After a massive landslide destroyed a dozen homes and forced widespread evacuations in Rolling Hills Estates, a new report released Friday claims excessive rainfall was to blame for the destruction.
In July, when the ground shifted more than 40 feet on Peartree Lane on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, at least a dozen homes were destroyed or heavily damaged. Residents were forced to evacuate as homes were red-tagged and monitored for additional movement.
At the time, the cause of the massive landslide was a mystery as geologists and experts worked to determine the origin.
Since then, two separate investigations were launched — one from city and county officials and another by the homeowners association.
According to local officials, a fissure running among the homes raised suspicion that heavy rains from the historic winter storms may have been involved.
Four months later, displaced residents remain not only heartbroken over the destruction of their homes, but many have been stuck dealing with the nightmare of insurance coverage.
On Friday, the city released findings from its first preliminary analysis by GeoKinetics, an environmental and geotechnical firm in Irvine.
On the origins of the landslide, the report states in part:
“The primary factor that caused the “Peartree Lane Slope Failure” was the unusually heavy rainfall that occurred during the winter of 2022-2023.”
The reports also added that changes in hillside vegetation and prior failures along the slope may have also contributed.
Some community members, however, are questioning the findings of that report. Attorney Steven Bum represents many of the residents affected by the landslide.
In a statement, Blum told KTLA, “The city’s claim that heavy rainfall caused the landslide sounds like a self-serving act of God defense. The homeowners deserve better. They have lost their homes and nearly all of their possessions. They deserve an objective investigation.”
Blum points to other potential causes such as human factors, storm drain deficiencies and more.
For now, repairs on the destroyed and damaged homes will cost millions of dollars. Possible aid from FEMA may help with some relief efforts, but homeowners are also seeking reimbursement from local government.
Back in July, insurance expert Janet Ruiz from the Insurance Information Institute, told KTLA that typical insurance will likely not cover damages from the landslide. Standalone earthquake insurance will also likely not cover this kind of situation. The residents’ only hope may rely on a difference in conditions policy.
“The insurance that would cover landslide, earth movement would be a difference in condition policy,” explained Ruiz. “That covers earth movement, earthquake, flooding, so it’s kind of an all-in-one policy but again it’s a specialty policy and it’s not covered under your regular homeowner’s insurance.”
The geological investigation from the homeowner’s association is still underway with legal action from the HOA against the city a possibility down the road.