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Naples residents live in fear of sea wall failing

April 30, 2010 |  6:17 am

Eroding protection

In exchange for inhabiting an island with quaint canals where kayakers, paddlers and opera-singing gondoliers float past million-dollar homes, residents of this Long Beach neighborhood live with the anxiety of knowing that the only thing protecting their property from the ocean is a crumbling sea wall.

"If the sea wall fails, we're in real trouble," said Bob Fletcher, a retired lawyer who has experienced the sinking feeling of spotting ocean water seeping under the floorboards of his Spanish-style home on Rivo Alto Canal.

An engineer recently warned the city that sections of the mile-long concrete sea wall are on the verge of collapse. Long Beach officials are now studying whether to patch up the most threatened walls, as they have for years, or spend more than $9 million to rebuild them.

On an island where wealth is on display, it is this plain-Jane concrete berm that separates the good life from the ocean.

The coarse gray sea wall encircles Naples and forms the sides of its famed canals, created in 1905 when the island was molded into its current shape and the first homes were built.

Residents, who call their marina-like neighborhood the Jewel of Long Beach, want the city to replace the sea walls now to prevent future catastrophe.

It's a hard bargain at a time when the city is financially stretched and doesn't know how it would fund the multimillion-dollar project.

Read the full story here.

-- Tony Barboza in Naples

Photo: The concrete berm that keeps Naples high and dry has seen a series of short-term fixes. Residents say it's time to rebuild, but the cash-strapped city may demur and patch it again. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times