Gov. Schwarzenegger visits La Cañada

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger toured the battered Paradise Valley neighborhood in La Cañada Flintridge Sunday morning, meeting property owners affected by Saturday’s mudslides and promising a coordinated cleanup effort.

Flanked by La Cañada Mayor Laura Olhasso, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, Rep. David Deier (R-San Dimas), state Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) and the media, Schwarzenegger promised to fast-track a state permit for a fourth dumping site needed to dispose of the truckloads of mud that overwhelmed the foothill neighborhood.

“We all have to work together in order to get these permits as quickly as possible and to be a help to the people whose homes have been damaged,” Schwarzenegger said.

A slow-moving storm dropped 4 inches of rain on the foothill burn areas early Saturday, triggering serious mudflows and overwhelming the Mullally Debris Basin, located just off of Manistee Drive in Paradise Valley.

The Station fire was so destructive, Portantino said, that the threat of mudslides is now a “chronic problem” likely to last for several years. Local, state and federal agencies need to learn from the mistakes of the Station fire and apply them to the current emergency situation, he said.

“This is one of the closest neighborhoods in our community,” Portantino said. “The folks who live here, many of them are original owners going back to 1960 when this development was first developed. One of the traditions of this neighborhood is to have a Super Bowl party and here we are on Super Bowl Sunday and this neighborhood has faced tremendous devastation.”

Olhasso and Antonovich sharply criticized the U.S. Forest Service before calling on the federal government to provide assistance to residents whose homes and yards were damaged by debris flowing from federal forest land onto private property.

Los Angeles County Public Works crews and residents in the months of preparation before the rain storms were not allowed to implement mudslide protective measures on federal property, despite the obvious risk, officials said.

“I call on the federal government to take responsibility to help our residents pay for cleaning up the mud. Not only from the last two days, the mud that was flowing two weeks ago, the mud that is going to continue for the next three to five years,” Olhasso said. “This isn’t a one-time shot. The federal government must take responsibility for the mud that is coming out of their hills.”

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