The people who build in the hills are wealthy and determined. Wealth is a good thing, and it’s usually the reward for determination and risk-taking. The benevolent-looking slopes of the Oakland Hills are held so high in the air by tectonic compression and carved to their angle of repose by all forms of erosion. The long-term compression across the Hayward fault, in fact, puts the hillslopes in a chronically oversteepened state, with highly fractured bedrock and a continuous risk of slope failure.
Homebuilding in this hostile setting pits these wealthy, determined, risk-taking people in an arousing contest against geology. It’s also a contest against engineers, builders, planners, insurers and other taxpayers. Those people share that risk to various degrees. This morning’s paper reported that a guy hauling lumber to a construction site in the hills was crushed to death by his load. He couldn’t find a level spot to offload his truck, and the wood slipped onto him as he untied it.
That reminds me: Last week I passed the landslide I mentioned earlier. Another sizable chunk of it had fallen in the scarp’s implacable retreat. Farther along, Skyline Boulevard was cut off by a fresh slide, and another one had narrowed upper Tunnel Road to a single lane. That’s the infrastructure for these highly demanding neighborhoods.