June 1, 2005

Landslide in Laguna: There Goes the Neighborhood

Cubist speed sculpture by nature in Laguna Beach

Slide Area via Mapquest
Area from orbit via ACME mapper
Google Satellite Shot of Area in Color
Topographical map of area via ACME Mapper Yes, it is that steep.

FIRST IT IS JUST ONE HELICOPTER HOVERING, then two, then four, then seven. Up over the house here on Arch Beach Heights above Bluebird Canyon in Laguna Beach.

The choppers are all set on hover and they are not going away. How annoying. Call the police department to complain. "Why in the devil are there all these helicopters over my house?"

"Bluebird Canyon's had a major landslide. 20 homes wiped out. We're evacuating the canyon. Turn on your TV."

"Which channel?"

"All of them."

Disaster zone is about 400 yards away from this house.

Yup, all of them and all showing the proof of the ancient proverb and modern Hendrix song about "castles made of sand." Houses, streets, garages, foundations for new houses, all collapsed and moved, in one jarring moment, down hill a hundred yards or more.

No rain here, but plenty of rain this winter. Plenty of houses built on the edge of possibility.

Plenty of dirt and sand to build on and no rock.

Nobody injured as yet. Looks as if everyone got out all right. Still they're moving families out and relocating them in an open area called Bluebird Park -- which is also below a bluff so I think the wiser among them might just keep moving into town or beyond.

It is, just glancing at the wreckage of these homes (Median price in Laguna Beach is/was $1,400,000) shockingly evident that the selling price of homes on the edges of cliffs or even "safely" back from same just took a giant slump. Deeper than the slump the earth took under these homes...


Some trouble getting equipment to site of landslide. Bluebird Canyon road, my main access to my home, is a narrow two-lane road that winds tightly up through cutouts and along the edge of the hills. It takes some 180 degree turns going up and can be a 30 degree grade. Evacuation continues.

The area is not on the ocean's edge but set back about one-half mile. The area is known, historically, to be a landslide zone but that doesn't stop anybody from building on the near vertical in order to get those breath-taking ocean views.

This is the route I usually take to get home.


I have a sneaking suspicion I'm going to be taking the longer back way in for some time to come.

UPDATE: Current count of homes evacuated is north of 350 which means about 1,000 people in Laguna Beach are going to have to seek other places to live for...

Police Officer at Press Conference: "A few days, that's conservative, maybe a week... well, it will be awhile."

Shots of people moving their few possessions -- including a number of purebred dogs -- out of the affected area.

An ironic announcement comes via Elizabeth Pearson-Schneider, the hopelessly vain mayor of Laguna, "An account has been set up for donations." In her usual clueless fashion it has gone out of her mind that just a minute before she set the value of the homes as "Oh, nothing below a million five certainly," with no little local booster pride in her voice. She's sporting the right look as usual: sharp little black baseball cap with the Laguna Beach zip code "92651" embroidered, not stenciled, on the front, carefully formed blonde (of course) pony tail falling just so out of the back, an intense attention to her makeup, and dangling gold errings that set off her carefully chosen black jacket.

Deep inside she's probably hoping people don't look too close at the town's habit of wantonly handing out building permits for homes on 50 degree slopes. That's been the way it has worked for years in this hamlet that is home to some of the worst art and most expensive real estate in Southern California.

And the earth is still on the move... time for yet another lesson in "Nature bats last."

Email forwarded by my wife in Idaho brings in the Biblical with: "like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."

I'd leave the house and go down to the village, but the Pacific Coast Highway traffic is, in a word, wedged and there are checkpoints set up at all the ways still open up into Arch Beach Heights and the affected areas so I'm not sure I could get back.

For now I'll stick it out. I'm well back from any of the dangerous slopes by a couple of blocks, but we'll see what we will see.

UPDATE: Local television is running the home video of one of the women who was evacuated. You can see the structure known locally as "The Mausoleum" (Huge, over built, massive amounts of concrete reinforcement all around it) in the center. You can also see the residents of said structure scuttling at high speed down the slope at the edge of the building and onto the massive concrete driveway that leads up to it. As they run down the driveway you can look underneath them and see the dry earth and rocks sliding out from under it and down into the gully.

About a half an hour ago, I walked down to the end of the 30 degree sloping road that runs past my house until it ends in a cliff about 100 yards down. Looking over the edge I saw two construction sites with crews still moving about. Nothing, I guess, but nothing stops the construction of new homes in this part of the world.

The Laguna Beach Police Chief Spreine announces over the news that "the majority of people in the area have been evacuated." He also states that there's a geologist on hand that will be taken above the area in a helicopter to survey the extent of the damage as "soon as we can get a helicopter for him." No shortage of news helicopters can be see from my house. Still seven.

Local weather is cool and cloudy but no rain is forecast. This is good since the addition of rain, fire or earthquake to the present situation would be, to say the least, sub-optimal.

UPDATE: Laguna Beach Police news conference -- Earth is still moving in the zone, evacuation complete -- search and rescue teams are going back in to make sure everyone is out... local builder gets up to ask if the town is going to look at the building permits around this area and tell others if their houses are compromised or likely to be compromised... the police woman essentially tells him to shut up and sit down... doesn't want to get into that dicey question on national television... but it is clearly the large issue lurking at the center of this disaster.... gas leaks seem to be contained and controlled... the large water tank that would be the place from which water to fight any fires would have to come is, thankfully, not compromised.... 15 to 18 homes with fatal structural damage or utterly destroyed.... 20 other homes in a "tenuous" state...

UPDATE: A word on the "million dollar homes." At this point in the day it is clear that the media is going to use the "million dollar home" hook as their major selling point for this story. In a way, that's a mercy since there aren't any deaths to hook it onto. But lets be clear about one thing -- virtually every house in Laguna Beach is a million dollar house. Even the most dreadful chicken shacks and clapped out bungalows. It's a million dollar kind of town, but not because of the quality of the housing -- which varies wildly but because of the limitations of the land.

To begin with, this is a beach front community in its dotage living off the hip and arty reputation of its youth. As such it sucks in a lot of people who, retiring, want to live the hip and arty life they denied themselves in their midwestern years. The fact that Laguna Beach is home to some of the absolute worst art galleries and fourth rate artists on the west coast means nothing. At least they're "artists."

Second, land in Laguna Beach is strictly limited. It has the ocean on one side and green belts on the other three. It is essentially a pretty little village defended by the walls of the Coastal Commission. And nothing can breach those walls. As a result, the population is limited as to the amount and kinds of houses they can build and tends to remain stable at around 24,000. This means someone pretty much has to leave for a new someone to move in. That means higher real estate values.

Limited land means limited building and the town is famous for five year arguments and lawsuits that revolve around building in "mostly dry" creek beds. Still, somehow, permits are issued by the town to build on increasingly steep slopes since the slopes are pretty much what remains of open land in Laguna. Exactly how and by what means some permits are issued and others denied remains a bit of a mystery, but it is probably not an accident that many of the town's elected officials are or have been real estate agents and/or lawyers.

The result is that valuations here always seem to be headed up with no end in sight. Until, of course, that day when they all come crashing down.

UPDATE: Our hopelessly vain mayor, Elizabeth Pearson-Schneider, has just signed the proclamation and paperwork necessary to bring "disaster relief" to the owners of these "$1.5 million" cliffhangers. I can hear the conversations this morning as they made their way out of the zone:

"Honey, did you remember to mail in that premium check to the insurance company that I gave you yesterday?"

"I was going to, but I had a pedicure appointment. It's still in the SUV."

"Honey, the SUV is under the neighbor's garage at the bottom of the gully. I'd divorce you now but our community property just went to zero. On the other hand.... "

UPDATE: The earth moves and then the media just move on. The "ongoing" disaster seems to have worn out its welcome on local LA/San Diego television stations and we are back to "The Days of Our Lives" and some sort of dwarf in an Ali Baba costume on Jerry Springer.

No bleeds = No leads in this media world and, for that, I'm thankful.

However, after what may have been a brief break for refueling, the helicopters are back. Four. Three high overhead near the house and one getting what might be a tracking shot of the Pacific Coast highway.... and as I write this the sound of their massed rotors fades out and the usual quiet returns to this part of the world. If these sorts of disasters continue, and they will, the town may have to expand its blanket prohibition on leaf blowers to include news helicopters.

Speaking of which, exactly when did it become the default state in American life to allow any number of news helicopters into the air space above a town for an unlimited amount of time?

For now however, silence has returned. A good thing since, if the earth under the house starts to rustle and slide, I'll be able to hear it now.

UPDATE: In other hot action liveblogging highlights of today in the sphere Instapundit is promoting: "LIVEBLOGGING THE SPELLING BEE, over at Throwing Things."

Here in hills above Laguna Beach the school bus has let the kids out and they're running down the street laughing and shouting at each other, boys with boys and girls with girls. Just another normal day here by the Pacific.

And so it goes.

UPDATE: And so it goes on and on... the helicopters are back!

UPDATE: File under "If you've had one landslide in your neighborhood, you'll have another." Slideshow of the 1978 Laguna landslide in an adjacent neighborhood.
NOTE: Other updates on this story can be found at "... and a Landslide on the Side, Please." @ AMERICAN DIGEST. Please set your phasers accordingly.

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Posted by Vanderleun at June 1, 2005 9:44 AM | TrackBack
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Jeez, dude!
(Does that count as a postcard from the edge?)

Posted by: ed in texas at June 1, 2005 10:09 AM

So far so good...? Perhaps it is time for a hang glider thingee with a motor attached. Good to know you are O.K. Best.

Posted by: J.B. Geiger at June 1, 2005 10:16 AM

I just saw that on the news! Thought of you right away - good to know you're alright.

Posted by: urthshu at June 1, 2005 10:19 AM

Thanks for the updates and all the info. Best wishes for you.

Man continually thinks he can out-engineer nature. It is both a blessing and a curse to think so.

Posted by: Chrees at June 1, 2005 11:28 AM

Blogs. News with appropriate commentary. Excellent!

Posted by: Stephen B. at June 1, 2005 12:36 PM

Holy cow. Glad you're okay, hoping you stay that way. It's a miracle no one was hurt.

When we left California in 1972 the only thing I wanted was to go back. Somehow, I think I'll be better off staying right where I am.

All the best.

Posted by: JT at June 1, 2005 12:36 PM

I like chocolate.

Posted by: James at June 1, 2005 12:45 PM

Wife and I thinking of (and praying for)you and yours... we'll check in frequently...

Posted by: RickinVa at June 1, 2005 12:59 PM

Thanks for reporting on scene...very good writeup on this natural disaster! I hope Mayor of Lagunda is asked directly how these people obtained building permits/zoning permits to stupidly build on the hill! Further, in terms of donations, I think every American should send them a shovel!

Thanks again!


Posted by: CB at June 1, 2005 1:02 PM

Rich suckers. I hope their insurance laughs at them. DONATIONS??

Posted by: Bob at June 1, 2005 1:07 PM

When I was in college in S. Calif, my geology professor was engaged in an unsuccessful one-man war against varied city officials over new homes being built directly over faults in the foothills surrounding the L.A. basin. Comes the Big One, many more thousands of survivors will be expecting hand-outs.

So glad you're still o.k., thanks for the on-the-spot reporting, and please sleep lightly for the next few nights.

Posted by: danae at June 1, 2005 1:34 PM

Haa Haa

Posted by: John Kerry at June 1, 2005 2:09 PM

And I hope they all lose their shirts with their insurance companies just in time to get a bill for the mergency services. Asshats, building in a known landlside area.

Posted by: Len Mizutowicz at June 1, 2005 2:13 PM

Heads up, you've been main paged on Fark.com
Prepare for an onslaught of silly/offensive comments.

Posted by: Iwanna WarnYou at June 1, 2005 2:15 PM

I saw the Laguna slide on the Comcast front page and came here straightaway. Thank heavens you and your family escaped injury. Keeping my fingers crossed that you stay safe. Thanks for the excellent reportage and commentary from the scene. Aaah, California, what doesn't burn floods or slides!

Hang in there,


Posted by: Patrick at June 1, 2005 2:15 PM

Will the victims be expecting telethons? Live Aid? President Bush to tour the area? Great report. It's a shame though, that it takes a disaster to make people see the obvious.

Posted by: sonofsheldon at June 1, 2005 2:21 PM

Awww.. does anyone have a spare $100,000.00 or so to lend those less fortunate who lost their multi-million dollar homes?

Posted by: BleedinHeart at June 1, 2005 2:26 PM

Build on unstable land, you'll get what you paid for. Don't expect tax payers to fund someone's stupidity.

Posted by: farker at June 1, 2005 2:52 PM

Glad you're OK. Better: glad you picked a safe house. People are fucking nuts, and geology programs are in retreat around the nation.

Posted by: alden at June 1, 2005 3:00 PM

It is odd that the mayor is asking for aid. If my house fell down a cliff (well it cant), so lets say it burned up. I would go live in a motel. Then I would rent a house or apartment. I would not let anyone pay my bills except my insurance company. Strange.

Posted by: Winston at June 1, 2005 3:02 PM

Ah, yes. Declare an emergency. Sign the necessary paperwork. Make Uncle Sam grow yet another unnatural teat for yet another yobbo who insists that the laws of nature do not apply to him.

He's special. Special people don't have to suffer consequences. Those are only for people dumb enough to live somewhere else.

California has become too precious to be tolerable. I hear that when you move there your teeth magically straighten and your IQ drops 50 points. Perhaps we could deed the whole mess to Mexico.

Posted by: dymphna at June 1, 2005 3:13 PM

I like chocolate too, but not as much as knowing you're not involved in this disaster, or rather only peripherally. Which can be fun, as long as you're in the mood and it's not a fire. Be careful out there.

Posted by: Uncle Mikey at June 1, 2005 3:17 PM

Holy cow. I can't believe that this is getting as much press as it is. Certianly loosing ones home is bad, but it is sad when the media selectively reports these events. Though it will be interesting to find out why permits where issued to such dangerous areas. At least in GF the worst we have to worry about is a flood, and you have plenty of warning about those.

The city of Grand Forks, North Dakota (50,000 people) was flooded in 1997 and had to be evacuated. The downtown burned to the waterline and I was homeless for several day's until my family moved in with relatives. I couldn't go back to my home for over a month.

Don't mean to rant, just my oppinion. Great reporting, you are better at this than people who do this full time for a living.

Posted by: Crosshair at June 1, 2005 3:19 PM

Bos, you take care.

You'd really like a book called The CONTROL OF NATURE, by John McPhee. Ambiguous title, what?

It has three delicious long nonfiction pieces about battling natural forces. The one about using firefighting techniques on a volcano errupton in Iceland is a kick, but the one about debris flow -- those weird not-really-mud flows in Southern California -- is the one to read first.

A must read. Have I ever told you you must read a book before? No I have not.

Posted by: Gail aka (gail) at June 1, 2005 3:27 PM

"I would not let anyone pay my bills except my insurance company."

You better read your homeowners policy. If you don't have a rider incorporating damage from "earth movement" you won't be covered. A CA homeowners policy spends more ink explaining what's not covered wrt subsidence, earthquakes, etc, than it does on what it does cover. Unless those homeowners had riders, they're going to get bupkus from insurance.

Posted by: Rick Ballard at June 1, 2005 3:33 PM

Not that I understand what you are going through, but just wanted to chime in. I'm in California, and my 'earth mover' rider was MORE than the rest of my home insurance (I live on a fault line), so yes, letting 'insurance' pay for it may not be an option for some of these folks.

Posted by: SomeFarker at June 1, 2005 3:50 PM

Another geology class story.

When I was in college in the early 60's the prof came into class one day and announced "Today we're going to talk about dirt in the bedroom, or building on hillsides". He was talking especially about hillsides that were being graded too steeply to resist sliding.

Posted by: Marty at June 1, 2005 3:53 PM

I live on a mountain in the Napa Valley. A few years ago three of my four sons and I climbed to the top of another Napa Valley mountain, St. Helena, which is just over four thousand feet high, on a clear January first. You could see all the way to waves breaking on Ten Mile Beach in the Pt. Reyes National Seashore.

What stuck in my mind, though, was the drama of what was laid out right below me, the fantastically warped and eroded, landslide and earthquake battered Northern California landscape, where the signs of past floods, fires, slides and quakes were everywhere for even the least attentive eye to see.

Sounds like So Cal is a lot like Northern California!

Be safe.

Jamie Irons

Posted by: Jamie Irons at June 1, 2005 4:39 PM

that same part of laguna had the same thing happen around 1974 or so; a couple of my high school teachers lived there and lost houses. think about htat for a minute...buying a house in laguna on a teacher's salary.

Posted by: cjm at June 1, 2005 5:10 PM

Glad to hear you are safe.

Posted by: P.A. Breault at June 1, 2005 5:35 PM

Glad you're okay amigo.

'Slip slidin' away' comes to mind.

To all you snarky farkers ... FOAD.

Posted by: Steel Turman at June 1, 2005 6:09 PM

bit earlier than 74 iirc, just about every house on Morningside drive was lost. Seems Bluebird Canyon sends a house surfing every ten years or so.

Looks like most of the houses were newer ones, that area has been unstable since the town was founded.

Glad your ok, a friend had her house cracked in half like an egg, she's out trying to round up her cats.

We all join you in cursing the helicopters


Posted by: barefoot john at June 1, 2005 6:26 PM

Interesting. My daughter, her husband, and her two little girls (the youngest being a month old) are on the downslope edge of the slide. Yellow-tagged, we can't get in there to remove the furnishings.

It should be noted that this house is an heirloom, passed from the father to the son, and was owned by that family even before it was fashionable to live there. So, million dollar or not, they could still lose it all. Yes, they were there for the 1978 event, as well. On the edge of that, as well, I gather.

Posted by: Fireman Bob at June 1, 2005 7:09 PM

I'm not one of those who hope the worst for the unfortunates - I hope the insurance companies meet their obligations, as I'm sure they will. If capitalism can't work in a money pit, then it's hopeless after all.

And that's the answer to why they built there, too: Money was to be had. No mystery. Heck, having it in a mudslide zone was probably a plus for the insurers.

Which is all to the good as far as it goes.

There's probably some who're already drawing up plans for the reconstruction. Maybe you should invest, sir.

Posted by: urthshu at June 1, 2005 8:11 PM


The insurance companies are only obligated to pay for what they insure. The area probably wasn't prone to mudslides until the houses were built. SoCal is rather notorious for poor drainage design and the age of the subdivision means that many people were letting their roof run off percolate into their yards rather than into a storm drain system - if such a system even exists. I doubt that many of the systems even had rain gutters. It was probably simple lawn/garden watering on top of soil that was saturated from the winter that set this off. Just a few more tons of water dumped into soil that couldn't handle it.

Posted by: Rick Ballard at June 1, 2005 8:48 PM

I do feel sorry for those the people who are losing their homes. I am sure that some of them are not millionaires and will struggle and suffer.I also want to state that I am not an anti development fanatic. But if those permits were going to be handed out the developers should have been required to do the expensive work of firming up the ground to make sure that the homes that were built could hold up. Geologists have known for years that those homes were built on land that was so unstable that this was going to happen. Not maybe. Not just under extrodinary circumstances. This was going to happen and the ciy knew it.

It is not fair for the country to pick up the tag for irresponsible development. The city made a lot of money of these development. They could have required a sur charge on every home that could have been put in investment fund that could have been used for dissaster relief.The fact that these homes were built and stacked up like a tower made of toothpicks in a wind tunnel should not be ignored.

If the federal government bails out the developers through the homeowners these type of irresponsible developments will continue to be built. This is not an eat the rich rant. Rich people deserve protection from unforseen circumstances just as poor or middle class people do. But this was going to happen and everyone knew it.And this is not like earthquakes. They can happen anywhere at any time. Faults can go centuries without moving in a disasterous fashion. Anyone who has a reasonable knowledge of geology could do a drive by in that city and point out exactly which homes were going to slide down. And the city knew in the back of their minds that the federal dissaster relief funds would kick in.If these funds are abused like that eventually they will be stopped .

Posted by: kevinP at June 1, 2005 9:06 PM

I second Gail's recommendation. Along with everything ever written by John McPhee. But that book is most relevant to your situation.

Posted by: Yehudit at June 1, 2005 9:16 PM

Holy shit, Gerard. Are you sure your house is far back enough to be safe?

(People who don't live in California and have been making comments about "rich homeowners" should be aware that in the areas close to the coastal cities, at least, a million-dollar house means you are middle-class. Not rich. Rich people own ten-million dollar houses. My parents have a condo that, if they sold it now, would sell for upwards of half a million - and it's just an ordinary 2-br 2-bath condo in a fairly nice area, and they're not rich by any means. If you don't believe me, look up the real-estate ads online for LA and the Bay Area. Your hair will curl.)

Posted by: jaed at June 1, 2005 9:30 PM

Was a firefighter in SoCal for 30 years and when attending Mass Disaster (Fire,Flood, and Earth Movement) training at the facility in San Louis Obisbo, the senario was designed to replicate Laguna Beach, as that town has the potential for all those disasters in spades. The wildfires in '92 and the previous landslides, and canyon flooding give the emergency responders everything they will ever confront all in one, small picturesque town. Glad to hear you faired well. It is a beautiful community.

Posted by: Ron at June 1, 2005 9:33 PM

As a small, Australian parrot known as Nymphicus Hollandicus, I have no comment on this article except TWEET SHRIEK TWEET TWEET TWEET KATWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEET

Posted by: Tweeter at June 1, 2005 10:35 PM

Thanks for all of your personal input! Our media is calling it a landslide but really, wouldn't "houseslide" be more appropriate? Praise Yahweh that no lives were lost! Seems like another "birth pang" of His Son's Second Coming! Get Ready!!

Posted by: Third Angel at June 1, 2005 10:50 PM

Glad to read that you are ok.
The line about "Honey, did you remember to mail in that premium check to the insurance company that I gave you yesterday?" are just right-on.
See largest website about previous, local landslide - http://anaheim-landslide.com/

Posted by: grow-a-brain at June 1, 2005 11:06 PM

Gerard, I so adore that humor of yours! I think your mayor needs a reality check instead of one from the city. If you ever have the opportunity to speak with her in person...please convey my deepest desire to smack her upside the head.

Please stay safe and get out if they tell you to. (No need risking the lives of rescue workers because you're stubborn!)

I can't wait to read the forthcoming editions of Gerard's Landslide Adventures.

Posted by: Da Goddess at June 2, 2005 4:13 AM

An interesting link at the top of the page when you use Mpaquest to view the area where the landslides occured. One is for hotel deals in Laguna. The other is for REAL ESTATE in Laguna!

Posted by: PipPip at June 2, 2005 5:13 AM

Gerard, We were thinking of dropping by for a visit this weekend, the six of us with two dogs. Don't worry, Junior is almost walking and Grandma's oxy tanks have their own cart. I'm bringing my old Kodak Diamond Surface screen (the 8 footer!)with two projectors so that you can see every eensie detail of our recent trip to Illinois. Is this a good time, or would a Sunday night arrival be better? And don't you dare do anything special, you rascal. We've even got a color-coded wall chart so that Kirsten can do his own sweep of gluten products. See you soon!

Posted by: Tom Parker at June 2, 2005 6:01 AM

Glad you are safe. I know the area well - Pageant of the Masters and all that - and I've stayed at the Ritz, which may or may not still be the Ritz, capitalism and mudslides being what they are. Nice account of the ongoing incident.

Posted by: Everyman at June 2, 2005 7:25 AM

you wrote:

(snip) "Bluebird Canyon road, my main access to my home, is a narrow two-lane road that winds tightly up through cutouts and along the edge of the hills. It takes some 180 degree turns going up and can be a 30 degree grade." (snip)

Glad you're well. Was struck by the remark about a 30 degree grade. That seems incredibly steep. Your car must burn through brakes (not to mention transmissions) at a rapid clip.

Posted by: jamie at June 2, 2005 11:42 AM

Only that steep for short stretches but it is steep.

Posted by: Gerard Van Der Leun at June 2, 2005 12:46 PM

I'm glad you're OK. People who aren't Californians don't know that once upon a time, houses in Laguna could be purchased just like houses anywhere else, and people who worked for regular businesses could afford them. Yea, even teachers. Our house was passed down to us from the original maverick who settled in the community in the 1930's,but I can't afford to live in my own state anymore. So I may have more sympathy for some of those people who lost homes than younger folk who only know Laguna when the snobs and trendy types infested us. Believe it or not, the Ritz is a relatively new addition to the area. Nice but showy. Live well and prosper. Hope all remains quiet for you.

Posted by: Rajwryt at June 2, 2005 7:55 PM

To say that I am horrified is a bit light on the verbiage scale. It is beyond reproach that people see a landslide (natural event)in one of the wealthiest parts of the world as terrible and sad because some people will be relocated, most likely through the generosity of the Red Cross, etc. S. California deserves the shame of being narcissistic, daft, and self absorbed. It is unfortunate that Laguna Beach, CA is so far removed from the real world and real news. Please EDUCATE yourselves by reading some real news from around the world about true human suffering and realize how blessed you are to only worry about FEMA, insurance claims and getting your expensive personal posessions. I have never been so thankful that I left the brain drought of S. California. It is times like this that I do believe California needs to be split in half - those who have the ability to reason and those which should abide by the adage "stupidity is ultimately self eliminating".

Posted by: teacher/rpcv at June 2, 2005 8:02 PM

I remember back in '89, that is 1889, we had the big flood in town here (Johnstown, PA) Water came crashing down on us from that South Fork Lake Dam, which gave way because the rich folks who were members of the South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club did not repair the dam when they needed to. What a pain in the butt that water was! For sure.

Posted by: TrevorDog at June 2, 2005 8:03 PM

I found this thru technorati.com. When your blog appeared, my husband said oh that is, Gerad's blog. He apparently has had lunch with you. David or Grumpy from TOW.

Anyhow, you and I were on this woman's blog about LB and the landslide. LOL

My thread is less technical and much less eloquent, than yours. I was writing to the few who view my blog. I was surprised to see someboby linked to it. I made reference to Mcmansionazition and Jan Brady on the DBR.

I am glad we are all safe.

To those who commented on your blog about all of us being rich and making light of people needing donations for those who lost homes....You are all wrong.

Some of these people have lived her for 50 or so years and bought when land was cheap. There is almost no way, they will ever be able to live in their town again.

I think that is sad. And people need to know that not everybody in Laguna Beach is wealthy.

Actually, Toni, much to my surprise, told the press that they should get the word out that, "We are not all rich."

It is devasting to lose everything you own. Whether you live in a beach community or Honduras!

Posted by: Nancy at June 2, 2005 10:28 PM

Thanks for the update on your tragedy. Worked in Santa Ana for sometime and spent many a time in LB relaxing and wondering why people keep building homes on the steep hillsides. At least Javier's is still safe. Thanks again.

Posted by: Bobby L. at June 3, 2005 6:35 AM

Gerard -

Glad you've thankfully survived this first chapter; now wait for the noise of the clean-up crews and rebuilding slopes with bulldozers. More noise worse than helicopters...

Having lived through our own slide disaster in San Clemente about the same time as the first Bluebird slide, my comment to all of you who are so condemning of Californians who live on hills is: no one is immune to disasters, natural or otherwise. Business has brought us to Florida in the past several years and having lived through four hurricanes this past season, let me assure you, no place escapes problems, and insurance companies either conveniently disappear through their fine print or become egg sucking dogs when they need to pay out. I've also lived in Michigan and New York. Each one had its own problems and similar pitfalls.

The houses on the Bluebird Canyon hills are not a development; they were built individually over the span of several decades and were built to codes of their time. At the time of the first Bluebird Cyn. slide, the rains that year were called '100 year rains,' so building departments had no history or inkling of the kinds of problems that could develop. My own home in San Clemente was built in '74 to codes that were thought to be adequate at the time and with excellent drainage at the house and culverts on the slope. There were 20 back-to-back storms that year and no previous history to warn building departments that they should allow for such severe rainfall. The current Bluebird slide homes were largely built before that time, so likewise had no precedence. (This is not to say that the monster house and other newer homes/remodels up there should be currently allowable, however.) All the professional geologists we worked with to remediate our problem said there was no way to foretell what could happen with the volume of rain from such harsh seasons and that much of California would suffer the same tragedy given similar conditions and soil type.

So, people, try to find a little compassion for the people who have lost everything. They may have been sitting on a lot of equity in their houses, but I can assure you, they are not all 'wealthy'. How would you like to be sleeping in a motel tonight knowing everything you ever owned and worked for is buried in mud at the bottom of a hill?

By the way, we're moving back this year - by choice and knowing that the place has warts. We'd just rather have the West Coast kind than others.


Posted by: Juliet Fuller at June 3, 2005 1:43 PM

Great points Bobby ... I rember Coast Highway being closed for years after the slides in Dana Point/San Clemente.

There are some great pics here:
Laguna Beach Landslide Pictures

They have some great shots of what is thought to be the cause of the slide according to most residents...the large concrete foundation that has been under construction for some time.

Posted by: Pete at June 3, 2005 2:12 PM

I never heard about slides in Dana Point. Where can I find out more? I would like to know where exactly the slides occurred there.

Posted by: Carol at June 3, 2005 5:59 PM

They occurred in the capo beach area of dana point in 1993...

Coast Highway was closed for over a year due to bluff failures that started roughly where beach road meets coast highway. If you look carefully from there south you can see that parts of the cliff faces are actually concrete in many spots. The worst failure was where camino capistrano meets PCH...the dirt even crossed the train tracks if I remember correctly. The cliff at that intersection is almost all artificial.

Posted by: Pete at June 3, 2005 7:36 PM

Spoiled rich bastards!!! Boo ,hoo, hoo

Posted by: Marc Wilson at June 4, 2005 7:51 PM

Wonderful take on this. I have a family story to tell about California. One of my great-uncles was in the Merchant Marine in WWII. After the war, he bought a bungalow in Venice about 1 mile from the beach. Back then, I'm sure it cost only a few thousand dollars. By the time he died, that little 1000 sq. ft. bungalow and the little patch of land it was on had a value of $250,000. The house and the patch of land it was on were both smaller than my $50,000 house and lot in Alabama.

Posted by: Charles D. Quarles at June 5, 2005 10:19 AM

I've lived within 2 blocks of both the '78 slide and this one for 35 years, and you're right on about overbuilding of the area. This area has had small slides for years but the city officials just turn their heads and pretend not to notice while they rubber stamp building plans for more houses. City Manager Ken Frank has always said that it's an "assumable risk" letting those homes be built. Well Ken, you screwed up, now it's going to cost people their homes and you will still keep your job.
By the way, most of us bought those homes 25-30 years ago when they cost 30,000-40,000 we aren't all wealthy yuppies although this town is filling up with more of them every day. Your observation of our mayor is a typical example of the type of people that are ruining this so called "art colony"

Posted by: ron rowe at June 5, 2005 11:42 AM

That is so sad...I am glad i do not live on a hill!

Posted by: Laycie at June 5, 2005 5:46 PM

I was raised in Laguna (LBHS '62!), as was my dad (class of '35!) and my cousin (class of '55!). I left in 1978 and haven't been back in over 10 years. However, there will always be a little piece of Laguna residing in my soul! It's still one of the most beautiful spots on earth.

I was shocked to see on the news all of the mini-mansions that have been built in what used to be a small, quaint, picturesque area. Along with this past winter's rains and the many earthquakes over the years, I have to wonder if the plethora of building has caused even more instability along that hillside...the proverbial straw that broke the camels back, so to speak. I heard that there is a $6M home affected that was sold just a few weeks ago. Any truth to that rumor? Jeez...a $6M home in Bluebird Canyon? Really? That isn't what Bluebird Canyon's about. Well, it didn't used to be, anyway!

My heart goes out to the victims who had been living in that area for decades...those with mortgages (almost) paid off; those who were living in their retirement savings and about to retire; those who didn't ask for the area to be overbuilt.

Thanks so much for your blog. I was really hoping to find a resident's take on the situation. Great job!

Posted by: Sue L. at June 5, 2005 9:18 PM

Laguna phony town. Get what they deserve. More coming........with the gace of God.

Posted by: Hank at June 6, 2005 7:46 AM

Never call for the "gace of God." You just might get it and it is a heavy gace that smites the heathen without remorse.

Posted by: Gerard Van Der Leun at June 6, 2005 8:07 AM

Ah, as the Corvette Club is often fond of saying when challenged about the expense of their hobby, "You can't race a house." Well, obviously, you can surf one. I prefer to do it on a big sheet of cardboard on a grassy slope. However, I am not rich as the Lagunites are/were. Ken

Posted by: Ken at June 7, 2005 9:54 AM

Hmmm...I'll probably have to deal with something not dissimilar to this when The Big One hits here in San Francisco. I guess it's a living in California thing...

Posted by: Chad at June 10, 2005 9:50 AM

What amazed and angered me the most about mayor Pearson-Schneider going on TV begging for donations is that she is the mayor of the city that gives $30,000 to the Illegal workers site in the canyon every year! Those workers are not Laguna Beach residents and not even American citizens. Laguna Beach can certainly come up with the dollars to help illegals, but when it comes to their own residents then they beg others for donations.

In the future why doesn't Pearson-Schneider give city's money to our residents and let the illegal workers support their "park" by begging for donations!

Posted by: OCAngel at June 19, 2005 6:19 PM

I just hope it'll not happen again....

Posted by: lord joel of imi at July 20, 2005 10:41 AM

Thank you, Gerard, for writing such an interesting article. It probably gave me more of an insight to an American way of thinking than anything for years. I am an American who has been living in Germany for nearly 30 years, so my everyday experience is far removed from the USA. My kids and I visit Laguna Beach relatively often as my mother lives up in Foothill Ranch. It is one of our most favorite locations on the planet, hard to image that anyone really just lives there. Your article has a humourous vein but I never had the feeling that you didn't care. I even learned a new word .."blogger".. and so it goes. I've just taken a glance at my Kurt Vonnegut collection on my bookshelf..I think it's time to do a re-read... I looked at some more photos of the affected houses and some certainly didn't seem to be inhabited by just the wealthy. Wayne Shorter once said to me, "Pick yourself up by your own bootstrap"..it's easier to do when you have solid footing. Thanks again. Keith

Posted by: Keith at August 7, 2005 5:26 PM

Couple of questions and comments...firstly I am very happy to hear that u are indeed ok physically.
SECONDLY~who doesn't like chocolate!
And finally really my only question actually, do u watch the show on MTV titled "laguna beach?" I am curious to know if u know if anyone from the cast or crew were affected by this horrible tragedy. You cannot fool mother nature!
Thanks for your time,

Posted by: Andrea at August 15, 2005 7:21 PM
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