YORBA LINDA : 5 Couples Sue City Over Runoff Damage

Claiming that the city allowed an inadequate drainage system in a neighborhood above theirs, several homeowners in Hidden Hills have sued the city for damages they say occurred after last winter's rainstorms.

The lawsuits were filed in Orange County Superior Court by John and Barbara Conklin; Thomas and Betty Duteau; David and Karen Engel; James and Maureen Tunstill; and Dana and Pamela Hunter. The five couples live on Rolling Hills Street in Hidden Hills, a community of homes costing between $550,000 and $650,000.

The suits seek unspecified damages.

According to the lawsuits, the city approved a development plan that allowed water to drain from houses above the plaintiffs' neighborhood to an arroyo traversing their property. The increased water flow caused the arroyo to severely erode the slopes of each of the properties, the suits allege. The damage was caused by the increase in water volume because of drainage unnaturally directed to the arroyo, the suits said.

Everything in the neighborhood above is "graded to drain runoff water to the streets, funnel to storm drains, then directly empty into the unprotected arroyo," said Arnold K. Graham, the attorney for four of the homeowners.

Graham said the city should have required the developers to line the arroyo with concrete or installed drainage pipes so that the increase in water would not erode his clients' slope.

City Manager Arthur C. Simonian declined to comment on the case.

The most extensive damage occurred at the Tunstill property, which lost a significant portion of the back yard, Graham said. In addition, the house's foundation and patio have cracked, and support beams have separated, he said.

The cost to repair the damage to the house and property would be at least $800,000, Graham said. The house has no market value, and the family will probably have to move out of the house before the case comes to trial, he said.

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