Four apartment buildings are red-tagged and there are calls by some officials to relocate a South Orange County coastal rail line after heavy rainfall this week caused a landslide in San Clemente.
While officials didn’t have a count of how many residents were forced out of their homes, they did say they won’t be moving back in any time soon.
“There is still significant peril out there,” said Mayor Chris Duncan at a Thursday afternoon news conference on Buena Vista, the street of homes where part of the hillside fell and crumbled down to a public trail and rail tracks below.
Officials said nobody was injured from the collapse.
Duncan said a city-contracted geologist was on the ground studying movement within the area.
He also said the ground continues to move, and that the city tracked additional movement after the first landslide.
“This is going to be a longer term process,” said the mayor who described significant risk to other beachside properties, especially with another storm anticipated to blow through next week.
“We wish it wasn’t.”
The area’s representative congressman, Mike Levin, said he successfully pushed for emergency federal funding for the area.
He also called for “long-term geotechnical studies” and to potentially move parts of the county’s coastal rail line that runs through San Clemente and Dana Point.
“We’ve got to minimize the harm that comes to our beaches,” Levin said.
OC Supervisor Katrina Foley said that, countywide, “we also are seeing … upwards of $4 million in damage just as of March 9.”
“Those numbers are going to escalate in the coming days.”
It comes after the coastline between San Clemente and Dana Point has lost much in the way of beaches over the years, with pieces of recreational facilities and parking lots crumbling into the sea.
It has also turned local elected officials’ attention to the coastal rail line and – for some residents who surrounded Thursday’s news conference on the street – the heavy freight cars that run through it.
Late last year, a storm temporarily shut down rail service near the area.
[Read: Limited Weekend Train Service Between San Diego and OC is Expected Soon; No Weekday Trains Yet]
According to the Orange County Fire Authority, four buildings have been red tagged, meaning they’re no longer fit for people to live in due to structural issues, and the OC Sheriffs’ department has blocked anyone from entering the area’s surrounding the homes.
San Clemente isn’t the only city that’s been struggling to handle the recent heavy downpours.
Newport Beach saw the collapse of a hillside in the Dover Hills neighborhood on March 3, taking one of the resident’s backyards with it. A few weeks later, the entire house was bulldozed.
A stretch of Pacific Coast Highway was also shut down in Huntington Beach earlier this week due to flooding.
After President Joe Biden declared a federal state of emergency last Friday, OC Supervisors declared a local state of emergency over the problem on Tuesday, opening the county up to access additional state and local funds to address the problem.
That same day, Gov. Gavin Newsom expanded the state emergency order to include the County of Orange.
“The Presidential Emergency Declaration enables impacted counties to immediately access Direct Federal Assistance to help protect public safety and property, including generators, road clearance equipment and sheltering or mass care assistance as needed,” reads a news release from Newsom’s office.
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