How an ‘ancient landslide’ keeps threatening a railroad, homes in San Clemente
There was a time when the train tracks ran right through the front yard of James and Barbara Cote’s home on Old San Clemente Road, directly under a cliff.
The Cotes’ three children played in the front yard as their grandparents drove by on their way to work in Old San Diego. The tracks were as deep as the driveway and they often slid down the hill into the Cotes’ house, damaging or destroying items around the home’s entrance, including a vintage train.
Then, in 2003, a section of the highway overpass collapsed, spilling tons of rocks and debris that eventually made its way to the Cotes’ home.
Over the years, James Cote, who spent time in prison more than 20 years ago, has made several requests for the county to fund road repairs, but nothing has been done. That could change with the arrival of the new federal roadbed that has been approved by the California Highway Commission.
“We were hoping to find a way to restore the highway, but it looks like it will be too late,” he said.
But he is not giving up. If the new federal roadbed is approved, he expects he and his wife and two grown children will be able to rebuild the house.
James Cote is not the only one with a vision of restoring the highway. They are joined by many other residents who live on the bluff above the tracks. They want the county to restore the overpass.
“It’s a major problem on the bluff,” said Bill Krieger, a volunteer for the Historic Old San Diego River and Boulevard Association who is working on the overpass.
Some residents said not only the bluff but the tracks as well are in danger.
“Now if we get a new overpass, you could have another one that’s going to go right through the bluff,” said Ken McElwain, a former firefighter who lives above the tracks. “It really makes me sad.”
James Cote, who is 72 years old, retired more than 20 years ago from the U.S. Air Force after more