Sinkhole in Laguna Beach swallows SUV, ruptures underground gas line

An SUV wedged in a sinkhole under a guard rail on the side of a street
Crews work to pull a Range Rover out of a sinkhole on Sunset Avenue in Laguna Beach on Sunday.
(City of Laguna Beach)

Some residents in Laguna Beach were forced to evacuate from their homes this week after a broken water main opened up a sinkhole and caused a gas leak, authorities said.

Laguna Beach fire and police personnel were sent to the area of 10th and Sunset avenues about 7:30 a.m. Sunday in reponse to reports of a substantial amount of water rushing between homes onto South Coast Highway.

Authorities arrived to find that a Range Rover parked on Sunset Avenue had fallen through a sinkhole and ruptured a gas line beneath the road.


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March 7, 2023

Residents of several homes on Sunset Avenue and Virginia Way between 10th and 11th avenues were evacuated while crews worked to stop the gas leak. Residents were able to return to their homes later Sunday morning, officials said.

No injuries were reported.

“We still have geologists in the area investigating,” said Sheena Johnson, a spokeswoman for the South Coast Water District. “There’s been a lot of rain, a lot of saturation in that area on that hillside. We’re looking at actually what the cause was [of the water main break]. That hasn’t been determined yet.”

Cones and a fence around a sinkhole that caved in the side of a street on a hillside
A section of Sunset Avenue near 10th Avenue is blocked off after a sinkhole formed Sunday in Laguna Beach.
(Don Leach / Times Community News)

Crews from Laguna Beach Public Works, the South Coast Water District and SoCalGas worked to clean up the neighborhood and restore utility services. Approximately 100,000 gallons of water was lost due to the water main break, Johnson said.

Johnson added the Range Rover was extracted from the sinkhole by 11:30 a.m. Sunday.

“By that time, our staff and our operations were able to get in there and try to ascertain what was going on. We realized we also needed geologists to come out and take a look at the area to see what happened. … There were seven homes that we had to shut off the water to, and so we restored their water by 2:30 p.m. [Sunday] with a temporary water service,” Johnson said.

“Obviously, since that pipe is no longer connected, they don’t have their typical water service, so we had to do a workaround to make sure all those homes had water and gas service,” she said.