LOCAL : Big Rock Homeowners Facing Drainage Fee of $100,000 Each

From Times Wire Services

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously today to assess homeowners in Malibu's Big Rock Mesa area more than $100,000 each for a drainage system to stabilize their landslide-plagued community.

"The $500 (monthly assessment over 20 years) is going to put some people out of their homes," John Murdock, an attorney for the homeowners, told the supervisors.

The homeowners contend that the proposed $13.8-million drainage system is too expensive for them to bear alone and does not guarantee against another disaster on the order of a 1983 slide that damaged or destroyed 250 homes.

The slide led to 4 1/2 years of litigation, which ended in January when the county, California Department of Transportation, dozens of insurance companies and attorneys for about 240 Big Rock homeowners reached a settlement that will pay the homeowners $97 million--or about $200,000 each after legal fees--for the damage.

Many of the residents, as well as some who were not part of the lawsuit and others who bought homes in the area after the litigation began, were stunned by the county's plans to triple their property taxes to help pay for stabilizing the slide-prone area.

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