One home on Middlefield Road damaged by the mudslide is still red-tagged, and residents have not been able to return. Credit: Supriya Yelimeli

Residents of four Berkeley Hills homes damaged by a mudslide after heavy storms in mid-January were able to move back in, but the property hit by the most debris flow is still red-tagged.

Fourteen residents were initially evacuated from eight homes after the mudslide early in the morning on Jan. 16. Three homes were quickly cleared for re-entry, and four remaining properties were upgraded to a green tag Friday, when the city’s emergency operations center called and notified residents.

The city also notified water and power utility companies that they could safely resume service at the four addresses.

The last remaining home on Middlefield Road has been upgraded to a yellow tag for limited entry as crews were working to clear out large piles of mud from a kitchen and living room in late January.

Zaytuna College, where the debris flow originated, has installed Visqueen plastic sheeting over the area where the ground loosened and slid down to The Spiral, according to the city. The college’s facilities crew will monitor the area over the coming months until they install a permanent solution.

If conditions remain dry, the city told residents that the possibility of future debris flows in the area is low.

But about 6,000 structures across Berkeley are vulnerable to major landslides, according to the city. Councilmember Susan Wengraf oversees the North Berkeley Hills and has requested a study of this risk at the next public safety policy committee meeting.

“This is a vulnerability that we haven’t really focused too much attention on,” Wengraf said. “We’ve been so focused on wildfires, and before wildfires, we were so focused on earthquakes. But I think now we need to pay a little attention to this.”

Federal and state funding will be available for residents impacted by the mudslides

A view of the four houses on Alvarado Road that sit directly underneath the steep hill that suffered a mudslide on Jan. 16. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/CatchLight

Alameda County and the Bay Area suffered wide-ranging impacts from heavy January storms. In Berkeley, that included a large landslide on Alvarado Road in the hills that border Oakland at a historically unstable property.

There was infrastructure damage on streets, highways and canals throughout the county, sinkholes in Castro Valley, debris flows into waterways and more, according to Alameda County sheriff’s spokesperson Lt. Tya Modeste, but the county received authorization this week to set up support sites for affected residents.

Members of the sheriff’s office of emergency operations center and the Federal Emergency Management Agency were in the Berkeley Hills taking note of storm damages two weeks ago — part of the process to show the state and federal government that those local support sites are needed.

Modeste said a site will open in Oakland later this week and another in the Tri-Valley area spanning Dublin, Livermore, Pleasanton and Danville. Residents are encouraged to come to these sites in person to get help applying for financial support from the state and the federal government.

She said the county will announce soon an opening date for the support sites.

“We know that a lot of people are feeling overwhelmed — people are making phone calls and filling out things online, they don’t know the status of (their requests),” Modeste said. “When people go online, they don’t get immediate attention, but when people show up in person, they will at least walk away with an understanding of what resources are available.”

Insurance typically doesn’t cover damage caused by “earth movement,” Wengraf said, and this financial support may be essential for Berkeley Hills residents.

“These people have been outside of their homes for two weeks, and they’ve incurred a lot of expenses,” Wengraf said. “Some of them are renters, and some of them are homeowners, and for the renters, I wasn’t aware of any kind of city program that could help them.”

“Hopefully, this will all be resolved, and people will be made whole,” she said.

Supriya Yelimeli is a housing and homelessness reporter for Berkeleyside and joined the staff in May 2020 after contributing reporting since 2018 as a freelance writer. Yelimeli grew up in Fremont and...