Trish Guthrie shows the new cracks forming in the back patio following a landslide behind the 19700 block of Terri Drive in Canyon Country. Cory Rubin/The Signal

Residents affected by land slide preparing for months of hardships

With a failing slope forcing the city to yellow-tag multiple homes last week, residents in the two affected neighborhoods are beginning to prepare for what they expect will be months of hardship.

A Los Angeles County Fire Department truck pulled out of the gated Trestles community early Wednesday afternoon, and a white truck with the city’s logo followed behind shortly after.

A Nationwide insurance employee who travels to work on large-scale disasters like the Paradise fires was also busy inspecting and speaking with at least one affected resident’s home.

Landscape Development Inc. workers would arrive a few hours later to begin preparing for the rainfall that’s expected to hit the Santa Clarita Valley and the still-sliding slope in the coming days.

The backyard fencing that hung above workers’ heads on Friday now towers even taller than it did just a few days ago, and the moving dirt hill is pushing into air conditioning units, which in turn are causing walls to concave and floors to shift — even in homes that aren’t directly below the moving earth.

The hill behind the 19700 block of Terri Drive in Canyon Country, now covered in plastic and sandbags, continues to collapse down into homes in the Trestles neighborhood below, moving as much as six feet in some areas. Cory Rubin/The Signal

In fact, a myriad of new views have opened up to the homeowners above the tarped hill and below it as a result of their moving backyard fences.

“I’m not sure how something that drastic could happen. The whole mountain is gone,” said Austin Calder, a resident who has lived in the Trestles community since the homes were first sold. He lives six houses away from the slope but is still seeing cracks in his home’s driveway, fencing and walls that stretch as long as 9 feet.

He had no idea there was a landslide occurring a few houses down from him until he was approached by The Signal for an interview on Friday, he said, adding he was later approached by another homeowner who said everybody in the neighborhood is complaining about similar problems on a Facebook page.

UPDATE: Backyards continue to slide on Terri Drive in Canyon Country. Reporter Austin Dave is live at a home with updates.Read more here: https://signalscv.com/2019/02/shifting-land-destroys-homes-backyard/

Posted by Santa Clarita Valley Signal on Friday, February 22, 2019
A video captured by Signal reporter Austin Day shows the preliminary damage caused by the landslide, February 22, 2019.

“This whole time I assumed that little skip loader in front of the (yellow-tagged) house was a sneaky way to grade their backyard,” he said, joking that he wanted to go talk to the neighbor to figure out how he got around HOA rules. “I didn’t even know the whole slope was coming down until I came down here and saw that it’s all gone into the house.”

As a man with 13 years of experience in the grading industry, Calder can spend a few minutes observing the sliding hill and imagine a multitude of outcomes.

He’s not sure how the hill was graded, “but it would be to an engineer’s specifications and the geologist would be responsible for ensuring that got built to the compaction, the specs, the moisture content and everything that was required by the engineer to call it safe,” Calder said. “Whether that happened or not, I don’t know.”

The city, two homeowners associations and other involved parties have yet to confirm how long it’ll take to find a solution or what caused the slope to give, but in the meantime, residents are doing what they can to adjust to their new living arrangements.

Twenty-three-year homeowner Kathleen Chrisman, whose home is one of three on Terri Drive that have been yellow-tagged by the city, returned early from a trip in Missouri, “because everybody was saying, ‘Kathy, you have to get home.’”

Chrisman saw a picture Friday morning, “and went, ‘Oh, my Lord,’” she said, then proceeded to book a flight home as early as possible.

Trish Guthrie shows the new cracks forming in the back patio following a landslide behind the 19700 block of Terri Drive in Canyon Country, February 27, 2019. Cory Rubin/The Signal

“First thing Saturday morning — Voila,” Chrisman said, with a chuckle and pretending to open a curtain to the 10-foot deep sunken hole that stretches across her backyard and two others.

“But, this is the new slip-n-slide of Canyon Country!” she added, trying to make light of what’s been an emotional experience for her and many other residents who are stuck in the same muddled situation.

Cory Rubin/The Signal
The hill behind the 19700 block of Terri Drive in Canyon Country, now covered in plastic and sandbags, continues to collapse down into homes in the Trestles neighborhood below, moving as much as six feet in some areas. Cory Rubin/The Signal
Over the weekend, crews worked to tarp, sandbag and reinforce the hillside as the soil continued to sink and shift, February 25, 2019. Caleb Lunetta / The Signal

She’s definitely had her moments of emotion, said Trish Guthrie, Chrisman‘s younger sister who’s been and will remain on-hand to assist her sibling in her time of need.

“I’m stressed to the max. Blood pressure is through the roof. It’s just like what do you do?” Chrisman said. “What do you do?”

The pair said they reached out to the city to see if there was any housing assistance, but they were told there was not. Chrisman hopes insurance will “work itself out in some way, because I have nowhere to go at the moment.”

Other affected homeowners are feeling very similar, as they’re having to do laundry at neighbors’ homes, find hotels and deal with the neverending onslaught of tasks to accomplish, whether that be work, calling insurance or trying to find information about how to best proceed.

Stephanie Estrada is one the affected residents living above the hill. She spoke Thursday about the situation. Jim Holt/The Signal

Lorie Hance, who lives two houses down from the affected residencies in the American Beauty tract, said she’s not displaced, but she feels for the homeowners who are.

Outside of word from other neighbors and a geologist who was on the scene Saturday, Hance said she hasn’t been updated about the situation from homeowners associations or other involved parties, which was a common theme among residents in the Trestles developments below the hill and the American Beauty homes above.

“I’m not sure what she’s received yet, but really there hasn’t been much information,” Guthrie said, mentioning that there are people out there and the company is “monitoring” the movement of the houses. But nobody has come forth to confirm if any of the residents’ houses are indeed shifting.

Trish Guthrie shows the new cracks forming in the back patio following a landslide behind the 19700 block of Terri Drive in Canyon Country, February 27, 2019. Cory Rubin/The Signal

“We can see by our own vision. And we can see that it’s been a lot more,” Guthrie said, with her older sister laughing in the background, pointing to cracks in her backyard cement and exterior wall as large as 2 inches wide and 7 inches deep.

“One thing that we have been told is that there is movement,” Guthrie said.

“They said they can hear the crackling and that it’s not as fast as it was but there’s still movement, and the biggest concern now is the rain.”

Employees of Landscape Development Inc., the private firm hired by the two homeowners associations that have shared ownership of the collapsing hillside, have worked to mitigate any damage that could occur from rainfall by blanketing the area with spool after spool of tarp, and bag after bag of gravel. Jim Holt/The Signal

Workers plan to counter the rain by using two pumps, 40,000 square feet of plastic sheeting and 250,000 pounds of gravel, but Calder said the rain could be one the reasons that led to this and could lead to further damage.

Chrisman, who lives on the American Beauty tract up above, said there was some concern about sliding slopes when grading began for the newer homes.

“We all (thought), ‘Wow, they’re building all of this stuff behind us. Is that going to be safe?’ because we did have a little barrier here before that’s not there now, but I don’t know if that’s the cause or not,” Chrisman said. “So, yes there was concern about the construction and the grading and me being able to give somebody a cup of coffee when they were coming with these big (Caterpillar) machines right behind the wall a few years ago…but I don’t know.

“I’m not an expert. I’m not a geologist or an engineer,” Chrisman said, ”but all the experts are out there doing their thing and they’ll figure it all out. I’m sure we’ll all find out soon. Let’s hope, right?”

Chrisman and other residents said they’ve heard that it could be as much as six months to a year before the reports are finished

“But, at this point, there’s been no concrete information,” Guthrie said.

“Well, the concrete information is that the concrete is separated,” Chrisman added, with another outburst of laughter. “I need to make light of this disaster.”

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