City untags first home in slope failure, 5 remain

A man looks out from the backyard of a two-story residence at the edge of a landslide affecting multiple homes on Plume Way at the Luna at Skyline neighborhood in the Plum Canyon area of Santa Clarita, Calif., on Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. Five houses on Plume and one home on Lambert Way have since been yellow-tagged - meaning residents can go back into their properties and gather their things, but not permanently stay there. Chris Torres/The Signal

After concerns about a slope failure left six homes yellow-tagged Sunday, a Santa Clarita building inspector noted the first one was untagged by about 9 a.m. Tuesday, as the city worked with Tri Pointe Homes to review the builder’s remediation plans.  

Santa Clarita Building Official John Caprarelli said he’s seen “a handful” of these situations in his 16 years with the city, and was working with Tri Pointe, developer of the Skyline Ranch neighborhood where the incident occurred, to determine when the remaining homes would be returned to normal occupancy. 

“Luckily, we met with the developer and his engineer out there at Skyline today and they have a gameplan for … hopefully moving forward here,” Caprarelli said. “And we’re just waiting to see what they submit to us.” 

A statement from Tri Pointe, shared by the city Tuesday, indicated a timeline of at least a couple of months seemed likely: 

“(On Monday), geotechnical, slope stabilization and remediation experts inspected the site and developed a plan to remediate and rebuild the impacted slope,” according to a statement attributed to Tom Grable, division president for Tri Pointe Homes. “In coordination with these experts and the city of Santa Clarita, we expect that there will be two stages to the remediation and rebuilding of the slope: The first stage will involve I-beams being placed in the slope to provide stability. The I-beam design is currently being finalized, materials are being sourced, and equipment mobilized. Once the preparation has been completed and work can commence, the I-beam installation is anticipated to take approximately six weeks, barring inclement weather delays or unforeseen circumstances.” 

Caprarelli said Tri Pointe has not yet formally submitted plans to his office for the five homes still yellow-tagged — which means the occupants are able to remove their possessions from the residence but not stay there overnight. 

Tri Pointe did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday regarding follow-up questions about how long the I-beam design might take or further details on its remediation timeline. 

The developer has committed to paying for the temporary rehousing of the displaced residents, according to previous reporting in The Signal. 

The city first became aware of the issue with the hillside on Sunday, according to city spokeswoman Carrie Lujan.  

“Our building and safety staff typically is the first city staff on site, and we are evaluating whether or not the condition in the field warrants any kind of occupancy to the structure,” Caprarelli said, explaining the limitations of the yellow tag. 

“So what we’re saying is that the condition that the property is facing is a potential threat to the structure, but the structure is not damaged, and it is partially occupied,” he added.  

Following a period of above-average rains — a series of early-winter storms meant the city has already received an inch more than its annual total with about two months left in the season — land that made up several backyards on a small cul-de-sac slid about 8 feet Sunday. 

A home that was yellow-tagged on Lambent Way because it was at the bottom of the slope that moved was determined to no longer be threatened, Caprarelli said. 

The aforementioned I-beam plans would remediate the soil for the five Plume Way homes above the untagged home on Lambent, Caprarelli said. He added while the initial hill slide took out a transformer that impacted power to a half-dozen homes in the Lyra neighborhood of the development, the city and Southern California Edison had power restored within about eight hours on Sunday. 

The process for determining the homes’ safety involves “geotechnical science that can be brought to bear,” Caprarelli said, explaining that soil engineers will look at the configuration, the soil’s weight, the type of soil and the type of failure and then determine whether a structure is close enough to the slope and the area in question to be at risk. He added that the city’s team inspected one extra home “out of an abundance of caution” to make sure no other structures were threatened. 

While he didn’t have a definitive timeline for when the other five families could return home, he was encouraged by the developer’s reaction to the city’s concerns about the hillside. 

“Everyone’s hoping it’s sooner, as soon as possible. But, you know, so far, they’ve been very responsive. I mean, (Monday), it was one day after the event, they were able to give me that justification I needed to lift the tag on the house below,” he said. “When I was out there (Tuesday) morning, they have a lot of resources out there. So at least up to this point, it seems like they’re really doing their best to try to get the issue resolved.” 

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