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Water board deals a blow to flood-control effort

Original post made on Mar 4, 2014

An long-planned effort to protect Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and Menlo Park from the flood-prone San Francisquito Creek suffered a severe setback last week, when the Regional Water Quality Control Board decided after a year of negotiations to reject the permit application for the project.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, March 4, 2014, 4:59 PM

Comments (66)

Posted by JA3+, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 4, 2014 at 5:20 pm

Very concerning. It's now been 16 years since the floods of 1998 and, to date, the JPA has completed so little to affect concrete flood relief.

"The water board recommended an alternative that would create a bypass channel to divert flow from the creek to the "ball fields near the upstream end of the proposed flood wall, continue on down along the southern boundary of the golf course, and discharge to the tidal marsh at the southern end of the airport runway."

Has Regional Water previously disclosed this alternative as its favorite? Why is Regional Water proposing such alternative at this late date?

Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 4, 2014 at 7:31 pm

How about some background on who is on the "water board" and who appointed them.

I'm wondering if they are qualified, or just pushing some agenda.

Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 4, 2014 at 7:31 pm

How about some background on who is on the "water board" and who appointed them.

I'm wondering if they are qualified, or just pushing some agenda.

Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 4, 2014 at 7:34 pm

In the nine years I was on the Parks and Recreation Commission, ending December 2012, I attended and participated in countless meetings about the creek and the golf course.

I found it to be frustrating at how protracted was the process of working through all the various issues around this project. But that's how things are in civic matters.

Now we have this group from on high second guessing a process that has taken years, and has the temerity to suggest it knows better how to solve a local problem than do the various parties that have worked on this for years.

I will remain a Democrat, but this is a classic example of a criticism that Republicans voice about the heavy hand of government getting in the way of local government best serving its local citizens.

Posted by Midtown, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 4, 2014 at 8:18 pm

The costs on the three soccer fields are escalating. So we are at $9.4M for plowing the golf course for the the soccer fields, 100K a month in reduced revenue due to the dirt that was dumped on course, and when the course actually closes 4 million a year in lost revenue which has conviently been left out of the cost estimates. If they have to build a trench around the south part of the golf course and across the airport it will probably double the the cost. Those three soccer fields are going cost $30 or $40M. And remember option 1 was going to cost the city nothing and the course could have operated while flood control work went on saving a large chunk of the lost operating fees. Great gobs of cash are flowing out to sea. Your council at work. Not a win, win, win, win! Why they dumped dirt on the course with no clear plan is beyond me.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 4, 2014 at 8:52 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Who cares about the stupid golf course! The priority should be flood control and the creek, and how to make that work with endangered species issues and the other relevant problems. Leave the golf course part for last.

And what's with the FAA?

The while thing is just ridiculous.

Posted by Interested, a resident of another community
on Mar 4, 2014 at 9:31 pm

In response to Terry: The "Water Board" is a State agency, the San Francisco Bay Region of the California Water Quality Control Board. It is an agency that was established by the Legislature to handle in-state regulation under the Federal Clean Water Act. Its actions apply to all things water or entering water - creeks, storm water runoff, sewage spills, leachate from landfills, etc.

As such it is an agency staffed by staffed by hydrologists and others with appropriate expertise.

One point of confusion is that there is a difference between how the state defines an "alternative" under the California Environmental Quality Act (used for EIRs) and how "alternative" is defined for regulatory action involving federal law, as used by the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Water Board for these two projects. CEQA allows the lead agency to select a preferred alternative which is not necessarily the environmentally-preferred alternative. Federal law requires the project alternative be the Least Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative(LEDPA) among all available alternatives. The definitions explain why the Water Board looks at the situation from a different perspective. In this situation, it appears the JPA did not take the regulatory perspective into consideration while developing the EIR.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 5, 2014 at 7:44 am

> a year delay could cost the city $1 million in foregone revenue.

Yeah, right. Another version of "too big to fail".

There should not even be a golf course out in the Baylands, directly beneath the flight path of all the landing planes. I thought golf is supposed to be relaxing and fun ... but out in that area you cannot even hear yourself think because planes are landing and taking off constantly. Get rid of one or the other .... preferably the airport.

And, what makes anyone thing the water board is any less competent than the people who have been managing Palo Alto lately?

[Portion removed.]

Posted by Mermaid, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 5, 2014 at 8:30 am

Obviously, the Water Board has a short memory, and has not read the GS maps. This area is a flood plain, 100-year floods are coming every 20 years, and it has been 16 years since the previous 100-year flood. It isn't just Sn Francisquito Creek, either, it's all the cities built too close to the bay or built on landfill.

Posted by JustFixTheFloodingYesterday!, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 5, 2014 at 8:52 am

I gotta say, just in case the people in charge haven't gotten around to seeing it .... FIX THE FLOODING .... YOUR PRIORITY IS TO FIX THE FLOODING. IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN DONE OVER A DECADE AGO - OR EVEN STARTED. Any damage that results from any more flooding in this area the "deductible" so to speak ought to be paid personally - until they are broke - by the folks who are supposed to be studying and making these decisions before the City, the Residents or anyone else has to pony up a penny. This is so unacceptable.

AND ... if there is some kind of overly complex decision making to be made - at least explain it and put it out there.

I suspect that Palo Alto is being allowed to flood to avoid East Palo Alto from having to be flooded ... a kind of share the misery equally, when maybe the solution is to get the crap out of the way of the creeks, remove and fix the bridges, and then build levees or walls to protect East Palo Alto ... but maybe no one wants to do that, so a minority of Palo Altans are being scarified to maintain appearances.

Posted by Emily Renzel, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 5, 2014 at 11:01 am

Most of the issues raised by the Water Board were also raised last year at various public meetings in Palo Alto. Palo Alto chose to ignore them and now we are experiencing the consequences.

Posted by golfer, a resident of Mayfield
on Mar 5, 2014 at 11:25 am

Golf is great but courses suck a GREAT DEAL OF BADLY NEEDED WATER from very limited supplies. We need to find other surfaces for the game and let the rest go dry. We can't keep wasting precious water in this way.

Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 5, 2014 at 1:40 pm

Any time you have an engineering project the first thing you do is find out what the requirements are - government requirements.

The next thing you do is bring in all of the stakeholders. Since Stanford is required to build holding pools on their property they should have been involved at the beginning so everyone was on board with the requirements.

Sitting in meetings is a waste of time if no one is actually reviewing what is required. This seems like a no-brainer to first find out what the qualifications are for acceptance of the plan.

This is not a Democrat or Republican problem it is a lack of good project management problem.

Sit down with the water board - find out what the requirements are - then go do it with Stanford's participation - which is required. Seems to me they can bring in a tractor and dig some holding pools in a fairly rapid manner - they own the land so this should not be a big deal.

The article in the paper said this would take years - not so - get the tractor going and dig the pools.

Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 5, 2014 at 1:44 pm

The problem is that PA is addressing the bottom of the creek - not the top of the creek on Stanford Property. Water is addressed at the point of inception. Call up the Nature Conservancy if you don't know how to solve the problem - they will help.

Posted by j99, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 5, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Both these projects are a waste of Palo Alto money. We don't need more soccer fields or a gold course and cutting a huge number of old trees down is criminal. Let the people on the interface zone buy flood insurance, they knew it was a flood zone when they moved into their houses. Don't screw the Palo Alto residents with some boondoggle flood wall to keep a few hundred houses from flooding whenwe have already spent years and years damming and cleaning San Francisquito creek.
I applaud the Water Board for rejecting this nonsense project. I wish some state agency would stop all the apartment, condominium and office building projects also.

Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2014 at 4:57 pm

Thanks to "Interested" for informative info about the water board, which helps to frame the story.

As a Tea Party leaning Republican, I'm mildly amused to see wasteful government gridlock without any Republicans involved.

Perhaps government has just grown so complex that it is beyond the capability of the average politician to get anything done.

In my minority view of government, everyone on both sides should understand the real priority is to protect the folks from flooding. Make people safe first, and then debate all the nice things.

Posted by Marie, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2014 at 5:18 pm

Marie is a registered user.

The real problem is that the Committee chose not to work harder with Stanford to provide ponds upstream as the Water Board recommends. If I remember correctly, when the city was negotiating with Stanford over use permits to build the new Stanford Hospital, they did suggest a flood control project on Stanford land at the source of San Franciquito creek. I believe Stanford refused ostensibly because of endangered species. However, my impression is that Stanford has a policy of almost never agreeing to anything that would reduce the amount of land they could use for future development, no matter how unlikely that possibility. For example, most developers are required to donate land for schools when building houses - Stanford only leased land for Palo Alto schools.

Again, IMHO, the city dropped the ball during the hospital negotiations and didn't push, being happy enough to get $50M in cash presumably.

Stanford is responsible for the headwaters of the creek and IMHO, has a responsibility to the community to cooperate on flood control as recommended by the San Francisco Bay Region of the California Water Quality Control Board. If they balk, well, isn't that what eminent domain is for?

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 5, 2014 at 5:21 pm

> Perhaps government has just grown so complex that it is beyond the capability of the average politician to get anything done.

That's pretty terrible since from what I've seen, it's the opposite of Lake Wobegone, along the whole gamut ALL OF OUR POLITICIANS ARE BELOW AVERAGE!

The people are so stupid they could not recognize anyone with a brain, and if they did, they'd vote against them anyway.

If our politicians got that the priority was to prevent flooding don't you think they would have done something before 14 years went by? This whole subject just makes me crazy - and I'm not even really in the flood plane.

We ought to bring stockades back in style and when something bad happens because of a total lack of leadership we can lock our leaders in them at throw eggs and rotten tomatoes at them while they think about their lack of leadership for a day. ;-) See the smiley, I'm just kidding!

Posted by Kate, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 5, 2014 at 5:29 pm

To Golfer of Mayfield
The PA Golf Course uses 'recycled water' - not drinking water - on the fairways which is 95% of the course but must use regular water on the 'greens' due to the special grass that those require. Golf is great exercise and recreation for a lot of people - seniors, children, teens, people from all over. Non residents pay higher green fees. It's a great place, the planes are no problem. It's been a wonderful recreation for residents for over sixty years.

Posted by Art Kraemer, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 5, 2014 at 6:42 pm

How about getting Rich Gordon to put some pressure on the State Water Board

Posted by water is sacred!, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2014 at 9:20 pm

I agree about HMMM too.

Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 5, 2014 at 10:01 pm

I am a great fan of the PA Golf Course. My son worked there while in high school. I went over and talked to them - they indicated that the salt water was leaching through and ruining the grass. They were trying to fix the problem - salt water intrusion - by using different grass.

Posted by Aquamarine , a resident of Stanford
on Mar 5, 2014 at 10:28 pm

Marie - does Stanford own the land where the creek starts?

Posted by Shut-It-Down, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 5, 2014 at 11:09 pm

The golf course does not serve Palo Altans as much as it serves non-residents. It's hard to believe that even 500 Palo Alto residents actually use the facility. Moreover, the City has failed to produce an accurate accounting for the business aspect of the golf course.

This is another of the give-aways that is costing the taxpayers tens of millions of dollars every few years.

As to the City's flood abatement plans--just what makes City Council members, like Pat Burt, even remotely competent to design, or evaluate, abatement plans?

Fixing the creek is going to take a lot more than the posturings of local politicians.

Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 6, 2014 at 10:38 am

Shut-it-down - you must represent the percentage of the population that says if I don't want to do it then no one is going to do it and it is irrelevent. You do not know anything about the golf course. Every city has a golf course. The PA Golf Course has been there forever and provides relaxation and enjoyment to many people of all ages.
People keep building more soccer fields even though the percentage of adult players in leagues dominate the fields. They are from all over the place.
I am tired of everything being turned into a soccer field but I do not say shut it down.
The current look of the PA bayshore is an embarrassment. Go look at Shoreline Park - they have it all - a boating area, golf, restaurants, and tons of people with families enjoying it all. The wildlife enjoy it and tolerate children chasing them around.
We have done a bad job with that area - and closing the golf course is a perpetuation of a worsening situation.

Posted by Shut-It-Down, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2014 at 12:07 pm

> every city has a golf course.

Oh, and you know this how? Palo Alto actually has two golf courses--one run by the private sector and one by the City--mostly for the use of non-residents. Do most cities operate golf courses for non-residents?

> The PA golf course has been there forever

Forever? That's really hard to believe. Got an opening date to help us understand forever?

Oh, and do most cities operate their golf courses on land worth $5+M an acre? The land alone is worth almost $100M. What's Palo Alto's ROI on the use of this land?

Posted by Shut-It-Down, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2014 at 12:13 pm

> The land alone is worth almost $100M

Ooops .. make that:

The land alone is worth almost $400M

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 6, 2014 at 12:19 pm

It's just a plain non-sequitor that the Palo Alto Golf course somehow makes the Palo Alto Baylands a better place or raises it to the Shoreline Park level.

There are multiple problems with the Palo Alto Baylands, starting with the idea way back that the bay front land was just throwaway garbage dump land that had permeated the whole bay when everything seemed to think it was going to be filled in. Remember back to the 70's when you could not see across the bay - before environmentalism.

Another problem is the airport. There is just no decent recreate that can be had with loud planes taking off and landing every minute making conversation impossible - let alone trying to listen to one's own headphones on a smartphone or MP3 player - it is a miserable place for recreation. Shoreline Park does not get nearly as much plane traffic over it.

Then, there is the bad smells emanating from our outdating sewage treatment center. Mostly you can ignore it, but one some days it really makes you want to gag, throw up and go on home.

I just have to ask ... what is Palo Alto doing with all its tax money and revenue? We have some of the richest people in the country in the nicest most expensive homes, do a lot of business with very high prices .... where does it all go, because nothing is getting done except lousy developments that everyone complains about.

The Baylands could be a fantastic place with just some minor facilities, and if it was enjoyable and nice out there we would not have to worry about innovative businesses wanting to locate out there. Remember Shoreline has theaters too and restaurants. Palo Alto got rid of its theaters.

One area both cities are lacking is in decent facilities, although Shoreline has to win in that area, Palo Alto's restroom facilitates are too few and really awful. Who wants to chance going out there if they might have to use the restroom and go into these dirty ugly facilities that are not cared for?

Someone needs to be appointed Palo Alto Baylands Czarl and try to drum up some suggestions and implement some plans to make this place nicer ... then it will take off on its own.

I remember as a kid going out to the duck pond with my Grandmother, now it is just a trashy dump. The last thing was the Conservation Center which closed and the walkways out into the Baylands are completely unusable at this point. Yeah, the nice new little building where the Seabees used to be is nice, but I've never seen any public use for it, including restrooms ... it must be nice to have a job out there on the waterfront doing nothing for any of the Palo Alto public.

Palo Alto even used to have a yacht harbor where boats were anchored and I think even people lived out there. I', not really sure how that got closed down except more costs of dredging ... one would think that as we saved all these costs ... we'd have more money and could do more and more sensible things ... well, what is going on City Council ... are we going to uncover massive corruption at some point in the future like others cities are finding?

Little by little everything is being degraded and getting worse at a time when we should have record revenues and certainly a lot of interest in making the city nicer?

Posted by Midtown, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 6, 2014 at 12:38 pm

Anyone interested in the financial specifics of the golf course should go to the city website and type in ERA golf. ERA is a golf consulting firm the CC hired at great expense to analyze the operation of the golf course with competitive golf courses. Palo Alto compares well with other local courses at least until they turned the course into a dirt storage facility. It has a revenue of about $4M a year of which the city gets the majority. The city is currently losing $100K a month due to the dirt issue. During the soccer field construction the city will be losing $4 M a year. No one knows how long the soccer field project will last. If it is like Mitchell Park, 3 or 4 years does not sound too pessimist. None of this would have been necessary if we had gone with option A of the flood control project, but NO we had to have SOCCER FIELDS which required bulldozing the perfectly adequate golf course. No it is not a wow course but it is ours and you used to be able to play golf on it before the CC screwed it up with dirt and poor planning.

Posted by Resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 6, 2014 at 12:44 pm

S.I.D - in your dreams - it is a flood zone owned by the county. Go over to East Bayshore and check out all of the buildings that are "for lease". That is how desirable it is. It amazes me that so many building would be for lease in beautiful Palo Alto -we think we are so special. You know what you do to flood zones to raise money - you make them into golf courses. Shoreline Park was a dump - and now it is a great place to go. If a city has no amenities then why live there. Another blogger would have us all living in chicken coops. You must be on that blogs team.

Posted by MathBabe, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 6, 2014 at 3:11 pm

The numbers don't justice our support for this agency. We have reached a breaking point where their diversion of precious resources - more capital and energy –will be stopped.

We should rethink and end this agreement and DEFUND the JPA. They have had their chance, it's over. The delay is squandering declining resources. When the tipping point arrives we shouldn't be surprised.

Posted by Tim Buck II, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 6, 2014 at 3:12 pm

"As a Tea Party leaning Republican, I'm mildly amused to see wasteful government gridlock without any Republicans involved."

A very rare event indeed.

Posted by MathBabe, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 6, 2014 at 3:13 pm

One more thing.

Legacy institutions like the San Francisquito Creek JPA don't work. There was nepotism there in the past. Nothing was done.

Wake up people!!

Posted by Interested, a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2014 at 3:49 pm

One point of correction to a comment of Resident1. The entire Baylands Park and the Golf Course are owned and managed by Palo Alto. For flood control purposes, certain aspects of management are performed by the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

Fortunately, the fact that Palo Alto protected tidal marshes within the City puts this shoreline in a better position as the marshes both form a natural buffer for sea level rise and provide exceptional value in absorbing greenhouse gases through carbon exchange.

Prior to its creation, the golf course was a tidal marsh. Before it was a golf course, people didn't know about greenhouse gases and that sea level rise was in our future.

Posted by Back to the Creek Issue, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 6, 2014 at 5:54 pm

Can anyone tell me if Lake Lagunitas was originally a holding pond for winter runoff? I remember it filled up every winter, then was gone when summer came. Is it still an active holding pond on Standford land or has Stanford rerouted or otherwise diverted that collected water? I seem to remember lots of little ponds up above Junipero Sierra. Are they still there or has Standford infill or other development obliterated all those?

Posted by Carla Talbott, a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2014 at 6:13 pm

(former 38 yr. resident of P.A.) We were victims of the 1998 flood. We had to go out by rowboat in the middle of the night. I would like to respond to i99, the person who said that people in the flood zone should buy flood insurance and that they knew it was a flood zone when they bought their property.

First fact: if people have a mortgage, as most people do, and they live in a FEMA flood zone, then they are REQUIRED to have flood insurance by the mortgage holder. If they own their property outright then it is a personal choice, as far as I know.

Second fact: When I bought my house in 1974 I was NOT told that it was in a flood zone because there was so such requirement at that time. FEMA didn't come into existence until after that. When we refinanced in the late 80s for a remodel/expansion we learned we had to have flood insurance, which we had from that time on. However, the flood insurance did not cover contents nor anything outside the footprint of the house. We lost a large amount of fencing (we had a big pie shaped lot), an outbuilding, and other things outside. All contents of the house that were lost were uninsured, including my husband's business equipment (he was a contractor, working from home at that time). Only the 2 autos, which were total losses, were replaced by auto insurance. The expense of this flood began our long downward financial slide which caused us to have to leave Palo Alto but there were other factors involved, such as my husband's unemployment after the tech bubble burst, his worsening health, he was uninsurable and finally died of cancer less than 2 years after moving, whereupon I had to declare bankruptcy. I definitely mark the start of the ruination of our lives at Feb. 3, 1998.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 6, 2014 at 6:35 pm

People who say "you know such and such about so and so, and you bought it anyway, should shut the hell up". That is a crummy argument that means nothing and just makes people mad. Like these idiots are supposed to think that since houses right next to the train tracks or under the flight path of airplanes or in the flood plane should just be left vacant.

People afford what they can afford, and if everyone made rational perfect decisions the world would not work.

There is nothing wrong with people wanting, asking, discussing and demanding that their circumstance be made better, particularly when it is something like this. People who make that argument are just trying to troll and start an argument.

And then they also never think or care when the houses were built what the conditions were, or about other extenuating circumstances. Those posts should be deleted ... along with the ones that say that someone does not care about the homeless people unless they allow them to live in their houses.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 6, 2014 at 8:02 pm

For those complaining about a lack of work on the other end of the creek...which happens to sit on Stanford land. Please recall that FEMA made it clear that any and all flood control work had to start at the bay and then work its way up the creek.

That's why all of the focus is on the flood gates at the bay, the 101 bridge, the Newell Bridge, the University Ave bridge, the Chaucer Bridge...and the flood control concept for the golf course. The logic is simple - remove the bottle necks from the end of the line first.

So get over it and focus on the immediate issues at hand.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 6, 2014 at 8:47 pm

> For those complaining about a lack of work on the other end of the creek

There is plenty of "lack of work" all up and down this creek to complain about.

The logic of fixing the creek by the bay may be just a way of justifying doing nothing.

With all of this doing nothing ... one has to wonder again ... where is all the money going, and still we're in debt?

Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 6, 2014 at 10:37 pm

The Nature Conservancy is managing water correction / management problems all over the world - including the New York flooding. There is a fast and efficient way to do this. See Mark Tercek's book Nature's Fortune. They have the technical knowledge to do this, as well as the local connections with the government - FEMA and Stanford to step in and provide advice on an unemotional basis.
I do not see any technical knowledge here - only opinions. You need some unbiased technical help. They have all of the tools to analysis the problem and come up with a solution that should work for everyone.
Stanford knows these people and will listen. They can help broker this issue.

Posted by Bush, a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2014 at 9:20 am

I thought that water boarding was illegal.

Posted by SaveTheOaks, a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 7, 2014 at 9:55 am

Web Link
Over the years, The Nature Conservancy has faced a number of criticisms. They fall into the following main categories:
Too close to business

Some environmentalists consider industrial development to be antagonistic to environmentalism, and disapprove of The Nature Conservancy's policy of permitting oil drilling, timbering, mining, and natural gas drilling on land donated to the Conservancy.[26][unreliable source?] The Nature Conservancy has ties to roughly 1900 corporate sponsors. Its governing board consists of numerous executives and directors of oil companies, chemical producers, auto manufacturers, mining concerns, logging operations, and electric utilities. And it has a reputation for remaining silent on key environmental issues that involve business practices in general. For example, many environmental organizations battled against the Bush Administration's plan to allow oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but the Nature Conservancy did not participate in this fight. It was later discovered that legislation to allow drilling is supported by members of the Conservancy leadership council, which consists of members from BP and ExxonMobil, as well as by Phillips Alaska, Inc. These organizations have also donated over $1 million to the group. Mark Tercek, the current president and CEO of the Nature Conservancy, had little to say about the accusations that ensued. Although there was a lot of pressure for the Conservancy to cut ties with BP, Tercek refused.

Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 7, 2014 at 11:36 am

Mark Tercek, President of the Nature Conservancy talked at a Commonwealth Club function in August 2013. If you go into their library - audio - you can listen to his presentation. He makes no bones about your comments - it is all on the table and in his book.
Mark was a Director and Managing Partner at Goldman Sachs. In that role he worked with major fortune 500 companies who were experiencing difficulty in their operations. NC comes with a lot of management and financial knowledge in how to get things done. As to BP NC has contributed a lot of scientific help in correcting problems. There is a Nature Conservancy California group in the bay area.
We have a problem and need to get this taken care of. FOCUS on that - this group can talk to all parties and has the scientific staff to analyze and propose a solution.
The current staff has not managed this program correctly - focus on that and quit castings stones. If the current group needs help then get help - don't figure out ways to delay the project any longer.

Posted by enough!, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 7, 2014 at 11:37 am

We do NOT NEED 3 soccer fields!!! One is good enough.

Posted by Midtown, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 7, 2014 at 11:45 am

So what is the path forward? Baseball fields in the golf course?

Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 7, 2014 at 2:08 pm

I will confine my comments to opinions about potential additional recreation uses at the Baylands, in the spirit of dispelling some inaccurate observations being made on this thread.

I have some cred here, after serving on the Parks and Recreation Commission for 9 years, ending in December, 2012.

Several observations:

• A poster stated a factually incorrect assertion that developing a soccer field costs $3-6 million. Off by orders of magnitude. Depending on the sites, these costs can range from $1-2 million per field. I do not know what the poster based his information on, but it simply incorrect

• I spent a great deal of time in 2011 and 2012 while I was on the Commission, trying to figure out how to fairly allocate availability of playing fields in town. Without getting into all the complexities, let me simply state that we do NOT have sufficient capacity. Ask the people running soccer, lacrosse, basketball and volleyball, don't take my word for it. Nor from a party who posts anonymously who does not back up an assertion with facts.

• Funding for new recreational uses on that parcel will not be funded by City funds. Rather, there will need to be an effort to gain support from private donations—individuals, foundations, and companies that have a stake in the well being of Palo Altans. Such a fundraising effort is doable, but only after the JPA and the state get past their impasse.

• Gym space—some of the land at the Baylands has the potential to serve as a new gymnasium. School gym space is in short supply, and even with the improvements in the works at Paly, that will continue to be the case. The Y, the JCC, and Cubbberly are maxed out. We have many people who participate in private groups, especially basketball and volleyball, and they have to travel to other communities for their games.

Posted by anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 7, 2014 at 2:51 pm


You wrote:
"Several observations:

• A poster stated a factually incorrect assertion that developing a soccer field costs $3-6 million. Off by orders of magnitude. Depending on the sites, these costs can range from $1-2 million per field. I do not know what the poster based his information on, but it simply incorrect"

An order of magnitude is a factor of 10 ..$3-6 million is not an order of magnitude greater than $1-2 million. ($!0-20 million would be an order of magnitude greater.)

Posted by Midtown, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 7, 2014 at 4:30 pm

So if the soccer fields were not added to the golf course as with Option A or D, the city would have paid zero dollars because the golf course would not have to be bulldozed and the 500 trees cut down and replaced. The JPA would have paid for all the golf course work and little revenue would have been lost in a multiyear course closure. Adding the soccer fields meant that the golf course had to be plowed and all the trees cut down. The current estimate is $9.1M, plus 100K a month for the dirt storage revenue loss and $4M a year for the lost revenue when the course closes. Assume a 3 year fun with bulldozer project and you get pretty close to $20M for 3 soccer fields. (Not counting what they actually cost to build which I don't believe is in the $9.1M current estimate).

Now the fun really starts. The last 1998 golf course upgrade is not paid for. The city mortgaged the city fire trucks for the money to pay off the loan for that renovation in 1998. The payments for that loan still go on. All the 1998 renovations are going to be plowed. And all the permits for the flood work and the new golf course have been rejected. We are back to square one. The ball fields may have to be turned into a flood control channel that will run along Embarcadero Rd. Now what and at what cost? So lets not blame this mess on the golfers who just want a functional golf course. It is about the only recreational facility for the over 65 crowd. Not too many 65 plus soccer leagues and only one golf course and many soccer fields. The way I see it is that the 3 soccer fields were going to cost $20M, now who knows, we may have to add baseball fields too. This is not shaping up to be a win, win, win, win.

Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 7, 2014 at 4:32 pm

I am concerned on the type of reporting on this whole effort:

1. The POST led their article with "Flood Projects are Backward - Agency should have started upstream, water board said." It points to the requirement for holding pools on Stanford Property which would mitigate rapid overflow downstream. The article is by Jeremy Gordon - Daily Post Associate Editor.

The PA Weekly by Gennady Sheyner makes no direct mention of holding pools on Stanford property, or any direct involvement with Stanford.
I can draw some conclusions on that reporting discrepancy. People are not getting all of the facts here.

2. There are adult recreational / industrial leagues for both men and women that pay for use of soccer fields. They are not specifically PA residents - they are leagues who pay the fee to Parks and Rec. If you keep building soccer fields they will keep bringing more teams and paying more money. I know that - I was on an adult team as well as an AYSO board member way back when.

The impression that we are providing sports fields for PA residents only is incorrect. Yes there is a big demand - but PA being the provider at the expense of other recreational sports is going to be challenged.

3. This city has baseball parks, tennis courts, swimming pools,many soccer fields, so why is one public golf course so hard for some people to accept? You can just see the positioning here and in the PA Weekly - the set up is in process.

4. There is a cost to use the golf course - it is irrelevant where the people come from. In fact - just like the UC system - if they are out-of-city they pay more. It was making money - so where is all of this resistance coming from? When you have a lot of tournaments then people come from all over to be in the tournaments. And golf clubs try and play a different course each month so there is a lot of travel to lots of golf courses. That is part of the fun. That is the way this whole thing works.
People travel to play a lot of courses.

5. Since this whole dilemma affects funding for cities, compliance to flood control requirements, and individual home risk then it is time to nail down what is required and get it done. If people keep jockeying around to game the situation then call them out on it. Also some accountability as to what has been spent to date on this flood control project should be reported - and who was the money paid to.

Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 7, 2014 at 5:04 pm


You have expressed your opinion on this thread a few times.

Contact the Community Services Department with your analysis, and contact the Parks and Recreation Commission requesting some time to present how you reached your findings.

I disagree with your analysis, based on what I know, but if you have genuinely strong opinions and analysis, go to people who are "in the weeds," don't expect anything to be considered based on PA OnLine comments

Posted by Back to the Creek Issue, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 7, 2014 at 5:40 pm

Resident 1: Below is excerpted directly from the 2/27/14 letter from the SF Bay Regional Quality Board to the SFCJPA:

"In general, all successful flood control projects in the Bay Area over the past 15 to 20 years have included a mix of up-watershed detention/peak reduction, bypasses around major constrictions, expansion of the low-watershed floodplain, and channel modification where appropriate. The January 28, 2014, design proposal seems to rely predominately on channel modification with some expansion of the low-watershed floodplain. Since it does not appear possible to expand the Project's low-watershed floodplain into the Faber Tract, the future application should present significant up-watershed detention/peak reduction alternatives. LID and associated up-watershed detention/peak reduction appears necessary to be able to minimize both flow and its associated pollutants into the Faber Tract marsh while maintaining the same level of flood protection."

Posted by Shut-It-Down, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 7, 2014 at 7:10 pm

> School gym space is in short supply

Who says? Is there a well-accepted inventory of gym space and a well-published inventory of demand for gym space by Palo Alto residents? If not--what's the basis for this claim.

It's a real shame that we continue to get misinformation day in and day out from people who claim to know more than their neighbors.

As for the study of the Golf Course--it's now about six years old. This is clearly becoming a dated reference point, and should be updated.

Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 7, 2014 at 10:39 pm

There needs to be a community meeting on this whole situation. We need to verify that someone in authority is putting a plan in place. We need to know what the plan is.
We need to nail down how it is going to be managed - and by who. We need to know how it is going to be statused to completion.
Hopefully this will be on the agenda for the CC so that we can all be informed as to the execution of the plan to completion.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 8, 2014 at 7:04 am

I think a more accurate school gym statement would be that the gyms have very limited availability due to school activities...which take priority over any other use.

Since FEMA has the final say, it really doesn't matter who says what or where the work should be or start. They have been consistent in stating that creek capacity and bottlenecks must be addressed in reverse order of flow. For example, fixing the Newell Bridge first (as everyone once demanded) would not work because the flood risk would significantly increase for those who lived downstream.

The other factor that no one seems to be addressing is funding. As far as I know, there isn't any money or engineering resources beyond fixing the downstream issues and bottlenecks.

Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 8, 2014 at 7:58 am

CPD - I am not getting that FEMA is the final approver - I am getting that the SF Water Control board is the approver - they at this point are the sticking point who say you start at the top of water inception.
So the first thing you do is involve Stanford who has the responsibility to clear up their end of the operation. It is their property and to their benefit to create the most conservation friendly end of the operation.

When the issue of the bridge first started it was discussed the Searsville lake and dam at the top of the chain was overrun with dirt and ineffective - it needs to be cleaned up. It does not hold water - it is not serving its purpose. That is Stanford's job to clean up the sludge in the dam and make it work correctly.

I am getting from this whole discussion that there is discord with Stanford and they are leaving Santa Clara and San Mateo County to deal with this issue on their own. And yes they - all parties- can put equipment and money in place now as we go into spring to do this. We have lot of earth moving equipment sitting on top of the Bayshore dump.

Next sticking point is that the golf course is put on hold. Are the soccer fields put on hold? Are those tractors up there working away? Sorry - here is where the gaming is occurring - you can just see people with baseball stars in their eyes. Or maybe the airport wants to expand? Someone is gaming this part of the situation. That is why all of the trees are to be removed?

When there was discussion of a creek clean-up there was reported all kinds of homeless trash in the creek - shopping carts, dead brush, etc. Time to clean it all up and determine at each sticking point what can be done to relieve the overall transition of water. There can be a whole creek clean-up project set up - the high school kids can help here - teach them conservation in their own city. Cities all over are cleaning up their creeks.

The whole water issue in the state is showing that you need to manage from the top down - Hetch-Hetchy provides our water. Water shipped to SOCAL in pipes? NYC water comes from the top of the state and is managed from the top down. Water runs from the high point down to the bay - you start at the top.

As to FEMA they are responsible for the people at the bottom who they need to pay-off so they are invested in that portion they have to pay out on. I suspect that they have no money as they are paying out big time on east USA.

FEMA and SF water Control need to agree on what the solution is so this can go forward. Santa Clara County and San Mateo County should be working together to coordinate this operation.

Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 8, 2014 at 10:45 am

> "do most cities operate their golf courses on land worth $5+M an acre?"

There's a plot on Arastradero, 1.03 acres, for sale for $15M.
Web Link

Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 8, 2014 at 10:55 am

Pat - it is a flood plain next to an airport that is next to a dump. The plot on Arastradero is for housing. There is no basis in your comparison as housing or commercial value. Also the zoning is totally different.
Would you prefer soccer fields that Recs and Parks would allow leagues to play on? Or baseball fields that leagues would play on?
Or buildings that would always be up for lease like the rest of the buildings in the area?
What do you think is suppose to happen there within the constraints of a flood zone and commercial zoning?

Posted by resident 1, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 8, 2014 at 11:32 am

I think FEMA and SF Water Quality are saying the same thing. If you do not manage the flow from top to bottom then FEMA who is responsible for the residents at the bottom is going to pay through the nose.
If you get the top portion fixed then work down to the bay then you are reducing the damage at the bottom which is what FEMA is on the hook for. That is all FEMA cares about at this point their payout at the bottom residential / commercial payout.

Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 10, 2014 at 8:25 am

You all will note an article in the SJM today - local news - that the city of Alviso wants to clean up the lower portion of the Guadalupe River of sludge and marsh grass so it is free flowing and navigable by kayaks. It wants the free flow of water to the bay - such as it is.

The Army Corps of Engineers say no. This is the same river that goes through San Jose and by the San Jose Airport. Go figure - it is a flood control until it gets to the Alviso border then changes into something else as it crosses the border. They are citing Mercury going through. This all in the county of Santa Clara.

What a cautionary tale here.
1. In Mountain View in Shoreline Park they are keeping the water outlets free flowing and water in the lower end. Near the industrial parking there are holding pools - not filled with much water but there.

2. In Palo Alto I do not see much water in the lower end - just a lot of SLUDGE - UGLY SLUDGE. The city appears to be allowing the infill of dirt and sludge build up. And Parks and Rec is disturbing the flood control by dumping dirt next to it. Also if you look at the water outlets for our creeks they narrow at 101 and East Bayshore to constrict the outflow of water. I know on Adobe Creek we complained about the build up of dirt and plants - they brought in trucks and scooped it all up. But there was no scoop up beyond 101.

3. So what are intended and unintended consequences here?
A. If we want a flood control than name it as such and keep it clean and free flowing from top to bottom. Actively keep out the trash, overgrowth of plants, and dead tree parts. Prevent the sludge build up - that has to be an active process by allowing more water to flow through the bottom end.
Is there another intended consequence here?

B. Since we are joint with Menlo Park here you will note that there is a major battle over building a housing development on the salt ponds. So where is the Army Corps of Engineers on that project? The SIMS disasters should shut down that project.

Are we looking at the same problem here? Build up at the lower end which is in conflict with flood control policies?
This all needs a lot of thought - but also inclusion of the Santa Clara Water District since they are the ones that send out flood control info and are suppose to be managing that portion of this operation. This should not be a city-by-city operation based on current politics.

Is Stanford contributing to this mess by allowing the build up of sludge at the upper portion?

Possibly we can get some help from Google and 49ers. They could all use a ferry coming down to Alviso to support their operations at the lower end of the bay. That means removal of sludge build up and a free flowing lane for ferry / kayak traffic.

Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 10, 2014 at 8:29 pm

Pat - check out the home prices on the 17 mile drive in Monterey. Are the homes on the golf courses worth more or less than those not on the golf courses. The golf courses help make the 17 mile drive, as well as the AT&T Golf Tournament. Check out all of the luxury hotels in Hawaii - most are on the beach and on a golf course. That is what the big sell is all about.
People need relaxation from stress and golf is one of those relaxations.
A city needs to provide the expected amenities and the city course is reasonably priced for families to enjoy. I was over there today - Dad with children teaching them how to walk to course and play.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 10, 2014 at 9:31 pm

resident 1 you seem to be intimating the Palo Alto Baylands is some kind of luxury location? I'd have to disagree. Does the 17 mile drive have airplanes constantly overhead, or a sewage treatment plant that stinks it up. Where do you think there is room for luxury hotels?

Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 10, 2014 at 11:18 pm

CPA - if you enjoy golf then you practice on your home field and then take a vacation to a "nice" luxury location. But it is no fun if you area a lousy golfer. I really like the PA golf course - it is very familiar and a good time. It is good for teaching the children so they can grow up with more skills.
Ming's is going to build a luxury hotel so we are on our way. And all of those pilots have to get their hours in so they can fly in - play a round, relax, and fly back out. Maybe they will stay at Ming's hotel. Did you see the blog on the new hotel on Hamilton? Now that is luxury1111111111111111

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 10, 2014 at 11:34 pm

Yeah, I'm sure there are pilots all over the world that want to fly in and check into a luxury hotel and open windows and step out onto the balcony and hear the roar of 101, inhale the stench of the Palo Alto Sewage Treatment Plant, and then go play a round of golf under the airplanes taking off and landing so loud they cannot hear the person next to them talking unless they are shouting. If you take your kids out there enough they will get hearing damage from that noise.

Oh, and maybe they will catch a stray bullet shot into the air from the gang bangers on the east side. Guess you did not read about an attempted assault on a women over on the trails just over by the golf course a month or two ago. If they want to clean this area up and use it for something where people will be out there, they need to get rid of the airport, clean up the sewage treatment plant ... but if they ever do that, the place will be too valuable for just a third rate golf course.

Ming's cannot even survive off their expertise of making Chinese food. They serve lousy food, and have even worse service ... can't wait to see what they do with a hotel. Luxury ought to mean something more than just charging too high prices for what you do.

Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 11, 2014 at 1:45 pm

As to the airport - there is the FAA office at that location. You will note that the SFO flight path comes in over south PA and makes a turn up north to SFO arrival. Check the SFO site for flight tracker - you can see all of the planes over your head. The FAA is specific to the SFO flight path - not particularly the PA Airport which is small potatoes. There are planes over our heads most times. Everyone going up the peninsula has this problem.
The PA airport planes are not that big of a deal. The kids do not care - they like the planes. They think it is interesting.

I agree on the sewage plant that looks like something out of a WW2 movie.

The biggest problem I see is that PA is not allowing enough water to circulate to remove sludge build up. This is what is creating the risk for flooding. It is also very ugly. Go next door to Shoreline - all of their water is full up and free flowing to the bay. Why are they doing something so right and why are we doing something so wrong?

They have engineers on their city council - you need to understand engineering concepts for these big projects. Big water moving projects are not "feel good" projects - they follow form, fit, and function.

Otherwise you are not a very cheerful person.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 11, 2014 at 1:58 pm

> Otherwise you are not a very cheerful person.

On the one hand you talk about the problems of "feel good" projects and then on the other you criticize me because I am not cheerful, or "feel good". Go figure your own self out and leave the personal comments out of it.

If you go over to the golf course, or the Baylands and you don't notice extreme and constant noise from small planes overhead, I'd just say that is not consistent with my every experience at the Baylands. I have walked up and down the north-east trail by East Palo Alto often and it is extremely loud with the planes coming and going. Maybe you just love golf so much you have the equivalent of rose coloured ear plugs, I don't know, but the majority of the sound pollution is not from SFO or Moffett flights, although they do figure in.

Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 12, 2014 at 10:41 am

In the SJM today there is an article - "Feds accused of allowing harm to fish". A lawsuit has been filed against the National Marine Fisheries Service by two environmental agencies for STANFORD diverting water from the San Francisquito Creek to irrigate the SU golf course and campus landscaping. This is preventing the flow of water for the steelhead fish and creates the water warming.

So lets start connecting the dots here:
1. The Post article was correct that the problem starts at Stanford.

2. If no - or little water is flowing down the creek then we get salt water intrusion moving up the creek and the build up of sludge. The build up of sludge flattens the lower end, so when we have a storm and high tides more water moves inland, creating flooding.

3. How many agencies are involved in the Santa Clara County on water issues:
A. Army Corps of Engineers - reducing flow on Guadalupe River in Alviso causing sludge build up a lower end of bay;
B. SC County - issues guidance on flooding and supposedly controls flooding:
C. FEMA - noted in rejection of flood plan;
D. Regional Water Quality Control Board - noted in rejection of flood plan.

How much is a golf course worth? That tells you how much the Stanford Golf Course is worth. A LOT OF MONEY.

That also tells you why there is salt water intrusion in the soil at the PA Golf Course which is ruining the grass there and downgrading the quality of the golf course.

That is also putting the residents at the lower end of the creek at risk because the sludge build-up is flattening the landscape allowing the inflow of bay salt water at high tide / storms.

Time to put this all together - time to connect the dots here from top to bottom. This is one gigantic problem that needs to be addressed as one continuing environmental issue.

It is also a legal issue - you can't put the downstream population at risk because you are tampering with the upstream movement of water.

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