A drive along the ocean on the Palos Verdes Peninsula is Southern California at its finest. Sunlight dances on the water. Coves are pristine, unsullied by development. Catalina Island appears so near you can almost spot the bison.
Look a bit closer, though, and you’ll see signs of a disaster waiting to happen.
An above-ground sewage pipe snakes along the road. The pavement on Palos Verdes Drive South is rutted and warped, jutting up and down like an asphalt roller coaster. The hills are strewn with houses on makeshift foundations, perched on haphazard stilts and shipping containers.
The problem: A dormant landslide complex that shaped the south side of the Palos Verdes Peninsula for hundreds of thousands of years was reactivated 67 years ago, and it’s threatening to destroy homes and infrastructure.
Palos Verdes Peninsula has long been prone to landslides, and the most dramatic one is affecting Portuguese Bend, an area named after a Portuguese whaling operation, now known for its natural beauty and native vegetation. The geological phenomenon has hit a 240-acre area hard over the last seven decades, causing fissures to open in the earth and homes to strain, buckle and drift, sometimes outright wandering onto adjacent properties…