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Home » Lafayette creek threatens home as backyard washes away
Lafayette Creek threatens the home while the backyard is being washed away
A family’s backyard slowly crumbles into a creek and they are embroiled in a legal battle with Contra Costa County over who should maintain the deterioration.
A family’s backyard slowly crumbles into a creek and they are embroiled in a legal battle with Contra Costa County over who should maintain the deterioration. LAFAYETTE, CALIFORNIA. –
Brian and Emily Shenson said the recent storms in January made the problem worse, putting their home and family at risk. Emily is concerned that her house could suffer the same fate as two houses in Orinda that recently slid down a hillside due to saturated soil.
In the last six years, the creek behind her house has widened and eroded her property line. The family lives near Brookwood Park in unincorporated Lafayette. The creek is currently about 30 meters wide.
“When we bought this house, you could walk across the creek,” said Brian Shenson.
The January storms were the turning point. Your backyard is now washed away.
“We were afraid the fence might collapse,” he said. “We had to remove the fence and trees at our own expense.”
He said the problems started when there was a failed overflow in the creek behind the house. It caused concrete to fall and block the flow of water, creating a scour hole. The Shensons documented the damage in photos in 2017 and used those photos when they sued Contra Costa County for failure to maintain the overflow and drainage facilities, which they say resulted in the destruction of their property.
In 2021, a judge ruled in favor of the county, saying there was no evidence the county exercised control of, or claimed responsibility for, the creek or storm drainage system. The Shensons are appealing this verdict, believing the judge ignored evidence. The family points to a 1975 document they found during the legal battle, which they believe was signed by the county. They said they believe the document proves the county is responsible for maintaining the drainage system.
SEE ALSO: Mudslide and tree fall force 19 Fairfax residents to evacuate
A spokesman for the Contra Costa County confirmed that a judge ruled in favor of the county that they have no control over the creek. Because the case has been appealed, the county cannot comment on pending litigation. The family has called a structural engineer and is awaiting an emergency permit to build a retaining wall to protect their land from further erosion. A wall can only be built if they have enough money, approval from various authorities, and permission from neighbors to work on their property.
Estimates for a retaining wall are over a quarter million dollars.
“Our engineer said they do projects like this, but never for property owners,” Brian said. “This is public work.”
The family said a brick wall is well beyond their means, but while they cannot afford to fix the problem, they also cannot afford not to. The family hopes the county will recognize they have an obligation to repair the damage done before their home threatens to collapse into the creek.
“If we don’t agree or win, we’re going to die financially,” Emily Shenson said. “That should have been taken care of before we lost our land, before we lost our trees, before we lost our slope.”