Rancho Palos Verdes asks Newsom to declare state of emergency amid landslides

"The city has a landslide mitigation plan that needs to be started now," Mayor John Cruikshank said.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2024
Rancho Palos Verdes calls for state, federal aid amid landslides
"The city has a landslide mitigation plan that needs to be started now," Mayor John Cruikshank said.

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. (KABC) -- The city of Rancho Palos Verdes is calling on the state to intervene over the growing concerns with land movement in the already damaged community.

On Friday, the city voted unanimously to submit a letter, urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency in the city.

The emergency declaration would allow the city to expedite the landslide mitigation measures detailed in the Portuguese Bend Landslide Remediation Project, a major public works project designed to significantly slow the landslide.

"While we know we cannot completely stop the landslide in our community, we have spent years identifying peer-reviewed engineering strategies to greatly slow its movement. Now, we need the state's help in making their implementation a reality," said Rancho Palos Verdes Mayor John Cruikshank. "An emergency declaration by Gov. Newsom could help the City expedite remediation efforts to slow the movement as quickly as possible."

What exactly would declaring a state of emergency do?

The city says in this case, a suspension of certain state permitting requirements would allow them to immediately proceed with work needed to stabilize the landslide, without the costs and time delays typically experienced with getting permits.

"The city has a landslide mitigation plan that needs to be started now, but we are restrained by following the all-too-lengthy CEQA process that does not account for the immediate safety needs of our residents and entire community within the landslide complex," added Cruikshank.

"We are calling on the state to help us address this urgent problem that will only get worse as we feel the impacts of recent record rainfall in the weeks and months ahead."

What type of work would be done?

  • Filling fissures to prevent surface water from recharging the water table
  • Constructing drainage swales, lining certain canyons with non-penetrable membrane, and/or installing flexible drainage pipes
  • Installing dewatering wells in the form of horizontal hydraugers and/or vertical dewatering wells to extract groundwater from the slip plane and reducing the local water table

The city also voted to ask Newsom to request President Joe Biden to declare a federal disaster, which could potentially make federal assistance and funding available.

What about the Wayfarers Chapel?

The iconic chapel was shut down last week, with more than 175 weddings and other events canceled through October 2025.

City officials say the hillside it rests on needs to be stabilized.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn stopped by the Seaview community Monday afternoon to survey the damage. She says she has asked Newsom to visit the area where dozens of homes are either damaged or threatened.

"It's going to take a lot of engineering and a lot of money," Hahn said.