No Sign of Slide, but Mystic Hills’ Fate Not Settled


No direct evidence of an ancient landslide has been discovered in the fire-ravaged Mystic Hills neighborhood, according to a city geological report released Monday.

However, the report said enough slope instability was found to potentially cost some homeowners a lot of money to rebuild their destroyed homes.

Although 14 homes were burned, geologists studied the soil on 21 parcels, believing that’s how many might require shoring up to stabilize the hillside.

The report said 16 of the lots could, despite the apparent absence of an underground landslide, still require expensive stabilization before rebuilding can take place.


Geologists emphasized that neighboring property owners need to develop a joint plan to strengthen the land rather than working independently.

“It’s a very complex situation,” said Hannes Richter, a geotechnical engineer for Geofirm, one of three consultants hired to study the area. “Some of these homeowners will need to work cooperatively to settle conditions in their neighborhood.”

City officials said building permit applications will be reviewed on an individual basis.

Only 44 building permits have issued citywide since the disastrous firestorm destroyed or damaged more than 400 homes last Oct. 27.


In Mystic Hills, residents saw their hopes for prompt rebuilding come to an abrupt halt when geological surveys in May indicated that their neighborhood could be resting on an ancient landslide site.

Monday’s report raised mixed feelings for Mystic Hills property owners.

“I’m glad they finally released a report that will allow people to rebuild,” said Polly Sloan, leader of the Mystic Hills Ancient Landslide Committee. “I hope every single person up there can now get a permit. But I suspect some people will find it so expensive, they can’t rebuild.”



There was some argument among geologists over the existence and location of a suspected ancient landslide in the area, city officials acknowledged.

But all agreed in the report that a “sheared zone"--consisting of unstable, slide-prone surface material resting on a solid ground base--runs through a section of the Mystic Hills neighborhood.

Geofirm officials still believe, despite having no solid proof, that the ancient landslide exists, “but the bottom line, what residents have to deal with, is this sheared zone,” Richter said.

City officials will have a public meeting Saturday to discuss the report’s findings.


The city had conditionally allowed Mystic Hills residents who could prove their lots were stable to move ahead with construction. However, several homeowners and their geological consultants thought it wiser to wait until the report was finished.

Tired of waiting, Sloan is busily packing the belongings in the home she rented after the fire in preparation of a permanent move to Monarch Beach.

“I’ll always be a Lagunatic,” she said. “But all this waiting has been more stressful than the fire was.

“When the fire burned us out, we knew what to do,” Sloan said. “But this landslide stuff put us in the position of having all the control out of our hands.”


Two weeks ago, Temple Hills residents learned from another geological study that their lots were above a old landslide site that was much smaller than previously thought.

However, some property owners in Temple Hills will still be required to invest $50,000 or more in slope stabilization measures.