"The Price they Pay to Live in Paradise"
(Exerpts from the SJ Mercury News Posted on Sat, Dec. 10, 2005, By Patty Fisher)
"It's easy to see how Scenic Drive in La Honda got its name. On one side, golden hills stretch toward the Pacific Ocean. On the other, rugged redwood forests keep La Honda hidden from the outside world, which is the way folks there like it.
These days, however, Scenic Drive isn't so scenic. Where once a stretch of road and seven houses dotted the hillside, all that remains is a 500-foot-long gash left by two mudslides, one back in 1998 and one last winter.
The gash has been barricaded and flattened by bulldozers. It has been poked with pipes to drain ground water and painted with a garish green mixture of grass seed, fertilizer and glue, all in hopes of making it stay put through the winter. Still, when it rains, people get nervous.
Mountain living is not for the faint of heart. Power outages are common. Cell phones don't work. It's a 20-minute drive on winding roads to the supermarket, dodging beach traffic and cyclists. Wildfires threaten in the summer, mudslides in the winter.
Yet the 1,000 La Hondans like the quiet, the escape from valley frenzy. Homeowners' guild President Bob White loves the sense of community -- unlike any place he's ever lived.
…La Honda is a living geology lab. It sits on top of a giant slide area dating back more than 1,000 years…During the El Niño winter of 1997-98, the saturated hillside gave way. After FEMA paid off displaced homeowners, the land was turned over to San Mateo County, which removed the buildings and rebuilt the road.
But the slide began moving again, and last February the new road broke in two, cutting a waterline and endangering two more homes. This time the county is determined to fix the problem for good.
Rex Upp, the county's consulting geologist, said the most likely solution is to install a buttress fill -- dig a trench below the slide, build a drainage system to carry off the groundwater and then fill the trench with compacted earth. The county and state would split the $3 million cost.
``When it's completed, it will be more stable than the existing ground,'' Upp said.
…Longtime residents suspect that even a $3 million buttress can't tame a landscape formed by ancient slides.
``We are very much at the mercy of the rains,'' said White.
He figures the slides are just the price he pays for living in an old-fashioned small town, enjoying the peace, the quiet, the CinemaScope views.
``There is no Eden or Camelot,'' he said. ``But this is a very unique place.''