Did excavation for a food cart pod create a landslide risk?

Did excavation for a food cart pod create a landslide risk? »Play Video
The Rose City Food Park in Northeast Portland. Photo by Shannon L. Cheesman, KATU.com Producer/Reporter.

PORTLAND, Ore - Homeowners living on a hill in Northeast Portland are worried they are vulnerable to a landslide, and they blame the owner of a new food cart pod for creating what they believe is a dangerous situation.

The food cart pod in question, Rose City Food Park, is at Northeast 52nd and Sandy Boulevard.

It's not the food carts that are the concern, but the hillside behind them where the property owner performed excavation work earlier this year without a city permit.

"I was in my office on a conference call and I looked down and saw this big CAT tearing this bank out," said homeowner Tom Foley. "That's a dangerous slope there," he added. "If we get tons of rain, that's going to slough off."

The property owner, Tom Westerman with Westerman Developments LLC (based out of Sherwood), turned down our request for an on-camera interview. He asked us by phone to accept his assurance that the hillside has no issues.

Westerman said Foley is not qualified to assess any problems and argued that he improved the hillside by removing bushes and dead trees, and re-seeding the land. Westerman did acknowledge, however, that he is still finishing the paperwork involved in finalizing his permit.

That's little comfort to Foley, who worries that his home, and possibly his neighbors' houses as well, could end up falling down the hillside. He doesn't expect a landslide this week or this month, but he is concerned that his house is vulnerable. He wants Westerman to restore the hillside to its earlier stability.

"It's not a rare thing in the Northwest for hillsides to slide and houses to follow," Foley said.

We talked to the city's Bureau of Development Services about the situation and a supervising engineer told us the hillside is "mostly stable," but the property owner is still working to fix a few areas of exposed dirt.

This isn't the first time that Westerman has run into permit trouble. Last year, he was forced to close a food cart pod at Northeast 20th and Everett for several months after failing to get the proper permits.