Unforeseen land movement triggers widespread evacuations and property destruction in Rolling Hills Estates.
In an unexpected turn of events, the normally tranquil suburb of Rolling Hills Estates, California, has been jolted by extensive ground movement, leading to the evacuation of more than a dozen residences and causing significant property damage, according to local city and Los Angeles County officials.
By Monday night, twelve homes had been deemed unsafe and were officially red-tagged, said the Los Angeles County Fire Department via Twitter. This ground movement resulted in the displacement of sixteen residents. An unfortunate consequence of the continued land shifting was a rupture in a sewer main on Tuesday afternoon, prompting an additional evacuation of five homes and escalating the total number of evacuated residences to seventeen.
The crisis, which has been ongoing since the weekend, has led to distressing scenes of homes collapsing on the hillside, their structures yielding to the relentless forces of nature, as witnessed in footage from CNN affiliate KCAL.
City officials remain unsure when the ground movement will come to a halt, although they noted a deceleration in its pace by Tuesday afternoon.
In a report to KCAL, L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn shared a stark observation, stating, “They’ve moved almost 20 feet since last night, and homes that I saw last night are now gone.” Hahn, whose district encompasses the affected area, described the devastation on Instagram, “We’ve got back decks that are gone. We’ve got roofs that are at eye level with the driveway. I’ve never seen anything like it. They’re completely uninhabitable.”
The seriousness of the situation led to the Rolling Hills Estates city council declaring a local emergency due to the land movement on Tuesday evening.
The issue first came to light along Peartree Lane on Saturday, as noted on the city’s official website. Rolling Hills Estates, nestled on the Palos Verdes Peninsula just west of Long Beach, is a predominantly residential area located about 30 miles south of Los Angeles.
Chief Anthony Marone of the L.A. County Fire confirmed the presence of their department on the scene since Saturday afternoon, following the identification of foundation cracks in twelve homes. As the situation has evolved, Marone revealed that ten of these homes "have been lost."
The cause of the land movement remains a mystery. Supervisor Hahn suggested that the homeowner’s association hire a geologist or soil expert to determine the cause, while hypothesizing that it could be due to periods of heavy rain following a drought, leading to a ground fissure.
In the midst of this crisis, affected residents were invited to meet with city officials on Monday, according to Rolling Hills Estates Mayor Britt Huff.
Property owners affected by the disaster may take solace in some relief, as Los Angeles County Assessor Jeff Prang affirmed they would be entitled to property tax relief.
With its population of about 8,000 and a median household income of approximately $160,000, as per US Census Bureau data, the affluent city of Rolling Hills Estates is grappling with a crisis that no one saw coming.