18 Homes Given OK After Calif. Landslide

Eighteen hillside homes that were declared unlivable following last week's devastating landslide have been declared safe for occupancy, authorities said.

Eighteen of 25 homes that were given a yellow tag to indicate they were only safe for daytime entry were upgraded to green tags, meaning residents can return within 10 days, said Capt. Danell Adams. One of 22 homes initially declared unsafe for any entry at all has been upgraded to a yellow tag, meaning residents can enter during the day when accompanied, she said.

At one point, it appeared that 48 homes had been destroyed, damaged or at risk after the landslide, which experts believe was triggered by unusually heavy winter rains.

Residents also learned Monday that longtime Bluebird Canyon (search) resident Bob Burnham, who retired last year after 27 years as Newport Beach city attorney, will oversee the city's efforts to secure relief money and restore public services in the landslide-ravaged area.

Burnham met privately Monday night with residents, just hours after representatives from the Governor's Office of Emergency Services and federal officials took a tour of the landslide area.

Robin Clausson, who took over Burnham's position as Newport Beach city attorney, said she was pleased with his selection for the emergency post.

"His biggest strength was to evaluate situations and find solutions," Clausson said. "He's excellent at building community consensus. He's just great in working with everyone. He's a calm person, and he's really good at reading where a community is coming from."

Residents were hopeful Monday that the area would be declared a federal disaster area, paving the way for low-interest loans.

Greg Renick, a spokesman for the OES, said the top priority would be to establish the connection, if any, between the slide and the heavy winter storms. Renick toured the area with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (search) and the Small Business Administration.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared an emergency in eight counties, including Orange, after severe rains hit the region in January. He declared another such emergency in February for seven counties, including Orange.

In other developments, residents of about seven homes evacuated voluntarily late Monday after reports of some shifting in the 2800 block of Avenida Placida in San Juan Capistrano, also in Orange County. The sheriff received calls around 7:45 p.m. and sent city engineers and deputies to investigate, said Lt. Hayward Miller.

The movement did not rise to the level of a landslide and authorities did not order any residents to leave, Miller said. City engineers and police were to continue their assessment Tuesday morning, he said.