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Aug. 11, 2020

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Landslide brings Ridgefield man down

He says city, neighboring homeowners association to blame for damage to property

The Columbian
Published:
4 Photos
J.R. Ramsey, from left, and Guy Price of Advanced Earth Stabilization consult with homeowner Richard Schwartz of Ridgefield about the landslide in his backyard. Schwartz has been trying to get his yard fixed for more than two years after heavy rain and a neighboring stormwater pond caused a landslide on the hill behind his house.
J.R. Ramsey, from left, and Guy Price of Advanced Earth Stabilization consult with homeowner Richard Schwartz of Ridgefield about the landslide in his backyard. Schwartz has been trying to get his yard fixed for more than two years after heavy rain and a neighboring stormwater pond caused a landslide on the hill behind his house. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

RIDGEFIELD — Richard Schwartz moved to Ridgefield in 2013 for the rural feel and proximity to the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge.

Within four years, heavy rain caused him to lose part of his yard in a landslide, and he’s now spent more than $70,000 trying to fix the issue, or have it fixed by the city or a neighboring homeowners association.

Schwartz thinks the problem stems from a stormwater retention pond in his neighborhood. He lives on South 16th Circle, which is covered by the Osprey Pointe homeowners association. The stormwater pond is located behind his house in the Cassini View homeowners association.

He also said the city hasn’t done its part to fix the problem, or pressure the Cassini View association into doing so.

“The city of Ridgefield has not been checking on any (homeowners association) stormwater facilities until very recently,” Schwartz said. “A few-minute check periodically and interaction with the city (homeowner associations) that they keep creating, and all of this was preventable.”

In 2018, the city hired Hart Crowser, an earth and environmental consulting company, to report on the landslide behind Schwartz’s house. The report, which was characterized as an initial evaluation, was turned over to the city in June 2018. It concludes the site was affected by “three discrete landslides, which are most likely part of a broader area of instability.” The report also said that the slide was most likely caused by a combination of human and natural factors, including:

• Steep slopes that are marginally stable and located adjacent a natural ravine.

• Discharge from the stormwater pond saturating the steep slopes.

• Infiltration of stormwater through the bottom of the pond, saturating the steep slopes.

• Weak artificial fill and native materials.

While the report was preliminary, and states no formal testing has been done, it estimates that “costs to fully protect or stabilize the Schwartz property will be on the order of $150,000 to $200,000.”

Schwartz moved into his current house in March 2016, and he started noticing he was losing part of his yard the following January. A lot more damage occurred between January and March 2017 due to heavy rain.

He suspects there were pre-existing issues that he wasn’t aware of when he bought the property. According to the Hart Crowser report, “sometime in 2015 or 2016 ground movement and shifting” of the pond’s 50-foot-long, 15-inch-diameter perforated level spreader was noticed. “Subsequently, continued ground displacement caused the level spreader to topple and undermined a fence and short rockery wall at the neighboring (Schwartz) property.”

In March 2017, the Cassini View homeowners association completed stabilization work on the stormwater discharge system and unstable slope in the immediate vicinity of the system, but Schwartz continued to see damage to his property. Schwartz said city officials allowed the homeowners association to do the work on their own, when it should have been under city supervision.

Schwartz has filed a lawsuit against the city and Cassini View homeowners association. Ridgefield City Manager Steve Stuart said that due to ongoing litigation, he couldn’t speak about the issues at Schwartz’s house.

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