Sunday, December 27, 2009

Another story that may have gotten away

It was certainly in the '80s that I took the camera assigned to the UCLA Extension class I was teaching and drove to Portuguese Bend on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. My quest was to sell what I saw as a "great story" to the TV folks at Ripley's Believe it or Not. My friend at KNBC, Karen Estudillo (Gordon) was cool enough to edit the raw footage at my direction.

The Backstory

Sometime in the '50s, our family went to Marineland of the Pacific and ended up taking a short cruise on a tour boat. We traveled in the direction of San Pedro and marveled at the stunning coastline. At one point, the guide pointed out a group of seemingly new and expensive homes close to the beach surrounded by a small bay.

"Those houses are all vacant," he said, "because they're slipping into the ocean." He told us how the authorities had condemned them all. They just sat there (well, maybe they were moving slightly).

Fast forward about 30 years and I decided to find out what became of the neighborhood. I drove through San Pedro and then looped around the peninsula on Palos Verdes Drive South. I had no trouble finding the area because the roadway suddenly turned into a broken, bumpy drive. The yellow centerline shifted left to right with the moving earth. All of the utility pipes -- gas, water and sewer, were safely above ground and sported special joints that enabled them to shift without breaking. The same with the electric and phone wires. They all had big loops that would enable them to stretch when the poles might drift apart.

What surprised me the most was that there still a few homes in the neighborhood and it seemed as if people lived in them. It was still part of the Portuguese Bend neighborhood, a private community behind security gates. Somehow I managed to get in and I was able to see those few remaining houses up close.

Astounding. They were either on steel girders and I-beams and leveled on stacks of railroad ties or they were leaning drastically down the hill. One young family invited me to return with the camera and shoot my little promo.

I went there on the day after Christmas with Xiao Mei and her father, and we were lucky enough to get in again. However, I couldn't find the particular house in the video below. I did some research last night and I now believe that the city of Rancho Palos Verdes purchased the property and tore down this particular house. I'm trying to track down the family that once lived there, but it will require a trip to the L.A. County Assessor to do some historical research.

I'll keep you posted.

I hope you enjoy this "blast from the past" -- albeit never-before shown to the public.

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