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Malibu, Palos Verdes & Dana Point Hit Hard: National Landmark Threatened, Boulders Bounce Onto Roads & Multimillion-Dollar Homes Teeter On Collapsing Cliffs; More Rain On The Way

Hollywood loves a sequel, but maybe not this one.

On the heels of a massive storm that clobbered the region earlier this month with more than 10 inches of rain in some areas, California’s atmospheric river has again brought days of rain to the region, with another band due tonight.

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“A strong storm will continue to impact #SoCal thru Wed morning,” read a statement from the National Weather Service in Los Angeles. “After a ‘lull’ this afternoon/tonight, a second pulse of moderate/heavy rain is expected Tue and Tue night. There’s also the potential for strong thunderstorms Tue/Tue night.”

As of 4:15 a.m. Tuesday, there has been another 2.49 inches of rain reported in Beverly Hills due to the most recent storm. There was 2.24 inches of rain reported at Santa Anita Dam and 2.02 inches reported in Woodland Hills.

There was 1.93 inches of rain reported in Santa Monica, 1.92 inches reported in Hollywood, 1.79 inches reported in La Canada Flintridge, 1.77 inches reported in Castaic, 1.68 inches reported in Pasadena, and 1.50 inches reported in Canoga Park.

In the earlier storm, some of L.A.’s ritziest zip codes were the hardest hit, with Bel-Air, Woodland Hills and Topanga all seeing more than a foot of rain, flooding and landslides. This storm is also hitting the region’s pricier enclaves hard.

This time around, many of the harder hit areas are along the coast. Malibu has been hit with mudslides, falling boulders and road closures on one side, and high surf on the other.

In Rancho Palos Verdes, homeowners were dealing with reports of accelerated land movement and fears of further erosion across a section of coast impacted by what is known as the “Greater Portuguese Bend Landslide Complex.”

A statement from the city released today indicated that, “As a result of the 2023 and 2024 winter storms, the City of Rancho Palos Verdes has been impacted by substantial precipitation that has caused an unprecedented acceleration of land movement equating to an annualized rate of 10 feet per year.”

The city council has already declared a local State of Emergency and today’s document asks California Gov. Gavin Newsom to provide disaster assistance and request President Biden declare a disaster in the area. (Coincidentally, Biden is in L.A. today fundraising.)

Of particular concern is the “sudden increase in land movement [which] is causing severe damage to Palos Verdes Drive South – a major arterial roadway and evacuation route for the Palos Verdes Peninsula; damage and disruption to utility infrastructure including water, sewer, gas line and utility pole breaks; closures of approximately 8 miles of public trails due to slope instability; fissures and sink holes throughout the Palos Verdes Nature Preserve; the closure of residential intersections due to sink holes and ground separation; the temporary closure of the Wayfarers Chapel – a federal and state designated historic landmark; and the red-tagging of homes with many more homes on a watch list due to foundation and structural damage.”

The Wayfarer’s Chapel, a National Historic Landmark which has served as a prime setting for decades of local weddings and also provided the location for dozens of TV shows and films, was temporarily closed after the last storm, and it;s fate remains uncertain. Large cracks opened up near the chapel itself, and the section of Palos Verdes Dive South below the building is visibly warped due to ground shifting.

The Wayfarers Chapel on February 16 (Patrick T. Fallon / AFP)
The Wayfarers Chapel on February 16 (Patrick T. Fallon / AFP)

Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn urged Gov. Gavin Newsom to visit the area and observe the situation for himself.

“We need the governor’s help,” Hahn said in a statement. “It is my understanding that the city of Rancho Palos Verdes will be asking the governor to declare a state of emergency for the Greater Portuguese Bend Landslide Complex.”

“I think if the governor came here and saw the buckling streets, the homes sinking and cracking apart, and the historic Wayfarers Chapel on the verge of collapsing, he would understand the urgency of this request. This is a crisis that is getting worse by the day, and I urge Governor Newsom to visit us and see it with his own eyes.”

An aerial image shows vehicles driving on a damaged section of Palos Verdes Drive South below the Wayfarers Chapel (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP)
An aerial image shows vehicles driving on a damaged section of Palos Verdes Drive South below the Wayfarers Chapel (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP)

While he had not yet responded to that specific request in Palos Verdes, Newsom activated the State Operations Center to help coordinate state, local and federal response to the storm.

Farther south in Dana Point, local and national news crews have intensely covered the rain-accelerated erosion and subsidence in that exclusive enclave which has several multimillion-dollar homes perched precariously on a cliff above the Pacific.

A February 13 aerial view of three large homes in Dana Point in danger of falling into the ocean as a cliffside gave way after recent heavy rains (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
A February 13 aerial view of three large homes in Dana Point in danger of falling into the ocean as a cliffside gave way after recent heavy rains (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

In Benedict Canyon, a portion of Benedict Canyon Road was restricted to local access only due to a collapsing roadway. The “soft closure” was in effect from Mulholland Drive to Hutton Drive, with Deep Canyon Drive suggested as an alternate route.

A bit further east in the Hollywood Hills, Mulholland Drive was still closed between Skyline Drive and Bowmont Drive due to severe road damage at four locations. That closure, initiated during the storm earlier this month, was expected to last weeks, officials said.

Los Angeles County Public Works officials issued a “phase 2 debris flow forecast” for the Land Fire burn area east of Sun Valley. The alert will be in effect until 9 a.m. Wednesday, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department, which said moderate flooding and mudflow/sediment deposition should be anticipated in the area of McDonald Creek, Del Arroyo Drive and La Tuna Canyon Road.

“If conditions worsen, evacuation orders may be issued and evacuation sites will be identified,” the LAFD said. “Take action now to be ready to quickly evacuate if you live on the streets along La Tuna Canyon Road with the borders of Horse Haven Street to the north, Martindale Avenue to the east, Penrose Street to the south, and Ledge Avenue to the west.”

Topanga was again hit, as well, with an evacuation warning issued along Santa Maria Road north of Topanga Canyon Boulevard, southeast of Calabasas, due to possible mud/debris flows until 9 a.m. Wednesday.

In the tony environs of the upper Sepulveda Pass, the Skirball Center Drive/Mulholland Drive off-ramp from the northbound 405 Freeway was closed until further notice due to a sinkhole.

A flood watch has been issued by the National Weather Service for all of Los Angeles County except the Antelope Valley until Thursday. Flooding resulting from excessive rainfall is possible. The greatest chance of showers and thunderstorms will occur Tuesday evening through Wednesday morning with the possibility of a half inch to 1 inch of rain per hour.

Flash flood warnings and flood advisories will be in affect through Wednesday morning over much of Los Angeles County, and the NWS said “there have been many reports of rockslides, mudslides and flooded roads” Monday in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

The Sepulveda Basin — between Burbank and Victory boulevards and Havenhurst and Woodley avenue — was closed as of 4 p.m. Monday due to flooding, Mayor Karen Bass announced.

Dry weather with warming temperatures is expected to return Thursday and Friday, before another bout of light rain this coming weekend.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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