Council challenges flood zone

New storm drain negates need for flood zone designation, Menlo Park says

Even as some city residents were mopping up flood damage Tuesday, Menlo Park City Council voted to appeal the new flood zone proposed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) last September.

The city is challenging FEMA's decision to add about 500 homes in the Willows neighborhood of Menlo Park to the Special Flood Hazard Area. City officials were concerned that the new FEMA designation did not take into account a new storm drain installed last year along Gilbert Avenue and Laurel Avenue or the topography of the area.

Ironically, none of the homes flooded during Monday night's storms were part of the FEMA flood map, city officials said, adding that the new storm drain was instrumental in preventing more widespread flooding in the Willows neighborhood.

On Tuesday night, city council members approved a plan for consultants Nolte Associates to prepare a flood analysis that took into account the topography of the area around San Francisquito Creek.

"There's a lot of data that we need to collect," said Mayor Chuck Kinney. "We're authorizing the staff to challenge FEMA findings not to avoid insurance, but to get our own data."

Inclusion in FEMA's flood zone typically means homeowners have to pay at least $500 a year in flood insurance. Since three of Menlo Park's five council members--Paul Collacchi, Bernie Nevin and Steve Schmidt--live in the Willows neighborhood, they tossed a coin to decide which of the three should vote on the issue, in spite of the apparent conflict of interest.

Council approved the appeal on a 3-0 tally, with Kinney, Bob Burmeister and Paul Collacchi casting votes.

Kinney said that the flood analysis would be prepared within the next 60 to 90 days.

--Vicky Anning

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