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Shell Beach residents say they 'dodged a bullet' from mudslides caused by recent storm

Posted at 6:19 PM, Feb 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-02 00:36:26-05

Buckets are getting filled up with mud and hauled off Shell Beach properties after the recent rainstorm.

Crews scooped up and filled three dump trucks worth of mud, rocks, and other debris that slid down the hill behind the properties in the Spyglass neighborhood.

"We are exactly backed up to the hillside. As of darkness Thursday, there was no sign of anything coming down," said resident Chris Finch.

He says he saw firefighters canvassing his neighborhood around midnight Friday. Hours later, daylight revealed the mudslide.

It's estimated more than 75 tons of material spilled onto the roadways of Costa Brava and Calle Corea down to Barcelona Rd.

“Workers are emptying it out from the ditch so if we get any more rain, the ditch won't have mud flowing into people's backyards,” Finch said.

This Spyglass neighborhood has had two close calls with Mother Nature. First, the Avila Fire that scorched nearly 400 acres of vegetation in June and then a significant storm that caused minor mudslides in January.

“One of the scariest times of my life was when we were exiting and we looked out the back window and saw the fire in our backyard,” said Maxie Canant, an Avila Fire evacuee.

Canant’s home insurance includes fire coverage, but she and her husband say it’s been getting more difficult to buy it.

Arroyo Grande insurance agent David Tennant says in most cases, fire is covered in homeowner's insurance policies, but the frequency of wildfires is driving up prices.

"With the fires that have been going on, we've been seeing some pricing increases and we are also seeing some tightening on some of the areas that are willing to write it,” Tennant said.

Flood insurance, which covers mudslides, requires separate policies.

For homes in high-risk flood zones, it can cost up to $5,000 annually and much less for homes in lower-risk areas.

“We try to make our insurers aware of it. Even though a lot of our policy holders are not in a high-risk flood zone, up to 30% of all losses on floods are out of high-risk flood zones,” Tennant said.

Gary Cannet, who is also a board member for one of the Shell Beach homeowners' associations, says they charged a special assessment of $1,000 for mudslide mitigation and cleanup.

Jorge Garcia, Management Services Director for the City of Pismo Beach, says city public works crews initially responded to the mudslide to provide support, but now it's the HOA's responsibility.

There are still some drains and culverts clogged with mud that are expected to be cleaned up in the coming days.

“The city had said that they were going to put some [jersey barriers] up [on the hillside] there, but they haven’t done anything yet. They were dragging their feet,” Cannet said.

If there is an area with no HOA, the city says its crews would step in, but if disaster strikes on private property, then the owner is responsible.