Respite from rain provides little comfort to residents affected by landslide

Workers Matthew Aragon have been continuously pumping rain water out of the affected backyards to prevent further land degradation. Matt Fernandez/The Signal

The residents of Terri Drive and Trestles Drive gained a brief respite from the threat of landslides as rain died down Sunday.

Residents of the Trestles Home and American Beauty housing tracts have been the center of media attention the past two weeks as five hillside homes have been “yellow-tagged” with notices stating the homes are unsuitable for occupancy except during daytime hours.

Debra Gulack lives next to the two yellow-tagged homes on the 19700 block of Terri Drive.Though the corner of her backyard has been damaged by the landslide, the rest of her property is safe — for now.

“Our house has been compromised, but we have been fortunate to not have been yellow-tagged,” Gulack said. “Our house has been inspected by the city and, for now, is safe to live in; but thankfully, I have family that I can stay with if I have to leave. We have some valuables ready to go.”

In the 22 years she has lived in her house, Gulack said nothing like this has happened, despite other large storms, and she would be interested to know how the ground has changed over the years.

Work crews have been deployed in shifts around the clock to divert and pump out water to prevent further land shift and destruction. Matthew Aragon, an earth services worker with Landscape Development, said despite the 1,000 sandbags that have been deployed, the ground has yet to stabilize; however, he also doesn’t anticipate any other homes being yellow-tagged.

“From last week to this week, the ground has shifted maybe about a foot,” Aragon said. “We have channels, pumps and hoses to deviate any water buildup. The more water sits and collects, the more unstable the ground becomes; so we’re pumping out every little puddle no matter how small.”

Los Angeles County Fire Department Battalion Chief Joe Granados came to check on the damage and the affected residents Sunday afternoon.

“Our main job right now is to make sure the residents are safe,” Granados said. “One family needed a place to stay, so we were able to put them into contact with the Red Cross to get assistance. I’ve seen a landslide like this in my personal life. This situation has much more ground shift because this is a wet year, so we’ll continue to monitor it.”

Trestles resident Livier Lopez  said that, if the developer and insurance do not cover the damage, Lopez might follow her neighbors and hire a lawyer to try to find some compensation.

Though her backyard has been damaged by the landslide, the threat is not high enough to warrant a yellow tag and she has been able to live in her home. Still, it has been a stressful experience for her and each morning she checks her backyard to determine if any more damage has been done.

Lopez said that Saturday’s rain caused the land to slide even more and it exacerbated cracking in a wall around her backyard. While she has offers of places to stay if she is required to evacuate, Lopez said that those choices are limited because she has pets.

Gulack said that on top of the unfortunate situation, she’s also less than thrilled with the constant activity in her neighborhood.

“I am not 100-percent thrilled the news vans that show up at 5 until 10 in the morning, then turn on their generators so they can run their antennas,” she said. “We’re all families in this community, and we all work and have lives. I only hope when everything has been taken care of and resolved there will be as much media attention to the resolution and celebration of having everyone in their homes.”

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