Officials are scrambling to prepare the city for El Niño, the weather pattern that is supposed to dump massive rainfall on Southern California. Regulators believe the rains will inevitably sweep away some cars and homes, and maybe even people.
As they hustle to mitigate the damage, local, state and federal officials are also locked in another race: the one to assign blame for getting us into this mess.
City officials say the lack of preparation is because of burdensome environmental regulations.
State regulators and local environmentalists question the city’s sudden cries for help. If property is destroyed and if lives are lost, they say a good share of the blame should fall on decades’ worth of bad decisions by the city.
The city’s waterways that carry rainfall to the ocean are clogged – with vegetation mostly, but also trash. When it rains, these clogged rivers, creeks and concrete channels can’t drain the rain water fast enough, so they flood. There are 84 miles of these city-owned channels snaking through San Diego, often right next to people’s homes and offices.
The city is supposed to keep these channels clear. But last year, city crews did major clearing of just six clogged waterways. In September, the city produced a list of two dozen waterways in need of flood control maintenance and said it had no plan to do work on most of them for several more years. The city is now trying to complete about a dozen of the highest-priority projects, if it can get approval.
We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?
Despite the El Nino hype, the precipitation will likely fall under supposed normal levels for the region (despite the broadening ITCZ from energy drivers, strong currents, gravity waves, & other colliding conditions there were other regional geographic & climate influencing factors seemingly disregarded such as those creating the high pressure & causing katabatic winds) although the apparent episodic flow has been exacerbated by the channeling, impervious surfaces, watershed alteration, reduced floodplain, & other contributing conditions from synthetic activities. People in this region are notorious for their irrational hubris by sighting structures in known hazardous areas with risks that are eventually fulfilled while appropriate accountability is evaded. The responsibility for maintaining some of these areas should be on the land & property owner with the construction interests that profited while placing people & activities in floodplains, canyons, watersheds, & other areas obviously known to impose risks while they still influenced policymakers & bureaucracy to indulge their desires. Timothy Taylor indeed reiterates how a supposed good cause or community emergency can get promoted so often that it becomes exploited for indulgence, conniving opportunity, & else while the conditions are never alleviated ... one of the issues with corruption & kleptocracy that San Diego, CA blatantly exhibits seemingly without accountability. Weathering, erosion, mass wasting, & other processes are persistent. The engineering measures rarely alleviate the risks while supposed mitigation is a myth that has been exceeded soon as the project is promoted. The EIRs & assessments are terrible while too many, including the supposed conservators & others that are paid to look the other way & indulge the ever deteriorating conditions, compromising buffers, losing arable land, eroding soils, & mismanaging habitat along with misunderstanding & altering the ecosystems so that bio-system services are opposed or eradicated. The energy, effort, & infrastructure required to replace them is exorbitant while the eventual hazards will happen more often with greater severity; initially I appreciated the affiliated activities & organizations involved with environment, resources, built communities, ... but involvement became criticism about the direction, efforts, & policy. Too much compromise, covert arrangements, undue influence, & conniving opportunism that are complicit in the corruption characterizing San Diego, CA ... definitely exposing the problems but some have enjoyed the indulgences at others expense & well-being for too long. Now the issues & exploitation are getting called out & recognized. Hopefully, nobody else suffers or is harmed.
This was a couple of vehicles from Storm & Wastewater personnel (that day I observed four personnel each with a vehicle) perpetrating the twice per month street sweeping scam issuing clandestine citations. Effective use of their time for pillaging & pilfering that indulges the kleptocracy while the infrastructure deteriorates yet into which coffers & whose pockets do those funds drain? I have another picture & video of their activities. When I asked them how they could take advantage of citizens like that when the street sweeping causes deterioration (asphalt leaching, paint removal, ignores litter, ...) more than any supposed benefit, the response was that I did nothing & provided no benefit for anybody during my USN career because he had observed the supposed laziness of military personnel.
Gives you an idea of how the city personnel really consider the military personnel (active/retirees/veterans) instead of the ubiquitous hypocrisy & propaganda beside the evidence of injury, injustice, negligence, exploitation, persecution, theft, torture, & terrorism that I've endured. Despotism, kleptocracy, & corruption are easy to detect & reveal when experiencing the reality. These aren't the only sordid methods that kleptocracy reaps ill-gotten gains that imposes disparity & hardship while impeding productivity. Where is the accountability?
Beside those issues, what was done with the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act funds? So much operation & maintenance actions along with other expenses that cities, counties, & states have relied upon the Federal dole for general budget matters while hoarding to fill their own coffers, line their own pockets, & promote their own self-interests that it has been past time to end the undeserved indulgences.
Why isn't this Cory Briggs character in jail for his constant fleecing of the public for his personal gain?!
This is going to be entertaining. Mission Valley should be completely submerged this winter. Maybe they should issue life preservers to the customers. Business as usual downtown....
Speaking as an environmentalist who did comment on the City's stormwater management EIR many years ago, I'd add a couple of things.
One is that the City's stormwater EIR sucked, in the sense that it was badly done, had a lot of faulty data, and was fairly destructive (they wanted to bulldoze access wherever and not think to hard about what they were bulldozing). Nonetheless, it got passed, so they've got the master EIR to tier off new projects from. Then very little happened for years. That's on the city.
Another is that there's a plethora of storm channel projects that just showed up in the last month. I'm not planning on commenting on them, because I tend to agree that channel work needs to be done, and the damage from flooding can be worse than the damage from cleaning out channels and fixing access roads into them. In this case, I'd put the blame for the planning delay squarely on MAYOR FAULCONER, because that massively rushed stadium EIR flooded City Planning this summer, delaying for months everyone who had to deal with planning issues, from the environmentalists to the consultants and developers (this based on talking to people on all sides--we all agreed on this issue).
It's worth remembering that Faulconer was a mayor who came in on the promise of fixing infrastructure, but when push came to shove, he abandoned that notion to go play with the NFL, and now the City is trying to blame others.
As for Tijuana River, it's a national estuary because the rest have been built up. The kind of wild clearance Bilbray's proposing has been happening all over its watershed, especially on the Mexican side, and it's one reason it floods so badly. I'm not sure more bulldozing is the solution there.
Just in general, I wish City planning would do a better job. Over the years, I've heard complaints from former workers that working there was like getting a forced lobotomy, from developers that they're incredibly inefficient at processing stuff, from environmentalists that they can't be trusted to be honest, and that they tend to hide problems that can be easily dealt with, and I've seen them make mistake after mistake after mistake, and in some cases, to not fix issues even when there's no political or other cost to doing the right thing. It's really frustrating. Doing a good job won't stop the conflicts, but then again, the laws are set up so that public conflicts can be resolved publicly. Trying to sweep conflicts under the rug by hiding stuff only makes things worse when they do emerge.
@Frank Landis This seems like a pretty rational comment, except why can't stop the blame game. Blaming the Mayor for the City being broke for more than a decade is like blaming the ocean for being dirty: it didn't get that way by itself. We need to look in the mirror, Humans put the debris and trash in the channels, and out cars put the oil and brake contamination on the roads (yes, even the Teslas). There will only be losers if we can't get this done. Who sounds more reasonable in this, Gibson or Briggs? Gibson seems ready to balance the need for safety with protecting the critters, why don't we let him do his job?
@Craig Anderson @Frank Landis To repeat my above comment, I'm letting the City do its job with regards to storm drains, in that I'm not doing anything to impede their emergency clearance projects. While I'm an environmentalist with an agenda, I'm perfectly aware that infrastructure damage doesn't really benefit anyone, including both me and the organisms I'm trying to protect.
So far as I'm concerned, Mayor Faulconer has more than enough political mojo to brush off criticism about the stadium deal from little pipsqueaks like me. However, what I hope his office DOES learn is that actions have consequences. If one of the consequences of the 2015 rush on the stadium is preventable flooding in 2016, rather trying to blame environmentalists like me for something we had no part in, I'd rather this turned out to be a "lessons learned" moment, where people like the Mayor admit that they shouldn't have taken so much energy away from fixing infrastructure in the first place. In the long run, that will help the City a lot more than trying to attach blame.
Nice article. Great coverage of the situation that has been glossed over by other news outlets. The city is like the failing student who did no homework but is now begging the professor for some extra credit work at the end of the semester.
Issues like this are similar to the problems of crumbling infrastructure. They require planning and steady attention, and they cost money. More importantly though, they are unseen issues, until they become emergencies. Politicians, especially in an era of term limits, tend to focus on the here and now. Spending money on infrastructure and unseen maintenance gets no one elected, especially when compared to erecting new buildings or funding new programs. As for blaming environmental regulations, when is the last time anyone heard a politician say, "I blew it. I should have directed my staff to plan for this, but I didn't." If you want to build a house, you have to get permits from the city. If the city wants to clear waterways, it has to get permits from the state/feds. Neither one happens overnight.
@Chris Brewster Story excerpt:
“…The city did some channel maintenance along the Sorrento Creek this year. It took nearly two years to get permission. Once it was approved, it took only 18 days to remove 285 truckloads of material from the concrete channel. That actual work cost $250,000, said Bill Harris, a spokesman for the city storm water program. But the permits and environmental mitigation cost $2 million….”
Rather than view as: “…"I blew it. I should have directed my staff to plan for this,…”
Another view: that government is the problem, not the solution?
@Chris Brewster Perhaps a more useful response is that it might be best to “change the law” so that removal of debris from engineered drainage channels is automatically allowed, noting that concrete drainage channels are not a natural part of the environment but are created by intent for public safety. i.e. applying common sense.
Mr. Wood: Concrete drainage channels are created for public safety only in the sense that they are created to allow development in flood prone areas. A consequence of developing in flood prone areas is the need to mitigate in accordance with existing environmental regulations. I appreciate that Mr. Harris states that the permits and environmental mitigation cost $2 million. I also appreciate that the author of this piece appears to have taken him at his word (i.e. not fact checked this assertion). I have no idea actually and this story doesn't help with that aspect. Bottom line: Mission Valley, for example, is a flood plain. A decision was made many years ago to allow development of Mission Valley. There are well known regulations which are intended to protect the environment. Thus, the decision to allow Mission Valley to be developed came with a cost, which is to mitigate flooding in accordance with environmental regulations. If the city was not prepared to shoulder that cost and prepare responsibly for flooding, it should not have allowed the development to take place. In any case, the history of San Diego is replete with ignorance of flooding in dry periods and declarations of emergencies in wet periods, mostly due to foreseeable consequences. I know. I've overseen countless rescues in flooding throughout the city (and county).
@Chris Brewster Mr. Brewster: Actually the story was about Carmel, not Mission Valley and my point was that invoking environmental reviews to allow clearing debris from drainage channels seems pointless both in raising the cost of the work and introducing delay. Even if you would like San Diego to be a more rural agricultural community it is not, so government should address it’s responsibilities.
The argument is that environmental reviews should not be required to clear drainage channels since environmental concerns were part of the original design and granting of permits. If the law requires such it should be changed to be more in line with - “common sense”.
Mr. Wood: I respectfully disagree that the story is about Carmel Valley. That was an example invoked, but this is a county-wide problem. Regardless, I have no problem with responsible parties (e.g. city leaders) proposing modifications to environmental laws related to clearing drainage channels. You may well be right that they need to be less stringent. However, the time to do that is long before the modifications are needed. If leaders fail to propose legal modifications and fail to clear the channels in advance, knowing the time it will take to either change the regulations or clear the channels in light of those regulations is negligent in my view.
When a developer builds next to a creek or river and demands that the city spend its own money to keep it from flooding, isn't that an example of privatizing profits and socializing losses?
Maybe the city should charge the flood insurance of properties in flood zones to keep the waterways clear. Why should people who wisely chose to live on higher ground have to help pay for that?