February 21, 2024
Officials concerned over rain, landslides at historic Casa Romantica in San Clemente

San Clemente officials are concerned as they prepare for an incoming rainstorm and the possibility of destructive landslides this weekend.

City officials have spent millions to restore and strengthen the hillside beneath the historic Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens after a large portion of the cliffside collapsed back in April and June 2023.

All day Friday, crews were setting up tarps and sandbags to protect the historic property from further rainfall and landslide damage.

“What we’re doing to the hillside here, which slipped and had a landslide last year, is to put that plastic tarping down on the slope so that it doesn’t soak into the slope and cause more movement,” explained Chris Duncan, a San Clemente city councilman.

The 2023 landslide caused major damage as the complete back patio area of the city-owned Casa Romantica slid down a hillside.

“That iconic back patio we’re talking about where you have weddings and so many events and where you really get to see our pier and really enjoy that view to see the surfers, most of that is gone,” Duncan said.

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The city is in the process of an $8 million stabilization project to build special walls that will protect the popular landmark. The massive project, however, is still in progress and only portions of the planned construction have been completed as rain is forecasted to arrive.

“They send these rods all the way into the bedrock and it kind of holds it up like a net,” Duncan explained. “So, once that’s completed, we’ll have two of three walls complete. They’re working on the third one right now. Once complete, this will be the most stable slope in all of San Clemente.”

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Casa Romantica is a significant part of the city’s history as the original home of the city’s founder, Ole Hanson.

Due to its raised location, city officials are also working on ensuring no dirt or debris washes down onto the train tracks beneath the hillside which would halt all rail service in the same way the 2023 landslide did.

“We are fearful,” Duncan said. “It’s one of those situations where if you don’t prepare, then it’s a huge storm. If you do prepare, hopefully it’s light rain. That’s what we’re hoping for.”

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