San Diego

Father and Husband of Bluff Collapse Victims Asks City Council for Safety Improvements

For the first time the public heard from a family member of the three women killed in a tragic bluff collapse three weeks ago in Leucadia.

Dr. Pat Davis lost his wife, daughter, and sister-in-law on August 2 when a 30-by-25-foot chunk of sandstone collapsed on top of them while they were enjoying each other’s families at Grandview Beach.

“I lost my wife Julie, my youngest daughter Annie, a mother of two young children, and my wife’s sister Elizabeth, a mother of two teenage children in a bluff collapse at Grandview on August second,” Dr. Davis told the Encinitas City Council Wednesday night.

Minutes before the mass of dirt and sand fell, three of Davis's grandchildren and two of their friends were having a drink by the cooler that was behind his wife's chair. Luckily, they moved away from the area before the collapse.

Davis said “there will be a new normal in my life without these three gifted women,” and told the council that his new normal will consist of fighting to make sure a similar tragedy below the bluffs doesn’t happen to another family.

“We all need to understand what happened on my tragic day, why it happened and what could have been done differently to prevent it. And what will be done so no one has to go through what my family has experienced… In a coastal city like ours, where ocean cliffs exist, we need to prioritize protecting human lives on our beaches. It may come by building protective walls, or providing for constant sand replenishment or making certain beaches off limits. Our state Coastal Commission needs to demand that our homeowners and cities protect their land from injuring innocent people. Certainly, where we provide public access to beaches and place life guard towers, people deserve to know that they are safe. Some people think I am being an alarmist or that we have to let the beaches and cliffs run their normal cycle. I am not an alarmist. I am a realist and we do not have to accept tragedy if it’s preventable,” Davis said.

City Councilmember Tony Kranz said Davis's speech brought tears to his eyes, but admitted that bluff repairs have a long road ahead.

The city has to work with the Army Corps of Engineers, the Coastal Commission, the Surfrider Foundation and other agencies to get the job done.

“We are going to take some steps that will hopefully minimize and reduce the risks but it will never go away,” Kranz said.

But that hasn't deterred Davis’s passion.

“It is not a question of if the kind of tragedy that happened to my family on August second could happen again, the sad question is when will it happen again?” Davis said.

Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear encouraged Davis’s commitment and determination.

“When the sky literally and figuratively fell on you and your family, all of our hearts broke and we are doing everything we can to protect our beaches and our residents from that type of tragedy.”

Mayor Blakespear and the city manager toured the beaches Thursday with the Army Corps of Engineers. There is a project on the table that includes replenishing the sand along the bluffs every one to five years.

An NBC 7 camera crew returned to Grandview Beach on Wednesday and saw a portion of the bluff crumbling away and falling into a pile of sand on the beach below. NBC 7 also obtained cell phone video shot from the same beach on Sunday which showed the same thing.

Local geologist Pat Abbot told NBC 7 that sand along the bluffs in North County will never stop falling, and said that there are deeper cracks in the faces of the bluffs that could lead to larger collapses.

Earlier this week, Congressman Mike Levin wrote a letter to the federal government asking for $700,000 to improve bluff safety and replenish sand in Encinitas and Solana Beach.

Congressman Levin’s letter was also signed by California senators Diane Feinstein and Kamala Harris.

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