Lawsuit against landlord a cliffhanger 

The owner of Shelter Cove, a community of 17 buildings on a beachfront property, has failed to maintain the property and has allegedly created an imminent landslide threat, according to a lawsuit filed by the city.

Current conditions of the pedestrian path leading to the community of low-income tenants "pose an immediate threat of serious injury of death" to anyone traversing on the hillside or near the path, according to the lawsuit filed March 19.

Owner Arno Rohloff’s years of favoring the cheapest solution and providing makeshift and temporary access to his tenants over a permanent fix for the active landslide area has made the pedestrian path completely impassable, according to the lawsuit.

The rudimentary measures have also put the properties above his land at risk of collapsing down the cliff, according to the lawsuit. Currently, a narrow path of dirt steps sloping down a steep cliff is the only way tenants can reach their homes.

Rohloff’s attorney, Francois Sorba, said his client has a permit pending with the city to construct a bridge-like path that will allow people to easily access their homes. He denied that Rohloff has been neglectful of Shelter Cove.

"Mr. Rohloff has spent a lot of money dealing with his property and trying to comply with what the city has wanted," Sorba said.

The battle between Rohloff and the city has been going on for years, said attorney Kimon Manolius, who is representing the city. However, storms that hit the area in January and February have transformed the problem into an emergency, he said.

"The city is concerned about a pedestrian path going across an active landslide. They’re concerned someone is going to get hurt," Manolius said.

City officials are seeking an order declaring Shelter Cove a public nuisance as well as a restraining order preventing Rohloff from employing any more makeshift measures that might worsen the landslide. They are also seeking an order that will require work on the landslide area to be approved and monitored by a state-licensed certified engineering geologist and geotechnical engineer. Officials also want danger signs to be posted.

The tiny neighborhood used to be a popular day stop for San Franciscans, but a 1960 storm washed out the access road, leaving it accessible only by foot or boat. Public access by footpath was closed in 1975, though there have been efforts since to make the beach open to the public.

tbarak@examiner.com

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