City Hall considers action after viewing "Landslides" documentary

Cincinnati officials are paying attention to issues highlighted in a recent documentary about the city's melting hills.

On Jan. 19, representatives from six city departments watched "Living With Landslides," which looked at the city's long history of damage caused by unwise construction on unstable hillside property.

Because of its particular geology, Cincinnati is one of the most vulnerable landslide regions in the country. Damages run into the millions annually. Most visible was the recent $18 million restoration of hills over Columbia Parkway. Individual homeowners can face repair costs in the hundreds of thousands, which home insurance does not cover.

READ MORE: Local filmmaker exposes the dangers of hillside erosion in new documentary "Living With Landslides"

After each of two screenings at a Water Works auditorium, personnel from city offices of Buildings & Inspections, Transportation, Law, Police, Fire, and Water Works had the chance to question experts who appeared in the movie and its producers. The documentary was commissioned by the The Hillside Trust and produced by filmmaker Laure Quinlivan.

"Cincinnati is a topographically hilly city. In the face of climate change and increasing heavy precipitation, it's necessary that our hillsides are preserved and stable," Cincinnati Council member Mark Jeffreys said in a written statement.

The administration currently is in the process of analyzing all its hillside regulations. "It is a comprehensive process and looks at a variety of regulations for construction, (including) smaller lots, downspouts, stormwater runoff, etc. This is being driven by geotechnical engineers as well as other relevant city employees," Jeffreys said.

Hillside Trust favors requiring developers working in vulnerable areas to post performance bonds to cover the cost of landslide damage.

There is no specific deadline for the administration's review, but a report could be ready this spring. 

WCET Channel 48 will broadcast "Living with Landslides" on Feb. 18 at 7:30 pm and Feb. 24 at 9 pm. The documentary first aired on WCPO Channel 9 on Sept. 7.
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Read more articles by Margaret A. McGurk.

Margaret A. McGurk is a freelance writer, editor and media consultant. She was film critic for The Cincinnati Enquirer from 1995 to 2005.