A collapsed drainage channel opened up in the ground Wednesday near a condominium complex in La Habra, about four years after land collapsed not too far away in the same way.
The recent collapse that created a 40-foot-wide hole complicates matters in an ongoing legal dispute between a homeowners association and the city of La Habra over whether necessary repairs are the responsibility of the owner or from the city.
Either way, residents fear that the rains expected in the next few days will worsen the situation.
“Our concern is the approaching storm. Is it going to cause more damage? Are we in more danger? said resident Raymond Carillo. “When is it going to be cleaned up? questions and very few answers.
In January 2019, the ground collapsed at the Coyote Village complex, creating a hole 120 feet by 40 feet. Residents were evacuated as emergency repairs were carried out.
Carillo has lived on the property since 1999 and said it felt like a small earthquake when the ground gave way more than four years ago. He saw trees knocked down and concrete slabs lifted from the ground.
He felt the same type of big bump on Wednesday night during the second fall. On Thursday evening, he and his wife heard chunks of earth falling into the damaged drainage channel, unsure if they should leave their house. The new hole is about seven feet from his front door.
“Hopefully this new situation will light a fire under some officials to get things done. What’s it gonna take? Property damage? Personal damage? He needs to be taken care of as soon as possible,” Carillo said.
But the city of La Habra and the homeowners association have yet to agree on who is responsible for fixing the hole that opened up in 2019.
La Habra assistant attorney Gary Kranker said repairs to the private storm drain that collapsed in 2019 are the responsibility of the homeowners association. The city says the site was not properly maintained and there was too much dirt and pine trees above the drainage channel.
La Habra has offered to hire contractors to clean the canal this week so any incoming stormwater can flow through unobstructed, Kranker said, adding that the homeowners association would be responsible for the cost.
The homeowners association is suing La Habra, claiming the city is responsible for repairing the 2019 collapse.
An email and phone call to the Coyote Village property manager, Diversified Assn. Tustin-based management and the homeowners association attorney did not receive an immediate response.
Sen. Josh Newman, whose district includes La Habra, secured $8.5 million in public funding to repair and reinforce the damage, according to his office. His office announced the funding in July, but none of the repair work has started, according to Kranker.
But state law prohibits using public funds to repair a private drain, Kranker said. He added that the city is currently trying to verify with the California Attorney General’s office and the California Department of Water Resources whether the city can use these public funds for the project.
He reiterated that the city does not support the project because it is private land.
“We’re not fixing the channel, other than making sure it’s functional,” Kranker said. “We don’t put a cement top back on it.”
The city has a contractor lined up to start cleaning up the canal, according to Kranker, but they haven’t received approval from the homeowners association.
Anthony Marinello owns a condominium in the complex which was originally his grandmother’s house. But for the past four years, he has observed that the first opening remained empty and covered with tarpaulin and sandbags. Marinello said the resort’s swimming pool and tennis courts had been closed for four years due to ground collapse.
He said he couldn’t imagine what the property managers were doing with all the monthly fees from the homeowners association.
“The fact that we’re still waiting for the last one to be fixed after four years is unbelievable,” Marinello said. “You know, so do we have to wait another four years for the next one to be fixed?”