very glad they are out.”

A few houses away, Rob and Margaret Lund packed up belongings Wednesday. Their house also was deemed dangerous and red-tagged by the city.

Loading up cardboard boxes was a heart-breaking exercise. With help from friends, Rob Lund built the home with its stunning views of the valley and mountains 32 years ago. It is where they raised their sons and where they planned to spend the rest of their lives together.

“It’s like a good comfortable shoe,” Rob Lund said. “It’s part of me.”

The Lunds tried to save their home. They spent more than $76,000 in engineering and construction costs last year on work to stabilize the slope. The work was approved by the city, Rob Lund said.

Much of the concrete poured to reinforce the Lund’s property has crumbled in recent weeks.

The couple is moving temporarily to a rental property they own.

Rob Lund, 65, said he remains optimistic the house can be saved and the ground stopped from sliding.

That’s why he said he objected to a city decision Wednesday to shut off his natural gas and utilities. He’s worried the lack of heat will damage the home and possessions being stored there.

Margaret Lund said she was grateful to friends who helped them pack. She also was thankful they had time to prepare and a place to go. Millions didn’t get that chance March 11 when the earth shook and tsunami waves began rolling across the Pacific Ocean, she said.

“There is no terra firma,” Margaret Lund said. “You just have to see what’s happening in Japan to realize that.”

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, stevick@heraldnet.com

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