Every day someone asks, “What’s going on at La Casa?” which is often followed up by a series of additional questions. We thought that this might a good time to answer some of the most common questions asked.
What’s going on at our beloved La Casa – do you have any updates?
It’s been seven weeks since the January 9 mud and debris flow. As you may know, we lost nine buildings, several more were damaged, and our topography is radically altered in some places. Our main focus has been to remove massive amounts of debris and mud from the damaged buildings so that we can stabilize them, assess their structural integrity, and avoid further damage. We hope that the initial remediation work will come to an end soon and that we will not incur any additional damage due to the aftermath of the debris and mudflow.
With all of the debris and mud that impacted La Casa, what structures/buildings are going to be OK?
While we are still assessing for damage, we hope that the three guest residence buildings will be reparable, though there is significant cleaning that still needs to be done. The swimming pool is currently being cleaned out and we will need to check for structural soundness once done. What remains of the chapel, lounge, gift shop, and kitchen have been largely cleared of mud; we are waiting for engineers to tell us if they are structurally sound or not.
What about insurance – will your losses be covered so that you can rebuild?
Our hope is that our insurance company will determine the fire to have been the efficient proximate cause of the damaging debris flow. While the insurance company has had its adjuster and additional consultants on site, it has still not made a determination as to whether or not they will honor our claim. Their recent communication indicated that they will be meeting on March 1 and will provide us an answer soon thereafter. Even if insurance coverage is provided, much of our current and future work will remain unreimbursable.
How much money are you going to need to rebuild?
We just don’t know yet as much depends on whether our insurance company will honor our claim. If we receive the full coverage that we should, we are estimating we would need an additional $10-$20 million.
Are you concerned about rain and the possibility of future debris flows?
Yes, we are concerned about the potential for more debris and mudflow damage in the aftermath of the Thomas Fire. The creek has been dramatically altered – it is much deeper and wider than before and could conceivably carry a much larger volume of storm runoff than ever before. And experts caution that there is still a great deal of debris in the foothills in the aftermath of the fire.
How can I help?
We feel so blessed to have the love and support of our neighbors, friends, retreatants, and colleagues during this time. There has been an outpouring of generosity in the form of donations. We have heard from wonderful groups that have offered to do fundraisers for us. We have also had many people reaching out wanting to know how they can volunteer their time and/or expertise. If you want to help in any of these ways, please let us know.
You recently had to lay off two-thirds of your staff in the aftermath of the disaster and have temporarily closed your doors for remediation and repair. That had to be difficult for the staff who is still there. How are they doing?
Our remaining team is working very hard to support our infrastructure, process refunds, manage recovery donations, and oversee all the work on the property. As you might imagine, we are stretched thin but are doing our best to pace ourselves for the long road to recovery. Sometimes sections of the property look like a moonscape – so much changed in just a few hours. Then there are all of the decisions we are facing every week, the expenses we are incurring, the money to be raised, and the need to do everything with care and grace – it’s an enormous amount of work, with so many unknowns. When it begins to feel overwhelming, we keep coming back to the basics: the land has been altered, but remains sacred; our mission is unchanged; and based on the amazing number of emails, calls, letters, and generous donations we have received from all over the world – La Casa is too precious to go any direction but forward – forward through this time of recovery, rebuilding, and renewal.
I’d love to see it with my own eyes – can I visit the property?
At the moment, only trained professional remediation specialists and a few staff members are allowed to be at La Casa. When that changes, we’ll be sure to let you know.
Blessings & Peace to All,
Karol Schulkin, IHM President, Immaculate Heart Community
Steve Jacobsen, Director