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Why SF’s $600 million plan to prevent floods in low-lying parts of the city won’t help

By Trisha Thadani, Chase DiFeliciantonio, St. John Barned-Smith, San Francisco Chronicle, January 4, 2023

“While the city is in the midst of three major infrastructure projects — totaling more than $600 million — to help low-lying neighborhoods that are particularly vulnerable to extreme flood damage, those projects are still years from completion and will not protect those areas from the brunt of [January 4th’s] storm.

“The city is particularly prone to flooding because, unlike every other coastal California city that has a separate sewer system, San Francisco uses the same set of pipes and can be easily overwhelmed by heavy rains, especially in low-lying areas.

“[D]espite round-the-clock preparations, Mayor London Breed said at a [January 3rd] news conference that the situation is not completely within the city’s control. San Francisco has seen rain of this magnitude only a few other times in its history, she said, pointing to climate change as one driver of extreme weather events.

“Still, neighborhood advocates said the city has dragged its feet in making critical upgrades to its drainage system.

“ ‘This has been going on for years,’ said David Hooper, a Mission Terrace resident who is with Solutions Not Sandbags, a local group advocating for better sewers.

“As part of the San Francisco Public Utility Commission’s (PUC) 10-year capital plan, $632 million has been allocated through 2032 to improve stormwater management in [low-lying areas of West Portal, Mission District, and Bernal Heights neighborhoods].

“The projects were part of a deal with the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board in 2021.

“The agreement required San Francisco to expand the capacity of its sewer system in those three areas. When sewage and stormwater flood sidewalks and into garages and houses, they ‘contain pathogens and other pollutants that pose human health risks and threaten groundwater quality,’ according to the water board.

“All of the projects, which must be completed no later than 2028, are still years away from completion, meaning the targeted neighborhoods are still vulnerable to [intense] rainfall.”

Read the full article here.  (~5 min.)

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