In a middle-class neighborhood of La Palma, the streets look like a war zone. Trenches are dug around scores of houses, broken concrete is piled here and there, some houses are propped up by wooden scaffolding. The machine-gun sound of jackhammers is ever present.
But in that neighborhood southwest of La Palma Avenue and Moody Street, no one is sure who the enemy is. All they know is that the concrete slabs under at least 62 homes are severely cracked or cracking.
Experts agree that the soil is the problem, but is it because there's too much clay in it, too much sand, even too much cow manure from former dairies? No one seems to know.
One resident has declared as his enemies the city, the builder of the tract and the real estate agent who sold him his house and has fired a lawsuit at them, perhaps only the first of a volley.
Other lawyers are negotiating with insurance companies, which, since the problem was discovered nearly two years ago, have rewritten their policies to exclude soil-caused damage.
Meanwhile, residents are faced with staggering repair bills--from $50,000 to $100,000 per house--and the uncertainty of who will have to pay for what.
"It's getting me down, and my husband is worn out worrying about it," said Davida Miconi, whose house will cost $100,000 to repair and whose insurance company says it won't pay for any of it.
"I'll take some kind action," she said. "I don't know what."