PIEDMONT -- The city of Piedmont is suing the owners of a Maxwelton Road property to recover costs the city incurred to clean up a landslide that blocked Moraga Avenue in April 2012.

The lawsuit was filed on April 18 of this year in Alameda County Superior Court by City Attorney Tom Curry of Burke, Williams & Sorenson law firm.

It alleges that Bret Beresford Wood and Elisabeth Beresford Wood, owners of the property at 3 Maxwelton Road, were negligent in the use and maintenance of their property, causing the landslide on April 13, 2012. The landslide closed Moraga Avenue for a day, downed power lines and uprooted at least three large pine trees.

The city had to remove the trees, clear the roadway of debris and dispose of the soil that was temporarily stockpiled in Blair Park.

The property is a new, large, single family home located on the steep flank of a ridge above a steep-sided canyon. It is rented to a tenant. Moraga Avenue lies downslope from the Woods' property. Geotechnical engineers hired separately by both the city and the homeowners concluded that the cause of the landslide was improperly maintained drainage on the property resulting in an overburdened drainage pipe.

The city sent a letter to the Woods in April 2012 following the landslide, contending that the Woods were responsible for all costs the city incurred from the landslide. The city also told the defendants they were responsible for all costs to permanently repair and stabilize the hillside on their property. They also spoke with the Woods several times.


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"We sent them a file showing where we spent the money, and demand letters saying, 'Please pay us,'" City Administrator Geoff Grote said.

The City Council in recent closed sessions decided it had to file the lawsuit because the Woods were not responsive to the city's demands, Grote said.

In September 2012, the city granted the Woods a permit to perform the necessary remediation work on their property. At that time, the Woods deposited $5,000 with the city in exchange for a permit. The lawsuit alleges the work was begun, but not completed. The city estimates their cost of at least $41,000 to clean up the landslide. It also claims about $9,250 more to cover oversight of the remediation work on the property.

The city is requesting a permanent injunction requiring the defendants to take all actions necessary to eliminate soil and debris sliding down onto Moraga Avenue or any other private or public property.

The Piedmonter was unable to reach the Woods, who live in Lafayette, or their attorney, by deadline for comment. An assistant in Curry's office said Wednesday they also had no contact information for the Woods' attorney.

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