1980 report warned of mudslide risk

CBC News

VANCOUVER - A report written after a 1979 mudslide in North Vancouver warned about the danger of more slides in the area, specifically mentioning the backyard that killed a woman as it collapsed onto the slope below this week.

The Cowan's house after the 1979 mudslide in a North Vancouver

The consulting engineer's report was commissioned after a mudslide destroyed Jane and David Cowan's house on a cliff in the Berkeley-Riverside neighbourhood more than 25 years ago.

This week's slide killed Eliza Kuttner and seriously injured her husband Michael.

The District of North Vancouver commissioned Klohn Leonoff to prepare the 1980 report, which recommended remedial work to shore up the hillside at places like 2175 Berkeley St.

That's the property that lost much of its backyard when heavy rain triggered a mudslide overnight Tuesday, sending a huge chunk of mud and rocks onto the Kuttners' home and other properties.

Jackie Perrault, the current owner of 2175 Berkeley St., said she was never told about the danger of a mudslide when her family bought the property.

The report said the house was built on fill soil and other debris that could be more unstable in heavy rain than natural soil.

"My family was put in jeopardy, and the people down below me were injured or killed, because of this," Perrault said upon learning of the report Thursday.

"I don't know how this could have happened. You know, we purchased this house in good faith. We researched it. Everything was fine."

This week's mudslide left only a metre of backyard between the back of Perrault's house and the dropoff point to the destroyed house below.

She doubts her family will ever be able to live in the house again.

Jackie Perrault says she was never told about the danger.

Officials at the District of North Vancouver didn't want to say much about the 1980 geo-technical report after it resurfaced Thursday.

"I don't want to go into much more detail into that report," said chief executive officer James Ridge. "Our solicitors are reviewing it."

He did confirm that staff are checking to see what work was done to stabilize the hillside, as well as investigating reports that trees were cut down from the back of the property at some point.

Ridge said the district is now careful not to allow too much development on sloped land, and pointed out that the Perraults' house was built in the 1950s, decades before the report made its recommendations.

"In fact the district abandoned a development project immediately below that escarpment directly because of that geo-technical report," he said.