La Habra is set to receive $8.5 million from the state to repair a storm sewer that collapsed, creating a giant sinkhole more than three years ago.
Stakeholders say this funding is key to finally doing the renovation.
On January 23, 2019, a period of heavy rain caused an underground flood control channel to collapse in the northwest corner of the city. This in turn created a sinkhole 20 feet wide by 80 to 100 feet long in the condominium community of Coyote Village.
At the time, locals said they first thought they were experiencing an earthquake.
But it was a huge hole outside their front yards that swallowed up sidewalk slabs. Tall pine trees toppled and one crashed atop a nearby condo while residents were being evacuated.
OC Public Works crews immediately began emergency construction. They cleared the debris and made temporary repairs to the culvert, fearing threats to public safety and massive flooding. (A spokesperson for OC Public Works confirmed that the work was only an “emergency measure to prevent further damage at this time” and is not considered “repairs or fixes “.)
Today, the underground flood control channel is functional but still visible, and the sinkhole has reached 120 by 40 feet, said Robert Ferrier, the assistant city manager of La Habra.
Without repair, the existing sinkhole will likely continue to grow and pose new threats to local infrastructure, Sen. John Newman, whose district includes La Habra, said last week.
Newman said he was able to secure funding to repair and strengthen the culvert under the recently signed $308 billion state budget.
According to Newman’s office, La Habra will receive the $8.5 million and oversee future construction efforts, named the Coyote Creek-Imperial Channel Improvement Project.
A series of legal proceedings have stalled construction progress so far, Ferrier said.
The Coyote Village Homeowners Association sued the city of La Habra for property damage in early 2020.
While the city declined to comment on details of the case, opposing sides are scheduled to hold a status conference next month. If they don’t settle the dispute, they will move on to a jury trial scheduled for January.
Fortunately, Newman’s budget victory resolves several logistical disputes contributing to the heist, said homeowners’ association attorney John Peterson.
“Now that funds are available, I expect the parties to try to work together to resolve any remaining issues,” Peterson said.
In a statement provided by Peterson, the Coyote Village HOA said its “struggling families remain hopeful that the parties involved will work together to find a workable and reasonable solution to fix the structure for the benefit of the community as a whole.”
The owners praised Newman for obtaining the public funding necessary to complete the repairs.
“The HOA looks forward to beginning work with the city and county on the repair project as soon as reasonable and possible,” the group said.
City and condominium community officials were unsure how many people would still live in Coyote Village, but Newman’s office said the damaged culvert could negatively affect hundreds of local properties.
“That could be a choke point for the whole drainage system,” Peterson agreed.
With the matter still undecided and the date of the arrival of public funds undetermined, Ferrier said the city could not confirm when construction will begin.