City of Bellevue sues landslide victims so they can access, demolish home

Bellevue officials and homeowners are butting heads over legal action to demolish the house that slid off its foundation in a landslide.

Some residents of the surrounding neighborhood have not been able to return home since that landslide occurred on Jan. 17. The city says the reason is the house that was pushed from a hillside and caused the neighborhood to be evacuated in the first place. The city's building official concludes the home is structurally unstable and poses dangers to the neighborhood.

The house's owners, the Surdis, are pushing back, denying the city's request to demolish the house last week.

In an interview with FOX 13, the Surdis' attorney said the city has not been willing to let the family back into their house and grab belongings before it is demolished. Instead, he said, the city's proposal was to knock the house down, load everything into a dump truck and haul it to a landfill.

"It’s so frustrating because the suspicion is the city was responsible for this," said attorney Dave Bricklin. "It was their very old water line that broke that caused the slope to fail in such a catastrophic way."

The family says they are fine allowing the house to be demolished—they just want to grab personal belongings and other items before it is taken down.

The city filed legal action on Friday asking the court to allow them to enter the home and begin demolishing it.

"This threat to public safety was the basis for the building official to red tag homes, and is why residents two weeks later are still unable to access their homes," the city chief communications officer, Brad Harwood, told FOX 13. "The city doesn’t take this legal action lightly, and we realize the Surdi family is dealing with a terrible situation. They have decades of memories and personal belongings invested in the property."

In the complaint filed last Friday, the city presented a third-party evaluation of the house, which recommended the home be demolished as soon as possible.

"We have no problem with you doing the demolition, we just want to have a process that lets us work with the demolition company to salvage as much as we can," said Bricklin. "It was surprising that they took the brass knuckles approach and sued us as a way of trying to put pressure on us, to bow down to the city and do whatever they wanted."

The Surdis' attorney says the demolition could take place as soon as this week, but city officials say there is no timeline for work to start.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Investigators will review age, condition of water main that broke in Bellevue landslide

RELATED: Homeowner thwarts would-be burglar from red-tagged home near Bellevue slide

Get breaking news alerts in the FREE FOX 13 Seattle app. Download for Apple iOS or Android. And sign up for BREAKING NEWS emails delivered straight to your inbox.

Stay connected with FOX 13 News on all platforms:
DOWNLOAD: FOX 13 News and Weather Apps
WATCH: FOX 13 News Live
SUBSCRIBE: FOX 13 on YouTube
DAILY BRIEF: Sign Up For Our Newsletter
FOLLOW: Facebook Twitter Instagram