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Since Spring 2023, the City has seen a significant increase in land movement in the neighborhoods of Seaview, Portuguese Bend Beach Club (PBC), and Portuguese Bend Community Association (PBCA), which has resulted in roadway damage and the red-tagging of two homes on Dauntless Drive near Exultant Drive on June 30 and August 31, 2023. In these three neighborhoods, the City has also seen utility impacts, including broken water and gas distribution pipes, displaced sanitary sewer collection pipes, and leaning utility poles.
Recent land movement in these neighborhoods is due to their proximity to the complex of ancient landslides on the south side of the City, in particular the 240-acre Portuguese Bend Landslide. Increased movement has been observed elsewhere in the complex, including in the Portuguese Bend and Abalone Cove Reserves, subareas of the City’s Palos Verdes Nature Preserve.
The recent acceleration in movement is believed to be primarily the result of heavy winter rainfall resulting in surface water percolating into the ground and lubricating the bentonite soil condition, since it can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months after the rainfall for the land to move. While the City continues to closely monitor the conditions and conduct inspections requested by property owners, no evacuations of homes in the area are needed at this time.
Since accelerated movement was first observed in Spring 2023, the City has taken the following key actions:
The Portuguese Bend Landslide Remediation Project would remove water trapped deep underground and prevent rainwater from entering the ground in the future. This would be achieved through a combination of the following project components:
The project has been modeled to reduce land movement to 1-2 inches per year and drastically reduce the threat of sudden movement that could result in the failure of Palos Verdes Drive South, a major road connecting the Peninsula and the City of Los Angeles.
A Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the project was released in February 2023 and a Final EIR that responds to public comments is being prepared, with completion expected in fall 2024 and construction as early as fall 2025. The City was recently selected as a candidate for $23.3 million in grant funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help slow the landslide. To complete the estimated $33 million project, the City is working to identify funding opportunities for about $10 million needed in non-federal matching funds from state and local representatives and agencies.
Read more about the Portuguese Bend Landslide Remediation Project.
The 240-acre Portuguese Bend Landslide is part of a larger complex of ancient landslides on the south side of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. It was reactivated in 1956 by Los Angeles County’s planned extension of Crenshaw Boulevard and has been moving ever since, becoming one of the largest continuously active landslides in the U.S. and moving homes by hundreds of feet over the years.
The land moves because of the dynamics of surface water percolating into the ground and water trapped deep underground, sliding as much as 8.5 feet per year. The City spends approximately $1 million annually resurfacing a portion of Palos Verdes Drive South that is continuously shifting and cracking due to the landslide. The Abalone Cove Landslide Abatement District’s operation of dewatering wells in the Portuguese Bend Community Association over the past two decades has essentially managed land movement in this neighborhood until recently.
In 2017, the City restarted efforts to explore options for long-term stabilization, forming a City Council Subcommittee to begin a collaborative effort with the community, holding public workshops and hiring a consultant to conduct a feasibility study. The City Council approved a project concept based on the feasibility study in 2019.
Per Ready.Gov, if you are worried about land movement on your property, look for signs of potential land activity, such as cracks or bulges in the ground, street pavement, or sidewalks; soil moving away from foundations; tilting of patios or foundations; broken water lines; or leaning telephone poles, trees, walls, or fences. Watch for slow-moving landslides, or earthflows, that pose threats to property:
For urgent matters or observation of any sudden shifts on your property, please call 9-1-1.
You may consider hiring a geologist to review the conditions of your property. Please note that the City’s geologist does not conduct site visits of private property that is not part of a development permit application. While the City does not make referrals or recommendations, the Building and Safety Division maintains a list of geotechnical engineers who work in the area, which is available on request. The Building and Safety Division can be reached at 310-544-5280 or BuildingSafety@RPVca.gov.
In addition to keeping an emergency supply kit, evacuation packing list and having a plan for your family, make sure you are signed up for Alert SouthBay emergency alerts by texting “alertrpv” to 888-777 or registering at AlertSouthBay.com. Get familiar with the Peninsula cities’ new Know Your Zone evacuation information platform. Go to PVPready.gov to find your zone number, then save it in your phone or write it down and keep it somewhere that’s easy to find in an emergency, such as on your refrigerator or near the front door. In an emergency, such as a landslide or wildfire, check the zone map at PVPready.gov to see if your zone is under an evacuation warning or order.
News reports underscore that land movement-related damages are not usually covered by most homeowners insurance policies. Now may be a good time to re-read your policy. While understanding the nuances of your insurance coverage is essential, generally, homeowners insurance policies in California offer coverage for accidental physical loss to property, but with certain exclusions and limitations. Standard exclusions often include damages from floods, earth movements, earthquakes, landslides, mudflows, etc. You may have read that a specialized difference in conditions (DIC) policy can secure coverage against land movement. However, it is City staff’s understanding that these policies are nearly impossible to find, available only from large brokers who sell commercial insurance, extremely expensive, and/or may not be currently available in Southern California. Please note that these DIC policies are different from DIC policies that are paired with FAIR Plan policies to fill gaps in coverage. Residents are encouraged to visit the California Department of Insurance's website with any homeowners insurance questions or contact the agency at 1-800-927-4357.
Out of an abundance of caution, the City of Rancho Palos Verdes has temporarily closed 7 miles of trails in the Portuguese Bend and Abalone Cove Reserves due to the potential for hazardous natural conditions associated with increased land movement. Conditions associated with the land movement include sinkholes, unstable trails and surfaces, erosion, steep cliffs, and falling rocks.
The trail closures follow the recommendations of the City’s geologist, who evaluated the area due to an increase in fissures and signs of land movement observed since late spring and early summer. A copy of the geologist’s September 2023 report is available on the City website.
A map showing the trail closures is available on the City’s website.
The City is working with geologists and its land co-managers, including the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy, and state and federal wildlife agencies, on solutions to restore public access, ensure public safety, and protect natural resources.