March 2, 2005

"... and a Landslide on the Side, Please."

UP HERE IN ARCH BEACH HEIGHTS, about 400 yards away from the scene of yesterday's Laguna landslide, everything last night was quiet -- except for the persistent roar of the helicopter from Channel 2 News that had been overhead with four to six others all day. By the time night arrived most of the helicopters had left, but Channel 2 had decided on a full-court news press for their 11 o'clock edition and so kept their chopper up and running its spotlight hither and yon around the affected neighborhood.

This meant that they were hovering pretty much in the same spot that they were all day over another neighborhood. As I discovered yesterday the noise of a helicopter hovering above you hour after hour tends to put you just a tad on edge.

Sure enough, the breathless reporters of Channel 2 News had to take time from their mourning of the loss of multi-million dollar homes to point out a "serious breach of homeland security." It would seem that one resident of Laguna, having had the helicopter on top of him for hours, finally snapped and had the nerve to shine a green laser at the news chopper in an attempt to drive it away.

Foolish man. All he accomplished was to become the target of an FBI report and the subject of about 20 seconds of videotape on the news report. Imagine the gall of an American citizen trying to drive the leading probe of a major metropolitan news show out of their airspace. Didn't he know that all the laws that apply to citizens and to civil aviation go out the window when Buzz Fliptop and his cohort of clones set up on the scene of a disaster?

I know how that man feels though. For an hour or so last night after being under chopper blasts all day, I was trying to remember where in the garage I'd put that Laws Rocket with the heat-seeking sensor.

The other news that I imagine took place last night in Laguna involves reading material. Whereas in the morning it was clear that the reading material of choice as the hills came down was the Bible, by nightfall the most carefully read documents in Laguna Beach had become homeowners' insurance policies, with special attention to clauses involving movements of the earth. Insurance companies, being no dummies, had long ago made sure these clauses were scant and not beneficial to the homeowner.

The scene of the landslide this morning is very quiet as you might imagine when an entire neighborhood is clear of 1,000 residents and police cordons set up all around. Houses far back from the slide area and on flat and level ground are unreachable to their residents. "Too dangerous" say the police. This translates as the city officials thinking "If they go back in and anything happens, we'll be liable." This in a town of 24,000 that spent $450,000+ on its City Attorney last year and thinks nothing of handing out $100,000 consulting contracts to see if they should move a town garage up the canyon so that the mechanics can have a nicer place to work and the entrance to the town looks "pretty."

You'd think that a city attorney of even very little brain could download California General Release from All Claims for five bucks, and have everyone who wants to go back to their house sign it, but no. That would be too simple for the simple minds that form the permanent government of this town. After all, you might even think that a town that pays its city manager $175,000 a year to "manage" the city would indeed be well-managed. But no. What this town likes is to argue for five years over view-lines and whether or not it is addicted to parking meters. (It is.)

Other items from this morning on the side of the slide is that while no rain was predicted, the overcast that came in from the ocean overnight was so heavy that we had a dampening dew that turned into a light drizzle with periods of rain. I'm sure that had every owner of a house on the edge out with a flashlight walking the foundation line of his McMansion.

I went to the end of my street that overlooks the slide area and gazed across at the area that looks as if it had been scraped bare with God's putty knife. The houses are scattered about the area and several more are on the edge with their porches and rooms hanging out into the void. They're for the demolition wagon if gravity doesn't get them first, as are a number of others in an as yet unknown arc around the center of the slide.

The homes below the site of the slide that are as yet undamaged face an uncertain future from mud during the next rains. No matter what, any asking price that these homes may have had on them has just gone way down. One of the homes that suffered major damage yesterday was, it has been reported, sold just six weeks ago for six million dollars. It was solid concrete and looked to be proof against any wildfire that could be conceived of and I'm sure it was. It also had a state of the art foundation with steel caissons driven deep into the earth, but only into the earth. The bedrock is too deep to reach in this part of the canyon. The people who bought it had yet to move in.

Somewhere this morning there is one very happy seller and one very large case of buyer's remorse.

Posted by Vanderleun at March 2, 2005 9:44 AM
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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.

You hit the nail on the head about insurance companies being clever. I despise Prudential because my mother had her house on Whidbey Island destroyed by "earth movement", which meant that after torrential rains and widespread flooding on the island, the earth deep under her house decided to migrate into Puget Sound. She had flood insurance, slide insurance and earthquake insurance. She had to sue to get anything and settled (a mistake in my opinion) for less than a fifth of the value of the property. Of course she had to default on her mortgage, and move out in a hurry when the lot became irrevocably unstable.

And guess what? This had happened many years before, and yet the county allowed the land to be developed. Of course they took no responsibility for any of the subsequent disaster.

This whole incident was also a lesson in what happens to people when they move 2000 miles away from any family to pursue their personal dreams. When bad things happen, they find out they are isolated and alone, unable to tap into the natural familial support network that has functioned for thousands of years.

Posted by: Chris at June 5, 2005 4:14 PM

Great story , really enjoyed. It's great to see someone in that Hill and water hell of a place has some sense. I'm glad no one was hurt, other then that screw those rich assholes.

Posted by: George at July 21, 2005 4:38 PM