West Portal water main break claims flow in 

A burst water main tore open a sinkhole in West Portal on Feb. 27 and unleashed a torrent that damaged homes and property, including one 1954 Chevy Bel Air. - S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • S.F. Examiner File Photo
  • A burst water main tore open a sinkhole in West Portal on Feb. 27 and unleashed a torrent that damaged homes and property, including one 1954 Chevy Bel Air.

First there was the flood of water — and now there is the crash of claims.

The first wave of legal and insurance claims filed by homeowners whose properties were damaged by a Feb. 27 water main break at 15th Avenue and Wawona Street have been filed, according to records.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is still investigating what caused a 16-inch water main at the intersection to rupture at roughly 3 a.m. in the West Portal neighborhood. The water closed the intersection until March 4; left sinkholes in the street and on private property; and damaged homes, vehicles and other property.

Six legal claims had been filed as of Friday, with a seventh claim pending, according to Jack Song, a spokesman for the City Attorney’s Office. Homeowners have six months to file property damage claims against The City.

More claims are likely, as 23 homes and 12 vehicles suffered some form of water damage, according to the SFPUC.

The soil in that area — which used to be a creek bed — is loose and sandy, which means that pavement, homes and earth could move as “ground settlement” continues, possibly for months, according to an advisory issued to neighbors by the SFPUC.

Three homes have been “red-tagged” by city building inspectors due to eroded foundations, meaning they have been deemed unsafe to occupy. Three other homes have been “yellow-tagged,” which means residents are asked not to enter various parts of the structures or yards.

The water main — which was built in 1952 and carries water from the Sutro Reservoir to homes in the Excelsior — “pulled apart at a joint” near the intersection of 15th Avenue and Wawona Street, according the commission.

The homes in that area — mostly the small, over-garage Mediterranean-style houses built in the 1930s that are common on the western side of San Francisco — range in value from $800,000 to close to $2 million, according to property valuation website Zillow.com.

Three insurance companies — some of which have denied claims filed by their policy holders, claiming The City is at fault — have also filed claims against San Francisco.

Homeowners filed a claim for one home, at 2699 15th Avenue, that had sold Oct. 31 for $1.2 million, according to records. The home across Wawona Street, at 2666 15th Avenue, sold in 2010 for $1.8 million, records show.

In addition to the homes, the water main break wrecked “an antique 1954 Chevy Bel Air” and a 2004 Mercedes, the latter of which is valued at $11,552.71, according to a claim.

The City Attorney’s Office could not comment on the claims, as they are pending.


About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has worked as a reporter in San Francisco since 2008, with an emphasis on city governance and politics, The City’s neighborhoods, race, poverty and the drug war.
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