A wealthy doctor refuses to leave his $16 million mansion even though it could fall into the Pacific Ocean


Storms in Southern California never end well—and this month’s back-to-back heavy rain was especially distressing for three multimillion dollar mansions on the edge of a bluff in Dana Point, a stunning and pretty wealthy city, where the average home value is more than $1.5 million and the median household income is almost $120,000. The recent downpour triggered a landslide that wiped away at the cliff beneath the homes, and they’re teetering on the brink, seemingly about to fall into the ocean below. 

Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times—Getty Images

“The house is fine,” Dr. Lewis Bruggeman, who owns a home on Scenic Drive, closest to the landslide, told a local CBS station. “It’s not threatened. It will not be red-tagged.”

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Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times—Getty Images

Homes are red-tagged if they’re deemed unsafe to live in. “The city agrees that there’s no major structural issue with the house right now,” Bruggeman said.

His home is a really valuable one. It’s estimated to be worth roughly $16 million, according to several publications; on Zillow, the four-bedroom, six-bathroom, and more than 9,700 square-feet home is estimated to be approximately $14 million (on Redfin, it’s more than $15.5 million). 

There was a fear that with more rain to come, there would be a greater threat to the home, but city officials have said it’s not in any immediate danger. “Engineers who already surveyed the home said there was no damage and there is no imminent threat to the structure, which is really good news,” the city’s mayor, Jamey Federico, told the Los Angeles Times. “So quite frankly, it looks a lot scarier than it really is.”

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Qian Weizhong/VCG—Getty Images

Clips of the mansions seemingly sliding off the bluff have gone viral on social media. One X user with close to 900,000 followers posted video footage from a local ABC news station; his post has more than 33 million views.

The multimillion-dollar mansion was sold in 1997 for $1.2 million, according to Zillow. A report from more than two decades ago by the California Coastal Commission listed Dr. and Mrs. Lewis Bruggeman as the applicant for a project on Scenic Drive, in the city of Dana Point, in Orange County, where they currently live. The project was described as the construction of a 8,620 square foot single family home with an attached 1,125 square foot, 4-car garage and basement that would include a retention of the property that existed on the bluff. It seems to have been approved. From a preliminary search, Bruggeman looks to be a board-certified radiologist that graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1968. Bruggeman did not immediately respond to Fortune when contacted. 

An executive from a Los Angeles engineering firm told the Washington Post that future storms are “going to continue to eat away at the slopes,” and it’s “going to need major, major work to stabilize that property.” 

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Qian Weizhong/VCG—Getty Images

Extreme weather events cost the country at least $23 billion last year, as Fortune previously reported, and it’s just going to get a lot worse. “The severity and frequency of major weather events, unfortunately, is likely to go up,” John Rogers, chief innovation officer at CoreLogic (an information, analytics, and data-enabled services provider), told Fortune, at the time. So it seems like more rainstorms are almost certain, and these mega-mansions on Scenic Drive could continue to face substantial risk as the bluff erodes. 

“The rainy seasons always get busy for us, but this one’s beginning to change the game a little bit,” the engineering executive told the Washington Post. “We’re seeing more damage, and I think we will continue to see more significant damage. Between back-to-back years of heavy saturation, these houses, these properties … they just can’t take this kind of beating.”

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Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times—Getty Images

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Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times—Getty Images

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