City inspectors yellow-tagged the homes of multiple Santa Clarita Valley residents Friday as shifting land on a hill near the 1900 block of Terri Drive continued to sink and forced the voluntary evacuation of multiple homeowners.
When Stephanie and Luis Estrada bought their home last September, the couple never imagined they’d have an experience like the one this week brought.
The gas to the Estrada family’s home has been shut off, but the water from the underground pipes still drips onto soil that is now 2 to 5 feet below its original placement level.
Tree roots and tubing are visible across neighbors’ yards, and the Trestles — a development of single-family homes that lay below the sinking slope — are facing the threat of debris and mud entering boarded-up windows.
The threat of danger was so real for some families that a city inspector was in the area Friday informing residents that their home had been yellow-tagged, meaning there will be restricted access to the homes.
Some backyard crevices go as deep as 5 feet from the original leveling of the grass, and the brick wall lining the back of the Estrada house has split into multiple pieces and toppled over in some areas.
The backyard fencing that separated the yards of the Williams Homes developments below have also shifted. The concrete keeping the fencing in place breached the ground and hung above the heads of landscapers, who hurriedly filled sandbags Friday afternoon.
Some baseboards and a few walls on the inside of an impacted house have started to split, according to resident Stephanie Estrada, who was outside viewing the damage as her neighbors returned from their camping trip to the sight of a fallen fence and sinking lemon tree.
Amy Ambrose, earth services division president of Landscape Development, was one of the first to arrive on the scene when news of the unstable slope spread on Wednesday.
Ambrose said Friday that it’s easy to tell the difference between Wednesday’s yard level and Friday’s, adding, “It’s staggering.”
“The houses haven’t moved,” City Engineer Mike Hennawy said, but the yellow-tag designation will remain in place until a soil engineer determines that it’s safe or until the slope is repaired.
“The slopes are privately owned and maintained,” Hennawy said, so the homeowners associations are responsible for hiring a consultant who will make recommendations on how to best go about a repair.
As for a potential time frame for when the situation will be resolved, Hennawy said, “We leave that to the experts who monitor and test the situation.”
“It’s subject to confirmation, but at this point it appears the tract of the American Beauty homes has failed and slid onto the Trestles track,” said Rick Patterson, an attorney who has had previous experience some of the area’s unstable slopes. “I have had conversations with Lance Williams (President of William Homes) and he’s supporting the HOAs in moving forward.”
Williams did not respond to a request for an interview Friday, but Patterson said he believes the “relatively small” landslide occurred as a result of the recent rainfall.
“The three homes in American Beauty are impacted as a result of the actual separation of the land,” Patterson said, “and the Trestles homes are impacted by the dirt that then came down.”
“This is a relatively small slide,” Patterson said, mentioning other slope failures that have occurred in the area.
“Geologists were on site immediately. They’ve been on the job, and they know what needs to be done,” he said, adding, “There will be soil engineers who will determine the breadth and depth of the slope before they remove the dirt, backfill it and reinforce it per current codes.”
If everybody cooperates, then two months’ time would be the best-case scenario for a solution, Patterson said, citing two to four weeks of soil boring and another 30 days for contractor repairs.
Ambrose said it’s anybody’s guess how long it’ll take, but Landscape Development Inc. will continue working to remediate the situation through the use of different methods.
“The work that’s being done now is very superficial,” but it’s necessary if anybody hopes to keep the slope from sliding further, Ambrose said. “Measures will be taken on multiple houses stretching along the slope because it’s better to err on the side of caution.”
Residents in both neighborhoods said they haven’t heard much from city officials or their homeowners association, and it’s yet to be determined who is at fault for the sliding slope that has caused a majority of the residents’ problems.
Patterson said, “That’ll come out in the engineer’s reports, studies and assessments.”