City will pay for creek fix’s design, but not repairs

A $165,000 contract has been approved for an engineering firm to design levee upgrades along the southern region of San Mateo Creek, though the $2.6 million to pay for the levee construction will still be left to homeowners.

At its meeting last night, the City Council agreed to hire the firm Schaaf and Wheeler to design flood walls and levee upgrades that would protect 3,750 homes south of San Mateo Creek from floods. If built, flood walls would line both banks of the mouth of San Mateo Creek, as well as the creek near Detroit Drive and East Third Avenue.

But designing the upgrades is one thing, said Public Works Deputy Director Susanna Chan. Actually constructing those improvements — at a cost of about $2.6 million — is another. The city has said it will not be able to afford those fixes.

Instead, she said, affected neighborhoods have the option to organize themselves into their own assessment district and tax themselves — which would come out to about $60 a year for 20 years.

Longtime resident Ed Lieberman, who lives in the Shoreview neighborhood south of San Mateo Creek, says he wouldn’t mind an assessment district, particularly since the alternative is paying hundreds of dollars in flood insurance.

If they don’t organize themselves, homeowners that have federally backed mortgages will have to continually pay anywhere from $300 to $1,800 in flood insurance, Lieberman said.

The design work will take about six months to a year, Chan said. Once its complete, interested community members may form a steering committee to educate the neighborhood about the district, she said. A vote would be held, and if a majority of residents agreed to the assessment district, they would get a loan to make the improvements themselves.

Lieberman said he sees this as fair, though not all of his neighbors agree.

“I went to one of the neighborhood meetings and there were all these people saying ‘no taxes.’ But I assume that as more people understand that it’d be $50 a year compared with $1,800, they’ll see the advantage in forming a district,” he said. “I’ll be anxious to help volunteer.”

Lieberman said the only flood he’s ever heard of in the neighborhood occurred in the mid-1950s. But, he said, it’d still be worth paying for the improvements.

kworth@examiner.com

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