Nathan Solis, Grace Toohey
Los Angeles Times
Homes in Rolling Hills Estates continued to move Monday morning, more than a day after 12 houses were evacuated because of a major ground shift.
Houses backing up into the canyon appeared to have slid dramatically since Sunday, leaving a significant drop-off a few feet down their driveways. Huge breaks in some walls exposed beams and pipes, and one garage door was almost completely flattened.
The homes were red-tagged after firefighters and investigators found them visibly leaning Saturday afternoon because of massive movement on the hillside. The community is on the northern side of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, facing Torrance.
Those homes are continuing their gradual decline down the hillside, Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Sheila Kelliher said Monday morning.
“Things are still shifting there,” Kelliher said. “The hillside is still moving. We don’t know the extent of that movement, but geographical engineers are on their way to the site to further assess the situation.”
David Zee and his family were told by emergency officials they had just 20 minutes to get out of their home Saturday night.
“It’s just amazing how quickly this all happened,” Zee, 52, said Monday morning after he returned to his street.
Zee, his wife and their son moved in to their home just two months ago from Torrance, excited for the new school district and beautiful scenery. Before they could even get acquainted with the neighborhood, their home started to slide off the hillside.
“It’s a terrible way to meet your neighbors,” Zee said. “The good thing is that nobody was hurt — all the neighbors got out safely.”
After seeing the damage Monday morning, he said he is relying on the experts for what will come next. “The ground is still moving,” he said. His home is “still standing, but I don’t know.”
At a Sunday news conference at the site, L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn said officials “believe many of these homes will fall into the canyon sooner than later.”
Deputies on the scene reported significant movement at the affected homes Monday morning, L.A. County Sheriff’s Sgt. Peter Velasco said. Officials haven’t yet determined whether they will expand the mandatory evacuation order to more homes, but updates are expected later Monday.
Crews from Southern California Gas Co. and Southern California Edison were on the scene early Monday.
Firefighters and investigators were sent about 4 p.m. Saturday to Peartree Lane, where they found damaged homes and garages.
Officials said a visible fissure, or crack in the ground, was winding its way between the homes that were affected.
Pete Goodrich, a building official with the city, said geologists will inspect the site and decide what can be done. He said there was substantial damage to the homes.
The land movement “could be due to the extensive rains that we’ve had … but we don’t know,” Goodrich said of recent winter storms.
Rolling Hills Estates is on the Palos Verdes Peninsula in southwestern Los Angeles County, where a big chunk of land is slowly sliding into the sea.
A dormant landslide complex that shaped the south side of the peninsula for hundreds of thousands of years was reactivated 67 years ago, threatening to destroy homes and infrastructure in the hillside communities that dot the landscape.
Palos Verdes Peninsula has long been prone to landslides, and the most dramatic one is affecting Portuguese Bend, an area named after a Portuguese whaling operation, now known for its natural beauty and native vegetation.
The Portuguese Bend landslide was triggered in the summer of 1956 — nearly two decades before Rancho Palos Verdes became a city — when a Los Angeles County road crew was constructing an extension of Crenshaw Boulevard that would run from Crest Road to Palos Verdes Drive South.
City officials in Ranchos Palos Verdes are considering a $25-million project that would involve a series of wells to pull water out of the ground and send it into the ocean, effectively drying up the lubricated landscape enough to stop the land from sliding.
City planner Ara Mihranian said officials had to take action before it’s too late.
“Something catastrophic is imminent,” Mihranian told The Times in March.
Times staff writer Jack Flemming contributed to this report.
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