Waves' relentless march at Gleason Beach

Two of the 13 remaining homes are for sale.|

Two of the 13 remaining homes are for sale. While they may have once fetched $1 million or more, they are priced at $550,000 and $699,000 because of questions of erosion.

"We are not geologists nor soils engineers," said Malcolm Sibbernsen, an agent with Herth Realty in Guerne-ville who represents a home next to the McNair house. "We urge them to contact the county permit department if they're interested in the property to find an expert in the field."

Most of the damage has occurred in the past decade. Efforts to save the homes by rebuilding sea and retaining walls and driving in new pilings have had minimal success, said Dave Hardy, a Sonoma County planner.

"The most southerly ones are probably OK; they are sitting on solid rock and perhaps a different formation," Hardy said. "There is more beach and more protection just from the sand and the offshore rock outcroppings, the ocean rock stacks."

Hardy said he goes to Gleason Beach almost monthly, taking pictures of the sea walls, cliffs and homes to document the progression of the erosion.

So far, only the McNair and Barrick homes have been tagged, but there are signs that other sea walls may be crumbling as well.

McNair said the weather phenomenon known as El Ni? started the whole thing, combining with seepage from the open space across the highway. "My house was built in the 1930s; it is a situation that has occurred up and down the coast," he said.

Seven of the 21 original homes have already been demolished and one was moved inland, leaving a gap on the bluff marked by sunken asphalt carports, barren building pads and tilting concrete piers.

"Our cabin began to disintegrate and was eventually torn down," said Susan Saum of Davis, who is still distraught over the loss. "We lost it at the end of 2003 - it was declared uninhabitable."

Experts say some of the sea walls erected to help shield the homes show signs of crumbling, and even Highway 1 may be threatened.

The cliff face "is still eroding," said Eric Olsburg of Brunsing Associates of Windsor, an engineer who has studied the area for more than a decade. "As the beach continued to degrade, they had to build additional walls and the walls got bigger and higher. Now the beach is all gone and the waves are hitting the retaining walls. You can't fight the ocean in that way."

The McNair home has been boarded up since November.

"We have invested a lot of money in it already," McNair said. "In my opinion the hill has stabilized, but eventually the ocean will get them all."

You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or bob.norberg@pressdemocrat.com.

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