Coastal Living and Land Movement on our Peninsula

Coastal San Pedro residents are no strangers to land movement and the havoc mother nature can wreak when, after years of natural land erosion, unexpected landslides occur.

Back in 1929, a landslide in the Point Fermin area, where Pacific Ave. and Paseo Del Mar met, caused the loss of multiple wood frame homes, Red Car rail tracks, along with sidewalks and streets. According to Atlas Obscura, the land movement was recorded at a mind boggling 11 inches per day at its peak. Today we all know this area as “Sunken City” which has, over the years, become a popular attraction for people wanting to view this historical location. 

In 2011, weeks of heavy rains were believed to be the primary cause of the massive White Point landslide on Paseo Del Mar. A nearly 600 ft section of the road slipped toward the ocean, creating a gaping new cliff. Fortunately, no one was hurt, and no homes were damaged because of this significant landslide. Although a permanent restoration project has been evaluated in the past, this area remains fenced off with no access to the public.     

In neighboring RPV, a significant increase in land movement during the Spring of 2023, near the Portuguese Bend Landslide area, resulted in damage to the road and two homes being “red-tagged” on Dauntless Drive. The City of RPV website states that “recent acceleration in movement is believed to be primarily due to heavy winter rainfall resulting in surface water percolating into the ground and lubricating the bentonite soil condition.” In February, the national landmark and local historical treasure known as Wayfarers Chapel was voluntarily closed due to accelerated ground movement in the area. The structure was compromised because of land movement under the church, which led to panes of broken glass and a significantly damaged foundation. According to executive director Dan Burchett, relocation of the church is likely the only option. Burchett also indicated that finding a suitable location to rebuild the chapel is expected to take considerable time and resources.     

Unfortunately, land movement is a reality on our scenic peninsula and can sometimes have a negative impact on our coastal neighborhoods. In some extreme cases, real estate values can be impacted, and it may be difficult for homeowners to secure financing and/or insurance. While this may be a worst-case scenario, it does highlight some of the natural risks that go hand in hand with living on our unique and beautiful coastline.   

Mike Harper and Peter Hazdovac are co-owners of HH Coastal Real Estate, an independent local brokerage. For more info, visit