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«A thesis submitted to the faculty of San Francisco State University In partial fulfillment of The requirements for The degree Master of Arts In ...»

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Since White’s human ecology approach to natural hazards, a research approach developed focusing on a political economic perspective. More recently some natural hazards researchers moved away from a focus on either a human ecology perspective or a political economic perspective, toward an integrative or integrated approach (Tobin and Montz 1997; Palm 1990; Mitchell, Devine and Jagger 1989). An integrative approach to hazard response utilizes both human ecology and the political economic perspective to evaluate hazard response, placing the response within the context of political, economic, societal, and environmental constraints. Risa Palm (1990) developed an integrative framework to facilitate research into hazard response, which segments response into different levels and places them within the context of the environment or

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physical setting. Palm identifies the different levels as: the micro or individual level, the meso or intermediary and policy level, and the macro or societal level. Depending in part on the level, these elements can be people, policies, and/or ideas. Examining the elements at these levels not only as separate elements but also as integrated or linked elements reveals the complexity of hazard response and can bring to light connections unrevealed by other perspectives. Knowledge of these connections can improve the ability of different elements to work together to more effectively respond to a hazard.

Relevant natural hazards literature is discussed further in Chapter 1. The environment or physical setting of the flood hazard along San Pedro Creek is described in Chapter 2, relying on a human ecology perspective. The remaining chapters explore issues and linkages emerging from the history of the flood control project, such as the hazard response of residents after floods, the changing objectives of the flood control project, and the role of the individual acting in a meso-level role. Within these themes the elements influencing the hazard response are evaluated using Palm’s framework.

Using Palm’s integrative framework provides a comprehensive view of why and how the flood hazard response was developed and chosen for San Pedro Creek by looking for influences at all levels rather than focusing on the individual influences or the societal influences and perhaps missing important issues and linkages. This comprehensive view identifies the significant influence of meso-level elements on hazard response in the San Pedro Creek Flood Control Project, and more specifically the noteworthy influence of individuals on the meso-level element they represent. The integrative approach also

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reveals to the City of Pacifica elements that may require additional attention when the city attempts to mitigate future impacts of the flood hazard.

Site Description: The San Pedro Creek Watershed The San Pedro Creek Watershed is located on the Pacific coast, a few miles south of San Francisco, in the southernmost part of Pacifica, California (Map 1). The watershed is approximately 8 square miles (21 sq. km) (USACE 1989), and contains a perennial stream, San Pedro Creek, which empties into the Pacific Ocean. The creek has four major forks, three of which meet in the eastern end of the San Pedro Valley (North, Middle, and South Forks), and then flow to the northwest and meet with one more major fork (Sanchez Fork) before reaching the ocean (Davis 2004). The Mediterranean climate brings winter storms with occasionally heavy rainfalls. The average annual precipitation of the watershed is 33 inches (84 cm), with a range across the watershed of 23-38 inches (58-97 cm) (USACE 1989, 3).

The watershed is bounded by the Pacific Ocean to the northwest and by mountains on the three remaining sides, providing some steep slopes (Photographs 1-2).

The mountains surrounding the watershed are at the northernmost extent of the Santa Cruz Mountains (Collins, Amato, and Morton 2001). The elevation ranges from sea level at the Pacific Ocean to 1,898 feet (579 meters) at the north peak of Montara Mountain (USGS 1997). Urban development covers most of the valley floor, and extends up onto some hillsides. The watershed is approximately 19% developed

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San Pedro Valley, Lower Linda Mar, Looking East, Spring 2002.


San Pedro Valley, Looking ESE, Spring 2002.

(USACE 1989, 2). To the east and south the watershed contains the parklands of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), San Pedro Valley County Park and McNee Ranch State Park. Open areas and parklands in and around the watershed harbor wildlife such as deer, bobcats, fox, and turkey vultures (VanderWerf 1994). San Pedro Creek supports a corridor of riparian vegetation and wildlife. For the 25 miles (40 km) between San Francisco and Half Moon Bay, the creek provides the only good habitat for a native steelhead population (USACE and City 1998a).

The watershed evolved over the last several hundred years, so that the features of the watershed found in the mid-1700s such as the meandering stream, marsh, and lake were altered according to the changing land uses – for example, subsistence farming gave way to organized agriculture and ranching, and in the 1950s to a suburban community. As a result, the lake and most of the wetlands disappeared and sections of San Pedro Creek were straightened, reducing the storage capacity of the watershed. In addition, the total area of impermeable surfaces in the watershed increased leading to a decrease in the lag time of runoff and an increase in the peak amount of runoff. With more water traveling more quickly down the stream system, the flood risk to areas downstream also increased. Indeed, flooding has been a persistent problem for residents and businesses in the Linda Mar neighborhood in the northwestern area of the valley since urbanization; major damages were caused by flooding in 1962, 1972, and 1982.

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the westernmost, downstream reach of San Pedro Creek (Maps 2-3), and roughly corresponds to the 100-year floodplain, or the area with a 1% probability of flooding in any given year (USACE and City 1998a). The 100-year floodplain covers 160 acres and contains over 450 structures (Map 4) (USACE and City 1998a, 11). Most of the structures on the floodplain are residential, although some commercial structures exist in the area, including the Linda Mar Shopping Center (USACE and City 1998a, 11).

Chapter 2 explores the changing environment of the San Pedro Creek Watershed in more detail.

A Brief History of the San Pedro Creek Flood Control Project: 1962-2004 Starting in 1962 with the first major flood along San Pedro Creek in the Linda Mar neighborhood, Pacifica began seeking a solution to the flood problem. An engineering response developed over several decades, stopping and starting several times along the way, and eventually became the San Pedro Creek Flood Control Project.

As of spring 2004 this project had developed several flood control improvements, although the entire area still did not have protection from a 100-year event.

Following the first major flood in October 1962, a citizens Drainage Committee was established by the city council to research the flooding problem, which City Engineer Al Roberts thought of as a drainage problem. This committee recommended improvements to the drainage system and $2 million in bonds to finance them

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(Pacifica Tribune 1963b; Pacifica Tribune 1963a). In the decade after the 1962 flood, the Department of Public Works made improvements to the existing pumping stations and built a new pumping station in order to accommodate larger flows; however, the drainage or flood control project was stopped due to a lack of funding. The improvements in pumping capacity gave Frank Sampson from the Department of Public Works a false sense of confidence that the threat of flooding was significantly reduced if not eliminated (Pacifica Tribune 1972b).

As the Pacifica Tribune containing the article “The Great Flood of ’62: Could It Happen Again?” (1972b) was being delivered in the early hours of October 11, 1972, the Linda Mar neighborhood experienced another major flood (Pacifica Tribune 1972c).

Although not as extensive as the flooding in 1962, residents were still reminded of the flood hazard. In 1973 the city council formed another citizens committee and requested that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) start a flood control study. The committee and the Corps worked on the flood control study for several years and developed several alternatives, but in early 1976 in part due to opposition by environmentalists, the city council concluded that it could not provide the necessary funds and work on the project stopped.

With striking regularity January 1982 brought another major flood to Linda Mar, the most damaging yet. For the third time the city council formed a citizens committee, most recently called the San Pedro Creek Flood Control Committee, to address the flood problem. The committee began researching the flood problem and potential

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solutions in June 1984, and was joined by the Corps at the mayor’s request in 1985.

Mike Randolph, Community Development and Services Director for Pacifica, represented the city on the flood control project, acting as a liaison to the flood control committee and the Corps. City Engineer Ernie Renner also worked with Randolph on the project.

The Corps conducted a reconnaissance study, the first step in a flood control project, and published their report in 1988, identifying two economically justified alternatives, the Floodwall and Floodplain Plan and the Bypass Channel Plan (Maps 5-6).

In 1989 as the Corps began work on the next stage of the project, the feasibility study, opposition to the Floodwall and Floodplain Plan by creekside residents brought the project to a standstill.

Scott Holmes was brought into the project by his boss at the city’s Sewer Department to consider alternatives to the “hard engineering solution” and get the project moving forward again (Holmes 2003b). In his meso-level role for the city, Holmes significantly influenced the flood control project. He developed a new Wetlands/Marsh Plan that was more environmentally friendly and didn’t require a floodwall on residents’ property. Residents, environmentalists, and the city council all supported Holmes’ plan. After receiving feedback from various organizations including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Holmes modified the plan to include a diversion channel and called it the Diversion Marsh Alternative.

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Peggy Fiedler and biologist Mike Vasey, and later also with L.C. Lee & Associates (LCLA), a consulting firm based in Seattle specializing in environmental restoration of wetlands and streams (LCLA 2004). During the same time Holmes also pursued grants to fund the city’s portion of the flood control project, particularly after some residents objected to a proposal by city staff (likely Scott Holmes) and the committee for a special assessment district to tax those in the areas prone to or causing the flooding to provide project funding. Holmes pursued grants with organizations such as the California Coastal Conservancy, the California Water Resources Control Board, and the Water Quality Control Board. City Manager Daniel Pincetich requested help from State Senator Quentin Kopp and Assemblywoman Jackie Speier in obtaining funding from the Water Resources Control Board.

Also during the same time starting in 1991, the Corps worked to incorporate the new alternative into the work they had already done, but internal reorganizations and staff turnover slowed down the process. Scott Holmes asked the current mayor and a former mayor to request help from U.S. Congressman Tom Lantos and State Assemblywoman Jackie Speier to push the Corps along, while the committee also requested help from Congressman Lantos. By 1995 the Corps identified a wetland bypass plan, in essence the same as the Marsh Diversion Plan, as their Selected Plan.

State and federal requirements pertaining to environmental impacts slowed the progress of the project. These included those requirements spawned by the National

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Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the federal and state Endangered Species Act.

Peggy Fiedler found the endangered red-legged frog in the study area and special measures were taken to address impacts to the frog, in addition to other plants and animals with a special status, including the steelhead trout. The Corps initiated the Environmental Impact Report/Statement (EIR/S) in fall 1995; however, the report was not published until January 1998 along with the final detailed project report for the flood control study. The final detailed project report identified the Wetland with Large Culvert Plan as the selected plan (Map 7).

When the final report was published, several key elements of the plan had not been decided. In 1998 the Corps was still finalizing a contract with Moffatt and Nichol, an engineering firm, for the flood control system design including the bypass pipe. In fall 1998, after repeated requests from city staff over the previous seven years, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) transferred land adjacent to the creek over to the city for the new floodplain, but only after state legislation sponsored by State Assemblyman Lou Papan ordered Caltrans to do so. The actual plan to implement the project was also not final. Scott Holmes separated the project into phases. Scott Holmes and the Corps eliminated the bypass pipe from the project design by March 2000, mostly due to an increase in the estimated cost of the pipe, but likely also due to opposition by residents along the pipe’s proposed route.

After 16 years of planning, construction finally began on the first phase of the San Pedro Creek Flood Control and Ecosystem Restoration Project in summer 2000. Phase

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