As the reported "Godzilla El Niño" draws closer and closer, the city last night took time to reassure residents of flood-prone areas that the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission has finally solved the issue of repeated flooding. Oh, no, wait, they said the exact opposite. At a meeting last night SFPUC General Manager Harlan Kelly explained to residents and business owners that there is nothing the city can do in the near term to prevent the flooding that has damaged businesses and homes, and that any solution would costs hundreds of millions of dollars and would be years away.
Those in attendance did not welcome this news.
According to Mission Local, the meeting focused on three San Francisco areas that frequently bear the brunt of flooding caused by heaving rains: 17th and Folsom Street, 15th and Wawona Street, and Cayuga Avenue at Glen Park. The main problem was identified as the overwhelming of the sewer system that can accompany heavy rains.
Sidebar: Repeated flooding around 17th and Folsom was a big reason why Saison relocated to SoMa.
“When it’s filled to capacity, no more water can be entered in to the system,” Kelly told those gathered according to Mission Local. “Engineers would love to build a bigger system but we’re talking billions of dollars and tearing up the street We have to work with the system that we have.”
Supervisor David Campos was at the meeting, and Mission Local reports him as being frustrated right along with his constituents.
“This issues is one of those that has been very humbling to me. There are limitations in what a governing agency can do [against] nature.”
Three potential flood-mitigation plans were presented. The first involves a billion-plus dollar effort to build a series of tunnels to divert water away from the 17th Street area. The second idea presented was a $200 million effort to widen underground pipes, hoping to increase their carrying capacity. The last idea presented was a $110 million project to put tanks underground which would theoretically catch and store excess rain water. The tanks might need to be emptied and cleaned after every rain.
Mission Local reports that actually making any of these ideas a reality could take upwards of nine years, and that at least one Cayuga Avenue resident was not impressed.
“What a joke. There’s a section of residents in three districts bearing the brunt of the city’s crap,” said Blane Bachelor.
Another resident noted the glacial pace of city efforts.
“In 1964, plans were made to fix the system. Now it’s 2015 and we have sewer flooding and now we’re going to have it streaming down our sidewalks instead,” Lisa Dunseth told Mission Local.
Whatever the ultimate solution ends up being, one thing is clear: it's not coming anytime soon. As such, residents are going to have to continue stacking those sandbags.