Creek waters creep into residents’ yards

Residents along a dry creek bed got a surprise during the Jan. 4 storms when the creek filled up with water, overran its banks and flooded yards and garages.

Brittan Creek used to flow between Howard and Greenwood avenues, from the San Carlos hills to the Bay. In the mid-’90s, the city diverted the creek underground to keep it from flooding, according to Public Works Director Parviz Mokhtari.

Now, what remains between Elm Street and El Camino Real is a dry gully behind people’s homes — one that residents too easily forget.

“It lulls you into complacency,” said resident Peter Tzifas, whose yard flooded this month for the third time in seven years.

While Tzifas and some of his neighbors do their best to keep the creek bed clear, others have let debris and dead branches pile up. When the creek filled with water, all of the debris snagged on a palm tree growing in the gully, forming a makeshift dam that sent floodwaters into people’s yards and homes, according to resident Amy Kostishack.

Kostishack called on the city to help homeowners with creek cleanup, perform frequent inspections and do more to teach homeowners about flood-prone areas.

Mokhtari has offered free tree hauling to the resident who owns the obtrusive palm tree, but there is no word yet whether that person will pay to have it removed, he said. Although there are no laws forbidding the growth of the tree, the city could seek a court order to have it removed.

January’s flood spurred Brittan Creek-area residents to seek public remedies for the first time, but the San Carlos Flooding and Land Use Committee attempted — for more than a year — to push for a citywide master plan that would resolve the city’s ongoing flood problems.

That hasn’t been completed, but the Regional Water Quality Control Board is developing new creek regulations that may make debris cleanup and other measures mandatory, Mokhtari said.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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