The floor opened in La Habra in 2019.  Now there is a new hole, but still no agreement on who will do repairs

The floor opened in La Habra in 2019. Now there is a new hole, but still no agreement on who will do repairs

  • US News
  • March 17, 2023
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A collapsed spillway opened up in the ground near a residential complex in La Habra on Wednesday, about four years after the site similarly collapsed not too far away.

The recent collapse, which left a 40-foot hole, complicates matters in an ongoing legal battle between a homeowners association and the city of La Habra over whether the necessary repairs are the responsibility of the property owner or the city.

In any case, local residents are worried that the expected rain in the next few days could aggravate the situation.

“Our concern is the approaching storm. Will it do more damage? Are we in more danger?” Resident Raymond Carillo said. “When will it be cleaned? There are many questions and very few answers.”

In January 2019, the ground at the Coyote Village complex collapsed, leaving a 120 foot by 40 foot hole. Residents were evacuated as emergency repairs were made.

Carillo has lived on the property since 1999 and said it felt like a small earthquake when the ground gave way over four years ago. He saw fallen trees and concrete slabs lifted off the ground.

He felt the same type of severe bump on Wednesday night when the second collapse took place. On Thursday evening, he and his wife heard chunks of earth falling into the damaged culvert, unsure whether to leave their home. The new hole is about two meters from his front door.

“Hopefully this new situation will ignite a fire for some officials to get the ball rolling. what will it take property damage? Personal harm? It needs to take care of it as soon as possible,” Carillo said.

But the City of La Habra and the Homeowners Association have yet to agree on who will be responsible for repairing the 2019 hole.

La Habra Assistant City Attorney Gary Kranker said repairing the private storm drain that collapsed in 2019 was the responsibility of the Homeowners Association. The city alleges the site was improperly maintained and had excessive soil and pine trees on the spillway.

La Habra offered to hire contractors to clean up the canal this week so incoming rainwater can flow freely through it, Kranker said, adding that the homeowners association is responsible for the cost.

The Homeowners Association is suing La Habra, claiming the city was responsible for repairing the 2019 collapse.

An email and phone call to Coyote Village’s property manager, Diversified Assn. Tustin-based management and the homeowners association attorney did not immediately respond.

Senator Josh Newman, whose district includes La Habra, secured $8.5 million in state funding to repair and reinforce the damage, according to his office. His office announced the funding in July, but Kranker said none of the repair work had begun.

However, state law prohibits using public funds to repair a private spillway, Kanker said. He added the city is currently trying to verify with the California Attorney’s Office and the California Department of Water Resources whether the city could use those state funds for the project.

He reiterated that the city is not taking on the project because it is private land.

“We’re not repairing the canal other than making sure it’s functional,” Kranker said. “We don’t put cement board on it.”

According to Kranker, the city has a contractor set to start cleaning the sewer, but they haven’t received approval from the homeowners’ association.

Anthony Marinello owns a condo in the complex that was originally his grandmother’s home. But for the past four years, he has watched the first opening remain unfilled and covered with a tarp and sandbags. Marinello said the complex’s pool and tennis courts have been closed for the past four years due to the collapse of the floor.

He said he couldn’t imagine what the property managers do with all of the residents’ monthly homeowner association fees.

“The fact that after four years we’re still waiting for the last one to be fixed is incredible,” said Marinello. “You know, so do we have to wait another four years for the next one to be fixed?”

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