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In Palos Verdes, these bluff-top homes are reserved for city workers

November 8, 2011 | 12:31 pm

It’s a view to die for –- the wide-open Pacific, Catalina Island rearing up on the horizon on a clear day, no trees or buildings or signs to interrupt the panorama.

But for more than a decade, it’s also a view that’s been reserved for three Palos Verdes Estates municipal employees who live in the city-owned, cliff-edge homes, the Daily Breeze is reporting.

The city manager lives in one of the homes, the planning director in another and a police official in a third, the newspaper said.

But there is a caveat. A seriously big caveat.

The homes are at risk of sliding down the hillside.

Perched on unstable ground, the shifting earth beneath the structures makes living in the residences risky, the Breeze reported. Watering the back lawn is not recommended. Wandering too close to the edge of the property is an at-your-own-risk proposition.

"You go down there and some of these houses look nice, and then you go inside and you start seeing all the cracks in the floor and the walls," Mayor John Rea told the newspaper. "You can't walk too far into your backyard or you'll fall over the cliff."

The city employees pay $25,000 a year to live in the homes. The police official kicks in another $400 each month to keep up the landscaping. City Manager Judy Smith has lived in one of the homes since 1998, and has the rent deducted from her city paycheck.

The city bought the homes, along with a handful of other properties to settle a series of lawsuits filed in the late 1970s and '80s. Selling the homes, the city decided years ago, was out of the question. Even renting them presented liability issues. So the city opted to offer them as a perk to city workers instead.

Now, the city is studying whether to continue the arrangement or fortify the homes and sell them. Another alternative is to knock them down and create a bluff-top park.

The study should be completed in February.


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-- Steve Marble

Photos: The view from Palos Verdes Estates is spectacular, but for some, it comes with a risk. Credit:  Ken Lubas / Los Angeles Times