Rancho Palos Verdes residents believe more than land movement responsible for red-tagged homes

Several are blaming the water company for ongoing water leaks.

Josh Haskell Image
Saturday, September 23, 2023
Rancho Palos Verdes residents raise concerns over land movement
Residents in one Rancho Palos Verdes neighborhood are raising concerns about recent land movement. Several are blaming the water company for ongoing water leaks.

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. (KABC) -- The Seaview neighborhood in Rancho Palos Verdes is used to land movement.

That's what comes with living on a peninsula, but two homes on Dauntless Drive were red-tagged over the summer, and residents think something else is going on.

"They said it's the land movement, but the water was the problem, [the main pipes] underground are broken," said a resident named Dee, who did not want to share her last name.

"We always know it's been historical land movement here, but when the waterline breaks, if it's not addressed quickly enough, it really exacerbates the problem," said resident Don Schmid.

Those who live in the neighborhood are blaming the water company, California Water Service, because there have been multiple waterline breaks over the past three months. Schmid shared video of a recent waterline break. He said he has visible cracks throughout his property.

"The first time, three months ago, that we had that very big leak, I reported it, but they said not enough water was coming to the surface, and that's because it was all going down into the crack and into the fault," said Schmid.

Other utilities, including gas lines, have also been impacted.

"You could say the water from this year's rain is one thing, but you need a lot more water than that over a longer period of time in order to cause these sort of deep-seeded landslide movements," explained Dr. Jeffrey Knott, a geologist and professor emeritus at Cal State Fullerton. "A broken water line is something that would cause that."

Dee said she can't sleep well at night due to the issue.

"We don't know what's going to happen ... the next day, for the next rain. They say it's going to get worse."

In July, 12 homes were re-tagged in neighboring Rolling Hills Estates, displacing 16 people.

A building official with the city of Rancho Palos Verdes visits this neighborhood three times a week to monitor any signs of movement.

L.A. County Public Works has also brought in a geotechnical engineer to monitor movement to see if any other homes need to be red-tagged.

The California Water Service responded to Eyewitness News with the following statement: "We believe that land movement has been causing an increase in water main leaks, especially with the significant increase in rain over the past year, and we are taking a number of immediate and long-term steps to more quickly identify and address these leaks.

"We are committed to responding to water main leaks as quickly as possible, and have elevated all leaks here to our "Code 4," or highest, response priority. We have also installed 35 leak detection sensors so far and are in the process of installing seven pressure monitors on our infrastructure underground to help detect leaks faster-before they are visible, and we are adding more leak repair crews to be available in the event we experience multiple leaks at the same time. Beyond this, we're investigating the use of other pipe materials and construction methods that may better withstand ground movement for our water main replacements, as part of our infrastructure improvement process."