PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — First the decks fell, then the foundations began to slip, and now all five homes along a stretch of Beechwood Boulevard are threatening to topple over.
“We knew our house was unstable,” said Squirrel Hill resident Chloe Alcarez. “We didn’t know if we were safe. We were sleeping with one eye open, prepared to jump out the window at any time.”
That caused the city to condemn them all, and forced owners, like Alcarez and her family, to find somewhere else to live.
“Am I gonna have to file for bankruptcy, foreclosure? When do I have to walk away? But I don’t want to because this is our home,” she says.
It all started nearly a year ago when the earth began moving below them. Though no one’s taking responsibility, Alcarez thinks she knows why. Just below the homes lies Frick at Summerset, an upscale development of more than 700 luxury houses built on top of a re-purposed slag heap.
The homeowners above say Summerset’s developers, and their partners – the city’s Urban Redevelopment Authority, took down hillside trees and dug a road underneath their homes. They say all of that excavation has caused the land to slide.
“I would say the city and the Frick at Summerset are responsible. Certainly not the homeowners. It had to have been their building down here and the excavation,” said Jo Conrad, of Squirrel Hill.
But that’s something the city’s URA denies.
“While we certainly have empathy for the homeowners and the situation that they’re in, there’s no evidence that we have found where we are at fault or nor where we believe our developers are at fault,” said Robert Rubenstein, of the Urban Redevelopment Authority.
And, so, neither the insurance companies, Summerset’s developers or the URA have any plans of compensating the homeowners or paying to stabilize their homes.
It’s left homeowners like Alcarez with few options and a bitter taste in their mouths.
“To just come and dig up, like, right up under our homes, dump all that weight, and then walk away like they don’t think they have anything to do with it,” she said.
But that may not be the end of it, another branch of city government, Permits, Licensing and Inspections, says the developer and the URA did all of the dirt moving without the proper permits, and has issued them a citation.
“We have cited the URA,” said Maura Kennedy of Pittsburgh Permits and Licensing office. “The URA needs to follow proper and safe development practices like everyone else.”
The bureau has ordered all parties to do a geotechnical survey to determine what caused the slide, and what to do about it.
“So, we’re looking to have better information from the experts as to what is happening on this slope, and then have everyone work together to devise a plan to address it,” said Kennedy.
But, for now, the people who lived in the homes are now living somewhere else, their lives in limbo, until the city and the courts make them whole again.