Tijuana houses damaged by Saturday's slide. Tijuana houses damaged by Saturday's slide.

Construction halted after houses collapse

Project in Tijuana destabilizes ground; 70 houses collapse in slide

Unstable ground at a construction project in Tijuana, Baja California, caused the collapse on Saturday of 70 homes, leaving at least 51 families on the street.

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The construction firm Grupo Melo is building new houses in the hilly San Antonio de los Buenos borough but the work has inadvertently affected the stability of the ground in the area.

The local Civil Protection office was aware of the problem and warned residents as early as January 23.

Civil Protection chief José Rito Portugal Servín de la Mora said homeowners had been informed that their properties “were uninhabitable,” but few opted to evacuate.

“Many people don’t understand or learn; instead of leaving they took selfies, thinking it was an amusement park,” he said.

On Friday, municipal authorities met with the construction company and the residents whose houses were at risk, reaching an agreement that Grupo Melo would attempt to stabilize the affected hillside by building a retaining wall.

The resolution was too little, too late, and the next day the earth gave way, causing a slide that knocked down the 70 dwellings. No casualties were reported.

Construction was halted after the slide and a meeting is set for tomorrow to determine how to mitigate the damage, Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastélum said.

For the time being, a shelter has been opened for the affected families, and the municipality has offered its help to transport homeowners’ belongings to a safe location due to concerns about looting.

The area is being patrolled by municipal police, who have foiled one attempted robbery, the mayor said.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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  • BB

    Hhmm! This means some politician will not be getting his kickback.

    • These houses were built on top of a former landfill.

      • David Nichols

        May even have been a current landfill…
        after all there doesn’t appear to be any site suitability engineering study requirements for building permits–only the greasing of the necessary palms…!

        • One could make that assumption but it is not accurate. One of the services that my office offers in Tijuana is Environmental Impact Studies. The requirements for obtaining a construction permit are rigorous and enforced in Tijuana. Tijuana has grown faster and continues to grow faster than the city’s ability to keep up with the infrastructure needs. In the last 2 years, the federal government has pumped millions of dollars into constructing new roads and bridges, but traffic congestion is similar to Mexico city. The area where these houses were built was invaded about 20 years ago and occupied by several thousand people. They were a semi-legal settlement – they lived 10 years without services, electric, water, drainage, etc. After 10 years they obtained title to their lots and they now have electric, water and sewer system. Before that 10 year period was completed, they could not legally obtain a construction permit. Everything was constructed there without studies or permits – the people knew they were constructing on top of an old landfill. Remember in Mexico, a 5 year occupation of property with some kind of documentation or a 10 year occupation without violence can permit the persons occupying the property to obtain a title by “prescripción.” The local authorities were unable to prevent it and have always been sympathetic to poor people that invade unused land. Often in Tijuana the Federal government has opened areas of land to groups of people. They did this recently to accommodate the 3000 Haitians that arrived in Tijuana hoping to obtain asylum in the US. When the US realized there were thousands of Haitians arriving in Tijuana to apply for TPS (Temporary Protected Status) in San Diego, they eliminated it, leaving 3000 people unable to cross. Mexico legislated a specific immigration decree to help them and they have been granted refugee status. The Federal government opened an area of land near the beaches for them and they are each receiving a lot with building materials and the government is installing electricity and water. We also have several thousand Cubans that the same thing happened. Obama eliminated the automatic asylum for Cubans that managed to put a foot on US territory. Most of them are now settled and working in Tijuana. The problem is not the lack of building permits or bribery. Attempted bribery usually will be rebuffed or reported. The problem is the city has been growing too fast for 30 years.

          • David Nichols

            I guess I was confused by the story which stated Grupo Melo was building new houses in the area, and assumed that it was those houses that collapsed…
            Sin embargo, if Grupo Melo “inadvertently affected the stability of the ground in that area” I would question the rigor of the Site Engineering Study and/or Grupo Melo’s adherence to the permit requirements, which calls into question the efficacy of the permit enforcement in either case…
            I respect your intellect too much to accept that you actually believe your statement inre bribery to be true…
            I’ve lived in Mexico for almost 30 years and still experience the necessity for mordidas to expeditiously obtain almost any government permit or license…not to mention the bite that Transito takes to ignore the imaginary offense they stopped me for…
            Don’t get me wrong, I accept the practice and the reasons why it is endemic, it’s a minor irritant more than offset by all the positives here…

          • I too have been in Mexico for more than 30 years – yes, people pay bribes but if they are doing everything legally, they should not pay a bribe. It is a crime for both parties – the person taking the bribe and the person paying the bribe. I have never paid a bribe and I always report it when someone suggests a bribe. I am a licensed Mexican attorney – I studied law in Mexico and I handle a lot of matters with the government. I have successfully sued government agencies many times.

  • Hyrdflyr

    They need a soils engineer and a valid permitting process before they do away with these types of issues. That said: it’ll happen when the consequences of shoddy work overpower the potential profits

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