LA Neighborhood Says Metropolis May Have Prevented Mudslides That Broken Houses, However Did not Act – NBC Los Angeles
So far, it’s been a rainy season that Southern Californians were hoping for, except that January rains sent a torrent of mud into one LA neighborhood, and residents say the city of LA knew about the danger but failed to prevent it.
“There is a hazard here which is not going to go away until it’s been fully addressed and remediated by the city of LA,” said David Norland, who lives with his wife Lucy and son Jack in a small house at the bottom of a hillside in Studio City.
The Norlands tell the I-Team that for three years, contractors building a multi-million dollar home above them dumped tons of loose dirt down the hillside, and neighbors warned the LA Department of Building and Safety (LADBS) the massive piles of dirt were creating a dangerous hazard.
And in fact on Jan. 10, heavy rains mixed with the dirt to create a wall of mud that came rolling down the hillside into houses and covered parts of Fredonia Drive and Wrightwood Lane.
“I think the city knew that there were problems and they failed to act. Had they acted, maybe we wouldn’t have had to go through this mudslide and a mudslide a year earlier,” resident Julie Ganis told the I-Team.
The recent mudslide filled Ganis’ garage with ten inches of mud and she says her husband developed a hernia spending days clearing it out.
“We lost valuable property and important mementos” stored in the garage, Ganis told NBC4.
It was back in Feb. 2020 that David Norland first contacted LADBS to say the tons of loose dirt being dumped on the hillside from the construction project posed “serious consequences” to homes below during heavy rains.
Norland and other residents of the Studio City neighborhood say the contractor continued dumping more dirt on the hillside, and on Dec. 23, 2021 Heavy rains mixed with the dirt sent mud sliding down the hill, into Norland’s backyard.
LADBS finally issued an Order to Comply to the owner of the home under construction, to “immediately restore the [hillside] slope to its original, stable condition.”
But David Norland says the city didn’t enforce its own order, and he continued emailing LADBS inspectors, saying, “We have not seen any visible change at the site…. our home is at risk from further mudslides.”
By March 2022, the city says it ordered the owner of the property to come up with an “erosion control plan” for the hillside, but residents say that didn’t happen.
“The vast majority of the loose dirt that was on hillside was simply left there,” David Norland told the I-Team. “Everybody who lives underneath it is in danger,” Norland added.
And three weeks ago, on Jan. 10, heavy rains again sent a wall of mud downhill, damaging homes, covering cars parked on the street, and flooding garages with up to 10 inches of mud.
Julie Ganis’ couldn’t get her garage door open because it had filled up with mud, which also flooded her car.
She and other neighbors say their homeowners insurance doesn’t cover damage caused by mud.
“I worry about real destruction happening to my home. I worry about loss of life,” Ganis told NBC4.
After this latest mudslide, suddenly plastic tarps appeared on the hillside, covering up some but not all of the dirt.
And LADBS issued yet another order to Comply to the owner of the home under construction, again telling them to “submit…erosion control plans” — something inspectors had already told the owner 10 months earlier.
“I think the city knew that there were problems and they failed to act. Had they acted, maybe we wouldn’t have had to go through this,” said Ganis.
The I-Team asked the LADBS to provide someone for an on-camera interview to answer questions. The agency “respectfully declined” doing an interview, but in a statement to NBC4 said the mudslide in December 2021 and the slide on Jan. 10, 2023 “are not related.”
The owner of the property and the contractor didn’t respond to questions from the I-Team.
Residents of the Studio City neighborhood say they’re still pressing LADBS to make sure the owner of the construction site takes steps to stabilize the hillside and prevent another mudslide.
“Are they waiting for someone to die?” said Lucy Norland, David’s wife, about the city’s lack of enforcement. “That’s what I’d like to know. Are they just waiting until someone gets killed?”
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