More oceanfront apartments deemed uninhabitable as bluffs erode

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Residents in an apartment building along Esplanade Boulevard in Pacifica were told Monday afternoon they have to evacuate. The city building inspector deemed 310 Esplanade uninhabitable because of the crumbling cliffside behind it.

Police fanned out to post yellow tags on 20 apartment doors, giving residents access to move their belongings out. They cannot stay in their apartments. "That's scary," Pacifica Police Chief Daniel Steidle said, referring to the eroding cliffs out the apartment windows. "I wouldn't want to be in those buildings right now. It's very scary to look at that."

Some residents packed their cars with boxes, while others dug in their heels. "You guys are going to have to physically drag me out," Michelle McKay told the Chief. "I'm not leaving!" McKay pointed to a condemned apartment building down the street that was deemed unsafe years ago, and is still standing. "I'm not worried about what I see out the back," McKay said. "I'm worried about these guys coming here and telling us we can't live here, we can't sleep here tonight. Are they crazy? We have nowhere to go!"

McKay and others say Bay Area rents are high, and finding a place they can afford long-term will be a challenge. "I have nowhere to go and no money to go there," McKay said through tears.

According to a San Mateo County Housing Department spokesperson, about a third of tenants at 310 Esplanade are on section 8 housing.

Tenant Michael McHenry, who receives government housing assistance, said in order for him to move to another apartment, he needed to obtain paperwork from the San Mateo County Housing Department. The paperwork, which includes a request for tenancy approval, must be provided to a potential landlord before a person can move into an apartment.

McHenry said he had been asking for the paperwork for more than week after he received notices from the City of Pacifica warning the apartment building may be in danger, but he got nowhere.

County Housing Department said tenants could not get that paperwork sooner because there was no eviction notice or emergency evacuations at the time, so the tenants still had to fulfill the terms of their lease. If they had wanted to leave prior to the evacuation order, they would have had to give a 30 day notice to their landlord before any paperwork was approved.

However, the spokesperson said in light of the emergency evacuations the department would expedite the process to make sure every tenant on government housing assistance gets the paperwork they need.

“Even if the housing authority does give me the paperwork that I’ve been screaming for for two weeks, I have to start the hunt all over again with no resources or any sort of help,” McHenry said.

Earlier this week the city manager declared a local state of emergency due to blows to the coast from El Nino. The city council is expected to address the issue Monday night.

In the meantime, the Red Cross has been asked to help evacuees and there is an evacuation center set up at the local community center.

One neighbor who said her name was Mercy watched the emotional evacuation from across the street, and cried. "It's just very emotional to see this," she said. "God help us all and help these families find a place to live."