Mike & Eileen (and Merle)

Mike and Merle take regular walks through the neighborhood.  Merle is a blue heeler/Australian shepard mix with a luscious blue and silver coat.  He loves to wander the forest and swim in the Neawanna estuary – and really any water at all.  Mike and his mother, Eileen, have lived on Aldercrest for 6 years but Mike has been a part of the Seaside community for forty.  They moved to the neighborhood for the forest views and to be out of the Tsunami zone.  Eileen worries about those things.  After 40 years, many of local folks know Mike and he knows them; he has a keen memory for people and names. He’s thoughtful and good natured.

The forest behind his backyard fence is captivating.  The canyon below is enchanting.  They have haunting beauty that captures the spirit and soul of the Oregon temperate rainforests. This is the land that time forgot – and should forget.  The massive conifer trees reach a hundred feet into the sky, breathing in the cool coastal winds and sipping on the crisp raindrops.  They protect the plants, the stream, and all the wildlife in them – and below them.  And they protect Mike and Eileen’s home.

Their house is on the Southeastern border of the proposed development.  Lot #1 of the project is adjacent to his backyard.  Although the text of the proposal hints that no houses will be built on the Eastern slopes, the slope behind his house faces South.  Mike says, “I can’t imagine how a house could ever be built there.  Any attempt to cut into the already saturated slope will create the perfect conditions for a landslide.”

The nearly 15,000 square foot lot has maybe 5,500 square feet of buildable land. Maybe. The rest of the area is comprised of steep canyon hills – parts of them exceeding a 50% grade – and dropping sharply about 50 feet to the streambed below.  “These grades are just not shown on the maps in the proposal.”  And they aren’t.  The maps themselves are poor and also do not meet the standards of the Seaside codes.

There are other concerns with the proposal.  A quick observation of the land behind Mike’s house reveals that Test Pit #1, as shown on the maps in the geotechnical report, could not have been dug in that location. The land is too steep. It’s possible it wasn’t dug anywhere inside Lot #1. “There’s no way to know what is actually being proposed.”

In Mike’s backyard, erosion is a concern. “I’ve already seen at least 2-3 feet of land wash down the hill along the Northern border of our property in just 6 years.” He then laughs at the “silt fencing, compost berms, or straw bales” controls suggested in the proposal.  “They won’t do a thing and the soil loss will accelerate if the trees and vegetation are removed.”

He shares his concern about the stream as well.  “The excavation mud will clog the stream and wetlands, the construction debris will alter the waters’ chemistry, and the urban runoff from the potential future houses that might be built will kill all the life in it.”  There are no grading plans submitted with this proposal as required by the ordinances. “It’s a mess.”

Mike also wonders “If erosion is happening on the land in our neighborhood that is on mostly flat ground, what will happen to the houses that are built on fill or on steep terrain?  They are already in danger, and they’re not even proposed to be built.”  There’s doubt that any house that might be built there would last over the term of a 30-year mortgage without experiencing major damage. It might not make it 5.

Eileen and Mike have something new, and much more immediate to worry about: Will their property slide down the hill? Merle wanders off looking for a good tree to investigate. As for the forest, the winds will come, and the rain will fall. If this proposal goes forward, there will be no trees to bask in the coastal gusts or to sip upon the teardrops from a troubled sky.  They will, instead, fall onto a barren land and blow upon a land that time tore apart.

Next: Part 2 – Solfrid & Ray