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Laguna Landslide Victims Get Help Reassembling Lives

The state donates mobile homes formerly at the seaside colony at El Morro Village.

October 23, 2005|Seema Mehta | Times Staff Writer

The Stevens family, whose house was lost in the Laguna Beach landslide on June 1, finally has a place to call home. After months of shuttling between friends' homes, the family made its 10th move Saturday, into a freshly painted, tan mobile home in Laguna Canyon.

"It's going to be great here," said Diane Stevens, 49, a marketer with the Irvine Co. "You can't ask for anything more when you're in our situation. It has been an emotional roller coaster. We're all just ready -- the kids are ready for their own rooms, we're ready to have stuff out of boxes, we're ready to have familiar stuff around."

Diane, her husband, John, 53, and their two children are one of four families scheduled to live for at least 18 months in the mobile homes while they figure out how to rebuild their Bluebird Canyon houses destroyed in the landslide.

The state donated the mobile homes -- formerly located at the seaside colony at El Morro Village -- while organizations and community members came up with the $75,000 cost of dismantling, transporting and reassembling them. The owner of the small lot at Laguna Canyon Road and Canyon Acres Drive donated the property's use.

Another family has already occupied one of the mobile homes, while the remaining two families are renovating their new quarters before moving in. The four families are among the last of about 20 displaced by the slide to find semi-permanent homes.

Early Saturday, Billy DiBlasi and Lori Herek, both 49, worked on creating a deck outside their mobile home next to the Stevens' place. The couple plans to decorate the place -- dubbed the "Landslide Inn" -- in a Balinese, tiki-hut style.

Herek just spent two weeks rescuing animals in the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast, a volunteer trip she said put her own situation in perspective.

"Going through the neighborhoods, seeing people on their own with nothing left and no one there to help them -- it really hit home how amazing [Laguna Beach] is," she said. "The community effort here in Laguna is probably like no other ... I know of. Everyone has been so supportive and unbelievably generous with their time and money."

That support was evident in Laguna Canyon. The Stevens' new place, a three-bedroom mobile home surrounded by asphalt off noisy Laguna Canyon Road, is a far cry from their Flamingo Road ranch home that had views of the Pacific. But relatives, friends and volunteers pitched in, creating a home with a deck, carpeting and freshly painted kitchen cabinets and walls.

Neighbors on Canyon Acres Drive are throwing a welcome party next month.

On Saturday, friends and relatives cleaned the kitchen and assembled furniture. Six Laguna Beach High School students, mostly members of the water polo team, arrived at 7 a.m. to help transfer belongings from storage into the new home.

"It makes me feel good inside, and it's better to help out than just sit there and wait for someone else to do it," said Sean Spera, 14.

Andrew Brown, 16, added, "I just wanted to help out because they've been going through a lot. The least I can do is help them through it."

John Stevens said that moving into the new home would provide consistency and a more normal life for the children. "It's important for the kids to have an address, and not be living out of boxes and plastic bins," he said.

The children picked their bedroom paint colors: bright blue and orange for Luke, 11, and apple green for Haley, 15.

Luke whizzed around the mobile home on his bicycle and created a makeshift skateboard ramp out of leftover deck lumber. He said he looked forward to using his baseball glove and other sports equipment in storage. Most of all, he said, he was looking forward to just staying put.

"We don't have to move anymore," he said.

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