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Flood-control project flows ahead

Original post made on Nov 14, 2012

Fifteen years after water from the San Francisquito Creek swept through the neighborhoods of Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and Menlo Park, the partner cities are preparing to break ground on an ambitious project that would shield their constituents from future floods.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, November 14, 2012, 1:04 AM

Comments (43)

Posted by BP Observer, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 14, 2012 at 6:48 am

"Len Materman, executive director the creek authority, said the agency's design assumes a sea-level rise of 2.2 feet per year, a rate he called "very aggressive.""

That is aggressive! The BCDC predicts a rise of 16" by mid-century.
Web Link


Posted by Ducatigirl, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 14, 2012 at 8:08 am

According to the Daily Post a couple of days ago, a proposed widening of the bridge that connects PA to EPA at the end of Newell is part of the flood control plan. However, residents of the Crescent Park neighborhood there say it will only double the traffic through their neighborhood.

How does widening this bridge help with flood control? The bridge is 100 years old and probably due for replacement anyway, but does widening it help?


Posted by David, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2012 at 8:38 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 14, 2012 at 9:01 am

The current trend of bay-level rise is 1.4 mm per year. Web Link


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 14, 2012 at 9:39 am

@Ducatigirl, the Newell bridge becomes the Newell dam when creekwater rises above a certain level, to be exceeded more often as upstream rainfall or run-off increases. Widening or deepening the channel will help prevent local flooding but necessitates downstream improvements as well. I'd vote for upstream retention basins, except people will want to put apartment buildings in them.


Posted by retiree, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 14, 2012 at 10:22 am

"extend the friendship bridge"? What bridge is that? Removing bridges will improve the water flow...not building or rebuilding them. This is expensive!


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 14, 2012 at 10:57 am

The current Newell bridge has supports that are located in the creek bed. Construction of a new bridge would remove those supports and eliminate the bottle neck that has contributed to the flooding in the past.

The local homeowners are not against replacing the bridge. What they are against is widening the bridge - which will result in (by some estimations) in a doubling of cut-through traffic in the Crescent Park neighborhood.

I don't live in near the bridge - but I do support my neighbors in their POV. Hopefully the CPA will listen to its constituents and follow through.


Posted by gsheyner, a resident of another community
on Nov 14, 2012 at 10:59 am

gsheyner is a registered user.

BP Observer,

The 2.2 feet referred to the projected sea-level rise over 50 years. Sorry for the error.

Gennady


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 14, 2012 at 11:29 am

Friendship Bridge is the Bay Trail creek-crossing between the NW corner of PA golf course and EPA O'Connor St. If the levees are raised or the channel widened, the footbridge will need to be reworked. As currently configured, the bridge is footed to the levees without obstruction to the channel. Water will flow over the levees before reaching the span height.


Posted by FrankF, a resident of Ventura
on Nov 14, 2012 at 11:38 am

FrankF is a registered user.

The Newell st bridge is sub standard in several ways. I do not believe that widening it will double traffic - it will allow safer bicycle and pedestrian traffic. But in the end it will still be two lanes, one in either direction. Currently it's closer to 1.5 lanes for both directions but that doesn't discourage traffic all that much.


Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 14, 2012 at 1:36 pm

@FrankF - Widening the bridge combined with redevelopment on the East Palo Alto side, and overbuilding on the Palo Alto side is what could lead to the large increase in traffic.


Posted by Ducatigirl, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 14, 2012 at 2:22 pm

Thank you, musical and Crescent Park Dad. You made it easier to visualize.


Posted by yay!, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 14, 2012 at 3:14 pm

"Once completed, this package of projects is expected to provide 100-year protection and obviate the need for insurance."
Expect house prices to increase if/when this ever happens. Not because of the cost of insurance but removing the flood associated costs of any significant remodel.


Posted by Newell Bridge, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 14, 2012 at 4:20 pm

The Army Corp of Engineers 2010 Feasability Study/Project Management Plan says that, in order to fix the flood problem, we need to replace Middlefield, Chaucer/Pope, University and Friendship bridges. They don't mention Newell bridge as a flood issue (and when you look at their 100 yr flood map, it didn't flood anywhere near the Newell bridge). Yet somehow Newell Brdige replacement has been thrown into the mix as a necessary change due to flood concerns. Did the ACOE do a bad analysis? Would they have done an anyalysis that replaced almost all the bridges only to forgot to add one in so we had an additional problem to deal with later? Where is the revised analysis adding Newell into the mix?


Posted by Aquamarine, a resident of Stanford
on Nov 14, 2012 at 4:37 pm

Mr. Recycle - what redevelopment in East Palo Alto?

Currently, the east side is the most densely populated part of East Palo Alto, having much fewer single family dwellings than it does apartment complexes, duplexes, etc.

The rebuilding of the bridge is a great idea, as already it's crowded with cyclists, drivers and pedestrians. Improvements are needed in order to deal with possible disasters and the very real sea level rise.


Posted by Newell Bridge, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 14, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Aquamarine - the EPA stretch between the creek and the 101 is getting bought up by a developer out of Chicago with the probable intentions of redeveloping the entire area. Some claim that 3-4 people are getting evicted a day out of the apartments and condos. Some speculate that Newell could become a freeway offramp in the redevelopment.


Posted by Bob , a resident of Community Center
on Nov 14, 2012 at 5:10 pm

I remember the BIG flood of December 23, 1955. From the Creek at Newell, Edgewood and the EWP shopping center, the water came over like Niagara Falls. After that a barrier was built along the edge of the creek. Still there.The water roared through Tulip Lane, Heather and beyond. Maybe the Weekly can reprint from the old PA Times.


Posted by Aquamarine, a resident of Stanford
on Nov 14, 2012 at 5:47 pm

Newell Bridge: Does this mean that this Chicago-based company will take out the rent control ordinance in order to redevelop? Who is doing the speculating (the theoretical peculating, not the land speculating)? I haven't read anything about redeveloping the area.


Posted by Gail, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 14, 2012 at 7:11 pm

I think the neighbors in Crescent Park should get highly organized and fight the expansion of the Newell bridge. They should organize, sue, delay, stall and hire their own flood specialists, engineers, etc. They need to challenge the findings of the government flood engineers, who wrote up the reports suggesting the bridge be widened. They should begin gathering funds/money so they can hire attorneys, too. Go after the city council members, for blindly giving the okay for the new bridge. (Just like they blindly and ignorantly gave their stamp of approval for the high speed rail.) That bridge is trouble for their Crescent Park neighborhood. A new bridge will lower property values in the surrounding streets.


Posted by Reality Check, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 14, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Aquamarine - We bought our house on Edgewood Dr in 1996 and at that time a quiet trailor park, all under rent control, existed on the opposite side of the creek in EPA. A local real estate developer bought the trailor park out of bankruptcy, paid EPA a fraction of the back taxes owed on the site and developed the Woodland Creek Apartment complex. Only 10% of the new units were subject to rent control per EPA rules. They didn't have to take out the rent control ordinances as EPA allowed them to do this. Equity partners recently paid $130 million for most of the appartments between Woodland Ave and 101 and are planning to do the exact same thing. History repeats itself. They bought these units out of bankruptcy. Sound familiar.

I didn't experience the 1955 flood but i did experience the 1998 flood. Most of the flooding on Greer between Edgewood and Channing was created by the fact that the surface road gutters empty into the creek and when the creek is flowing at flood levels the storm drains close so the creek water doesn't flow back into the lower elevation neighborhoods. While i applaud the storm drain improvements that occured after 1998, i'm skeptical that it's sufficient to handle all of the surface water floodting created during a 50 year storm let alone a 100 year storm. As such, i don't believe the cities efforts to dramaticaly increase the size of the newell bridge has anything to do with flooding. The city is trying to push more traffic into our quiet neighborhood.


Posted by litebug, a resident of another community
on Nov 14, 2012 at 7:40 pm

I lived through the flood of 98, being evacuated by neighbor's row boat in the middle of the night, in freezing, filthy water up to my waist. We lost a lot even though we had flood and homeowner's insurance. It was odd reading about this and not seeing any mention of the Chaucer St. bridge except in one comment. That used to be the main topic of conversation and focus of attention and we didn't hear much about the Newell bridge being related to the flood problem, as I recall. Something has changed the focus to be more heavily on Newell.


Posted by Yay!, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 14, 2012 at 9:26 pm

That's because they can't fix Chaucer until they've orated out the downstream issues. Otherwise they'll get sued where making the downstream issues worse.


Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 14, 2012 at 10:01 pm

@Aquamarine - Fixing the bridge has nothing to do with possible sea level changes.

There has already been a ton of redevelopment in the area. The Four Seasons, and as Reality Check mentioned, the Woodland Creek apartments. Page Mill Properties clearly had big ambitions when they bought and consolidated so many of the remain properties. It was only the real estate crash and their bankruptcy that has delayed it.

I have read that the assessed value of the whisky gulch area was 7 million before redevelopment, and is near 400 million now. So of course Equity is now going to try to get more redevelopment done. They can take their time, and spend tons of money to grease the wheels and make it happen, because there is huge huge upside.

The least, and maybe only thing we can do is address the potential traffic issues the bridge presents.


Posted by Palo Alto Resident, a resident of Community Center
on Nov 14, 2012 at 10:31 pm

I think there are many valid perspectives here, and people are concerned about flood control and retaining our very special quality of life....but the one thing I think is most important is that we make the best decisions we can for Palo Alto based on transparency and data. At the northern end of Palo Alto in Crescent Park and all along Newell to Jordan are houses, and families with little kids walking and riding bikes, and schools....not to mention an art center and a library. If the community across the creek in another city and another county wants to say yes to large development, Palo Alto shouldn't deprioritize its own citizen's interests regarding traffic and safety.


Posted by Crick, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2012 at 11:26 pm

Property values will certainly decrease if there's a flood and nothing has been done to mitigate damage from the creek. The Newell Street bridge didn't flood 15 years ago. It certainly serves a useful purpose with sea levels rising. No one is saying that is the only reason to rebuild it, but traffic and redevelopment aren't the only reasons, either.


Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 15, 2012 at 12:51 am

Why do people keep bringing up sea level in regards to the Newell street bridge? it has nothing to do with sea level, just carrying rain flow down the creek.


Posted by Aquamarine, a resident of Stanford
on Nov 15, 2012 at 8:31 am

It's a tidal creek, which is why the sea level matters, Mr. Recycle. It certainly mattered nearly 15 years ago during high tide and the waxing moon.


Posted by rodents, a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 15, 2012 at 10:06 am

While I have no problem with preparing for extreme events, the idea of 2.2 feet of local sea level rise is absolute alarmist nonsense.

The Alameda tide gauge has been in operation since 1940, shows no acceleration and an average rise of .82 MM which equates to 4.1 CM in 50 years. Web Link

The gauge at SF Bay has been in operation for well over a hundered years and shows a deceleration with an average rise of 2MM/yr which is 10CM in 50 years. Web Link

With no evidence of acceleration in 100 years observations while CO2 risen from ~200ppm to (almost) 400ppm, it is clear that sea level rise has no connection to CO2.


Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 15, 2012 at 10:09 am

@Aquamarine - However, removing the bridge has nothing to do with controlling tidal flow. The bridge obstructs creek flow, and increases risk of overflow during rainfall. The floodgates are to address tidal flooding, the bridge replacement is to address fluvial flooding.


Posted by Crick, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 15, 2012 at 10:37 am

The tides affected the flooding at the creek in 1998. It was helpful that Newell was the only passable bridge then. What would be different now, the changes to the floodgates?


Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 15, 2012 at 11:56 am

@Crick - the tides did not affect the flooding in 1998 in Palo Alto south of 101. The creek overflowed, tides weren't an issue, but the bridges obstructing creek flow were. Tides can exacerbate flooding on the north side of 101. More importantly, even if tidal flooding were the issue, replacing the bridge does absolutely nothing to address it.

You can read the detailed report here on the cities site:

Web Link


Posted by Art Kraemer, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 15, 2012 at 12:11 pm

The money to replace the Newell Bridge comes from CAl Trans and is provided only to the city that totally owns the bridge that needs replacement. Palo Alto totally owns the Newell Bridge. The Middlefield Bridge is owned totally by Menlo Park and they are attempting to get future CAL Tarns money. The Pope Chaucer bridge has shared ownership between Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Santa Clara County, and San Mateo County, and is therefore not eligable for CAL Trns funds. Money to replace the Pope Chaucer is in Measure B for the Santa Clara County Water District. Thank you for approving Measure B.


Posted by Crick, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 15, 2012 at 12:22 pm

How do you know what affected what in that flood, Mr. Recycle?


Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 15, 2012 at 1:59 pm

@Crick Is there any real debate as to what happened? It rained a lot, and the creek overflowed. Regardless, the whole tidal flood issue is completely irrelevant to the replacement of the bridge. How do you think replacing a bridge that partially obstructs the creek with a bridge that doesn't would have any effect on tidal flooding?


Posted by San Francisquito Creek JPA Executive Director, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 16, 2012 at 12:28 pm

I appreciated reading all of the comments expressed over the past couple of days, and thought I would provide my insight and invite all of you to stay in touch with the San Franciquito Creek JPA (SFCJPA.ORG or 650-324-1972) with questions or comments.

Regarding Newell Road Bridge, your questions about transportation, parking, privacy, and public safety issues are best directed to the City of Palo Alto as part of the Newell Bridge project process.

Regarding issues related to SFCJPA objectives – including flood protection, environmental enhancement, and recreation – the most important point for this Town Square discussion is that we need a new Newell Bridge that increases the capacity of the channel at that location to a 100-year flow at the same time as assumed 50-years of Sea Level Rise in order to protect people, properties, and pocketbooks in that area.

Water did not exit the Creek channel at Newell in 1998 and that Corps of Engineers models do not predict it will now, because Newell Bridge has more capacity than the Pope-Chaucer Bridge. After Pope-Chaucer, Newell has the least capacity of any area upstream of Hwy. 101, so in order to achieve any greater level of flood protection between Hwy. 101 and El Camino, we have to address the narrow channel at Newell first.

Regarding tides and Sea Level Rise, as you may have noticed yesterday about about 1:00 p.m., a "king tide" which is about two feet higher than a daily high tide does bring Bay water to Newell. And all SFCJPA projects take into account 50 years of Sea Level Rise so that our communities will not need to revisit this issue any time soon. In 1998, tides most definitely did increase the flooding, because the storm produced a surge in the Bay, and that "backed up" water coming down the Creek from the hills.

Finally, as you may have read today online here, at the SFCJPA Board meeting yesterday, we discussed the fact that FEMA is telling us that they will soon begin increasing their flood insurance rates dramatically and they are studying the notion of taking future Sea Level Rise into account in their calculations.

In January , the SFCJPA will begin an EIR process to look at the impacts of all project alternatives between Hwy. 101 and El Camino, and we encourage you to contribute to this process with your comments and to periodically check our website for updates and community meetings.

Sincerely,
Len Materman
SFCJPA Executive Director


Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 16, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Len, you say, "we need a new Newell Bridge that increases the capacity of the channel." But That is either dishonest or inaccurate. We need to remove the existing bridge to increase the capacity of the channel. What it is replaced with is a totally separate issue from the flood control issue. Also, you lump together the tidal issue with the bridge, when they are unrelated. Whether the bridge is left as is, removed, or replaced has no impact on controlling tidal flooding; those mechanisms are all downstream.

BTW, isn't a little pathetic that 14 years have passed since the 1998 flood, and there isn't completed design or plan for the bridges, let alone acual work on their replacement?


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 16, 2012 at 5:13 pm

That moon of ours is a powerful force. King tides and a total solar eclipse at the same time...


Posted by Palo Alto Resident, a resident of Community Center
on Nov 17, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Hi Len, I really appreciate your comments and explanation. I think one of your points requires a further refinement because it is a VERY sensitive issue for the residents of Palo Alto. In your comment "Regarding issues related to SFCJPA objectives – including flood protection, environmental enhancement, and recreation – the most important point for this Town Square discussion is that we need a new Newell Bridge that increases the capacity of the channel at that location to a 100-year flow at the same time as assumed 50-years of Sea Level Rise in order to protect people, properties, and pocketbooks in that area.",

I don't think we need to Replace the Bridge that allows the flow that you describe. I think we need to be sure the creek can accommodate that flow. Whether it is a bridge at all, a bridge for pedestrians and/or bikers, or a bridge for cars is what we are trying to understand and evaluate.

A wider bridge that will encourage (because of its design) many more cars to travel from the freeway or East Palo Alto along Newell Road is of great concern to the residents of Palo Alto - but the proposed design is not necessary and has many unintended negative consequences that are unrelated to flood control.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 17, 2012 at 12:56 pm

A wider bridge that will encourage (because of its design) many more cars to travel from the freeway or Palo Alto along Newell Road is of great concern to the residents of East Palo Alto!! But hey, we know that during emergencies, that bridge is priceless, even if it means we have to endure people from other cities driving our streets on a daily basis.


Posted by Palo Alto Resident, a resident of Community Center
on Nov 17, 2012 at 2:40 pm

To Hmmmmm...Emergency vehicles passing safely through the neighborhoods is an excellent point. Perhaps a bridge that could accommodate only emergency vehicles (with bollards or other devices) could be explored as an option.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 17, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Perhaps not. Perhaps when buying or renting in a metro area on a flood plain near a tidal creek during climate change residents should realize that changes will need to be made to prevent previous problems, which of course increase due to more building & more people. Perhaps the plan should remain as is - after all, during these types of emergencies, people need to leave the area.


Posted by Palo Alto Resident, a resident of Community Center
on Nov 17, 2012 at 7:56 pm

Hmmmm - I just don't know what to say to your comment here. Initially you were advocating for emergency access and flood protection. I proposed options to both and now you seem to be saying...."progress happens and you just need to throw up your hands and give into the way things are going."

The north side of Palo Alto along the creek has only been a residential area with families who chose Palo Alto for specific reasons. If developers on the other side of the creek have other objectives, their NEW goals need to work with that which already exists, not the other way around.

I personally am not willing to throw up my hands and give in. I'd rather identify what the real priorities are for this bridge and come up with a workable solution.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 17, 2012 at 8:12 pm

I have nothing to do with imaginary redevelopment on my side of the creek, nor am I advocating for real redevelopment here. I detest the various carpetbagger landlords that have taken over the west side. My comment was specific to the increase in the area's population due to Sili Valley as well as needed improvements to prevent flooding. You & I are powerless about both. Given that the west side of EPA is already densely populated & the creek bridge has been used by many for decades, I advocate making it as safe as possible while improving flood control.

I'm not sure why you're convinced that there's some conspiracy afoot re the this bridge, but hey - knock yourself out w/investigating & please let us know if there's a cabal of shadowy figures that need to be exposed - I'd be very happy to help. I did it once before & it was fascinating.


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