STUDIO CITY — A waterlogged hillside collapsed late Saturday, crushing a house into an 8-foot pile of twisted metal and shattered wood.
The house in the 3900 block of Eureka Drive was empty. It had been deemed too dangerous to inhabit last week as the hillside above became saturated by the unrelenting rain.
The family "moved out, thank God," said David Keim, public information officer for the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety. "They would be dead right now."
But the house's contents were destroyed, Keim said.
All that remained was a mishmash of debris. Sandwiched between the broken roof and the foundation were three cars that looked like aluminum cans smashed for recycling.
Neighbors reported hearing the rumbling vibrations as the hillside gave way.
"I knew exactly what it was," said neighbor Eddie Walker, 29, who had been monitoring the soil movement through the week. "It sounded like an earthquake."
Saturday's landslide was one in a handful that have occurred mostly in the Santa Monica Mountains in the aftermath of the storms.
Keim warned that more damage may be in the offing. The hills are saturated and residents should be wary of similar incidents, Keim said. "We expect these failures for days to come."
One house on each side of the destroyed home was yellow-tagged, meaning only some parts of the houses have been declared safe to use. Meanwhile, the house on the hillside above in the 11200 block of Laurie Drive lost a small portion of its backyard during the slide and was red-tagged, meaning no one is allowed to stay there.
The family moved out immediately.
Three adjacent houses there were also yellow-tagged.
"We're moving out," said Walker, who lives at one of the yellow-tagged houses on Laurie Drive. He, his 16-year-old brother and their father said they would move to a hotel until it is determined if their house is safe.
"It's too dangerous with what's next to us," he said, referring to the house that lost part of its backyard.
The landslide actually began last Tuesday, when residents who noticed the soil eroding called safety officials, Keim said. Inspectors arrived and red-tagged the house on Eureka Drive--which stood about 100 yards down the steep vegetated hill.
The hillside collapsed about 9:30 p.m. Saturday, pushing the smashed house into a swimming pool. More soil slid down the hill Sunday morning.
"Eventually, they will lose Laurie Drive," said Chris Stendahl, 45, whose parents still live in a nearby house where he was raised and remembers other slides. "It's not a big surprise."
In front of the red-tagged house on Laurie Drive sits an empty lot partly covered with plastic. A house that used to be there was destroyed during slides a few years ago, neighbors said.
About 15 years ago, Stendahl said, seven other houses nearby also were destroyed by mudslides.
Some neighbors had taken precautions in the last few years. Walker's family, for instance, reinforced the dirt hill with cement barriers. Another neighbor did the same. The Walkers also planted plants to help prevent erosion.
Walker said neighbors have long known that the canyon between Laurie Drive and the crushed house is a natural waterway during storms.
"You can see that's where the water flowed when it was just a mountain," Walker said.
The houses in that area have been built gradually over the last 70 years with different building codes, said Luke Zamperini, a building and safety inspector. The the city makes the codes safer as engineers learn more about safety.
"Every once in a while, nature gives us a lesson," he said.
Though the days are now sunny, Zamperini said residents in hillside neighborhoods should take precautions as water continues to fill underground springs. Residents are advised to inspect their properties, checking for sliding dirt, keeping the drainage systems clear, and making sure water reaches the paved streets.
"All the hillsides in the city of Los Angeles are pretty much soaked," Zamperini said. "Water is oozing out of the ground."