PIEDMONT -- The city has settled a lawsuit to recover costs from Maxwelton Road residents for damages that occurred from a landslide off their property on April 13, 2012.

The 7:15 a.m. landslide blocked Moraga Avenue and kept the street closed for about 36 hours. It also caused several trees to fall, taking out power to nearby residents for several hours. City staff and contractors worked feverishly to clear the main arterial, Moraga Avenue, and the street reopened about 6 p.m. April 14, 2012.

The lawsuit was settled Feb. 6 for $40,000, City Administrator Geoff Grote said. The city spent about $57,000 in expenses and staff time to clear the roadway, and to initially stabilize the hill at 3 Maxwelton Road.

"Part of the $57,000 was also for review, inspection and monitoring of the work done (later) by the homeowner for remediation and reconstruction," Grote said.

After the incident, the city contacted property owners Bret and Elisabeth Beresford Wood numerous times, but were not able to reach any agreement over culpability or the city's repair costs. The City Council determined it was more prudent to settle the case now and recover a majority of cleanup costs, rather than risk uncertain results and the legal expense of a trial, Grote said.

In the year after the landslide, the city made several requests to the Woods and their insurance company to pay the costs of the cleanup, but no payment was forthcoming. So the city filed suit in Alameda County Superior Court on April 18, 2013 to recover costs of the repairs and cleanup.

The property consists of a single-family home on a steep flank of a ridge above a steep-sided canyon. Moraga Avenue lies downslope from the property. The lawsuit states that a geotechnical engineer hired by the homeowners and another hired by the city determined that the cause of the landslide was inadequate and improperly maintained drainage on the defendant's property. The drainage issues have since been repaired by the homeowner.

On Sept. 17, 2012, the city granted the Woods a permit to remediate the damage. Defendants deposited $5,000 with the city in exchange for the permit. But the city's costs greatly exceeded the deposit. The city had to remove soil, trees and debris from the landslide. The lawsuit claimed the property owners were negligent and that the landslide and ensuing road blockage and cleanup created a public nuisance.

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