News

Voters asked to approve new reservoir site

El Camino Park would be unavailable from 2009 to 2012

Measure N asks Palo Alto voters to approve a trade-off: Should the city sacrifice access to El Camino Park for three years in exchange for improved water supplies in an emergency?

Although the measure is only advisory, Mayor Yoriko Kishimoto said Friday the City Council plans to adhere to the voters' decision.

The city has been working to improve its emergency water supplies since 1999, when a study concluded that Palo Alto, particularly in the north, would quickly run out of water if it were disconnected from the San Francisco system, which has supplied the city's water since 1962.

In response, city staff and consultants developed a plan to restore the five existing wells, construct three new wells and install a reservoir to store 2.5 million gallons of water, enough to provide 30 days' worth of restricted water supplies, according to Roger Cwiak, engineering manager in the Utilities Department.

After searching for a site to locate the 150-foot-diameter circular reservoir tank, the city picked El Camino Park due to its northern location and use as a park. Stanford and Town and Country shopping centers were also considered, but neither property owner welcomed the prospect of construction and disruption onsite.

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New wells are also proposed for El Camino Park, Eleanor Pardee Park and the Main Library/Community Gardens area, although no garden plots would be affected. The wells aren't included in Measure N.

Measure N is also unrelated to the $22 million project's financing, which would come from an increase in water rates. When the rate hike is proposed, water users would have the opportunity to protest the increase.

On a recent afternoon, parents watching a ball game and soccer players at El Camino Park hadn't heard about Measure N.

"Can't they just put (the tank) in the outfield?" Paul Sherer joked, as he watched his son Xavier's Little League team, Stanford Electric.

Peter Christy, another father, expressed support for the project.

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"It'll probably be a good excuse to improve the field," he said, adding it was hard to argue against emergency-water supplies. Palo Alto does need more baseball fields, however, he said.

Over on the soccer field, Pawel Krewin said he comes from San Francisco to play on El Camino Park's field, which he called one of the best grass pitches in the area.

"Soccer is more important than drinking water," Krewin said, somewhat seriously.

Palo Alto resident Joe Niccum added that although it may seem like there are many soccer fields in the area, they are usually occupied.

The construction would close the park for about three years, from 2009 to 2012.

But it would bring improvements to the park's fields, irrigation and drainage systems, Community Services Director Richard James said.

"When it gets rebuilt, we'll have something better than we started with," James said.

He said his staff is currently working to secure replacement fields for the diamond and soccer field at the park, which is sandwiched between El Camino Real, Alma Street and the train tracks.

By installing artificial turf at some soccer fields, including Cubberley, additional games can be accommodated without serious consequences to the field condition, James said.

They are also considering installing another ball field at Greer Park or leasing one for the period El Camino is unavailable.

He said he hasn't heard of any concern about the project.

The city's current lease of the parkland from Stanford University expires in 2033. City officials have said they would not install the reservoir unless the city had rights to the land.

Although it is leased, the land is dedicated for park use. The council decided to place the issue on the ballot, although the vote is only advisory, to gauge public support, according to Deputy City Attorney Amy Bartell.

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Voters asked to approve new reservoir site

El Camino Park would be unavailable from 2009 to 2012

by / Palo Alto Online

Uploaded: Tue, Oct 16, 2007, 2:10 pm

Measure N asks Palo Alto voters to approve a trade-off: Should the city sacrifice access to El Camino Park for three years in exchange for improved water supplies in an emergency?

Although the measure is only advisory, Mayor Yoriko Kishimoto said Friday the City Council plans to adhere to the voters' decision.

The city has been working to improve its emergency water supplies since 1999, when a study concluded that Palo Alto, particularly in the north, would quickly run out of water if it were disconnected from the San Francisco system, which has supplied the city's water since 1962.

In response, city staff and consultants developed a plan to restore the five existing wells, construct three new wells and install a reservoir to store 2.5 million gallons of water, enough to provide 30 days' worth of restricted water supplies, according to Roger Cwiak, engineering manager in the Utilities Department.

After searching for a site to locate the 150-foot-diameter circular reservoir tank, the city picked El Camino Park due to its northern location and use as a park. Stanford and Town and Country shopping centers were also considered, but neither property owner welcomed the prospect of construction and disruption onsite.

New wells are also proposed for El Camino Park, Eleanor Pardee Park and the Main Library/Community Gardens area, although no garden plots would be affected. The wells aren't included in Measure N.

Measure N is also unrelated to the $22 million project's financing, which would come from an increase in water rates. When the rate hike is proposed, water users would have the opportunity to protest the increase.

On a recent afternoon, parents watching a ball game and soccer players at El Camino Park hadn't heard about Measure N.

"Can't they just put (the tank) in the outfield?" Paul Sherer joked, as he watched his son Xavier's Little League team, Stanford Electric.

Peter Christy, another father, expressed support for the project.

"It'll probably be a good excuse to improve the field," he said, adding it was hard to argue against emergency-water supplies. Palo Alto does need more baseball fields, however, he said.

Over on the soccer field, Pawel Krewin said he comes from San Francisco to play on El Camino Park's field, which he called one of the best grass pitches in the area.

"Soccer is more important than drinking water," Krewin said, somewhat seriously.

Palo Alto resident Joe Niccum added that although it may seem like there are many soccer fields in the area, they are usually occupied.

The construction would close the park for about three years, from 2009 to 2012.

But it would bring improvements to the park's fields, irrigation and drainage systems, Community Services Director Richard James said.

"When it gets rebuilt, we'll have something better than we started with," James said.

He said his staff is currently working to secure replacement fields for the diamond and soccer field at the park, which is sandwiched between El Camino Real, Alma Street and the train tracks.

By installing artificial turf at some soccer fields, including Cubberley, additional games can be accommodated without serious consequences to the field condition, James said.

They are also considering installing another ball field at Greer Park or leasing one for the period El Camino is unavailable.

He said he hasn't heard of any concern about the project.

The city's current lease of the parkland from Stanford University expires in 2033. City officials have said they would not install the reservoir unless the city had rights to the land.

Although it is leased, the land is dedicated for park use. The council decided to place the issue on the ballot, although the vote is only advisory, to gauge public support, according to Deputy City Attorney Amy Bartell.

Comments

Vote No
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 16, 2007 at 8:06 am
Vote No, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 16, 2007 at 8:06 am

Vote no. I four current City Council proposed it, then I will vote against it. Same with measure M (hotel tax).


Jim
Greenmeadow
on Oct 16, 2007 at 8:12 am
Jim, Greenmeadow
on Oct 16, 2007 at 8:12 am

The City website has some answers:

Web Link

I have attended a couple of public meetings on this issue, a few years ago. It seems legit to me...the emergency supply is needed.


Anonymous
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2007 at 8:39 am
Anonymous, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2007 at 8:39 am

I've seen the rationale - thanks for the web site pointer! Doesn't really answer the questions:

1. What do we have today?
2. What situations are we protecting against?
3. What durations?
4. Who will staff?
5. What other facilities do emergency services rely on?

If an earthquake knocked out water and power for a month - what services does this tank guarantee? If it's really just a first-responder resource, do we have a published first day plan?

I'm raising these questions not because I believe this is a bad project, but without a coherent, complete description of what benefits we're buying we can't vote intelligently.


Vote No
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 16, 2007 at 8:45 am
Vote No, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 16, 2007 at 8:45 am

Anonymous--coherent, complete descriptions of what benefits we're buying is not possible with the current city council--they know what is best--we should follow them blindly and vote for whatever they propose.


Jim
Greenmeadow
on Oct 16, 2007 at 9:09 am
Jim, Greenmeadow
on Oct 16, 2007 at 9:09 am

Annonymous,

Most of your questions were addressed at the public meetings that I attended. However, it has been a few years, so my mind is a bit fuzzy on the answers.

As I remember, the utilities department, along with an outside consultant analyzed the existing system. There is a lack of emergency water in the Downtown region. Existing reservoirs in the hills cannot meet the potential demand with existing plumbing. This problem has been recognized for a long time, but newer state standards require that it be fixed.

The utilities department will manage the reservoir and wells, as it currently does with the existing system. The project will be paid for with existing money and ongoing utilities fees. No bond is necessary.

I am no expert, but I was convinced of the need. The Council does not seem to be terribly involved in this project. I think it is just looking for community support for political reasons. My impression is that this thing would have been built years ago, if the Council was not getting involved for political reasons. I think Yoriko had/has a real problem with Stanford. The reservoir will be built on Stanford land (El Camino Park) and the project will also benefit Stanford for its emergency water needs. I'm not sure what her beef is.

As I recall, construction would occur over about a two year period. Although it will take away playing fields for that period, the recreation groups seemed to be in favor, because the resulting playing fields will be somewhat better than the current ones.

There was an existing emergency response plan presented, but I forget what it was/is. However, the improved system would allow just enough water to get by for a few days...extended with severe rationing. Of particular concern was fire fighting efforts in the Downtown and Stanford.

That's all I remember.


Anna
Midtown
on Oct 16, 2007 at 9:27 am
Anna, Midtown
on Oct 16, 2007 at 9:27 am

Reluctantly, I am with Vote No on this. Our current council and management have shown that they can't be trusted either to tell us the whole truth about "needed" infrastructure projects, or to manage money we give them via bond or spending elections responsibly.

The storm drain tax was a recent proposal we were told (via Blue Ribbon Committee and otherwise) was "essential". Now it turns out that they can only do half of the essential projects with the money they said they needed. Nobody seems to be asking for more, so what's the deal? Are these projects no longer "essential"? Or are we at risk of the catastrophes they told us about during the storm drain tax campaign because they've spent money so irresponsibly that they can't do these "essential" projects?

The tunnel under the train tracks near Homer Avenue is a similar fiasco. Seven million dollars spent for a tunnel that can't be used easily because they forgot about dealing with the fact that Homer is one way where the tunnel comes out.

Etc. etc.

Is it a good idea to tell them to go ahead with Measure N based on their track record?


Vote No
Midtown
on Oct 16, 2007 at 10:17 am
Vote No, Midtown
on Oct 16, 2007 at 10:17 am

I'm definitely voting "no" on this one. The plan proposed will provide only a limited amount of water for a short period of time. No way will it provide PA's long term water needs if an earthquake damages water supplies from Hetch Hetchy.

Palo Alto should look to San Jose who are building a conversion plant to clean their waste water next to their sewage treatment plant. We could build a similar conversion plant next to our sewage treatment plant which would provide us with the long term water supplies we may need.

Incidentally, much of Los Angeles water is now reclaimed from their sewage treatment plants. This is the future.


Jim
Greenmeadow
on Oct 16, 2007 at 10:37 am
Jim, Greenmeadow
on Oct 16, 2007 at 10:37 am

Vote No,

I believe the primary issue is about storage of water. If a major fire happens Downtown, following an earthquake, a reliable source of water would be necessary nearby. The current system does not provide that capability. At least that is my understanding. The provision of backup drinking water, while important, is a secondary issue. The new and rebuilt wells, which are part of this project, are aimed at the drinking water issue.


Vote No
Midtown
on Oct 16, 2007 at 10:48 am
Vote No, Midtown
on Oct 16, 2007 at 10:48 am

What the City is not telling you is that they already have a backup system. Palo Alto has a reservoir behind Lucille M. Nixon School on the Stanford campus off Stanford Avenue.


Jim
Greenmeadow
on Oct 16, 2007 at 11:52 am
Jim, Greenmeadow
on Oct 16, 2007 at 11:52 am

Vote No,

Yes, there is that backup system, but it is not close enough to Downtown. That reservoir is better situated for south Palo Alto. In fact, that reservoir will be improved if this deal goes forward.

I want to emphasize that I am not an expert on this stuff. Just an interested citizen that attended a couple of meetings, because I had my doubts about spendig so much money. I was able to overcome my doubts. I have no special interest in the project, nor will I benefit from it any more than anybody else in PA.


Walter_E_Wallis
Midtown
on Oct 16, 2007 at 2:30 pm
Walter_E_Wallis, Midtown
on Oct 16, 2007 at 2:30 pm

Out of curiosity, will this reservoir reduce oir fire insurance rates?
In my opinion you can never have enough reserves.


Anonymous
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2007 at 2:46 pm
Anonymous, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2007 at 2:46 pm

Becky,

Thanks for the improved lede! Did Mr Cwiak say how many days of storage we have today without Measure N?


Little League Parent
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2007 at 5:31 pm
Little League Parent, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2007 at 5:31 pm

I am more concerned about the aspect of closing the park for three years. As it is, we have little enough places for our kids to play baseball and soccer on good fields. For fall ball, Hoover Park is closed and that means Little League is using El Camino as well as Middlefield. We are increasing the numbers of teams because of the numbers of kids playing sports and that is probably due to the same reason as the increasing enrollments in our schools. How we can manage for three years without El Camino is going to be an interesting problem, but if the end result is going to be improved playing fields, particularly for the many days that the City of PA Rec. Dept. close the fields after rain storms, then the ultimate outcome may be good. However, it is the three intervening years that will be problematic.

I say vote Yes, so that ultimately we will improving our kids' playing fields and hopefully the possibility of improving other fields for the duration will materialise.


Lois
Midtown
on Oct 16, 2007 at 11:51 pm
Lois, Midtown
on Oct 16, 2007 at 11:51 pm

Why should all the reserve water supplies be in North PA. This new water storage facility won't help south Palo Alto at all.


Palo Alto or Bay Area
Charleston Meadows
on Oct 17, 2007 at 8:45 am
Palo Alto or Bay Area, Charleston Meadows
on Oct 17, 2007 at 8:45 am

Is this reserve system be used for Palo Alto in case of emergency.

If in an emergency the entire Bay Area will benefit - why not locate it more central in the county and charge the entire county ????



Becky Trout
Registered user
Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on Oct 17, 2007 at 11:42 am
Becky Trout, Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
Registered user
on Oct 17, 2007 at 11:42 am

Good morning,

Not the best answer this time, but basically the city can't provide non-Hetch-Hetchy water at a high enough pressure in the north right now.

That's why the reservoir -- linked to a well -- is needed in the north.

For Anon, I'm still trying to find out the number of days, but it seems the need is pressure, not time.


Utilities Customer
Ventura
on Oct 18, 2007 at 11:22 am
Utilities Customer, Ventura
on Oct 18, 2007 at 11:22 am


I seem to remember in some previous discussions that the City
routinely charges market rate lease fees to the Utilities
dept for infrastructure on city land. In fact, it sounded like
this mechanism provided a significant portion of city revenues.

How much extra in future Utilities rate increases will this
project cause?

Or am I misinformed?

UC


Utilities Customer
Ventura
on Oct 18, 2007 at 11:39 am
Utilities Customer, Ventura
on Oct 18, 2007 at 11:39 am


I found the previous discussion I referred to in my earlier
post. See:

Web Link

This was a Diana Diamond blog posting.

UC


Becky Trout
Registered user
Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on Oct 18, 2007 at 4:50 pm
Becky Trout, Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
Registered user
on Oct 18, 2007 at 4:50 pm

It looks like using its emergency supply -- the five existing wells --the city is about 6 million gallons short per day in the winter and 12 million gallons per day short in the summer.

Some other info from Engineering Manager Roger Cwiak:

We have approximately 10 million gallons of stored water in the system
at any given time. Palo Alto uses water at a rate of approximately 11
million gallons per day in the winter and 17 million gallons a day in
the summer. 1/3 of this water is in reserve for fire fighting. The
City has 5 existing wells that were built between 1938 and 1958. These
5 existing wells can produce about 4000 gallons per minute (5 Million
gallons per day). The proposed improvements would add 3 new wells and
rehabilitate the 5 existing wells. These improvements should boost the
production of emergency water to approximately 11,000 gallons per minute
or 15. 5 million gallons per day.


Liam White
Nixon School
on Jan 15, 2008 at 8:21 am
Liam White, Nixon School
on Jan 15, 2008 at 8:21 am

this is a very bad idea !!!!!


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