It's only a matter of time before a few apartment complexes along Esplanade Avenue in Pacifica, Calif., fall 100 feet into the sea. That is, if they're not demolished first. With storms pummeling a coastline that has been eroding dramatically since 2008, the city, located just south of San Francisco, declared a state of emergency last week and on Monday yellow-tagged 20 apartment units perched on an eroding cliff at 310 Esplanade Ave. as uninhabitable. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that multiple buildings, known to offer million-dollar views on a budget, will likely need to be demolished; the units at 320 and 330 were cleared out in 2010. Drone footage has captured the dramatic scene in recent days, and KRON4 has pulled together Google Earth footage over recent years to show how quickly the cliff is eroding.
While most residents are moving their things, and some have stayed at a nearby Red Cross emergency shelter, a few are refusing to budge. "If it falls, it's not going to fall in 10 seconds," Michelle Mackay tells NBC News. "We'll have plenty of time to get out of the front door." But Pacifica Police Chief Dan Steidle notes that "a yellow tag is not a suggestion. It's an order." Bart Willoughby, an independent contractor hired to help with the erosion, sympathized with the residents: "Where else can you live along the coast for like $1,500 a month?" he asked. "This is like a poor man's Malibu." And the plot thickens: Steidle says the owner of the building, who would need to pick up the tab should the building have to be torn down, has filed for bankruptcy. (Check out how this family managed the fate of its cliff-side home.)