According to Mark Pestrella, deputy director of the county Department of Public Works, homeowners bear the responsibility for protecting their property. The county, he said, can only offer recommendations for channeling mud and debris into the street where public work crews can remove it.
"Ultimately, the short-term solution," said Pestrella, "is for each homeowner to protect their own property -- and to be reasonable about it."
When the plywood walls went up, homeowners down slope began to worry, not because the walls were unreasonable; indeed, they were the only way to protect those houses. Most bothersome was a 20-foot gap between them that would funnel debris farther into their yards.
When one neighbor attempted to bridge that gap with a wall of his own, Miranda asked him to take it down. Blocking that drainage, the neighbor was told, would create a dam, which would be more dangerous.
When the second storm of the season arrived, Ryken, Grey and another neighbor worked into the night, digging a channel along their fence line and shoring it up with sandbags. Their effort was frantic and hurried, but it worked. Over the next few weeks, the line was fortified and enlarged.
But the storm two weeks ago erased their efforts. Debris filled the Greys' pool. Mud and rocks spread across Ryken's backyard and then poured into Richard and Nancy Weyermuller's pool. The displaced water flooded their home.
Days later as industrial dryers drew the moisture out of their floors, the Weyermullers, both in their 60s, wondered what would happen next. They worried about the next storm and the expanding footprint of the debris flow.
Residents above them "need to take their share" of the runoff and not divert all the mud and debris down slope, says Richard, a civil engineer with the county. But as he admits, there is no way to calculate how much is enough. That can only be determined after the next storm -- after the damage is done.
A skip loader has dug out the Greys' backyard, and Grey is thinking about contacting an attorney. Ryken already has. They want to know who is responsible.
Perhaps it's the city, Grey says. Perhaps it's his neighbors. Perhaps it's even himself. Either way, he realizes it is a delicate question.
Everyone "is struggling with their conception of themselves as part of the community," Grey says, a struggle made more difficult because so much lies outside their control.
What's clear in his mind, though, is that government agencies are afraid of litigation, private property is inviolate and all this mud is his.
In December, he considered building his own wall but held back. Today he wonders about the wisdom of that decision.
Times staff writer Corina Knoll contributed to this report.