Laguna Beach Properties Destroyed By Mudslide

July 17, 2007
Lee Schellenberger

A mudslide destroyed 20 Laguna Beach homes on Sunday, displacing at least 45 residents and injuring 10. At least one of the injured residents is in critical condition.

The mudslide occurred between four and five in the morning after four hours of heavy rains. James Perez, Secretary of Environmental Policy, estimated $100 million in damages. He also stated that clean up will take three months and rebuilding the damaged homes will take one year.

Residents complained they were not forewarned of the storm and that the government has been slow to respond with aid.

“This is the first I’ve heard from the government,” said Laguna Beach resident, Robert Lecusay.

“I find it interesting that the governor sends a representative for a press conference but not to homes,” resident, Deborah Wilson, added.

Perez claimed that the government warned locals to evacuate by mailed notification. Lecusay and his neighbor, Wilson, said they were not given any notice.

Victims of the mudslide received community support, but didn’t get any government help, Wilson said. Supposedly the state government plans to provide housing during construction, but officials are currently not at the liberty to disclose specific information, Perez said.

“It felt like the world was coming to and end,” said homeowner, Deborah Wilson.

Wilson, 58, watched her house slide into the ocean, along with her late husband’s ashes. She is now staying at a hotel, with nowhere else to go, she said. Wilson intends to stay in Laguna Beach and rebuild her home, despite the risk of future storms.
Lecusay, 38, lost his home Graphic Design business in the storm. He and his sons, ages 8 and 10, are currently living in their car. Lecusay’s wife is in the hospital with a broken arm. Their insurance company led them to believe that the damage would be covered, he said. But the company informed him that his policy doesn’t cover this disaster.

This mudslide left both homeowners in a dilemma. The unstable sandstone plateau that these homes were built on shouldn’t have been developed the first time, said hydro-geologist, Carl McKinney. He advises against rebuilding, but these residents have no other resolution.

Insurance companies mislead homeowners and the state government left them uninformed, Lecusay said. They are left with nothing other than the hope of rebuilding what’s left of their homes. Both Lecusay and Wilson question the state government’s vague plans to restore Laguna Beach homes.

In response to the predicted government assistance, Lecusay said, “Take it from me, they’re not providing anything.”

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