Telegraph Hill rockslide might escalate muddy hillside maintenance debate 

It is unclear if The City was responsible for shoring up the steep cliff that rained boulders atop a car Monday, or whether nearby property owners failed to fulfill their obligation to maintain the hillside.

Several huge boulders tumbled from a cliff north of Coit Tower, landing behind a residential building and damaging a parked sedan.

Concerned that more rocks would fall, authorities evacuated six units at the Parc Telegraph building. Meanwhile, the Public Works and Building Inspection departments brought in engineers and geologists to determine whether the hillside posed an immediate danger.

Sarah Ballard, spokeswoman for the Recreation and Park Department, which owns the hillside, said by late afternoon all but one of the apartments had been deemed safe to re-enter.

In 1997, Parc Telegraph condominium owners sued The City after landslides from a cliff damaged the property. The City settled that suit for $41,500. As part of the settlement, Parc Telegraph agreed to stabilize the slope, and The City took responsibility for future rockfall damage.

Parc Telegraph may have performed at least some of that work, but last year Rec and Park declined liability for another rockslide, arguing that the property owners failed to install wire mesh and rock anchors.

“Due to Parc Telegraph’s inexplicable eight-plus-year delay in implementing such measures, it is very likely that even more rock anchors will be needed,” Rec and Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg said in a March 2011 letter to the property manager. “Had Parc Telegraph installed the rock anchors, wire mesh and rock bolts required under the parties’ settlement agreement, it is quite likely that no rock would have fallen.”

The property manager did not return phone calls by press time.

While city officials have come to expect rainy season landslides on Telegraph Hill, Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru said the boulders that fell from Telegraph Hill on Monday were unusually large.

“This is probably one of the largest slides that I’ve seen,” he said, after inspecting the alley where most of the boulders fell.

Jon Golinger, of the Telegraph Hill Dwellers Association, was sanguine about the rockslide.

“It’s a part of life on the hill,” he said.

Golinger noted the site of the rockslide was the same location where an alleged cat burglar became stuck overnight earlier this month.

“Life on the hill is never boring,” he said. “Boulders and burglars.”

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