A handful of city agencies met to talk about the disaster Monday. They then went to the neighborhood to meet with residents. Since day one when there was one sinkhole in the street and one in the backyard, three more have been discovered, the most recent one on Monday afternoon at a house where the owners just moved in only two weeks ago. They haven't been ordered to move out yet, but three other families have.
Three homes on 15th Avenue are red-tagged. The sign says, "Soil unstable beneath home." Two of those red-tagged houses share a 20-foot sinkhole inside the homes. "It measures 20 feet in diameter, probably 4 to 5 feet deep," said Chuck Wilson, one homeowner's brother.
The 16-inch underground water main on 15th Avenue broke just before 3 a.m. The water exploded up through the concrete and asphalt road above and created a river two-feet deep flowing across Wawona. Twenty-three homes were affected. That day, there was one sinkhole in the street where the break happened and one more in a backyard, but the red tags came days later when more sinkholes began appearing.
Cindy Coyne's home is red-tagged. She says State Farm is now backpedaling on coverage it promised at the beginning. "We need to know now. We need to make decisions for our future, for our children who are living in a hotel at the airport," she said.
"It's built on an old creek bed," Claudia Chamberlain said. She lives one block up from the damaged homes, but she might as well have predicted the disaster. In 2007, when a developer asked for permission to build eight 3,700-square foot, four-level homes on 15th Avenue, Chamberlain and other neighbors pointed out they would be built on a creek bed that fed Pine Lake in Stern Grove. The intersection of Wawona and 15th has been flooding since at least 1938.
Chamberlain says the supervisors ignored the neighbors' concerns of subterranean water flow and the project went ahead. "We were not concerned about the houses as much as we were about the existing properties because the weight of those houses may shift the sands that this whole neighborhood was built on," she said.
The city says three homes have also been yellow-tagged which means those residents can live there, but they are restricted from going to certain parts of the home.