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Leaders in Rancho Palos Verdes may consider requesting an emergency declaration

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City officials in Rancho Palos Verdes are considering asking the state to waive environmental reviews and other regulatory hurdles so they can take immediate action to protect the area against a threatening landslide complex. In response to record-setting rainstorms that have exacerbated the issue, the City Council is set to meet Tuesday to discuss requesting Gov. Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency for the region.

The landslide complex beneath much of the coastal city has been slowly shifting for decades, but recent months have seen a significant increase in movement. Two homes have been red tagged, indicating serious damage, and other residents have reported cracks in their walls, sinkholes on their properties, and pavement buckling on major roadways.

The situation has prompted the city to expedite a $33-million landslide remediation project in the Portuguese Bend area, which was originally scheduled to begin sometime after September. However, increased urgency due to the recent weather conditions has forced officials to pursue an emergency declaration to accelerate the process.

If the emergency declaration is approved by the governor, it would allow the city to bypass various state permitting and regulatory processes that typically slow down such projects. This includes reviews by the California Coastal Commission, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Regional Water Quality Control Board, the State Water Resources Control Board, and the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

The most pressing goal for city officials is to prevent rainwater from infiltrating the ground. Plans to achieve this include filling fissures, constructing drainage swales, and installing “dewatering wells” to extract groundwater. The urgency is not only related to property damage but also public safety, as approximately 400 homes are threatened by the landslide.

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Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn has urged Gov. Newsom to visit the area to see the effects firsthand, emphasizing the severity and urgency of the situation. The sliding ground in the Portuguese Bend area spans nearly 700 acres, with GPS monitoring showing a significant acceleration in movement over the past few months.

City leaders are hopeful that an emergency declaration would allow them to start remediation work as early as spring, rather than having to wait until next year. The recent acceleration of movement in the area, according to geologists, is unprecedented and has led to an immediate threat to public safety.

In light of this urgency, the city is not currently seeking state funding for the project, as that would only cause further delays. Instead, the focus is on securing approval to expedite the mitigation work and ensure the safety and stability of the affected area.

It is imperative for Gov. Newsom to understand the critical situation facing Rancho Palos Verdes and to take swift action to support the emergency declaration. By doing so, the state can play a crucial role in preventing further devastation and safeguarding the community from the impending dangers posed by the landslide complex.

Times staff writer Grace Toohey contributed to this report

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Chats and reflections on the present moment.

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Lydia Polgreen

Credit…Will Heath/NBC, via Getty Images

It is a rare thing in our rapidly secularizing country to be confronted with piety and devotion in popular culture. So it was a surprise, and a balm, to watch a man who prays daily and talks openly about his devout faith storm a bastion of earthly godlessness: “Saturday Night Live.”

I am referring, of course, to the comedian Ramy Youssef, who hosted the show on what he described in his opening monologue as “an incredibly spiritual weekend,” noting Ramadan, Easter and the arrival of a new Beyoncé album.

“I’m doing the Ramadan one,” he quipped, to peals of laughter, unspooling a very funny bit about how loving Muslims are. Youssef has mined his experience as a believer among the profane in gentle standup specials and a namesake sitcom. His entire monologue glowed with a welcoming warmth — Muslims, he seemed to say: We’re just like you.

In a country that is supposedly obsessed with diversity and inclusion, it is remarkable how rare it is to hear from a practicing Muslim in America.

Surveys by the Institute for Policy and Understanding, a nonpartisan research organization focused on Muslim Americans, have consistently found that Muslims are the most likely group to report religious discrimination in the United States. According to a Pew survey conducted in 2021, 78 percent of Americans said that there was either a lot or some discrimination against Muslims in our society. Muslims are no more likely to commit crimes than members of any other group, but crimes in which Muslims are suspects get outsized media coverage, research has shown.

Check Out Also:  Southern California Residents Urged to Stay Vigilant for Mudslides as Rain Pummels the Region

It is no surprise, then, that Islamophobia is perhaps the most tolerated form of religious prejudice. Right now, Senate Republicans appear to have persuaded several Senate Democrats to vote against a Muslim judicial nominee after smearing him, with no evidence at all, as an antisemite.

Many of the skits that toyed with religion on “S.N.L.” on Saturday were funny — Ozempic for Ramadan! Genius. But part of me winced through them as well, because I saw in Youssef something that other members of minority groups have had to do to “earn” their place in the safety of the mainstream: the performance of normalcy, of being nonthreatening and sweet, the requirement to prove that your community belongs in America just like everyone else’s.

I loved Youssef’s monologue, in which he bravely pleaded, “Please, free the people of Palestine. And please, free the hostages. All of the hostages.”

“I am out of ideas,” Youssef declared toward the end of his monologue. “All I have is prayers.”

To which this nonbeliever can only say: Same, Ramy. Same.

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