HOA’s insurance ‘does not cover earth movement, mudslides’

Workers use garden hoses to drain rain water from the tarps covering the backyards of the homes on Terri Drive in Santa Clarita on Saturday. Dan Watson/The Signal

As the rains continue to fall intermediately in Santa Clarita, the residents threatened by the continually moving landslide in the Trestles Home/American Beauty developments received more updates and a number of visitors over the weekend.

After an email had been sent out by Beaumont Tashjian, the general legal counsel to the Trestles Community Association, to all affected homeowners on Friday, homeowner Yessica Lopez said the “do not reply” correspondence marks the first official word they’ve heard from their HOA.

“They gave updates and they said they’ve got geologists testing the dirt and if it’s going to be safe to start (fixing the hillside),” said Lopez, a Trestles community homeowner whose property is still being damaged by the geological event.

A home’s back yard fence on Trestles Drive crumples under the weight of the hillside sliding down from the homes above on Terri Drive in Santa Clarita on Saturday. Dan Watson/The Signal

The email, sent to The Signal by residents Saturday morning, says that the association’s board of directors is “aggressively investigating the cause of the slope failure.”

“At this time, the board has engaged a soils engineer and is working with the city of Santa Clarita, as well as engineers hired by the neighboring community’s homeowners association, and Williams Homes to identify the cause of the slope failure and prepare a work plan for necessary repairs,” the letter dated March 1 reads.

The law firm’s letter, sent on behalf of their HOA client, touched on the work being done by Landscape Development Inc. (LDI), and says that the contractor, hired by both the Trestles and American Beauty HOAs, was working to stabilize the hill and take measures necessary to keep homeowners safe.

“Relying on the expertise of professionals, the board’s goal is to identify the cause and determine solutions to repair the slope as soon as possible. Working with these experts, the board will take the recommended steps necessary to repair the slope and will also evaluate other common area slopes to evaluate whether they have been compromised.”

Homeowner Luis Estrada looks at the backyard of his home on Terri Drive on Saturday. Dan Watson/The Signal

At the bottom of the first page, the HOA lawyers emphasize that they will be conducting their own, private investigation, to determine if any third party can be held responsible for the cost of repairs because the association’s insurance isn’t planning to cover the costs of damage.

“Please be advised the association is funding this investigation, as the association’s insurance carrier denied coverage. Pursuant to the association’s insurance policy, earth movement, including, without limitation, earth sinking, rising and shifting, are policy exclusions. The association’s policy also excludes damage caused (directly or indirectly) by mudslide or mudflow.”

Lopez and her sister said that after she and her neighbors had received the HOA’s letter, the next morning she saw association representatives on the hillside.

Calls placed to the law firm and Beaumont Tashjian representing the Trestles Community Association were left unanswered at the time of this article’s publication, and Property Management Professionals, the homeowners association management group, were left unanswered as of the time of publication for this article.

A driver and an earth mover sits idly in the rain as as on Trestles Drive in Santa Clarita as they monitor the slipping backyard, hillsides of the homes on Terri Drive above that are covered with black tarps and sandbags on Saturday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Rain & Reporters

Reporters from The Signal, NBC news and the Los Angeles Times were all on the scene Saturday morning, speaking with homeowners as this story begins to gain more attention, according to residents.

The increased media presence from Los Angeles news outlets, according to the Lopez family, is due to the fact that rain is in forecast well into next week.

“You have no idea how much this doorbell rang this morning,” said Lopez. “I haven’t had much sleep today, and now I hear that it’s going to be raining all through next week.”

But with the continuous rain will come the continuous monitoring of the hillside tarping and drainage of water by Landscape Development’s emergency storm crews, who “are there on the site 24/7,” according to LDI Division President Amy Ambrose.

A driver in an earth mover sits idly in the rain on Trestles Drive in Santa Clarita below the backyards of the homes on Terri Drive above that are slipping down in on Saturday. Dan Watson/The Signal

“There’s not a huge change from last night,” said Ambrose Saturday afternoon, noting she had been working until 4 a.m. this morning. “Nothing really. Just us continuing to do proper monitoring on 12-hour shifts, eight to 10 guys per shift.”

Ambrose said that her teams will be working with the tarps and pumps through next week, with rain forecast “straight through till Wednesday and possibly Thursday.”

“We’re there until it’s dry,” said Ambrose.

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