Tensions flare over plan to replace bridges over creek and widen its channel | March 17, 2023 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - March 17, 2023

Tensions flare over plan to replace bridges over creek and widen its channel

San Francisquito Creek board members clash as implementation nears

by Gennady Sheyner

After more than two decades of anxiety and frustration, residents around the volatile San Francisquito Creek could finally see improvements next year, when the Newell Road Bridge finally gets replaced, paving the way for other flood-control projects in Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and Menlo Park.

This story contains 1663 words.

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Email Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner at gsheyner@paweekly.com.


Posted by Crescent Park Mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 10, 2023 at 11:16 am

Crescent Park Mom is a registered user.

If the concern is that we have to solve bridges downstream first, why can’t we tear down Newell Bridge immediately and start Pope Chaucer rebuild immediately? Deal with the Newell design consensus drama later. Not much traffic goes over it anyway. Pope Chaucer neighbors have needlessly been held hostage for years because of all the players involved in the Newell bridge rebuild. Eliminate the problem.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 10, 2023 at 12:11 pm

Anonymous is a registered user.

No more delays. Thousands are at risk on an ongoing basis as this necessary creek improvement project moves at a snail’s pace for so many years!
Aren’t there easements allowing the government to access the creek, creek sides to proceed with this project?
And late objections or reservations a out the creek improvements and bridge replacements from our new representative doesn’t make sense.

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 10, 2023 at 12:30 pm

Annette is a registered user.

Pictures that accompany stories about these bridges and the flooding often show a problem that is, arguably, unrelated to storms and property access and bridge design, and funding for the new bridges: garbage. All the crap tossed into these creeks is functioning like a beaver damn! Can't the various authorities at least clear out the debris so that it doesn't exacerbate the predictable problems associated with storms?

Posted by P2L1
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 10, 2023 at 1:02 pm

P2L1 is a registered user.

"At some point we have to move on. … I'm not going to be here until 8 p.m. because you don't feel your question was answered, Combs said."

If Creek Authority Board Chair Drew Combs can't be bothered to stay at a public hearing later than 8 pm, to seek answers to fellow Harvard Law grad Rebecca Eisenberg and her constituent's questions, then he should resign his position asap.

Posted by densely
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 10, 2023 at 1:22 pm

densely is a registered user.

Rebecca Eisenberg is a loose cannon. She should be able to do her own homework rather than bog down meetings and harass staff members to get answers to questions whose answers are well documented.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 10, 2023 at 1:23 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

There's a huge difference between the "taking of properties" under eminent domain and forcing property owners to allow surveyors onto the properties to do their work.

Posted by Scottie Zimmerman
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2023 at 1:30 pm

Scottie Zimmerman is a registered user.

My comment comes from way out in left field, I'm sure, and I don't mean to trivialize the very real concerns of people whose homes have been damaged by creeks that jam up and flood during severe rainstorms.

Several months ago, we learned that two beavers had been spotted in Palo Alto--the first to appear in over 100 years. The story came and went. Meanwhile, for years I've been reading and watching reports/documentaries that demonstrate the powerful positive effects beavers have on the environment when they move in and begin to build their dams and manage the flow of water in rivers, streams, and wetlands. The work they do, 24/7 and 365 days a year, creates healthy living spaces for 80% of the wild animals (including fish) in their neighborhood. Equally important, areas where beavers thrive are resistant to the devastation of both drought and wildfires. Beavers conserve water.

I hope our community acts expeditiously to improve the bridges and prevent flood damage to creek-side homes. At the same time, I hope we give proper consideration to the welfare of our two immigrant beavers. Please, let's leave sections of natural creek bed where beavers might live & work. Let's not create another concrete trench as was done to Matadero Creek. I still miss the baby toads that would hatch out of Matadero and migrate to my garden for earwig control.

Posted by Eduardo
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 10, 2023 at 7:33 pm

Eduardo is a registered user.

I'd encourage more Palo Alto residents to reach out to their representative, Rebecca Eisenberg, and convey their perspectives on this project. Eisenberg came across as representing the interests of a small number of residents directly adjacent to the Creek who, as per the Flood Map, would NOT be impacted by floods.

Posted by Screeedek
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 10, 2023 at 11:18 pm

Screeedek is a registered user.

Can a board member be recalled? That might speed the process up a bit.

Posted by Xenia
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 11, 2023 at 7:39 am

Xenia is a registered user.

I attended this meeting via Zoom. And later that night, we had another close call with SF Creek as the water level reached the top of Pope Chaucer Bridge opening. Everyone needs to proceed with urgency to get these projects done. I also want to thank the SF Creek JPA and the City of Palo Alto staff on their presentation and update on the progress of these projects. The City of Palo Alto maintains a project website for the Newell Road Bridge project, and the SF Creek JPA for the Reach 2 project with extensive background information.
Web Link
Web Link

Posted by revdreileen
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 11, 2023 at 4:49 pm

revdreileen is a registered user.

Crescent Park mom, it is absolutely unacceptable to remove the Newell bridge without replacing it immediately. Everyone in my neighborhood on the EPA side of the bridge is at risk in the event a major earthquake or widespread fire with only two ways in or out of our neighborhood. We lived with that reality while the Reach 1 work was done and the bridge on West Bayshore was being reconstructed. During that construction period, a tree fell and blocked entry into the neighborhood from University Avenue. The ONLY way in or out for several hours was the Newell Bridge. It is a crucial safety valve for our neighborhood even though most of us use the other two entry and exit points more frequently.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 11, 2023 at 6:44 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

I went over to see how the creek was doing. Lots of half pulled out shrubbery in the channel. You all still have to tackle the dam on SU campus - this whole situation needs an overhaul from top to bottom. During the summer someone has to go through with trucks and pull out the shrubbery that is at potential water level. There seems to be a lack of maintenenace on the creek on the SU property which just moves shrubbery down the creek. How to get all of the agencies working on this seems to be a giant problem.

The beavers are on Matadero Creek which has a lower water level overall

Posted by wise
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 11, 2023 at 8:17 pm

wise is a registered user.

All of the general residents of Palo Alto should not have to pay for flood control. The people who bought in flood areas should pay for any flood control costs in their area.

Posted by John
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 12, 2023 at 6:29 am

John is a registered user.

“She (Eisenberg)also said she does not see how the creek widening can be done without eminent domain — notwithstanding assertions from the creek authority that the agency only needs easements from property owners for surveys and construction work.” What reason does she have to question their statements?

"If this bridge is only made to be as wide as the existing Newell Bridge, which is causing flooding, I don't feel confident.” Is her lack of confidence solely based upon feelings?
Then she started talking about mature trees.

Rebecca Eisenberg has a history of unfounded assumptions, meandering reasoning and when it comes to subjects like law enforcement, uninformed bias. Sounds like she’s not adding value here either, just making baseless assertions, but perhaps Mr. Shenyer left out her well thought out arguments?

Posted by Pete Farmer
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 13, 2023 at 10:58 am

Pete Farmer is a registered user.

Rebecca Eisenberg: "I think that the board really needs to look at the design because I'm hearing the community has significant objections to this."

The mentality that says that EVERY community member's views must be satisfied—even if those views are ill-informed or based solely on conjecture—keeps us from getting needed stuff done. I get tired of calls of restudies of restudies or restudies that each are conducted because someone objected, at late stages, to a duly-considered plan.

There is no change you can make in the community without having someone feel that they're slighted.

These bridge changes are a case in point. Reducing our at-grade railroad crossings is another.

It's time for action.

Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2023 at 12:27 pm

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

We have bridge designs. Let's get this job done so that homes will no longer be at risk.

We need new bridges ASAP. The current bridge design--worked on over many years with a broad array of constituents, reflects compromises that were made to meet most needs of all parties. Like most things in adult life, this solution imperfect, but it meets the needs of the many. Majority consensus and SAFETY of people and their homes should rule.

We can't always get what we want, but if we try, sometimes we might get what we need.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 16, 2023 at 9:32 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Using eminent domain to take personnel property seems to be favored activity in this state. The Water Board wants to create a new dam on personal property and use eminent domain to take that land. That land is near the Anderson Dam which was emptied due to earhquake zone. The new dam is in that earthquake zone so forget that reason.

HSR is taking family farm land and family busnesses, letting foreign companies shove around cenment, and produce no product that produces a taxable end requirement - or working product.

We are looking at the reduction of taxable, personal property for no good reason. The problem is this case is the portion of the creek and dam on SU property. It is not managed at the top of the chain of events. They need to clean up and widen at the top and clear the vegetation at the top that keeps getting loose and coming down the creek. Why can't anyone talk about that? Is SU untouchable on land issues which do not benefit the overall surrounding communities?

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