Rancho Palos Verdes residents plead for help amid ongoing landslides

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

As local leaders in Rancho Palos Verdes call on Governor Gavin Newsom to declare a statewide emergency over shifting land in the seaside community, residents on Tuesday attended a city council meeting to plead for help.

The city has already declared a local emergency due to an ongoing constant landslide that has destroyed homes, warped roadways and threatened to uproot life for many homeowners.

At least two homes on the peninsula have been red-tagged and deemed uninhabitable due to damage from recent rainfall. Many others have had their homes yellow-tagged as sinkholes form, foundations shift, and cracks begin to appear in the walls.

“It’s very stressful,” Rancho Palos Verdes resident Nikki Noushkam told KTLA’s Sandra Mitchell. “I had to leave my home just this weekend. Between the broken sewer lines, the broken gas lines, water leaks and no water, I couldn’t stay.”

Heavy rains have weakened hillsides in the scenic community, prompting Mayor John Cruikshank to ask the governor to declare a state of emergency, which would speed up construction permitting and help defray the cost of repairs.

“It’s been expensive, but we’re not necessarily thinking about that,” the mayor said. “Really what we’re thinking about is let’s do the things necessary now. We’ll worry about bills and invoices later, but of course we do want to request that the governor give us some relief.”

One of the items on the mayor’s list is Palos Verdes Drive South near Portuguese Bend.

“The roads are terrible and definitely over in the Portuguese area, we can’t even drive there,” resident Kitty Callahan said.

The road has shifted, causing wide fissures as the earth and blacktop give way. People who live in Rancho Palos Verdes said they’ve never seen things this bad.

Heavy rains led to rushing water next to this structure in Rancho Palos Verdes. (Rick Guinto)A broken water caused by shift ground in Rancho Palos Verdes. (Rick Quinto)Damage seen to a Rancho Palos Verdes home as the ground on the peninsula continues to shift. (KTLA)Damage to the ground seen in a Rancho Palos Verdes neighborhood as the ground continues to shift. (KTLA)

“Over the past year, and in particularly these past few months, we’ve had more sliding happen in that time than we’ve had over ten years.”

Another tragic loss for the community is the historic Wayfarers Chapel, also known as “The Glass Church,” which was closed indefinitely last week after the ground near the property continued to shift. Aerial footage from nearby the church showed a large bulge on Rancho Palos Verdes Drive South, the adjacent coastal roadway that operates as a critical artery and emergency route for the city’s residents.

City officials said the land is sliding at an accelerated rate, with some estimates of as much as 10 feet per year.

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency previously authorized millions to remediate the ongoing slides by using underground wells that will divert water from the ground to the ocean. But that project isn’t supposed to begin until next year.

At Tuesday night’s city council meeting, officials approved a vote to send the governor a letter asking that he declare the ongoing landslides a statewide emergency.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.