A high-powered group of San Francisco residents is taking legal action against the city after their homes were allegedly deluged with sewage during the New Year's storms.
Legendary former 49ers quarterback Joe Montana and real estate mogul Victor Makras are among the more than 58 plaintiffs suing, according to FOX. These are reportedly 58 residents of the affluent bayside Marina Boulevard, between Webster Street and Baker Street.
They contend that the holiday flooding could have been avoided had the city taken measures to repair and upgrade nearby wastewater facilities, which have been linked to previous flooding episodes in the area, according to the Chronicle.
"The part of this system that runs through the Marina is antiquated and has been neglected and inadequately maintained by the city and county of San Francisco," the lawsuit asserts, per the Chronicle. "As a result, the system routinely gets overwhelmed, overflows, and inundates plaintiffs’ properties and neighborhood with untreated sewage and contaminated water."
San Francisco's sanitary system collects both sewage and stormwater in the same network of pipes — usually then treated and discharged back to the Bay or the Pacific Ocean — but during heavy rain, storm drains can overflow with water that’s been contaminated. A reported 18.6 million gallons of untreated or partially treated wastewater overflowed from the city's sewer system onto the streets during the torrential atmospheric river event that hit the Bay over December 31st and January 1st.
These multimillionaire plaintiffs in the low-lying Marina district say that some of this sewage water breached their homes, “permeating the soils, walls and floors, and depositing highly contaminated and toxic fecal and other raw sewage matter in and around Plaintiffs’ homes." They reportedly initially filed damage claims with the city, but after these were denied, they sued.
In response, Jen Kwart, spokeswoman for the Office of the City Attorney, emphasized the extraordinary nature of the New Year's Eve storm. "It was the strongest storm to hit San Francisco in more than 170 years," she noted, as the Standard reported. "The storm, and not the city’s infrastructure, was responsible for widespread flooding throughout the city. We are reviewing the complaint and will respond in court."
One of the main issues, according to the lawsuit, was that a facility in the Marina designed to divert excess water into the Bay instead of allowing it to escape through manholes onto the streets, was closed in 2021. Since then, more flooding in the neighborhood occurred. Not to mention, the city settled a $4.4 million lawsuit in 2020 regarding sewage during flooding in 2014, as the Examiner reported at the time.
The extreme rains over this past winter have prompted new plans to reduce flooding damages, such as the SFPUC's earmarking of $9 billion in capital improvements over the next decade and an announcement in May of new federal loans for infrastructure in frequently flooded neighborhoods, according to the Chronicle. But the battle between aggrieved homeowners and the city's authorities over these sewage and flooding issues continues, with potentially far-reaching implications for San Francisco's aging infrastructure.
Feature image of Marina District via Unsplash/Flemming Fuchs.