News


With El Nino looming, residents question timing of bridge replacement

Public comment on environmental-review planning open until Sept. 14

With a whopper of an El Nino predicted for this winter, several residents told Palo Alto officials at a meeting on Thursday night they want a new Newell Bridge to be built -- and fast.

While the design of the bridge has debated for more than four years, some residents said they don't care what the bridge looks like: They just don't want their homes to be flooded this winter by the San Francisquito Creek.

Thursday's meeting was a chance for the public to weigh in on four alternative bridge designs and to suggest what categories should be studied in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

The public has until Sept. 14 to comment. A draft EIR will then be developed, which will be open to additional public review and comment.

If approved, construction would begin in 2018, and it would be a full year before the new bridge would be functional, officials said. That timeline has residents nervous, since weather forecasters are predicting an unusually wet winter.

"This is a little podunk bridge compared to the danger we all face from flooding," said Alan Hallberg, whose home was flooded in 1998. "I frankly don't care what kind of bridge we put in. Just do it."

Some residents living up the creek near the Pope/Chaucer Bridge said the city is making assumptions without fully knowing what impact a new Pope/Chaucer Bridge, which will be replaced later, would have on the creek. The city should consider downstream fixes all at once, they said.

Jim Wiley, a Menlo Park resident who lives near the creek, said the Newell Bridge is being designed with the assumption that a six- to eight-foot flood wall would be constructed upstream.

But city staff said the Santa Clara Valley Water District has proposed widening the channel in East Palo Alto to allow a greater volume to flow downstream, which would eliminate the need for flood walls.

Kevin Fisher, whose home also flooded in 1998, said he didn't want to wait longer for a comprehensive plan.

"It feels like the right approach to focus one step at a time" rather than trying to fix the entire creek problem all at once, such as by including Pope/Chaucer, he said.

The 103-year-old concrete Newell Bridge is not just a flooding hazard. Over the years, the narrow structure has concerned drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians.

Palo Alto residents have called for its removal altogether as a way to eliminate traffic through their neighborhood and to reduce crime.

There are now five alternatives: four possible bridge designs and one option to do nothing at all. The lattermost possibility received little attention at the meeting.

Each of the four designs would heighten the bridge by two feet. One proposal would entail a 16-foot-wide traffic lane -- the same width as the current structure -- with one or two pedestrian walkways on the outside.

Traffic signals would allow cars to move across in one direction at a time. Bicycles would also use the traffic lane, using a bike "sharrow," or road marking that indicates where the bikes can travel.

Additional alternatives would be a two-lane bridge with bike sharrows -- each lane 14 feet wide -- and the pedestrian walkways. The alignment of Newell Road -- which currently is offset by 90 feet on the East Palo Alto side -- could either be kept, partially realigned, or fully aligned.

Instead of traffic signals, these three designs would have stop signs.

East Palo Alto residents said they preferred a two-lane bridge with full alignment of Newell Road. They noted that blind spots along Woodland Avenue toward the bridge approach and zig-zagging traffic from the bridge endangers children and families crossing the streets.

Wendy Smith, an East Palo Alto resident, was one of those favoring full road alignment and stop signs.

"Visual sight lines are necessary" for safety, and with stop signs, "that's the safest thing and then you have traffic calming," she said.

Some Palo Altans at the meeting supported that alternative as the safest. But other Palo Altans said they are against anything other than a one-lane bridge without a realignment of Newell. They are concerned that the two-lane and aligned alternatives will make the Palo Alto portion of Newell Road a speedway.

Doug Kelly said only the one-lane alternative would preserve the character of the neighborhood and the bridge. He noted that he has never seen an accident on the bridge because people are forced to cross so slowly.

"Anything other than a crawl is hazardous," he said.

Other residents said that adding speed humps or tables along Newell Road could reduce the speeding problem.

The city plans to post all comments from Thursday's scoping session, plus a video of the meeting. The comments will be online by Sept. 28. The draft EIR will be released in June 2016 with another opportunity for public comment. The final EIR will be released in January 2017 with a final hearing and approval scheduled for February 2017.

Comments about the scope of the EIR will be accepted until 5 p.m. on Sept. 14. Written comments should be sent to: City of Palo Alto, Public Works Engineering Services, 250 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto 94301, Attn: Joe Teresi, Senior Engineer.

Information, public comments and updates can be found at the project website, cityofpaloalto.org/newell.

Comments

6 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 5, 2015 at 12:48 pm

Flooded again by the Palo Alto Way.


5 people like this
Posted by Norman Beamer
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 5, 2015 at 1:25 pm

Modifying Newell Bridge, as well as Chaucer bridge, so they no longer artificially constrain the natural flow of the creek, is a top environmental priority. There have been too many delays already. Of course all environmental concerns should be addressed, but I find it hard to believe that in the end there will be any conclusion other than that the bridges must be modified as mentioned above. The statement in the article that somehow this is related to flood walls is incorrect. These modifications are necessary whether or not flood walls are ultimately built (which I am opposed to and doubt will ever happen.) The concerns about traffic obviously need to be considered, and I hope that the specific design that is selected does not unnecessarily make traffic worse. But traffic concerns should be used as an excuse to further delay the bridge modifications.


2 people like this
Posted by Norman Beamer
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 5, 2015 at 1:26 pm

Oops -- I meant that traffic concerns should NOT further delay correcting the bridges.


7 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 5, 2015 at 1:44 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

How can anyone justify a new bridge without including protected pedestrian and bicycle paths particularly with all the safety issues cited for this location?


Like this comment
Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 5, 2015 at 2:16 pm

Hulkamania is a registered user.

Watch the latest storms heading this way at Web Link


17 people like this
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 5, 2015 at 4:26 pm

Is there any reason the bridge couldn't just be removed before the winter rains and then designed later?


9 people like this
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 5, 2015 at 5:16 pm

This has gone for too long. Not sure why mayor Holman and the city council is not addressing this issue. Maybe they should spend less time trying to appease FOBV or waxing philosophical about dreams they have (They also agreed with Mayor Karen Holman's suggestion that the existing Comprehensive Plan's commitment to keeping local streets "safe and attractive," and "designed to enhance the quality and aesthetics of Palo Alto neighborhoods."). And deal with the matter before we have a disaster this winter


7 people like this
Posted by Remove Chaucer
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 5, 2015 at 5:56 pm

The Chaucer bridge will prevent flooding at the Newell bridge by flooding first, reducing the creek's flow downstream. Why are we chasing the wrong target here?


20 people like this
Posted by emergency
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 5, 2015 at 7:39 pm

Considering the El Nino forecast both bridges, Chaucer and Newell,need to
be removed immediately within the next 60 days as an emergency public
safety measure. And Holman's suggestion that "local streets be safe and
attractive" and "designed to enhance the quality and aesthetics of Palo
Alto neighborhoods" represents quite a change from what we have been doing,
which is the opposite.


2 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 6, 2015 at 12:59 am

Newell Bridge was a huge help in past storms with flooding.


2 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 6, 2015 at 6:44 am

...which is ironic since the Newell Bridge is the cause of the flooding in the adjacent neighborhood. Definitely qualifies as a "chicken or the egg" quandary.


19 people like this
Posted by Mike-Crescent Park
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 6, 2015 at 7:53 am

Mike-Crescent Park is a registered user.

If flooding were really the primary concern the bridge would be removed now and replaced later after the certain to be forever process of endless discussion and maneuvering. But the real issue is city staff wants to build a new major thoroughfare with realignment of the approach and increased capacity. Flooding is being used as cover to promote this agenda.

Residents priorities should determine what happens. Not staff whose actions already add to the big problem: too many cars and people flowing into Palo Alto and too many parking in an ever increasing radius of town. Any more packed parking with congested roads and Palo Alto will cease to be the charming place it is to live and work.

That is not progress we want. Our city leaders don't have the fortitude to counter staff agendas, or they don't want to.


18 people like this
Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 6, 2015 at 9:32 am

By far the best and most affordable option is to remove the existing bridge and not replace it. The downsides outweigh the upsides. Having no bridge would ease the flooding problems. It would eliminate the commute traffic through a quiet, residential neighborhood. It would eliminate the issue of non-residents from a separate city/county using our neighborhood streets as an overnight parking lot. And it would save tax payers money.


7 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 6, 2015 at 9:56 am

CPD - the flooding was because they hadn't cleaned out the creek and gotten ready properly for El Niño, despite plenty of warning.


12 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 6, 2015 at 3:02 pm

The best fastest option is to remove the bridge altogether for this
El Nino season, and then see the results of what problems if any
arise with traffic or access.

This will avoid the issue with upstream bridges, maybe even
facilitate an optimal solution.

And if we do not need a new bridge, which I have maintained
all these years the streets on both sides of this current bridge
would benefit from calmer traffic and safer pedestrians.

No more parking problem, no more traffic increases on Newell,
no more flooding concerns, and less cars and traffic on
both sides ... seems like a win, win, win, win to me.

If there was some need for a new bridge it could be analyzed
and discussed reasonably based on facts, no emotion.

The two options presented don't seem so great anyway. The
single lane bridge keeps the current placement of the current
bridge, and interferes less with the site.

Redoing the bridge to change the direction by about 30 degrees
and about 40 feet north seems to impinge on the property on
the north side of Newell Road. So close to the road, and with
increased traffic this dumps a lot of problems on that homeowner.

This just seems like spending free money from other people on
a bridge that is not needed.


18 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 6, 2015 at 3:13 pm

Posted by Peter Carpenter a resident of Atherton on Sep 5, 2015 at 1:44 pm
>> How can anyone justify a new bridge without including protected pedestrian and bicycle paths particularly with all the safety issues cited for this location?

Exactly.

There seems to be such a fervor over getting that free money and forcing others to pay for our frvivolities and yet it has been over 15 year since the last flooding, and since we have had minor overflows and backups.

Get rid of this bridge. It is extremely signidicant that nothing has been done here in so long to address this problem.

To get some change, demolish the current bridge and see what happens - then, we will know what the problems are we need to fix, and if there are no problems and we can all live without a bridge in that location, which I very much suspect, then we have done the responsible, reasonable thing.

There seems no way to retain the characteristic of both neighborhoods and build a safe standard normal bridge in this location, so we are agonizing over some kind of stupid hack that we will all have to live with probably for as long as this old troublemaker bridge.


2 people like this
Posted by Ralph Eckland
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 6, 2015 at 8:37 pm

The reason that the creek floods over and over again is because the downstream channel in East Palo Alto is all silted up and causes the water to back up inside Palo Alto. The bridges are not the problem. Clean out the creek in East Palo Alto.


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 6, 2015 at 8:56 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"the reason that the creek floods over and over again is because the downstream channel in East Palo Alto is all silted up and causes the water to back up inside Palo Alto."

Please remember that:
1 - this portion of the creek is also bordered by Palo Alto so the channel is not IN East Palo Alto
2 - the creek use to run only through Palo Alto and Palo Alto diverted it to its present location to create the golf course and airport.


7 people like this
Posted by Mike Alexander
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Sep 6, 2015 at 9:08 pm

The "El Nino headline misleads about the flood threat. Due to over-simplification by the press, the relationship between the ocean surface temperature phenomenon call "El

Nino" and flooding rainfall in the Bay Area is exaggerated in many people's minds. Since 1950 there have been 18 El

Nino years (Web Link), and 3 significant floods in Palo Alto:

1955-6 (El Nino, no) Both San Francisquito and Matadero Cks flooded during a 6-week series of storms, including a 3-day "atmospheric river" event at Christmas (aka "pineapple express"). Large parts of CA, NV, OR, and ID also had severe floods. All told, 77 people died.

1998 (El Nino, yes) San Francisquito Ck flooded, causing extensive damage in PA, MP, and EPA. Matadero Ck., which has been significantly remodeled since 1956, did not flood.

2012 (El Nino, no) San Francisquito Ck flooded in EPA and MP, causing moderate damage, during an atmospheric river event.

The circumstances that lead to San Francisquito Ck. floods can happen in any year. They are:
-- saturated ground in the hills, causing greater runoff; and
-- extended heavy rainfall, such as with an atmospheric river.
Factors that can add risk are:
-- fallen trees catching across bridge tunnels; and
-- higher-than-usual tide in the Bay ("king tide").

To be prepared, people need to know where to get sandbags and how to deploy them on their property. By minding 10-day weather forecasts from NOAA, people can get ample advance notice. Self-reliance and attentiveness are the key.

None of this is meant to take away from the need to improve San Francisquito Ck. Still, it's going to be a while, and even when those improvements are done, you'll never have a guarantee. Best to be prepared, every year.


8 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 6, 2015 at 9:10 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" In the late 1920s levees were constructed to re-route the creek through a new engineered channel from its former mouth, to a sharp north turn for about half a mile, then to the northeast, before exiting to the Bay. By 2004, filled areas such as the Palo Alto golf course and the Palo Alto Airport have reduced the tidal marsh to 352 acres (1.42 km2).[14]"

So one might say that Palo Alto created the flooding problem with the "sharp turn north".


Like this comment
Posted by Mike Alexander
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Sep 7, 2015 at 12:22 am

@Peter: That re-routing at the bay is part of the problem, to be sure. The Joint Powers Authority's website describes its "first priority" project as improvements to the EPA channel to improve flow and accomplish other goals. The construction schedule hasn't been announced. See Web Link

Bridge replacement where 101 crosses the creek is underway, and when complete (2017) will have improved flow. It has been the one bridge over the creek, including the one at Newell, having the smallest capacity.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 7, 2015 at 7:44 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Mike - Thank you for the excellent map in the web link.
But please do not perpetuate the myth that the terminal portion of the creek is an "EPA channel" - as the map clearly shows the terminal portion of the creek is on the boundary between Palo Alto and East Palo Alto and "belongs" to both cities.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 7, 2015 at 8:12 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

To understand how much the City of Palo Alto is responsible for the downstream flooding look at this image and realize that the creek use to go directly from the lower left hand corner to the now defunct yacht basin at the lower right corner:


Web Link

Just imagine how much better the flow would be if the creek still followed that alignment.


4 people like this
Posted by Kevin Fisher
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 7, 2015 at 9:40 am

In answer to the comment:
>>To be prepared, people need to know where to get sandbags and how to deploy them on their property.

Sandbags are not a credible solution for anything more than nuisance-level street flooding, maybe to keep an inch or two of water from getting into a garage.

Do the math on protecting a typical Palo Alto home against 2-foot water depth with sandbags for an extended period of time. Such protection would easily take more than one thousand sandbags along with a properly installed barrier layer to prevent water seepage. And then live like that for months on end? Simply not practical.


3 people like this
Posted by Kevin Fisher
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 7, 2015 at 10:55 am

More on the futility of sandbags for Palo Alto:
From the US Army: "It takes an average of 2100 sandbags to cover a 100 foot section, 2-feet high."

In our case, we would need at least a 2-foot high wall of sandbags, maybe more. So that's at least 5000 sandbags, probably more. Do the math! It's an enormous undertaking.

And the sandbags deteriorate over time in a wet environment, so would need regular maintenance.

Another governmental source goes on to mention:
>>Sandbags should never be used to build a fortress around the perimeter of one's property. Doing so can actually trap flood-waters between sandbag walls and structures, leading to further damage.

Conclusion: Sandbags are not appropriate in our situation.

Best to focus our local efforts on keeping the water in the creek!



2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 7, 2015 at 12:18 pm

"Just imagine how much better the flow would be if the creek still followed that alignment."

Imagination is not a proper substitute for rational fact-based analysis.

(But the associated realignment did stick the airport in Palo Alto, so your implication of a goof has at least some merit.)


8 people like this
Posted by Stephen
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 7, 2015 at 12:21 pm

Back in 2003 after a relatively high flow event in Dec 2002, several neighbors and I (a civil engineering professor at Stanford) did some modeling of the creek using the Army Corps of Engineers (COE) open channel flow code, HEC-RAS. This was later done (albeit more professionally) by several consultants to the JPA. Given the ongoing discussion about the creek in light of a potential ENSO this year that may be even stronger than that of 1998, I think it is important to go over what emerged from this modeling, modeling which is likely to be as definitive about how the creek works as one can get given existing information/data.

(1) The bridges are problematic, especially the Pope-Chaucer bridge, each increasing water levels upstream. Interestingly, the Pope-Chaucer bridge that existed prior to the late '40s was certainly much more effective at passing flows with low head loss than is the one that is there now.
(2) Our modeling suggested that without the Pope-Chaucer bridge, there would have still been flooding in 1998, just in different places and at different rates than what occurred historically.
(3) The effect of the redirection of the stretch of the creek from the Bay to 101 is hard to define since the original path is comparable in length to the present path. Moreover, it is hard to identify the importance of sediment deposition on flow behavior; whatever effect there is now, very well could change because of changes in sedimentation in the South Bay due to the ongoing salt pond restoration project. In any case, our suggestion for this reach was to consider raising the levee on the EPA side while intentionally keeping the levee low on the PA side so as to keep water levels as low as possible at the 101 bridge by flooding the golf course. This strategy is a common means of flood control – I just visited a great nature preserve on the Rhine in Germany that is based on the concept of a defined “floodway”.
(4) The existing (now being re-built) 101 bridge is also a major impediment to flow, and probably did not meet CalTrans’ own design standards for flow passage at the time the bridge was built. Hopefully the bridge rebuild will be finished before the rains start.
(5) Even if the bridges were all to be replaced with ones that do not in any way affect flow passage beneath them, unfortunately, flood walls are likely to be needed along much of the stretch between 101 and Pope-Chaucer. The reason for this is that the creek cross-section is relatively small in this area, something that would be hard to change without securing some very expensive real estate. The height of those walls depends very much on what flow for which they are designed and on assumptions about friction in the existing channel. It must be appreciated that in designing those walls, there is a substantial degree of uncertainty about how the channel would behave in a flood and even as to what the flow rate might be. Lastly, adding to the challenge of making accurate predictions is the issue of blockage due to debris in the channel, e.g., the tree that fell into the creek in 1998 near Oak Ct. in Menlo Park.

It is important to note that the issue of what flow is the basis for flood protection in the creek is in my view a political one that must balance some loss of aesthetic and environmental utility with a degree of flood protection. More flood protection means higher walls and hence a more loss of the feeling of the creek as an enclave of nature on the urbanized peninsula. This means protecting some homes and neighborhoods (ours) may mean reducing the attractiveness to others who value it in its natural state . Having seen close up the failure of the CalFed Bay/Delta program due in part to its attempts to promise too much to all of its stakeholders, I think this balancing of flood protection with the preservation of the natural environment of the creek might benefit from more public discussion. That said, I am encouraged by the direction that the JPA under Len Materman is taking in this regard.

Stephen Monismith


1 person likes this
Posted by Bobbie Arnold
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Sep 7, 2015 at 1:04 pm

East Palo Alto residents said they preferred a two-lane bridge with full alignment of Newell Road. They noted that blind spots along Woodland Avenue toward the bridge approach and zig-zagging traffic from the bridge endangers children and families crossing the streets.
I agree with EPA'S comments for the following reasons: Yrs back PA did not want additional traffic on University Ave. but had no concerns about the EPA Residents. EPA must be heard; there are blind spots on their side of Newell RD. and they too have children as PA and must be protected from those fast driver that use Newell entering into EPA from Stanford/Menlo, again PA must get what is best for their side of the brdg, as the Council wants to build two hotels on San Antonio Rd.all because the traffic (trucks, busses, cars and etc)it doesn't affect their lives or residents..SHAME ON YOU PALTO ALTO COUNCIL AND RESIDENT, GREED WILL CAUSE MORE HEADACHES THAN YOU SUSPECT. I am a resident of GreenHouse II..


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 7, 2015 at 1:05 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

""Just imagine how much better the flow would be if the creek still followed that alignment."

Imagination is not a proper substitute for rational fact-based analysis."


LOOK at the map and compare what was a straight shot from the freeway to the Bay with the current, City of Palo Alto designed, configuration.

Res ipsa loquitur.


1 person likes this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 7, 2015 at 1:16 pm

"LOOK at the map and compare what was a straight shot from the freeway to the Bay with the current, City of Palo Alto designed, configuration.

Res ipsa loquitur."


Imaginary lines and bumper stickers in dead languages are not proper substitutes for rational fact-based analyses.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 7, 2015 at 1:20 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Curmudgeon - Wise moderators have strongly suggested that I ignore your taunts.


2 people like this
Posted by Clarity
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 7, 2015 at 1:33 pm

Peter,
I am looking at the image that you provided.
Are you saying that the creek used to flow through where the the baseball field is now, then parallel where Embarcadaro is now to the Duck Pond and then out into the Bay?
What year was the alignment changed to its current path, north of the airport runway? And by what authority/agreement?
If by all this you are saying that the City of Palo Alto bears some responsibility for the creek's being prone to back up and flood, then I agree. Perhaps others did not understand.

Curmudgeon,
And, no, we cannot go back. But if the above is true, then P.A. can admit and shoulder some responsibility.

**Not that the current governance is in any way to blame, however.* So - everyone - let's not sling invectives around.


1 person likes this
Posted by Stephen
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 7, 2015 at 1:41 pm

Actually, not such a straight shot - see Web Link - like most natural channels SF Creek was somewhat curvy. My best guess from Google earth and the 1899 USGS topo map might be 5800 ft to the bay from where the new channel starts for the new channel and 9800 ft for the original channel. I am not sure if there are any reliable data as to the width/depth of the old channel as it passed through the tidal marshes that existed before the airport was built. As to what the water level at where the 101 bridge is now would be anyone's guess given that in the original configuration, it is possible that water was flowing over much of the marsh surface west of the Bayshore.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 7, 2015 at 1:49 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Are you saying that the creek used to flow through where the the baseball field is now, then parallel where Embarcadaro is now to the Duck Pond and then out into the Bay?

Here is a map showing the approximate old alignment in GREEN which was a relatively straight 0.93 miles.
The current alignment is shown in RED and is 1.3 miles with some very sharp bends.

Web Link

"What year was the alignment changed to its current path, north of the airport runway? And by what authority/agreement?"

As noted above "" In the late 1920s levees were constructed to re-route the creek through a new engineered channel from its former mouth, to a sharp north turn for about half a mile, then to the northeast, before exiting to the Bay." This was done by the City of Palo Alto in a land swap with the County of San Mateo that exchanged the land created by the rerouting of the creek (that would have now been in East Palo Alto) for land near skyline ( I believe that was the location of the land swapped with the County).

"If by all this you are saying that the City of Palo Alto bears some responsibility for the creek's being prone to back up and flood, then I agree. Perhaps others did not understand."
This rerouting of the creek and land swap was done to relocate the Palo Alto airport to its present location and to build the golf course. The City of East Palo Alto did not exist at this time and no one seemed to be concerned about the long term implications of this rerouting of the creek and land swap. But, as always, water always wins.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 7, 2015 at 2:16 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Stephen - Thanks for the excellent historical map. It is a big difficult to sort out the later location of 1010 and hence the point at which the channel was diverted. Also, I think that after this map was made there was an anchorage created where the old Palo Alto Yacht Harbor was later located. When the creek was diverted there was no longer any natural flow to keep that channel open and the harbor was abandoned because of environmental concerns with the dredging that was required to keep it navigable.

In my opinion that map shows what usually happens with a natural creek - it meanders a bit but in flat places with homogeneous soils it does not have any sharp turns.


Like this comment
Posted by pictures/words
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 7, 2015 at 2:18 pm

"The bridges are not the problem. "

Have you even taken a look at the bridges: Web Link

Chaucer is 50% the rate it could be.


3 people like this
Posted by pictures/words
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 7, 2015 at 2:34 pm

You might also consider how many millions it cost the city because of these bridges in the last flooding: Web Link

The city's on the hook for many more million since they haven't done anything about these bridges but talk in the interim.


2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 7, 2015 at 3:57 pm

"Curmudgeon - Wise moderators have strongly suggested that I ignore your taunts."

Apologies, Peter. I was recycling your wise recommendation from another thread.

You might ignore, but how about everyone else?

To the point at hand, streams left to their own druthers align their course along the local geodesic, which is seldom straight and sometimes inconvenient for human activities -- in this case, for siting a local airport.


1 person likes this
Posted by Chuck Thornberry
a resident of Monroe Park
on Sep 7, 2015 at 4:28 pm

"To understand how much the City of Palo Alto is responsible for the downstream flooding look at this image and realize that the creek use to go directly from the lower left hand corner to the now defunct yacht basin at the lower right corner:"

Do you think the creek never flooded before Palo Alto redirected its final mile to make room for that airport? Think again. The natural creek has flooded many times from numerous courses: Web Link


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 7, 2015 at 5:06 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I am unaware of good historical data on the amount of flooding in the years before the creek was diverted.

Please post that data if it is available.


1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 7, 2015 at 5:23 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

BTW looking at the map that Chuck provided I seriously doubt that the area now known as East Palo Alto was subjected to the same amount of flooding before the diversion that it has suffered since the diversion.

Somehow the residents of East Palo Alto seem to have been forgotten in this discussion. I have walked the area in East Palo Alto before a recent flood alert handing out information notices on the designated evacuation sites and most of the time I was looking up at the levees.

What IF the improvements in Palo Alto increase the flooding in East Palo Alto?


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 7, 2015 at 5:42 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Perhaps the Palo Alto City Council should adopt a resolution like this ( with credit to the SFO Roundtable for this example of a Do No Harm policy):

"When considering and taking actions to mitigate flooding by the San Francisquito Creek, Palo Alto will not knowingly or deliberately support, encourage, or adopt actions, rules, regulations or policies, that result in the 'shifting' of flooding from one community to another."


2 people like this
Posted by John Francisco
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 7, 2015 at 8:52 pm

I live in thewillows been her on an off scents 1985. Was here for the 98 flood, stood at the chas. bridge an watch the water rise.the rower of the water going thru that tube was like a 747 takeing off at sfo.it was shooting out like a Nosel on a fire hose. All the way down to the90' turn at woodland an manslto it cut the bank out so bad the street fell into the creek an lefts beg hole under what was left. If it rain for any long an that amount water kept coming down though there the front yard of the house on the corner would have gone down the creek .they dumped tons of rocks in there after to biuild it back up. On the up side of the brige when it over foodie an went down pope to central an on down that way. On the Palo Alto side It went through the guys sacross the street yard an though his garage he opened the back door an let the water go through a side gate to. It took out his back fense an went down thehill an filled up the guys pool an basment below him.this will happen again the next time it over flows.there was 1 to2 ft of water on unav. Ave at the chaser st. Light. Stand buy its about to happen again. After all this time an all the talk I hope you can take all the talk an use it tobuild a dike to stop the water. Maybe put you thom in the hole in the dike. It's like every thing in this country any more just talk talk talk. An nothing ever happens. Just more talk talk talk


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 7, 2015 at 8:57 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"An nothing ever happens. Just more talk talk talk"


IF they were given a contract and the time to plan in advance a very good controlled demolition company like Web Link. could destroy both of these bridges in a minute.

Doing this under normal circumstances would require an almost impossible number of approvals from all of the agencies who have some oversight of the creek. Doing it in a true emergency to prevent catastrophic flooding could probably be pulled off with only Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, the Fire District and Palo Alto agreeing to push the button. Even then it would have to be via pre-delegated authority given to the three City Managers and the MPFPD Fire Chief. If the three Councils had to make a real time decision then it would take years.

And the downstream impact of such demolitions would have to be part of the planning and execution process.

Post flood and after the emergency bridge demolitions both bridges could be replaced in less than 30 days with prefabricated, free span bridges placed on concrete piers that would have dramatically better creek cross sections than the existing bridges. Again this would require preparatory contracts with the bridge suppliers and installers.

It is simply a question of how serious is the threat of flooding and how willing are Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, the Fire District and Palo Alto to be proactive in the face of that threat.



2 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Sep 7, 2015 at 9:27 pm

I'm surprised people can be so flip about removing an removing one of the few access points to that neighborhood, when the mere suggestion of repurposing a lane on El Camino would probably send them into conniptions.


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Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 7, 2015 at 9:41 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Peter C. - The "sharp turn north" isn't sharp, it is a large gentle bend, which replaced a smaller > 180 degree oxbow that would have been much more prone to flooding. If you've looked at old maps, you'd know there was never a "a straight shot from the freeway to the bay." I'd suggest to you that "Imagination is not a proper substitute for rational fact-based analysis." Also, the creek reconfiguration happened decades before there was any housing in that area of EPA.

As for your model resolution, it it would prevent clearing brush or debris from the creek bed, because that will increase water flow. No one should stop anyone from removing any obstacle to the creek flowing, whether is is a downed tree, a crashed car, or a poorly designed bridge. Now if you want to look at the root causes of increased water flowing into the creek, like Stanford's development binge, then let's get a resolution of condemnation going.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 7, 2015 at 9:57 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Slow down - Look at the Google earth photo. It is a 90 deg turn followed by a 70 degree turn. The photo is the ultimate rational based analysis. Deal with it.

"As for your model resolution, it it would prevent clearing brush or debris from the creek bed, because that will increase water flow."
My proposed resolution deals with "'shifting' of FLOODING from one community to another" not increasing the FLOW - those are very different criteria. Please deal with what has been posted rather than trying make something up.


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Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 7, 2015 at 11:16 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Peter Carpenter - For someone who touts "fact based analysis", you play pretty fast and loose yourself.

You claimed the creek used to be a "straight shot from the freeway to the Bay.". That's false. You should admit that you were wrong. You need to reevaluate all the claims you've made based on your false assumption.

If you don't realize increasing the FLOW and shifting of FLOODING are effectively identical, you shouldn't be proposing anything. It's why your proposal is ludicrous - it would not only preclude removal of the bridges, it would preclude basic maintenance.

You said "sharp turn" and I pointed out that it was a curved turn. Now you are fudging your statement to "90 degrees," which is misleading, because while the creek eventually changes direction by 90 degrees, there is no 90 degree "sharp turn" The turn is substantially less severe than the natural bend around the bayshore apartments, and substantially less severe than the multiple bends it replaced. By your definition, the creek makes about twenty 90 degree turns between El Camino and the Bay, so not sure why this one, the most gradual of all, bothers you.



7 people like this
Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 8, 2015 at 12:30 am

Some more historical maps from the site Chuck linked.

Web Link

What the Palo Alto 1899 topo shows clearly is many of the smaller South Bay creeks went "to ground" between about Middlefield and Bayshore Highway 101 but the biggest creeks like our San Francisquito, Los Alto's Adobe Creek and Steven's Creek always made it to the Bay. Generally, the older housing stock is away from those "to ground" creeks. Guess why?

Those "to ground" creeks keep returning. Anyone remember the one just north of the Gamble Garden petering out in a willow thicket by Mr. Seale's duck blind/cabin? Yes, that Seale, of the Seale subdivisions 1 &2 now known as Old Palo Alto. It's always "fun" when a basement digger hits one of those old "to ground " creeks clearly visible on the 1899 topo.


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Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 8, 2015 at 12:40 am

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Oldster - According to a survey done in 1897, the mouth the San Francisquito creek was at the 101. Everything to the east was marsh. Any route east, and there never was a "straight route" like Carpenter claimed, would have been influenced by various dikes, levees, and channels.

Here is the 1897 survey map. You can see the mouth just past the bend where the Bayshore apartment complex sits.

Web Link


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Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 8, 2015 at 12:46 am

Slow Down is a registered user.

One more map, just to show how different Peter's map is from reality. I took the image he posted on drop box with the fake direct route to the bay he drew. I matched the scale to a historical map of the same area, and also overlaid them.

Web Link


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Posted by Stephen
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 8, 2015 at 7:01 am

One question re the Newell Bridge I don't remember having heard addressed: Is the bridge considered necessary for emergency purposes? With the bridge in place, the PA fire department can reach the part of EPA between the creek and 101 in a minute or two from the station at Embarcadero and Newell. I would think that the response time would be somewhat longer if they needed to go around to University or Embarcadero and then up Woodland if the bridge were removed. I note that EPA's fire station is a little farther away down University avenue, and may take even longer to arrive than would the PAFD firefighters dispatched from the Embarcadero Sta.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 8, 2015 at 7:16 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is 3/28/2015 photo of the creek.

Web Link

I have walked these levees at relatively high water and there is nothing gentle about the 90 deg plus turn to the North or the 70 deg turn to the East.

Does anybody have a map circa 1920 before the diversion which shows the anchorage where the now abandoned Palo Alto Yacht Harbor was?


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Posted by Stephen
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 8, 2015 at 7:43 am

Peter: The best (only?) map is the USGS topo map from 1899 - avail from the Cal library at: Web Link - scroll on the left column to locate this particular map. The next one after 1899 appears to be 1940. The first one for which the current creek appears correctly is the 1948 map.


9 people like this
Posted by NIMBYWORLD
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 8, 2015 at 9:40 am

Keep doing your typical PA thing and enjoy the floods. This issue should have been addressed decades ago. But OH NO, Heaven forbid that the People's Republic of PA do something proactively. It is well known, but not stated , that many PA folks dont want a better bridge to EPA ... cant guess why ?
So while Rome burns , or in this case, PA floods, again, enjoy your usual hand wringing about 'traffic' and ' what to do ' ... better get some sandbags . After you use them , drop them off at each Councilors house to remind them to act and not just pontificate.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 8, 2015 at 10:18 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" According to a survey done in 1897, the mouth the San Francisquito creek was at the 101. Everything to the east was marsh"

Actually 101 (and cars in general) did not exist in 1897.

However, the late 1800 maps do show that the creek disseminated into a broad marshy area - perfect for absorbing the effects of upstream flooding.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 8, 2015 at 10:32 am

@ Stephen:

First responder calls to the Newell Bridge adjacent EPA neighborhood go to the EPA police department and the Menlo Park Fire District (the station on Uni Av). PAPD or PAFD would only respond if a mutual aid request was generated by one of the EPA safety agencies.


2 people like this
Posted by WilliamR
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 8, 2015 at 10:34 am

This has turned into a nice historical exercise in map-reading, but I'm afraid I don't get the point. We're not going to return the area back into a marsh. The thread started out talking about plans for the bridges, and even just removing one or more would require major environmental impact studies, wouldn't it?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 8, 2015 at 10:59 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"even just removing one or more would require major environmental impact studies, wouldn't it?"

Except in a declared emergency.

During the 1998 floods many environmental and other water quality related regulations were suspended because getting approvals for all of the repair work needed would have been impossible.

We have some property on the American River, which is normally very tightly controlled, and the property was severely impacted by the flooding. When we asked Fish and Game what to do they said just send us some pictures when you are done with whatever you need to do. We spent 3 months with two professional loggers removing the accumulated debris from the river bed and flood plain.


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Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 8, 2015 at 11:03 am

Slow Down is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 8, 2015 at 11:16 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Remember 1998
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 8, 2015 at 11:35 am

"However, the late 1800 maps do show that the creek disseminated into a broad marshy area - perfect for absorbing the effects of upstream flooding."

Another reason to close the airport and revert the land to marsh. Why should we be flooded so the wealthy of the region can have their playground?


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Posted by andrew rich
a resident of Woodland Ave. area (East Palo Alto)
on Sep 8, 2015 at 11:50 am

andrew rich is a registered user.

The "remove the bridge" commenters are seizing on possibly flooding after the bridge-removal option was removed from consideration. Not going to happen. I'll refrain from actually posting the obvious motivations of those commenters.


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Posted by Chuck Thornberry
a resident of Monroe Park
on Sep 8, 2015 at 11:51 am

"I am unaware of good historical data on the amount of flooding in the years before the creek was diverted. Please post that data if it is available."

All you need to comprehend that such floods took place, Mr. Carpenter, is this map Web Link . The natural levees it references, and the embankments leading UP to our present creekbeds, are residual sediments from many prior overbanking events. Such structures are common in alluvial plains like the one we inhabit and river deltas like that of the Mississippi around New Orleans.

As you recommend in prior posts, just look at the map and imagine.


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Posted by They Forgot 1998
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 8, 2015 at 11:59 am

After promising to avert another flood disaster like 1998, the city promptly forgot their promise and did absolutely nil to prepare for another one.

The USGS informed the city back then that these floods would be coming every 20 years or less, and it will soon be 18 years since the devastation of early 1998. With no preventative work even started, they are going to let it happen again.

The city will face hundreds of large lawsuits when it does.


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Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 8, 2015 at 12:06 pm

SteveU is a registered user.

Any competent plumber/sheet metal installer knows to use his flow charts to see the impact of bends and other fittings on the fluid flow. (Air is a fluid in gaseous state)
The Army Corps of Engineers has a Hydraulically functional Model of the entire SF Bay Delta. They modeled the BART tunnels before they were built.

Why not admit it and just remove the bridge, creating the natural wall around prissy Palo Alto, that many seem to want. A 'Keep Out' sign, (Palo Alto Style) should cost only a few hundred Thou


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 8, 2015 at 12:51 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Let's not forget the headline "With El Nino looming, residents question timing of bridge replacement".

IF we have significant storms this winter these bridges will represent a significant obstacle to the drainage from the uphill catch basin.

IF that happens there will be flooding and the only possible immediate term mitigation would be destructive bridge removals - and nature may well do that itself if the storm is big enough.

It seems strange that the powers that be do not want to at least contemplate an emergency plan for these bridges while waiting for the "perfect" long term solution.

It is unfortunate that more elected and appointed officials do not engage in this online discussion - although I can certainly appreciate why they don't.


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Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 8, 2015 at 1:08 pm

Suggestion: since we readily turn to consultants this seems a good time to do that. Why not call Mr. Arrillaga's team? They will know what to do and how to do it. Then they will get it done. Problems solved.


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Posted by Ari Yaga
a resident of Portola Valley
on Sep 8, 2015 at 3:46 pm

"Suggestion: since we readily turn to consultants this seems a good time to do that. Why not call Mr. Arrillaga's team? They will know what to do and how to do it. Then they will get it done. Problems solved."

No problemo. Build the 27 University towers and all will be well with the Creek.


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Posted by Engineer
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 8, 2015 at 3:59 pm

"...the only possible immediate term mitigation would be destructive bridge removals - and nature may well do that itself if the storm is big enough."

Nobody familiar with the configurations of those bridges could propose that. The tunnel arch Chaucer bridge form is inherently extremely stable. The stream could only cut a bypass channel through th bank into the immediate neighborhoods. The same could occur at the Newell platform bridge, which could also fall over and become a dam if its footings were suitably undermined by scour. Blasting either bridge would fill the creek with a debris dam, or fill the air with flying concrete chunks, or both.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 8, 2015 at 4:27 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" The stream could only cut a bypass channel through th bank into the immediate neighborhoods."

That is good news ????

"Nobody familiar with the configurations of those bridges could propose that." " Blasting either bridge would fill the creek with a debris dam, or fill the air with flying concrete chunks, or both."

Combat engineers and Navy SEALS have been blowing up tiny bridges like this with ease and for decades; controlled demolition experts have refined that art so that it can and is done without any collateral damage or large pieces of debris.

Ask the experts - what do we have to lose by becoming better informed?




3 people like this
Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 8, 2015 at 6:28 pm

Take down the bridge. Don't replace it. Advantages far outweigh any relative disadvantages which there are few if any.


21 people like this
Posted by Heez Tricky
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 8, 2015 at 6:36 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Engineer
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 8, 2015 at 6:37 pm

It's simple conservation of mass, Mr. Carpenter [portion removed.] The debris from a dynamited (C4, Semtex, ANFO, ..., take your pick) has to go somewhere.

If it follows gravity and falls into a flooding creek it will impede the flow in the manner of a dam, and there is no way you can remove it until the flood diminishes. The alternative is flying concrete.

Marrol has the right idea.


6 people like this
Posted by revdreileen
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 8, 2015 at 6:41 pm

revdreileen is a registered user.

It's important to note that the needs/desires of Palo Alto residents are not the only consideration in regard to the Newell Bridge. Those of us who live in the Woodland Bayshore neighborhood of EPA also have needs/desires in regard to this critical roadway and our voices are often lost, unheard, or even ridiculed in public discourse because of the power and wealth differential on either side of the bridge.

We need a new bridge for flood control and access. This process has been delayed by at least two years because of the loud complaints of Palo Altans at a public meeting I attended in January, 2013, complaints which insisted that there should be no bridge at all. Those complaints led to PA city staff slowing down the process to clarify why the options before us are the ones we need to look at for the EIR. Their study has concluded that the "no bridge" option is not an option. If there is flooding in our homes this winter because of the current bridge, we can thank our Palo Alto neighbors for their xenophobia which slowed this process. Construction was originally slated to begin in 2014 or 2015. Web Link

Frankly, I'm still not quite over some of the things I heard that January, 2013 night from Crescent Park neighbors, folks who spoke with the clear assumption that their opinion and needs matter much more than the opinion and needs of anyone who lives in EPA. But as one who pastors in PA and lives in EPA, I seek to understand and love folks on both sides of the bridge. Those of us in EPA know that the people of Crescent Park are our neighbors. Do those who live in Crescent Park know that the people of Woodland Bayshore are their neighbors? You might be surprised by the neighbor who stops to help you in your time of need (Luke 10).


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 8, 2015 at 6:44 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The debris from a dynamited (C4, Semtex, ANFO, ..., take your pick) has to go somewhere. "

Yes, and well trained experts know how to make it go where they want. [Portion removed.]

Here is how the professional engineers do it:
"On March 26, 2000, the firm used 4,450 pounds of dynamite placed in 5,905 carefully sited holes and 21.6 miles (34.8 km) of detonation cord inserted over a period of four months to take down the 25,000-ton concrete roof of the Kingdome in Seattle, Washington in 16.8 seconds, one day before the 24th birthday of the stadium that had been the home of the Seattle Mariners of Major League Baseball and the Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League. The total cost for the demolition project was $9 million.[4] The firm carefully planned the collapse of the roof to prevent its simultaneous free fall, creating a delay pattern that would break the roof into pieces and setting up 15-foot-high earth berms on the floor of the stadium to absorb the impact of the falling concrete. The demolition of the Kingdome established the record for the largest structure, by volume, ever demolished with explosives. The implosion of the 125,000-ton concrete structure did not cause a single crack in the foundation of the new stadium being built 90 feet (27 m) away.[5]"



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Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 8, 2015 at 7:20 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

Sigh.

Another reason to visit the Metro Denver area. The Rocky Mountain area has inches of topsoil over rock and has to deal with " 100 year storms " which cause problems to local communities like Evergreen. Flooding of Upper Bear Creek causes far more damage to downstream areas ( a chunk of CO74 to Morrison was undermined by flooding and private home access to 74 were taken out ) but the amount of flood control projects eliminated damage in Denver proper. LARGE parcels of property are not allowed to be built on for flood control reasons; anywhere you drive in Metro Denver you see such permanent gaps in desirable building areas. Even bike paths are designed for temporary limited access due to flooding concerns. Chatfield Reservoir is a Army COE structure. It is highly overbuilt.
Cut back to when I lived in EPA as a little boy. The " pump house " on the levee that I watched planes take off from PAO was a LIFT PUMP to remove water that collected from Cooley Landing which was now on the " dry side " of that levee. No more water wanted on our side; It would have flooded out our house in the same spot those Tesla engineers crashed their plane into. ( The editors know what was so special about putting people in EPA on such an undesirable place ). That pump house moved a lot of water when it needed to and allowed the houses to be built near Cooley's Landing. Even so, there was a stinky tidal flat on the other side of that levee.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 8, 2015 at 7:50 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

I can't be the ONLY one bothering to comment who recalls how useful the bridge was in the 98 flood. And Rev Eileen is right - our voices on this side of the creek matter. We're also realists and we understand that no bridge isn't an option. The denial on this thread is pretty stupid. The creek ain't de Nile, it's the San Francisquito.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 8, 2015 at 7:55 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Thank you Hmmmm and Rev Eileen.

"Somehow the residents of East Palo Alto seem to have been forgotten in this discussion. I have walked the area in East Palo Alto before a recent flood alert handing out information notices on the designated evacuation sites and most of the time I was looking up at the levees."


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Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 8, 2015 at 9:01 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@ Hmmm - the bridges may have been useful during the flood, but they were also a significant factor in causing the flood. I'd trade usefulness during the flood for no flood.


2 people like this
Posted by andrew rich
a resident of Woodland Ave. area (East Palo Alto)
on Sep 8, 2015 at 9:05 pm

andrew rich is a registered user.

Thank you @revdreileen. Well said.


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Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 8, 2015 at 10:41 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Rev.Eileen - "If there is flooding in our homes this winter because of the current bridge, we can thank our Palo Alto neighbors for their xenophobia which slowed this process."

The current delay is primarily because the water board declined to certify the plan. Under intense pressure, they eventually relented, but the result was a one year delay. If you want to be angry at someone, try the environmentalists who colluded with the water board to delay the project, not your neighbors across the creek.

Web Link


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Posted by Engineer
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 8, 2015 at 11:56 pm

'Yes, and well trained experts know how to make it go where they want. [Portion removed.] On March 26, 2000, the firm used 4,450 pounds of dynamite placed in 5,905 carefully sited holes and 21.6 miles (34.8 km) of detonation cord inserted over a period of four months to take down the 25,000-ton concrete roof of the Kingdome in Seattle, Washington in 16.8 seconds,"

Yes, of course. All that at a moment's notice in the middle of an extreme flood event, with expensive habitated houses within 50 feet of the demolition site. Sure, of course, sure.

I am continually amazed at the shallow puerile hero worship and deep technological naivete that characterizes Silicon Valley.

Look, we have a real problem with these bridges that threatens a great many of our homes. Our government has failed us. For this season our major hope is that the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge responsible for our drought will outweigh El Nino. Based on my analysis of the weather records of the past century I expect it will. I hope that is some comfort for my neighbors.


1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 9, 2015 at 7:07 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"All that at a moment's notice in the middle of an extreme flood event, with expensive habitated houses within 50 feet of the demolition site. Sure, of course, sure."

Please take the time to read prior postings before making statements that have already been explicitly addressed:

"Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 7, 2015 at 8:57 pm
Peter Carpenter is a registered user.
"An nothing ever happens. Just more talk talk talk"


IF they were given a contract and the time to plan in advance a very good controlled demolition company like Web Link. could destroy both of these bridges in a minute.

Doing this under normal circumstances would require an almost impossible number of approvals from all of the agencies who have some oversight of the creek. Doing it in a true emergency to prevent catastrophic flooding could probably be pulled off with only Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, the Fire District and Palo Alto agreeing to push the button. Even then it would have to be via pre-delegated authority given to the three City Managers and the MPFPD Fire Chief. If the three Councils had to make a real time decision then it would take years.

And the downstream impact of such demolitions would have to be part of the planning and execution process.

Post flood and after the emergency bridge demolitions both bridges could be replaced in less than 30 days with prefabricated, free span bridges placed on concrete piers that would have dramatically better creek cross sections than the existing bridges. Again this would require preparatory contracts with the bridge suppliers and installers.

It is simply a question of how serious is the threat of flooding and how willing are Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, the Fire District and Palo Alto to be proactive in the face of that threat."


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 9, 2015 at 7:33 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Oh, and you left out the part of m previous post that explicitly addressed your proximity issue:

"The implosion of the 125,000-ton concrete structure did not cause a single crack in the foundation of the new stadium being built 90 feet (27 m) away"

The expensive homes would be untouched and the occupants would have, by prior plan, been moved well back from the site.

There is no technological naivete involved. It is amazing what can be done with prior and proper planning by qualifies and experienced professionals -as they have proven time and time again.


2 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 9, 2015 at 10:29 am

I appreciate that solving this problem will require engineering expertise and agency coordination, but it shouldn't take SEVENTEEN YEARS to do what needs to be done. Those impacted by the flooding that happened and that might happen again have tried to keep the issue alive and achieve progress on this since 1998. By any measure, that is an embarrassingly long time. Also ridiculous. It is well past time to stop talking and start doing. Continued inaction could be very expensive.


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Posted by Engineer
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 9, 2015 at 11:41 am

@PC

I heartily agree that watching those bridges blow would be a thrill for little boys of all ages, but that is simply not going to happen at those locations. Forget it. Done.

Those bridges will be removed using heavy loaders, as all local demolitions are done. The scheduling of that fortunate event depends on how much more posturing our local politicians need to do.


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Posted by Mike Alexander
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Sep 9, 2015 at 1:01 pm

Given the general rebuilding of Palo Alto that is under way, I'm sure many of the properties flooded in 1998 have had their houses replaced since then. And I'm sure those new houses are elevated to minimize flood damage. I wonder how much elevation is needed. Have any of you who were flooded in 1998 found out what it would take to elevate your existing houses?


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 9, 2015 at 1:30 pm

@ Mike: No - most of the homes in Crescent Park have not been rebuilt or replaced. Many of the houses date back to the 1930's.

If you live in a FEMA flood zone, you are required to build new houses above the "BFE"/base flood elevation. You can look up your BFE on the city website.


1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 9, 2015 at 1:33 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Professional disaster managers plan for worst case events and do so well ahead of time. They are concerned with saving lives and property not providing " a thrill for little boys of all ages" or amateurs unskilled in disaster management.

Most disasters have a significant component of political failure to act in advance - think Katrina.


3 people like this
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 9, 2015 at 1:35 pm

@Mike Alexander - a lot of the homes that flooded 17 years ago are built on slabs, not easy to elevate. Removing the existing bridges makes sense to me. Its been MORE than long enough.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 11, 2015 at 12:33 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Slow Down - I think you misunderstood Rev. Eileen's comment.


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Posted by Latest News
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2015 at 12:51 pm

Just heard on KQED Radio that the National Weather Service has released its latest update: 95% chance of a HEAVY El Niño!


9 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 11, 2015 at 2:48 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

With a 95% probability of a heavy El Nino and therefore probably a 60-70% chance of heavy flooding (depending on the time distribution of the rainfall) why not do some serious preplanning for both flood response ( a know that some IS being done) and real time flood mitigation ( I am unaware of any of this being done)?


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Posted by not so fast
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 11, 2015 at 2:55 pm

Web Link

"The temperature differential isn’t as pronounced as it was in the months leading up to the 1997-98 El Niño winter. And the wind patterns suggest that a repeat of 1997-98 isn’t likely.

The 1997 pattern “by any measure ... is still stronger than 2015,” Halpert said."


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Posted by HUTCH 7.62
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 13, 2015 at 9:59 am

After reading some of the comments, I get the idea Palo Altans along the creek would rather remove the bridges and build a giant Berlin wall to keep the undesirables...errr...I mean flood waters at bay. Or maybe you guys would rather EPA just slip into the bay?


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Posted by Denial is not a River in Egypt
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2015 at 1:27 pm

We went to the Marine Science Center in Moss Landing yesterday. The divers there told us that the water in Monterey Bay has been 21-22 degrees warmer than in the last 17 years because the El Niño is coming, pushing tropical waters all the way to Northern California, and warming waters all the way to Glacier Bay.

It Is a reality.


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Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 13, 2015 at 2:07 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@HUTCH 7.62 - Flooding affects East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Palo Alto. If removing the bridges helps reduce the risk of overflow, East Palo Alto will benefit as well.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 13, 2015 at 2:15 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Removing upstream obstructions could increase or decrease down stream flooding - only an expert hydrologist can make such a determination.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 13, 2015 at 6:05 pm

>> Monterey Bay has been 21-22 degrees warmer than in the last 17 years

Mmmm. Had to look at that twice.

Found that 1998 El Nino produced a +20F temperature anomaly off the coast of Peru at 100 meter depth. Equatorial surface water temperature increase was about 10F. (Scripps data.) Up at Monterey Bay was more like +5F at depth in 1998. A current Monterey increase of 21 degrees is difficult to believe. Maybe a misinterpretation somewhere.

Could be an interesting winter.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 13, 2015 at 7:05 pm

I think that someone mis-heard the comment on the Monterey Bay temp. This time of year the water is around 60F. I've been in the water lately and no way that it is 80F.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 13, 2015 at 7:26 pm

The whole creek from top to bottom needs to be cleaned up now of vegetation and tree limbs that cause damming in locations as the water goes down to the bay and collects at the dam locations. That includes Searsville Dam and San Francisquito Creek at the top on Jasper Ridge property - SU.

In Monterey County they removed an old, aging dam and directed the creek around the remaining silt which was too costly to remove. That dam is old and is a problem for the city of Carmel if it breaks.

The description of the problem, the silt build-up, the flooding is the same problem as with the Searsville Creek. SU needs to participate in this activity to provide the safest outcome for all involved. If they do nothing - which is what it appears they are doing - then they are creating a defined liability on the down stream problems. If they start releasing the water now then that will reduce the pressure on the ancient dam when the big rain comes. It all has to start now. Doing nothing in light of what we now know and can predict is a legal action for negligence.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 13, 2015 at 11:00 pm

@CPD, I found NOAA data indicating September average is 59F,
and current temperature is 62.8F.

Here's a link to some fun MBARI temperature plots -- Web Link
Surface temperature, 60 meter depth, and 100 meter depth.
I've never seen this stuff before. Pretty weird.
The 1992 and 1998 El Ninos really stand out.
Oddly it looks like we're already in the middle or at the end of another big one.
Puzzled why last winter came up less than average, even in southern California.


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Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 14, 2015 at 1:47 am

Slow Down is a registered user.

@musical - water temp in Monterey Bay hit 69F last month:

Web Link


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 14, 2015 at 6:19 am

The Santa Clara Water district is actively working on the Guadalupe River that winds through the city of San Jose and goes by the San Jose airport. It is expecting the El Nino and trying to mitigate potential flood problems.
The city of San Jose recognizes the problem and is working to mitigate it.

I wonder if a river that is totally in a County has less political confusion than a river / creek that makes up the border between two counties (Santa Clara and San Mateo) and starts in another distinct property - in this case Stanford University - Jasper Ridge / Searsville Lake. We now have three entities of location and the San Francisco Water District involved. Why is this such a problem if it is going to cost all entities to correct the problems that will arise by not making the obvious corrections now.

The 101 crossover area is being upgraded by the highway people because that is an obvious and known problem - but there are problems all along the creek corridor from top to bottom to homes and businesses.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 15, 2015 at 4:47 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

resident 1 - your statement "The 101 crossover area is being upgraded by the highway people because that is an obvious and known problem" is inaccurate. The work started at the golf course and is moving upstream.

In years past, with El Nino approaching, a lot of work was done to clear out debris and large objects from the creek, as well as trim trees. Is this being done? After all, not doing so before hand was a *huge* contributing factor in the 98 flood.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 15, 2015 at 5:05 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"In years past, with El Nino approaching, a lot of work was done to clear out debris and large objects from the creek, as well as trim trees. Is this being done?"

I walked over the Bryant St bike bridge this weekend and the creek bed looks like a jungle.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 15, 2015 at 5:50 pm

Well HMMM - it is the Caltrain people who are fixing the bridge. It does not matter where it started - it is the place where the flooding will cause the most problems to everyone on the most well used portion of the highway.
If that gets fixed up then at least a part of the overall problem will be fixed. I go by that area on east bayshore and all I see is collected mud and debris in the creek. No one is dredging the creek at that location next to 101. People are driving by and can see that it is full of mud.

As to cleaning out the creek there are homeless people that have their Stuff in it. Someone needs to bring a tree cutting/dirt pickup operation to the whole creek from top to bottom. It is time to move the homeless people out of there. If they are the reason nothing is being done then we are in a real mess here.

Adobe Creek is cleared just before the rainy season of collected mud, cattails, broken tree parts and all else that has collected in the creek. They bring in a lot of trucks and pick up all of the stuff that is in it.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 15, 2015 at 6:29 pm

... Caltrans people


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Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 17, 2015 at 3:11 am

I was on my way to Home Depot the other day, and over
near the Post Office there is a creek, and right across it
is a solid metal wall almost like a dam.

I wish I had stopped for a second and snapped a picture
because It sure looks like it is not there to stop any flooding.
It is the same kind of water barrier the use at that floodgate
out at the Baylands to keep water from eroding the levies
away. It is solid and it is high.

That thing sure looks like it is going to clog up and dump
water all over the place in a heavy rain.

And, by the way, driving over the Newell Bridge, has anyone
taken a look over the sides of the bridge?

The creek is full of plants and debris so much that you
cannot see the floor.

If we get rains that is going to obstruct water and
flood us all.

I wonder if the city is going to assume liability if we all
get flooded who live by the creek.

This really needs to get cleaned out PRONTO!


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 17, 2015 at 5:08 pm

@Plane Speaker, here's your photo -- Web Link


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 17, 2015 at 9:48 pm

That appears to be a temporary barrier to keep high tides from coming up into the construction area.


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Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 20, 2015 at 3:42 am

Thanks musical, that is exactly it. I was going to snap a pic today
on the way back from the baylands, but it got too dark.

Do the tides back up all the way into that area?

I don't monitor that location, but I don't recall ever having seen
water in there. But assuming they do, how long is that going to
be there, it looks pretty solid?

And the other question was has anyone looked over the side of
the Newell bridge lately? There is a ton of stuff growing along
the bottom, a whole mini-jungle ... bushes and small trees.
Are there any plans to clean the creek bed before the rainy
season ... it's getting down to the wire?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 23, 2015 at 8:12 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority September 24, 2015 Board Meeting
Agenda Item 5
Executive Director’s Report
With the help of Kevin Murray and Miyko Harris-Parker, I am pleased to submit the following:
a. Reducing flood risk along the Creek prior to winter storms
Given that regulatory agency permits for the S.F. Bay-Highway 101 project have delayed construction of that project and our ability to advance the design and EIR of flood protection projects further upstream, coupled with the fact that scientists predict strong El Niño conditions to remain for several months, a focus of the SFCJPA this summer has been to facilitate all feasible short-term actions by member agencies to reduce flood risk.

There are two categories of such actions: 1) removing material in the channel that could contribute to flooding and pose a threat to life and property, including dead and living vegetation, homeless encampments, and trash, and 2) keeping more water in the channel from Middlefield Road to the Bay through the cities selectively raising creek banks in areas that previously flooded or are at risk of flooding.
At this Board meeting, SFCJPA and member agency staff will discuss the timing and scope of these actions."

b. New Flood Early Warning System website
We have spent several Board meetings discussing the SFCJPA’s development of a new website that provides better and earlier warning of potential flooding to emergency responders and the general public. This summer, the SFCJPA and City of Palo Alto both engaged a consultant to complete this effort, and at this Board meeting we will demonstrate the features of this website, which also allows users to sign up for text and/or e-mail alerts specific to San Francisquito Creek, report a problem and send us a picture of that problem, link to multiple websites for additional information, including the website’s background data and the Palo Alto Creek Monitor website. This new site will become publicly available in October.
c. Multi-Agency Coordination of emergency response
In addition to reducing the risk of flooding and improving the advance notification of possible flooding, the SFCJPA, its member agencies, and other emergency response agencies have been working since the previous flood in December 2012 to enhance the coordination and public communication around emergency response. Led by the City of Palo Alto, this effort has established a San Francisquito Creek Multi-Agency Coordination (SFC MAC) team of public safety, public works, utilities, and public information staff and agency leadership, which has held and continues to hold workshops and trainings. Additionally, the SFC MAC has established reciprocal Emergency Operations Center (EOC) activation notification among the jurisdictions; is working on a multi-jurisdictional Public Works Mutual Aid agreement; and now possesses radio interoperability using Palo Alto’s Mobile EOC. At this Board meeting, Palo Alto’s Emergency Services Director Ken Dueker will update the Board on this effort.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 3, 2015 at 8:26 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Old Bay Bridge pier implosion gets OK

OAKLAND -- The implosion of the largest of the piers supporting the old Bay Bridge -- the underwater equivalent of a five-story concrete building -- will take place Nov. 7.

Unlike the dramatic implosions of tall buildings, this six-second implosion will take place underwater, muffled by a protective mat, and traffic on the new bridge will be held back before detonation. The implosion will cost about $160 million, Caltrans said. Mechanical razing would have cost about $254 million, the agency said."

Web Link


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Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 4, 2015 at 5:42 am

>> After reading some of the comments, I get the idea Palo Altans
>> along the creek would rather remove the bridges and build a
>> giant Berlin wall to keep the undesirables...errr...I mean flood
>> waters at bay.

Wow, is that a real argument for anything other than inciting people's
fake-political-correctness to judge all of Palo Alto?

This is the kind of comment that really ought to be seen for what it
is, certainly unproductive and deleted.

Yes, I live in Palo Alto, and I would like the bridge removed.

That doesn't mean I want to keep anyone out of Palo Alto, period.

I lived for 2 years at the Tan Apartments by the 7-11, and I know
for a personal fact that bridge is not necessary, and the number of
people coming up with these ugly kinds of arguments are most
likely those who use the bridge because it is just slightly more
convenient for them than going to University or Embarcadero.

REALLY? Is the convenience you get really worth implying
everyone in Palo Alto is some kind of classist or racist hater?
I find that comment extremely insulting to everyone, because
having lived over there I know people on both sides and don't
know any of them that would think this either way.

By the way, did the Palo Alto Online editor/censor lose his
thinking cap or something, or are you busy looking for comments
that you personally do not like to delete rather than really
doing your job?

Finally, I'd like to ask why don't the good people of Palo Alto
and environs deserve a really open and free forum to discuss
community concerns that is objectively, reasonably and
intelligently moderated? Is that really so hard to do?


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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