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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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As the years passed since the last flood, residents’ perception of the flood hazard became less accurate and confidence that the 1962 flood was a rare event began to rise.

As the ten year anniversary of the 1962 flood approached, the Pacifica Tribune ran an article on October 11, 1972 expressing the question on many people’s minds: “The Great Flood of ’62: Could It Happen Again?” The article noted: “anything is possible… But it seems that the chances of another flood, like the one Pacifica had ten years ago, are greatly decreased” (Pacifica Tribune 1972b, 19). The article alluded to the unlikely realignment of the natural factors seen in 1962 that caused the flooding, including large amounts of rain over several days, high tides, waves, along with the lack of backups for the pumps (Pacifica Tribune 1972b). Frank Sampson, representative of the Department of Public Works, was confident that the improvements in pumping capacity would practically eliminate the threat of flooding (Pacifica Tribune 1972b).

Flood of 1972 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, Linda Mar experienced another major flood (Pacifica Tribune 1972c). A winter storm

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FIGURE 2. Key Elements Influencing San Pedro Creek Flood Control Project after 1962 Flood.

Modified from Palm 1990.

–  –  –

same streets flooded in 1962, predominantly Linda Mar Boulevard and Anza Drive, as well as in stores in Linda Mar Shopping Center (Pacifica Tribune 1972c). This flood covered approximately 40 acres, a smaller area than the 1962 flood, and caused less in damages, approximately $144,000 (1972 price level) (USACE 1988, 3). A few homes were flooded, along with many garages, but this was significantly less than in 1962 (Pacifica Tribune 1972c). However, awareness of flooding was heightened in a larger area when the phone lines in Pacifica went dead after flood waters poured into the Pacific Telephone’s underground area containing the phone cables (Pacifica Tribune 1972c).

This flooding again increased the awareness of residents (micro-level elements), who again responded by asking the city to explain how the flooding happened and how the city would resolve the problem. Similar to the response after the 1962 flood, resident Mario Victor of Anza Drive wanted to know why the creeks were not cleaned out (Pacifica Tribune 1972c), but this time the city council and city staff replied with different reasons. Councilman Nick Gust and Superintendent of Public Works Frank Sampson blamed the lack of creek maintenance on environmentalists who opposed work to remove trees and vegetation from the creeks because of the possibility of damaging the trees and wildlife during a cleanup (Pacifica Tribune 1972c). This points to an influence originating at the macro level (the environmental movement) that will be discussed further in the next chapter. Resident Karl Strutz also questioned the city’s

Kelsey McDonald - Thesis 66

unwillingness to seek flood insurance, suggesting that it was only protecting big businesses, who would not be eligible for low-interest loans if they had flood insurance (Strutz 1972).

Several Anza Drive residents attended a city council meeting later in October to discuss the recent flood and what to do to prevent future flood disasters (Galstan 1972). Unlike after the 1962 flood when the mayor requested a citizens committee, this time micro-level residents originated the request. Anza resident Bill Byrne called on the city council (meso-level element) to create a committee including representatives from the city, Anza Drive, and a third party to look into the flood problem (Galstan 1972).

The city council agreed to work with a citizens committee to look into the flood problem and work on developing solutions (Galstan 1972), and initiated a flood control project later in the year. The city requested assistance with the project from the Corps in January 1973, who then began work on a Section 205 Flood Control Study along with a citizens committee (USACE and City 1998a). (Note: Section 205 refers to the section in the 1948 Flood Control Act (33 U.S.C. 701s), which “authorizes the Chief of Engineers to study and construct small flood control projects without individual authorization by Congress provided that the Federal project cost does not exceed $5,000,000” (USACE 1988, 1). The maximum amount later increased to $7,000,000 (Galal 2003).) In early 1976 after the city council determined that funding was not available for the city’s share of the project, the flood control project was halted (USACE and City 1998a).

–  –  –

the Department of Public Works also began to conduct annual creek cleanups again the following year, trimming back trees and vegetation that could obstruct the stream flow (Pacifica Tribune 1973). Public Works Superintendent Frank Sampson reported that unlike in previous years when the environmentalists had protested when city staff wanted to trim back vegetation, this time they did not protest (Pacifica Tribune 1973).

The experience of a recent flood increased the willingness of environmentalists, some micro-level residents and likely also meso-level organizations, to allow city staff (mesolevel element) to attempt to reduce the flood hazard despite potential negative environmental impacts. In 1980 the city also began participating in the national flood insurance program, which required floodproofing measures for new structures built on the floodplain (SPFCC 1985).





After the second major flood in a decade, micro-level residents responded again by calling on the city council and city staff (meso-level elements) to fix the problem (Figure 3). The city staff began creek maintenance again, in an attempt to reduce the flood hazard. However, this time residents proposed that the city council create another citizens committee to address the flood problem.

Flood of 1982 With striking regularity 1982 brought another major flood to the San Pedro Valley. In early January 1982 winter storms dumped record rainfall on the San Pedro

Kelsey McDonald - Thesis 68

FIGURE 3. Key Elements Influencing San Pedro Creek Flood Control Project after 1972 Flood.

Modified from Palm 1990.

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Mar (Map 14). The Linda Mar Shopping Center was flooded once again and the parking lot and surrounding area again turned into a lake (Pacifica Tribune 1982b). Lower Linda Mar residents were evacuated on sections of Anza Drive, Balboa Way, Cervantes Way, and Rio Vista Drive (Barnard 1982a). All of these streets are located in the low-lying area around the site of the former Lake Mathilde, except Rio Vista Drive, which is just upstream of the Adobe Drive Bridge. The Adobe Bridge washed out during the storm, although the box culvert beneath the bridge remained in place, allowing the city to build over the culvert again later (Holmes 2004). The floodwaters ultimately reached into approximately 183 residential and 10 commercial structures, where they caused over $4,000,000 in damage (1982 dollars) (USACE 1987, B-1).

Given multiple experiences with flooding within the previous 20 to 30 years and the seeming predictability of a major flood every decade, residents in Linda Mar had a high awareness of the flood hazard. As expected this awareness prompted residents to act. Residents not only called on the city to prevent or at least minimize future flood disasters, but also threatened legal action against the city. As with after the 1962 flood, the macro-level cultural notion that the government should control flooding likely influenced micro-level residents to pursue litigation against the city (meso-level element).

As the city’s legal expenses mounted, ultimately to over $1 million (Curtis 1991b), the city council decided to act (Hall 2003). In January 1983 one year after the

Kelsey McDonald - Thesis 70

latest flood, the city council petitioned residents and property owners in lower Linda Mar to apply for a seat on a committee devoted to addressing the flood problem (Pacifica Tribune 1983). Due to unexplained delays the committee members were not appointed until March 1984 (SPFCC 1985). Patrick Hall later noted that by forming another citizens committee to look into the flood problem, the city could demonstrate that they were trying to address the flood problem, and the legal arguments against the city would be weakened (Hall 2003).

The committee started off with nine members: Tyler Ahlgren, Gil Anda, Joe Fulford, Patrick Hall, Ken Locher, Ken Miles, Ron Perotti, Eva Post, and Tom Scott (LLMAFCIC 1984a). Only two of those original nine committee members actually lived in an area subject to flooding; Eva Post lived on Anza Drive and Patrick Hall on Balboa Way (Hall 2003). The other members of the community were included because the city thought of flooding as a community problem (Hall 2003). On June 6, 1984 the Lower Linda Mar Area Flood Control Improvement Committee (soon to be called the San Pedro Flood Control Committee, and then later called the San Pedro Creek Flood Control Committee) met for the first time (LLMAFCIC 1984a). Although many committee members would resign and be replaced along the way, the committee endured with Patrick Hall and Joe Fulford continuing as committee members still as of Fall 2003, still determined after almost 20 years to decrease the flood risk (Hall 2003).

The committee submitted its first report to the city council in May 1985 with their possible solutions and funding strategies (SPFCC 1985), and shortly thereafter the

Kelsey McDonald - Thesis 72

mayor (meso-level element) asked the Corps (meso-level element) to start another Section 205 flood control study with the city to address the flood problem (USACE and City 1998a). The Corps and city staff held several public hearings throughout the planning process to allow residents and other interested organizations to receive updates on the project and to participate in the process. The concerns expressed by the residents who attended the meetings will be discussed in the other chapters together with the changing objectives of the flood control project.

The response by micro-level residents after each the 1982 flood followed the same basic pattern as the previous major floods in 1962 and 1972 (Figure 4). Flooding increased residents’ awareness of the flood hazard, leading residents to act by calling on the city council and/or city staff (meso-level elements) to fix the problem. Although after each major flood a citizens commitee worked on possible solutions to the flood problem, only after the 1982 flood, when additional flooding seemed inevitable did a committee persevere in seeing a flood control project through to at least partial completion. Further details of the post-1982 flood control project will be discussed in later chapters.

While city staff, the flood control committee, and the Corps were working on the flood control project, some residents were making their own efforts to reduce the flood problem. The San Pedro Valley Park Volunteers cleaned out the creek in July 1985, removing loads of trash including appliances, shopping carts, and cement (SPVPV 1986). The volunteers proposed that storms in March 1986 caused limited damage in

Kelsey McDonald - Thesis 73

FIGURE 4. Key Elements Influencing San Pedro Creek Flood Control Project after 1982 Flood.

Modified from Palm 1990.

–  –  –

1986). The volunteers admonished people not to use the storm drains to dispose of trash as this ends up in the creek and can cause flooding, and recommended that creekside residents consult local officials for advice before constructing a wall along the creek banks that may end up collapsing into the creek and cause flooding (SPVPV 1986).

The persistent flooding in Linda Mar increased residents’ perception of the risk of flooding in the area, which prompted them to take action to reduce the risk.

Residents (micro-level elements) pressured the city (meso-level element) to reduce the flood hazard by attending city council meetings and threatening litigation, and they served on citizens committees (meso-level elements) to help look for the means to resolve the problem. The decision by residents to demand action from the city originates from a societal expectation (macro-level element) that flooding problems should be controlled and that residents are not the ones responsible to control the problem.

–  –  –

Evaluating how the objectives changed for flood control along San Pedro Creek helps identify additional influences on hazard response. Although meso-level elements, such as the city council, city staff, and the Corps, determined the official objectives and methods of the project, they were influenced by many different elements at all levels (Figures 2-4). As the San Pedro Creek Flood Control Project evolved over several decades the project’s objectives broadened from strictly flood control to incorporate environmental restoration and the methods considered moved away from a reliance on traditional flood control methods to incorporate other methods. The result was a flood control project that was equally an environmental restoration project.

The environmental movement (macro-level element) significantly influenced many of the meso-level elements involved in determining the objectives and methods of the flood control project, both directly and indirectly, as when individuals (micro-level elements) influenced the meso-level elements. Starting in the 1960s and 1970s as part of the environmental movement, attitudes toward the environment began to shift away from valuing human conquest of nature to valuing protection of nature (Kline 2000).

State and federal governments generated many new policies (meso-level elements) for environmental protection such as the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). NEPA requires the Corps to complete an Environmental Impact Statement

Kelsey McDonald - Thesis 76



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