SAN DIEGO — Dozens of city workers remained at site of a landslide Thursday morning, monitoring the area for signs of fresh slippage and keeping evacuated residents from returning home.
Police Sgt. Jim Schorr said about 50 officers were at the slide, which destroyed at least two homes in the upscale La Jolla neighborhood Wednesday and damaged several others. No one was hurt.
“It’s still shifting, but just very slightly,” Schorr said. “Every once in a while there will be a little crumbling, but the majority of the movement has subsided.”
Schorr said 111 homes were evacuated and police spent the night making sure no one entered evacuated properties.
There were no instances of looting and officers overnight had escorted several residents into their houses to get pets and important belongings, Schorr said.
Also on scene were utility crews, fire fighters and other workers.
The landslide cut a 50-yard-long chasm in a four-lane street and left a 20-foot-deep ravine overlooking Interstate 5 hundreds of feet below.
Just one day earlier, city officials had warned residents of four homes not to sleep in them because the land might give way. It wasn’t clear if those residents heeded the warnings.
The neighborhood, which comprises many million-dollar homes, is in an area that has a history of landslides dating back to the 1960s.
Orange traffic cones and sections of big concrete pipes sat in the fissure across the crumpled residential street, which serves as a busy shortcut between the surf neighborhood of Pacific Beach to the south and the fancy enclave of restaurants and shops in downtown La Jolla, a major tourist draw.
Authorities said most residents had gone to work and only seven people were inside homes near the collapse when it occurred.
Mayor Jerry Sanders declared a state of emergency Wednesday night, making the city eligible for state and federal aid.
The city began noticing cracks on Soledad Mountain Road in July and water and gas main breaks in August. A water line in the neighborhood was replaced with an above-ground pipeline in September to avert damage from the moving earth.
Sanders defended the city against charges by some residents that it didn’t do enough after noticing the street cracks in July.
“We have been working with people in the most immediately affected areas since July,” Sanders said at a news conference. “We have contacted the most immediately affected people over and over and over again.”
Many homes that weren’t in the immediate slide zone were yellow-tagged — meaning that occupants could come and go, but not stay overnight.
Rob Hawk, a city engineering geologist, said most movement had already occurred, but extra slippage is possible. “The current slide has basically come to a rest,” Hawk said.
A firm hired by the city last month was in the area in the hours before the collapse installing measuring devices after a large section of slope on Mount Soledad began to slip, Hawk said.
After the outside firm advised that some residents should not stay overnight in their homes, the city sent letters to residents on Monday, and on Tuesday sent officials to four homes that now border the collapse, Hawk said.
The landslide sent earth sliding down into backyards of houses in the street below, Hawk said. “It is fairly well-defined and localized,” Hawk said.
At least three significant hill slides have occurred in the area from 1961 to 1994, including a major failure in 1961 that destroyed seven homes under construction.