Public comment sought on flood-control projects | News | Palo Alto Online |


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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3 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?

3 people like 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.

9 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?

7 people like this
Posted by Einstein
a resident of Woodland Ave. area (East Palo Alto)
on Oct 21, 2017 at 9:47 pm

Some environmentalist mandated that the creek banks needed hydro-seeding. Hydro-seeding was just completed on the banks of downstream side of 101. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that this would wash away after the first rain. Well guess what? It just rained! All that work down the drain. How many thousands of dollars were wasted? Probably now there will be a study conducted on the effects of the seeds that are now in the bay.

Just another case if over educated under intelligent.

4 people like this
Posted by NoEinstein
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 24, 2017 at 6:36 am

-- Some environmentalist mandated that the creek banks needed hydro-seeding.

Comments like this are like fake news. "Some" environmentalist" ... that is like
I hear people are saying this or that. If you have some facts to present, how about
presenting them rather than throwing some kind of bad light on ALL environmentalists.

If it were not for environmentalists our bay would be a dried up cesspool, and the
air would be so thick you would not be able to see the other side of the bay, like
back in the 70s.

Venting your spleen over stuff you cannot confirm and do not objectively compare
with other efforts going on doesn't really help, but you get to take a dig at those
terrible environmentalists who want your air, water and land to be clean and
living - how terrible.

1 person likes this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 24, 2017 at 12:21 pm

We have been talking about the Searsville lake dam and creek forever. We have analyzed the sludge problem and could have stopped it but due to inaction it just keeps building up. If SU is going to expand their campus then they should be required to take down the dam and redirect the water flow prior to the next big rains - at which point all bets will be off. The problem we are looking at is that the dam and lake are in the Jasper Ridge closed off area. So what is going on within that compound that requires being closed off? That is where the discussion always gets derailed. If any illegal plants are being grown in that location than that is a good reason for the secrecy as to what goes on in that location. Time to clear up this problem at the source so that the new construction and city are not held hostage by SU inaction of this topic.

5 people like this
Posted by Einstein
a resident of Woodland Ave. area (East Palo Alto)
on Oct 24, 2017 at 10:12 pm

@ No Einstein

Fake news? The fact is the creek was just hydroseeded. It just rained, and all the special hand picked, native grass seed, was washed out to sea. That is a fact not fake news.

All the environmental hoopla that has slowed down this project has been nauseating.

News Flash: The harvest mouse has known how to survive storms for thousands of years... The mouse does not need a special island and/ or condo to survive.

5 people like this
Posted by Jerry Feingold
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 20, 2017 at 4:32 pm

When is the Bay to 101 project going to be really completed? Just got brief from someone at the Water board that that there is pending judgment by a dispute resolution board against the water district for $12 million because of screw up by their consultant, HDR? Are we taxpayers going to be left holding the bag here? This project has gone on for so long that my baby is old enough now to have her own baby. Too slow.


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