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At least 10 Rolling Hills Estates homes will slide into canyon, officials say

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The fallout from a massive landslide on the Palos Verdes Peninsula continued unfolding as a slow-motion tragedy on Monday, July 10, with at least 10 homes in a gated Rolling Hills Estates neighborhood on the brink of crumbling into the canyon below.

Two out of the 12 destroyed homes, meanwhile, were on a “wait and see” list, according to officials at a late-Monday walk-through of the impacted area. And officials are monitoring another 16, though no evacuations from those homes have yet been ordered, said Los Angeles County fire Chief Anthony Marrone.

It’s unclear how long the waiting will last, Marrone said.

“We don’t know how long that these homes are going to continue to move,” he said. “At this time, it’s just a holding pattern we’re in, waiting to see what the final determination is going to be.”


Related: Does homeowners insurance cover landslides? That’s a key question on Peninsula


And for the residents who had to hurry from their red-tagged homes, the past two days have been traumatic.

April Zee and her husband, David, are just two of the16 residents who spent Monday watching and waiting outside their Peartree Lane home, which is one of two that are on the “wait and see” list.

The Zees are the newcomers on the block.

The Zees have lived at 27 Peartree Lane for only two months. They moved from Torrance in May so their son could start as a freshman at Peninsula High in the fall, April Zee said via phone on Monday.

  • Damage is visible from land moving Monday that has destroyed...

    Damage is visible from land moving Monday that has destroyed 12 homes in from a a landslide in Rolling Hills Estates CA/USA. July 10, 2023. Residents of a Los Angeles County neighborhood were forced to evacuate their homes Saturday night after a giant landslide prompted police, fire and utility company officials to respond early Sunday morning and close down the area. At least 12 homes were evacuated in Rolling Hills Estates along Peartree Lane next to the canyon area, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said. Several other homes caved in and were completely destroyed. A total of 16 residents were forced to leave their residences after one of the homeowners reported problems. (Photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

  • A basketball hoop and ball lay next to a collapse...

    A basketball hoop and ball lay next to a collapse patio visible from land moving Monday that has destroyed 12 homes in from a a landslide in Rolling Hills Estates CA/USA. July 10, 2023. Residents of a Los Angeles County neighborhood were forced to evacuate their homes Saturday night after a giant landslide prompted police, fire and utility company officials to respond early Sunday morning and close down the area. At least 12 homes were evacuated in Rolling Hills Estates along Peartree Lane next to the canyon area, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said. Several other homes caved in and were completely destroyed. A total of 16 residents were forced to leave their residences after one of the homeowners reported problems. (Photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Angeles Gas worker walk by damage homes visible from...

    Los Angeles Gas worker walk by damage homes visible from land moving Monday that has destroyed 12 homes in from a a landslide in Rolling Hills Estates CA/USA. July 10, 2023. Residents of a Los Angeles County neighborhood were forced to evacuate their homes Saturday night after a giant landslide prompted police, fire and utility company officials to respond early Sunday morning and close down the area. At least 12 homes were evacuated in Rolling Hills Estates along Peartree Lane next to the canyon area, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said. Several other homes caved in and were completely destroyed. A total of 16 residents were forced to leave their residences after one of the homeowners reported problems. (Photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

  • Local residents sit in the shad by damage homes visible...

    Local residents sit in the shad by damage homes visible from land moving Monday that has destroyed 12 homes in from a a landslide in Rolling Hills Estates CA/USA. July 10, 2023. Residents of a Los Angeles County neighborhood were forced to evacuate their homes Saturday night after a giant landslide prompted police, fire and utility company officials to respond early Sunday morning and close down the area. At least 12 homes were evacuated in Rolling Hills Estates along Peartree Lane next to the canyon area, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said. Several other homes caved in and were completely destroyed. A total of 16 residents were forced to leave their residences after one of the homeowners reported problems. (Photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

  • A massive landslide in Rolling Hills Estates this weekend destroyed...

    A massive landslide in Rolling Hills Estates this weekend destroyed 12 homes further underscoring the lurking danger of continually shifting earth on the Palos Verdes Peninsula on Monday, July 10, 2023. (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Homes above safe for now as 3 Damage homes below...

    Homes above safe for now as 3 Damage homes below from land moving Monday that has destroyed 12 homes in from a a landslide in Rolling Hills Estates CA/USA. July 10, 2023. Residents of a Los Angeles County neighborhood were forced to evacuate their homes Saturday night after a giant landslide prompted police, fire and utility company officials to respond early Sunday morning and close down the area. At least 12 homes were evacuated in Rolling Hills Estates along Peartree Lane next to the canyon area, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said. Several other homes caved in and were completely destroyed. A total of 16 residents were forced to leave their residences after one of the homeowners reported problems. (Photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

  • A massive landslide in Rolling Hills Estates this weekend destroyed...

    A massive landslide in Rolling Hills Estates this weekend destroyed 12 homes further underscoring the lurking danger of continually shifting earth on the Palos Verdes Peninsula on Monday, July 10, 2023. (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Damage is visible from land moving Monday that has destroyed...

    Damage is visible from land moving Monday that has destroyed 12 homes in from a a landslide in Rolling Hills Estates CA/USA. July 10, 2023. Residents of a Los Angeles County neighborhood were forced to evacuate their homes Saturday night after a giant landslide prompted police, fire and utility company officials to respond early Sunday morning and close down the area. At least 12 homes were evacuated in Rolling Hills Estates along Peartree Lane next to the canyon area, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said. Several other homes caved in and were completely destroyed. A total of 16 residents were forced to leave their residences after one of the homeowners reported problems. (Photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

  • Damage is visible from land moving Monday that has destroyed...

    Damage is visible from land moving Monday that has destroyed 12 homes in from a a landslide in Rolling Hills Estates CA/USA. July 10, 2023. Residents of a Los Angeles County neighborhood were forced to evacuate their homes Saturday night after a giant landslide prompted police, fire and utility company officials to respond early Sunday morning and close down the area. At least 12 homes were evacuated in Rolling Hills Estates along Peartree Lane next to the canyon area, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said. Several other homes caved in and were completely destroyed. A total of 16 residents were forced to leave their residences after one of the homeowners reported problems. (Photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

  • Damage is visible from land moving Monday that has destroyed...

    Damage is visible from land moving Monday that has destroyed 12 homes in from a a landslide in Rolling Hills Estates CA/USA. July 10, 2023. Residents of a Los Angeles County neighborhood were forced to evacuate their homes Saturday night after a giant landslide prompted police, fire and utility company officials to respond early Sunday morning and close down the area. At least 12 homes were evacuated in Rolling Hills Estates along Peartree Lane next to the canyon area, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said. Several other homes caved in and were completely destroyed. A total of 16 residents were forced to leave their residences after one of the homeowners reported problems. (Photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

  • A massive landslide in Rolling Hills Estates this weekend destroyed...

    A massive landslide in Rolling Hills Estates this weekend destroyed 12 homes further underscoring the lurking danger of continually shifting earth on the Palos Verdes Peninsula on Monday, July 10, 2023. (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Gas worker walk by damage homes visible from...

    Los Angeles Gas worker walk by damage homes visible from land moving Monday that has destroyed 12 homes in from a a landslide in Rolling Hills Estates CA/USA. July 10, 2023. Residents of a Los Angeles County neighborhood were forced to evacuate their homes Saturday night after a giant landslide prompted police, fire and utility company officials to respond early Sunday morning and close down the area. At least 12 homes were evacuated in Rolling Hills Estates along Peartree Lane next to the canyon area, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said. Several other homes caved in and were completely destroyed. A total of 16 residents were forced to leave their residences after one of the homeowners reported problems. (Photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Angeles inspector(R) takes to local people about the damage...

    Los Angeles inspector(R) takes to local people about the damage from land moving Monday that has destroyed 12 homes in from a a landslide in Rolling Hills Estates CA/USA. July 10, 2023. Residents of a Los Angeles County neighborhood were forced to evacuate their homes Saturday night after a giant landslide prompted police, fire and utility company officials to respond early Sunday morning and close down the area. At least 12 homes were evacuated in Rolling Hills Estates along Peartree Lane next to the canyon area, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said. Several other homes caved in and were completely destroyed. A total of 16 residents were forced to leave their residences after one of the homeowners reported problems. (Photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

  • A massive landslide in Rolling Hills Estates this weekend destroyed...

    A massive landslide in Rolling Hills Estates this weekend destroyed 12 homes further underscoring the lurking danger of continually shifting earth on the Palos Verdes Peninsula on Monday, July 10, 2023. (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles inspector(R) takes to local people about the damage...

    Los Angeles inspector(R) takes to local people about the damage from land moving Monday that has destroyed 12 homes in from a a landslide in Rolling Hills Estates CA/USA. July 10, 2023. Residents of a Los Angeles County neighborhood were forced to evacuate their homes Saturday night after a giant landslide prompted police, fire and utility company officials to respond early Sunday morning and close down the area. At least 12 homes were evacuated in Rolling Hills Estates along Peartree Lane next to the canyon area, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said. Several other homes caved in and were completely destroyed. A total of 16 residents were forced to leave their residences after one of the homeowners reported problems. (Photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

  • A massive landslide in Rolling Hills Estates this weekend destroyed...

    A massive landslide in Rolling Hills Estates this weekend destroyed 12 homes further underscoring the lurking danger of continually shifting earth on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Local residents surveying the damage, and Southern California Gas Company crews were on the scene in Rolling Hills Estates on Monday, July 10, 2023. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

  • A massive landslide in Rolling Hills Estates this weekend destroyed...

    A massive landslide in Rolling Hills Estates this weekend destroyed 12 homes further underscoring the lurking danger of continually shifting earth on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Local residents surveying the damage, and Southern California Gas Company crews were on the scene in Rolling Hills Estates on Monday, July 10, 2023. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

  • A destroyed house and garage sit empty after a landslide...

    A destroyed house and garage sit empty after a landslide in Rolling Hills Estates on Sunday, July 9, 2023. (Photo by Raphael Richardson, Contributing Photographer)

  • A massive landslide in Rolling Hills Estates this weekend destroyed...

    A massive landslide in Rolling Hills Estates this weekend destroyed 12 homes further underscoring the lurking danger of continually shifting earth on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Local residents surveying the damage, and Southern California Gas Company crews were on the scene in Rolling Hills Estates on Monday, July 10, 2023. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

  • LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn talks at a press conference...

    LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn talks at a press conference after a landslide in Rolling Hills Estates on Sunday, July 9, 2023. (Photo by Raphael Richardson, Contributing Photographer)

  • Rolling Hills Estates Mayor Britt Huff gives a speech at...

    Rolling Hills Estates Mayor Britt Huff gives a speech at a press conference after a landslide damaged several homes in Rolling Hills Estates on Sunday, July 9, 2023. (Photo by Raphael Richardson, Contributing Photographer)

  • Building Official Pete Goodrich talks with the media after a...

    Building Official Pete Goodrich talks with the media after a landslide damaged several homes in Rolling Hills Estates on Sunday, July 9, 2023. (Photo by Raphael Richardson, Contributing Photographer)

  • A home sits damaged after a landslide this weekend in...

    A home sits damaged after a landslide this weekend in Rolling Hills Estates on Sunday, July 9, 2023. (Photo by Raphael Richardson, Contributing Photographer)

  • (L-R) Resident David Zee speaks with Supervisor Janice Hahn and...

    (L-R) Resident David Zee speaks with Supervisor Janice Hahn and Mayor Britt Huff about his home after a landslide destroyed his neighbor’s houses in Rolling Hills Estates on Sunday, July 9, 2023. (Photo by Raphael Richardson, Contributing Photographer)

Their house is at the end of the red-tagged evacuation zone. Since Sunday, their neighbor’s home at 29 Peartree has shifted significantly, with its patio dropping into the canyon by at least six feet, Zee said. That home’s foundation is entirely exposed, she said.

The Zee family’s home shares a common wall with 29 Peartree.

“We’re just hoping nothing else slides,” Zee said. “Once his house goes, ours could be next.”

Other homes along Peartree have not fared as well. There are tilted garages, cracked stucco walls and split red brick roofs.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department was called out to Peartree Lane on Saturday afternoon to identify cracks that were forming in the foundations of the 12 houses. Officials quickly realized the danger.

Homeowners had 30 minutes to gather essential belongs and evacuate, Zee said.

And now, there’s no going back.

“Force of gravity is taking them,” said county Supervisor Janice Hahn. “They will all eventually go. It’s how far they go.”

As she fled her new home, Zee said, she took her eighth-grade son’s baby stuff, her baby stuff, wedding photos, jewelry and important documents. And she threw some clothes into a suitcase.

Then, the power went out. It was time to say goodbye.

As of Monday afternoon, a geologist had yet to tour the area to assess the damage to the hillside and to determine what caused the catastrophe, said RHE Assistant City Manager Alexa Davis.

The homeowners association for the gated community, the Rolling Hills Parks Villas, must hire the geologist, Hahn said at the late Monday afternoon walk-through. She’s given them a list of sources, she said.

There have been no problems reported to RHE associated with the hillside in 45 years, Davis said. The homes there — part of a planned urban development — were built in the late 1970s.

“Until there has been a comprehensive review completed by the geologist and geotechnical engineers,” Davis said in an email, “we will not have the full picture as to the cause.”

Either way, said Councilmember Frank Zerunyan, the magnitude of what has happened is unfathomable.

“It’s one thing to lose your home to a fire, but this is entirely different,” Zerunyan said. “Not only is your home gone, you can’t rebuild. The land is gone as well.”

What happened, though, was a fluke, Zerunyan said.

That’s true when looking at Peartree Lane. But when looking at the Palos Verdes Peninsula as a whole, landslides have long been a threat.

In December, boulders and other debris rained down from a hillside to the beach below in Palos Verdes Estates, adjacent to Torrance, though that landslide caused only minimal property damage and no injuries. And Rancho Palos Verdes has a 240-acre southern section that is the most active landslide area in North America, according to city officials there, moving at a rate of as much as eight feet each year.

As for Rolling Hills Estates, the cause of the Peartree Lane landslide remains unknown.

One logical explanation for the land shifting so dramatically, Zerunyan said, could be the heavy rainy season, which could have caused the hillside to weaken. A Rolling Hills Estates building official also said on Sunday that the winter deluge was a possible cause worth investigating.

“We think after it’s all settled, a good geologist and soil expert maybe will give us a clue about how this happened,” Hahn said, “and if there’s any way of preventing it from happening on some other hillside.”

But it appears there were early signs of what was to come.

Evacuated resident Weber Yen stood outside his home of 10 years on Monday and surveyed the damage. He first noticed his patio starting to split about a week ago, he said.

He contacted the homeowner’s association and notified them of the situation, he said.

“It started progressing very rapidly into Saturday and I saw cracks in the building,” Yen said.

The Los Angles CountyFire Department inspected his home that day — and told him he should evacuate.

Yen, the Zee family and other impacted residents, meanwhile, are anxiously awaiting the next step.

Zee, on Monday afternoon, was distraught.

“It’s so overwhelming, it’s heartbreaking, it’s devastating,” she said, tearing up. The tension was evident in her voice.

But she was thankful, Zee said, that everyone got out safely.

“But we just want to know what’s next,” she said.

All impacted residents are staying with family and friends, Zerunyan said.

RHE officials were working to ensure impacted residents were connected to the Red Cross and Hahn’s District Four  Supervisor’s office.

“Hopefully there will be some ways of helping these folks,” Zerunyan said. “It is a horrible thing to think that my land and my house just went like that.”

The county tax assessor, meanwhile, was scheduled to tour the area Monday and help residents understand the tax implications of the landslide, Zerunyan said.

County Assessor Jeff Prang said his office will “expedite the processing of these homes to make sure they don’t have to deal with property taxes.”

“The land that was beneath them is now going to be a hillside,” Prang said Monday. “So when we’re done valuing this property, they will have nominal value. And this result, property owners are entitled to property tax relief.”

Peartree Lane residents, meanwhile, met with the board of the homeowners association that governs Rolling Hills Parks Villa on Monday evening. It was a residents-only meeting.

Rolling Hills Estates has also activated its Emergency Operations Center, and the City Council will declare a state of emergency to more quickly access federal and state resources, according to a press release.

Mayor Britt Huff, in a statement, pointed to the outpouring of support from the city itself, as well as neighboring cities, the county and state agencies.

“It has been truly inspiring to see how everyone is pulling together to offer assistance,” Huff said, “especially to our displaced residents and their families.”

Meanwhile, on Peartree Lane, residents such as As for the residents of the 12 red-tagged homes, all they can do is watch and wait — as their homes creep, in slow motion, toward the cliff’s edge.

Zee, for example, said she hasn’t been able to work or even eat.

“We’ve been outside all day,”  Zee said. “We’re outside of our house, just watching it, waiting to see what will happen.”

City News Service contributed to this report.

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