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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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control study report, conducted a walking tour of the creek, and started developing matrices for structural flood solutions, non-structural flood solutions, and funding strategies (LLMAFCIC 1984b; LLMAFCIC 1984c; SPFCC 1984a; SPFCC 1984b). The committee initially focused on the work done by the previous committee in the 1970s and their solution, the floodwall/floodplain plan, which involved a concrete floodwall along the north side of the creek up to Peralta (Hall 2003).

As work progressed other elements influenced the committee, city council, and city staff and their objectives for the flood control project. The committee and city staff involved other agencies in the planning process such as the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG). Dennis Eimoto from the CDFG expressed his agency’s preference to protect the fish and vegetation in the project area by keeping the stream natural (SPFCC 1984c). City representative on the project Mike Randolph (meso-level element) and members of the committee learned about the Upper Penitencia Creek Flood Plain Management Study in San Jose, which proposed building an overflow channel adjacent to an existing stream channel to keep the stream as natural as possible (Randolph 1984b).

Philip Williams & Associates, a hydraulic engineering and environmental hydrology firm, also influenced city staff and the committee with its report on the 1982 flooding and the flood hazard (LLMAFCIC 1985) (Vandivere 1985). As part of its hydraulic analysis, Philip Williams & Associates proposed several solutions to the flood problem, most of which were similar to proposals studied after the 1972 flood, including

Kelsey McDonald - Thesis 86

levees, a floodplain, bridge replacement, detention basins, and channel maintenance (Appendix B). Philip Williams & Associates recommended several methods in combination to provide 100-year flood protection: increasing stream capacity, building a new floodway, and replacing the Highway One Bridge (Vandivere 1985). When committee member Gil Anda questioned Bill Vandivere from Philip Williams & Associates about the possibility of building a wall on the north side of the creek, Vandivere noted that the wall would have to be high and additional storage capacity would still be needed (LLMAFCIC 1985). Philip Williams & Associates validated many of the solutions previously explored by the Corps and citizens committees.

By late May 1985 the flood control committee presented the Pacifica City Council with their report: Report No. 1: Feasibility and Recommendation (SPFCC 1985).

Their report detailed the general causes of flooding, the structural and non-structural solutions considered, the potential sources of funding, and the committee’s recommended solutions (SPFCC 1985). The structural solutions considered by the committee included variations of channelizing or bedlining portions of the creek, enhancing the berm on the north bank, excavating the south bank, replacing bridges, and diverting water into a separate channel (Appendix C) (SPFCC 1985, Appendix A). The non-structural solutions included removing vegetation from the riparian area and creating a floodplain (Appendix C) (SPFCC 1985, Appendix A).

Although the solutions the committee studied included many structural options that would require modifications to the stream channel, the committee recommended

Kelsey McDonald - Thesis 87

options that were noticeably less damaging to the stream channel. The committee recommended a solution (structural solution 9A) combining several structural and nonstructural options, which focused on increasing channel capacity downstream of Peralta, in part by utilizing the land south of the creek between Peralta and Highway One for a floodplain (SPFCC 1985). In addition, the committee recommended replacing the Highway One Bridge, enhancing berms and levees on the north side of the creek, and creating a diversion channel (structural options 7, 8, 9A, and 10, and non-structural options # 3 and # 4) (SPFCC 1985). The committee’s goals in selecting these options were to increase the channel capacity and create a floodplain for high flow events (SPFCC 1985). The committee estimated that a flood control project with a combination of the proposed solutions would cost between $450,000-$3,050,000 (SPFCC 1985, 11). This committee’s recommendations reflected not only the influences of traditional flood control methods but also of newer approaches to flood control, including a diversion channel, due to the continued desire to preserve the creek.

The committee noted that funding the flood control project was likely to be challenging due to a shift by federal sources (meso-level elements) away from funding flood control projects with structural solutions (SPFCC 1985). The committee proposed pursuing funding from the Corps and the Soil Conservation Service (mesolevel elements); however, it expected that the city council (meso-level element) and/or city residents (micro-level elements) would be the primary source of funds given the unreliability of the potential outside sources (SPFCC 1985). Local funding sources

Kelsey McDonald - Thesis 88

recommended by the committee were a citywide special levy, a citywide drainage utility, and/or a benefit assessment district (SPFCC 1985, 12). The city council supported the committee’s work and approved plans to provide $200,000 toward an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and preliminary project design to be developed by a consulting firm, and $3.15 million for 1987-88 to complete the design and construct the project (Verdeckberg 1985, 16A).





Mike Randolph initially hesitated in contacting the Corps, because the city had been unable to secure the local share of funding for the flood control project started in the 1970s; however, at the committee’s urging Randolph conceded to contact the Corps (Hall 2003). The mayor contacted the Corps about starting another Section 205 flood control study in June 1985, and a partnership was subsequently initiated between the Corps and the city (Hall 2003; USACE and City 1998a). As mentioned previously working with the Corps provided an opportunity for federal funding; however, it also placed additional constraints on the flood control possibilities.

In the report on their initial reconnaissance study published in 1988, the Corps identified the planning objectives for the project as addressing the flood problem and improving the south bank area to allow for recreation (USACE 1988, 4). Additional constraints on the Corps not previously mentioned include the need to mitigate any impacts increasing erosion and to minimize any negative effects on the existing natural environment (USACE 1988, 4). Although the Corps must mitigate impacts of the

Kelsey McDonald - Thesis 89

project on erosion, it was not authorized to work on reducing existing erosion problems (USACE 1988).

Despite the failure to implement the post-1972 flood control project, in part due to environmental concerns, the Corps initially studied two plans from that flood control project, the Floodwall and Floodplain Plan and the Levee and Bypass Channel Plan (USACE 1988). The Floodwall and Floodplain Plan included a concrete floodwall on the north bank, levees surrounding the convalescent hospital and San Pedro Terrace Road, riprap in the channel around the Highway One Bridge, a floodplain on the south side with some small vegetation, and new bridges at Adobe and Peralta (Map 5) (USACE 1988). The Levee and Bypass Plan included a 7-foot deep earthen trapezoidal bypass channel from below the convalescent home to Highway One, and levee along the north bank, and riprap in the channel around the Highway One Bridge (USACE 1988). After the USFWS expressed concerns about potential habitat loss in the Levee and Bypass Plan, the Corps created a new variation called the Bypass Channel Plan (USACE 1988).

In addition to the changes in the Levee and Bypass Plan, the Bypass Channel Plan included replacement of the Highway One Bridge, which reduced the size of the bypass channel and the length of the levee on the north bank (Map 6) (USACE 1988).

The Corps concluded in their reconnaissance report that both the Floodwall and Floodplain Plan and the Bypass Channel Plan were “economically justified,” and that a feasibility study should be initiated (USACE 1988, 29). The Floodwall and Floodplain Plan would be the “most cost effective plan” providing protection for up to 100-year

Kelsey McDonald - Thesis 90

floods, while the Bypass Channel Plan would not only provide 100-year flood protection, but would also be “a less environmentally damaging alternative” (USACE 1988, 29).

As the Corps began its feasibility study, some residents (micro-level elements) and organizations (meso-level elements) expressed their dissatisfaction with the proposed solutions, calling for solutions that were more environmentally friendly to protect the fish and the creek banks. The Central Coast Conservation Center (CCCC) was conducting a study of its own to develop an ecologically sound, non-structural plan for San Pedro Creek (Pacifica Tribune 1989). The CCCC study was supported by a grant from the State Department of Water Resources (Pacifica Tribune 1989).

As part of its feasibility study, the Corps (meso-level element) held a joint public hearing with the city (meso-level element) in February 1989, where micro-level residents voiced their concerns about the project. Up until this public hearing, most homeowners were not active in the planning process despite the committee’s attempts to get them involved; however, with this hearing homeowners started becoming more vocal (Hall 2003). Micro-level residents brought up many different issues with the representatives from the meso-level Corps and city, including the lack of notification to the community about the public hearing, negative experiences working with the Corps in the past, and a lack of consensus within the community about the value of the flood control project (Larsen 1989). Residents also expressed different concerns about the project, including a desire to protect the natural environment, prevent intrusion on

Kelsey McDonald - Thesis 91

private property rights, and receive compensation for negative impacts on private property (Larsen 1989). Bill Brick from the Corps addressed a concern about the impacts of a concrete solution on the environment, but noted concrete allows water to move at higher velocities (Larsen 1989). Linda Mar resident Todd Greene attended either the joint Corps-city public hearing or another flood committee meeting around this time and was alarmed with the proposal to put a 4-5 foot high concrete wall through his backyard, which bordered the creek (Greene 2004). Greene quickly united DeSolo Drive and Flores Drive residents who would be affected by the wall in a homeowners’ association, and they presented the city council with a petition against the floodwall (Greene 2004). The committee was frustrated with receiving negative feedback from the public at this point in the process, since the public was given previous opportunities to get involved in the past few years (Hall 2003). Despite its frustrations the committee (meso-level element) worked with these homeowners (micro-level elements), and Todd Greene and another resident Joe Parris eventually joined the committee (Hall 2003).

With many different people voicing various opinions about the flood control project and some expressing strong opposition to the floodwall and even potential litigation, the project was at an impasse. Shortly after the public hearing, Pacifica Tribune columnist Paul Azevedo (1989) expressed his disapproval of putting the creek in a concrete channel or culvert, as was done with the Los Angeles River, and noted that many people already helped protect the creek and regarded it as an asset. However,

Kelsey McDonald - Thesis 92

Azevedo also advocated that a balance be struck between flood and erosion control and maintaining the natural environment of San Pedro Creek (Azevedo 1989). The person who would help find just such a balance between the different interests was Scott Holmes.

Although Scott Holmes did not officially take over as staff liaison to the flood control committee until late in 1990 (SPFCC 1990a), he started working on the project in 1989, brought onto the project by his boss at the Sewer Department to get the project moving again by developing alternatives to the “hard engineering solution” (Holmes 2003b). As became quickly apparent, although Holmes acted in a meso-level role for the city, his individual values and experiences (i.e. Holmes as a micro-level element) significantly influenced how he carried out this meso-level role. Holmes, who is a self-described environmentalist with hydraulic knowledge, started working on a new alternative, the Wetlands/Marsh Plan (Holmes 2003b). For help with the wetlands portion of the project, Holmes turned to Mike Vasey, a biologist at San Francisco State University (SFSU), and Dr. Peggy Fiedler, a botanist then at SFSU (Holmes 2003b).

Fiedler, Vasey, and Holmes together developed a new “restorative approach” to the flood control project (Holmes 2003b).

As Holmes worked on the new plan, the next major influence and challenge for the flood control project surfaced when the USFWS (meso-level element) provided their preliminary Habitat Evaluation Plan (HEP) on July 17, 1990 (City of Pacifica 1990).

In the HEP the USFWS indicated that substantial mitigation would be required for the

Kelsey McDonald - Thesis 93

proposed flood control project alternatives: the Bypass Channel Plan, the Floodwall Floodway Plan, and the new Wetlands/Marsh Plan (City of Pacifica 1990). This mitigation would greatly reduce the economic feasibility of the alternatives (City of Pacifica 1990), as well as decrease support for the flood control project, especially if mitigation was required outside of San Pedro Valley as was proposed (Hall 2003).

In fall 1990 details emerged on the new Wetlands/Marsh Plan, which was soon renamed the Diversion Marsh (or Marsh Diversion) Alternative (City of Pacifica 1990).



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