A collapsed drainage channel ripped into the ground Wednesday near a condominium complex in La Habra, about four years after the ground collapsed not far away in a similar fashion.
The recent landslide that created a 40-foot-wide hole complicates matters in an ongoing legal dispute between a homeowners association and the city of La Habra over whether necessary repairs are the responsibility of the property owner or the city.
Either way, residents are concerned that rain expected in the coming days could make the situation worse.
“Our concern is the coming storm. Will it cause more damage? Are we in more danger? said resident Raymond Carillo. “When is that going to be cleaned up? There are many questions and very few answers.
In January 2019, the ground collapsed at the Coyote Village complex, creating a 120-by-40-foot hole. Residents were evacuated while emergency repairs were carried out.
Carillo has lived on the property since 1999 and said it felt like a small earthquake when the ground gave way more than four years ago. He saw trees toppled and concrete slabs raised from the ground.
It felt the same kind of shock Wednesday night when the second collapse occurred. On Thursday night, he and his wife heard chunks of dirt fall into the damaged drainage canal, unsure if they should leave their home. The new hole is about seven feet from your front door.
“Hopefully this new situation lights a fire under some public officials to get the ball rolling. What will it take? Damage to property? Personal damage? It needs to be attended to as soon as possible,” Carillo said.
But the city of La Habra and the homeowners’ association have yet to agree on who is responsible for repairing the hole that opened in 2019.
Gary Kranker, assistant city attorney for the city of La Habra, said repairs to the private storm drain that collapsed in 2019 are the responsibility of the homeowners’ association. The city claims the site was not properly maintained and had too much dirt and pine trees over the drainage channel.
La Habra has offered to hire contractors to clean up the canal this week so incoming stormwater can flow unobstructed, Kranker said, adding that the homeowners’ association would be responsible for the cost.
The homeowners association is suing La Habra, claiming the city is responsible for fixing the 2019 collapse.
An email and phone call to the Coyote Village property manager, Diversified Assn. Tustin-based management and an attorney for the homeowners’ association did not immediately hear back.
Sen. Josh Newman, whose district includes La Habra, secured $8.5 million in state funds to repair and reinforce the damage, according to his office. His office announced the financing in July, but none of the repair work has started, according to Kranker.
But state law prohibits the use of public funds to repair a private drainage channel, Kranker said. He added that the city is currently trying to verify with the California Attorney General’s Office and the California Department of Water Resources whether the city can use those state funds for the project.
He reiterated that the city is not in charge of the project, because it is private land.
“We’re not fixing the channel, other than making sure it works,” Kranker said. “We are not going to put a cement lid on it.”
The city has a contractor lined up to begin cleaning up the canal, according to Kranker, but it has not received approval from the homeowners’ association.
Anthony Marinello owns a condo in the complex that was originally his grandmother’s house. But for the past four years, he has watched the first opening remain empty and covered with tarp and sandbags. Marinello said the resort’s pool and tennis courts have been closed for the past four years due to landslides.
He said he can’t imagine what property managers are doing with all the monthly homeowners association dues from residents.
“The fact that we are still waiting for the last one to be fixed after four years is incredible,” Marinello said. “You know, so we have to wait another four years for the next one to be fixed?”