Public comment sought on flood-control projects

Workshop on San Francisquito Creek projects will be held Wednesday in Menlo Park

The public can learn more about proposed flood-control, restoration and recreation projects along San Francisquito Creek, which runs through Palo Alto and East Palo Alto, at a workshop on Wednesday.

The public will have an opportunity to comment and ask questions of officials from the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority, a regional government agency that oversees the projects and is preparing a draft environmental impact report.

The workshop begins with an open house at 6 p.m. at Laurel School Upper Campus at 275 Elliott Drive in the Willows neighborhood of Menlo Park. A progress report is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., followed by a hands-on table-top exercise and a group discussion.

To reserve a seat, send an email to the Joint Powers Authority (JPA) at

The creek borders San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, including Menlo Park, Palo Alto and East Palo Alto. The discussion will include a report on project objectives, flood-control alternatives and what officials have learned since having established the scope of the proposed work earlier in the year.

The draft environmental impact report is due out between December and February, JPA Executive Director Len Materman told the Almanac.

Under the law, the public must be given opportunities to comment on such projects. "Too often, the public feels that once a draft (impact report) comes out, the project is decided already and further comment is pro forma," Materman said. "We go well beyond what's required by the state."

Additional workshops are scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 14, from 9 to 10:30 a.m., in the parking lot of University Circle/Four Seasons Hotel in East Palo Alto, and for Wednesday, Oct. 25, from 6 to 9 p.m., at the Palo Alto Art Center Auditorium on Newell Road in Palo Alto.

Public comment can be helpful, Materman said. The JPA came to the table with five alternatives in December 2016, but acquired 11 more from the public in the interim, he said. "A couple of them we're going to be taking a close look at," he said. "I have no ownership over what we should be doing here."

Creek water control

Flooding in 1998 damaged some 1,700 properties in communities along the creek. The alternatives proposed for controlling creek flood waters include the following:

• Storing creek storm water west of Interstate 280 and releasing it gradually.

• Widening the creek channel and replacing the Pope Street bridge between Menlo Park and Palo Alto. A new bridge would effectively widen the channel by the removal of structural elements of the old bridge that block water flow, Materman said.

The city of East Palo Alto is replacing the bridge at Newell Road, and a new bridge on U.S. Highway 101 will be complete before the year ends, he said. The creek channel will also be made wider at Highway 101 by the winter of 2018, he said.

This work is meant to control flooding originating in the creek. Flooding from rising sea levels is being addressed with the SAFER Bay project, meant to protect some 8,400 parcels in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties considered to be in a zone vulnerable to rising salt water flooding.

Salt water does make its way up the creek at high tide. The current improvements should handle tidal flows of up to 9 feet above current sea level, a predicted rise that Materman called "very aggressive and substantial."


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2 people like this
Posted by Andrew Rich
a resident of Woodland Ave. area (East Palo Alto)
on Oct 3, 2017 at 12:24 pm

> The city of East Palo Alto is replacing the bridge at Newell Road

Is it? After some brief discussion two years ago, there's been nothing since. What was the final decision on alignment and construction?

1 person likes this
Posted by Ralph Eckland
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 4, 2017 at 8:32 am

The only thing that needs to be done is dredging the creek from 101 to the bay.
The original wide and deep channel has all silted up. This backs up the water into Palo Alto. When are you idiots ever going to figure this out ?

4 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 4, 2017 at 10:06 am

john_alderman is a registered user.

@Ralph - Creek would have flooded at Chaucer Bridge in 1998, even if everything past the 101 was a clear concrete channel. Chaucer bridge is the biggest bottleneck on the creek, but we can't do anything about it because of bureaucracy & politics.

1 person likes this
Posted by Ken
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 4, 2017 at 10:42 am

Bridges can't stop floods.

1 person likes this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 4, 2017 at 11:05 am

john_alderman is a registered user.

@Ken - but they can create them.

6 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 4, 2017 at 12:08 pm

Marie is a registered user.

I'm pleased to see the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority are still looking at storing water west of 280 and slowly releasing it. The state water board held up the original approval of the current construction because that was not part of the plan. It wasn't included because Stanford, who owns the headwaters of San Francisquito Creek refused to cooperate. As usual, they are unwilling to provide any public benefit that is permanent and might possibly interfere with future development, however unlikely.

Santa Clara County should refuse to accept the current GUP proposed by Stanford unless it includes a retention basin for overflows from San Francisquito Creek. For once, they should be required, in detail, to mitigate damages to surrounding communities from flooding arising on their land. No institution should be allowed to facilitate flooding downstream of their land by refusing even minimal modifications. I guarantee a flood retention basin is much cheaper than rebuilding bridges downstream and would probably be even more effective in preventing future flooding. I support rebuilding the bridges but it seems futile when not addressing the original source of the flooding.

Palo Alto spends hundreds of thousands of dollars maintaining the upstream environment above Stanford supporter Arillaga's property in Foothills Park so as to reduce the potential of flooding on Arillaga's downstream property. Why isn't Stanford held to that same requirement for its upstream property?

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