City looks at buying home that's sliding into Red Hill Creek

For three years, Abacu Mendoza has watched an embankment to the Red Hill Creek creep towards his house. Now, after years of dealing with the city, he’s a little closer to getting it resolved.
Abacu Mendoza spent everything he had on the property at the end of Hixon Road. Now, the city lot next door is eroding so badly that his property is sliding away. The city's planning committee voted this week to research how much it would cost to buy Mendoza's property from him. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

For three years, Abacu Mendoza has watched an embankment to Red Hill Creek creep ever slower to his house.

Now, after years of dealing with the city, he’s a little closer to getting it resolved.

The city’s planning committee voted Tuesday to look at buying Mendoza’s property, which is next to city-owned land that is eroding a little more each week. At this point, it’s reached the foundation of Mendoza’s nearly 60-year-old home at the end of Hixon Road.

If the city buys his land, Mendoza says, it will be the end of a long and stressful time for his family, who have put all of their savings into the home.

“We just want something to happen,” said Mendoza, who lives with his wife and five-year-old daughter. “We’ve been at this for so long that we’re prisoners in our own house.”

The auto worker bought the property with his brother in 2009. In 2010, he began renovating the home and noticed cracks in the foundation.

Since then, more has gone wrong. With a heavy rainfall, one fence fell over the embankment, while another is tilting ever closer to Red Hill Creek. The sidewalk in front of his house has cracked in the same place as his foundation. His back door won’t shut properly anymore. He won’t even let his daughter play in the back yard out of fear for her safety.

Mendoza has been in talks with the city for three years over what to do about the land. Staff will meet with him soon to discuss the value of the property, and how to proceed with buying it from him, said Coun. Chad Collins of Ward 5.

No one party is at fault for the situation, Collins said. The home was built in a time of little to no regulations.

“Today, we’d never approve a home to be constructed in that area,” he said. “So as a neighbour, we’re looking at ways and means to assist that family.”

It’s not unusual to find homes built next to eroding embankments, or in other areas that wouldn’t be allowed today, Collins said.

“I have subdivisions (in my ward) built on top of streams,” he said. “That’s very common in the lower city. Developers came along and filled in creeks and built houses on top of them, and now we’re learning of issues with houses being built on top of natural streams.”

A staff report this week showed that it would cost as much as $1 million to reinforce the embankment. The environmental cost, Collins said, would be even more severe.

“From a financial perspective, it’s not affordable,” he said. “And from an environmental perspective, the implications are massive.”

Ideally, Mendoza would like to stay in his home, but if that's not possible, he said, this is the next best option. At this point, he’s looking for any solution.

“We’re hard-working people,” he said. “We bought this for our daughter. This house is all we have. Everything we own is in that house.”

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