A total of 17 homes remained under evacuation orders Wednesday in Rolling Hills Estates in response to a landslide that has caused at least 10 of those structures to collapse and prompted the City Council declare a local emergency in the Palos Verdes Peninsula neighborhood.
The cause of the landslide responsible for the destruction remained a mystery.
Over the weekend, 12 homes along Peartree Lane were red-tagged — deemed unsuitable for habitation — due to the landslide that heavily damaged at least 10 of those buildings.
Five more homes were red-tagged Tuesday due to a sewer line rupture caused by the shifting land, Assistant City Manager Alexa Davis told the Southern California News Group.
County fire officials were closely monitoring other homes in the area to ensure they do not begin shifting.
The Rolling Hills Estates City Council unanimously passed a resolution declaring a local emergency in response to the slide on Tuesday night.
“The estimated costs in responding to the Peartree Lane Land Movement Incident are unknown at this time due to the evolving nature of the situation,” according to a staff report prepared for the council. “Adoption of this resolution will facilitate the ability for the city to request resources including financial support and reimbursement from the State Office of Emergency Services and Federal Emergency Management Agency for costs incurred for the response of this emergency.”
On Monday evening, County Supervisor Janice Hahn and Rolling Hills Estates Mayor Britt Huff met with affected residents. Among the other officials attending was county Assessor Jeff Prang, who said earlier his office would work with residents to ensure they would not be forced to pay hefty property tax bills for homes and properties that have been largely destroyed.
Prang said his office will be expediting the process of re-assessing the affected properties to prevent any of the owners from receiving hefty tax bills for destroyed homes.
“In a tragedy like this, people have experienced all types of hardships that you don’t really think about,” Prang said. “One of them is paying taxes on houses or a piece of land that no longer exist. We just need to make sure that we do everything we can do to relieve them of any burdens, especially this financial burden, as quickly as possible. So I’m here to work with the city and county and everyone else to make sure we provide that relief to these residents.”
Prang said the county would not provide a blanket waiver of property taxes, but he said the re-assessing of the properties would result in them having either no or dramatically reduced tax bills due to the damage.
Hahn noted Monday after that the “land has moved 20 feet since I was here in Rolling Hills Estates yesterday afternoon.”
“Homes have completely fallen into the canyon now,” she wrote on her Twitter page.
Homeowners have been left to basically stand back and watch their houses collapse on themselves and sink into the turf. Hahn noted that some rooftops were now at ground level due to the continued collapse.
The homes were largely considered complete losses, Hahn said.
County Fire Chief Anthony Marrone said fire crews were basically in a holding pattern, simply waiting for the homes to stop sliding or shifting.
“We don’t know how long that these homes are going to continue to move,” he said. “At this time it’s just a holding pattern we’re in waiting to see what the final determination is going to be.”
Hahn said that after the homes stop sliding, the homeowners association in the area can bring in geologists and soil experts to examine the area.
“We think after it’s all settled, a good geologist and soil expert maybe will give us a clue about how this happened and if there’s any way of preventing it from happening on some other hillside,” Hahn said.
Electricity in the area was turned off Saturday and utility crews made sure no gas or power lines were disrupted, authorities said.
The American Red Cross was helping to find shelter for the evacuated families. Huff said the Red Cross offered hotel vouchers to displaced residents, but most had already made other arrangements.
There have been no reports of any injuries.
Hahn said she reached out to Gov. Gavin Newsom Monday but had not yet spoken to him about the situation. She said she would like to invite him to tour the neighborhood.