S.F. takes Daly City to task over drainage

Faced with another winter of stormwater flooding from Daly City that regularly turns John Muir Drive into a river and pollutes Lake Merced, The City is threatening to sue its smaller, southerly neighbor if doesn't fix the problem.

In a Sept. 1 letter to Daly City Mayor Mike Guingona, the San Francisco Public Unities Commission set a Dec. 1 deadline for the two cities to agree on a timeline for construction work to solve drainage problems that have plagued not only San Francisco but Daly City residents in the Vista Grande area for more than three decades.

“Floodwater from Vista Grande has washed out John Muir Drive, polluted Lake Merced with E. coli and cost San Francisco taxpayers millions of dollars over the last 10 years,” Utilities Commission spokesman Tony Winnicker said.

Richard Swan, one of many Daly City residents who was flooded in 2004, said he suffered about $200,000 in lost work and structural damage and had to use chain saws to tear out the drywall and pull up carpet following the 2004 winter flood.

“We had three feet of water in here that shut down my business for three months,” Swan said of his home-office, near the intersection of John Muir and Westpark drives.

While leaving it up to others to decide whether the city has moved expeditiously, Daly City Director of Water and Wastewater Resources Patrick Sweetland said that nearly $4 million has been budgeted for flood-related construction nearVista Grande over the next three years. The city plans to go out to bid within two months on engineering work to determine the best of three proposals that would add more drainage capacity to the area, Sweetland said.

With the city preparing an official response to the Utilities Commission letter, Sweetland refused to comment on the specifics of the correspondence, but said that “regardless of the letter, we have worked through issues in the past with San Francisco and I think we will this one as well.”

As for whether the city will meet previous projections of 2011 for completing the new drainage upgrades, “it’s hard to say,” Sweetland said

While San Francisco has worked with Daly City in the past, even contributing funds to study solutions to the problem, the Utilities Commission’s “patience has an end,” Winnicker said.

“The last time we thought we came to an agreement was two years ago and no progress has been made since,” he added.

Litigation isn’t in anybody’s best interest, said Winnicker, who emphasizes that the Utilities Commission is still open to working with Daly City, if it shows a good faith effort and real progress toward funding a specific plan on a specific timeline.

Double drainage capacity needed

» A new engineering feasibility study, scheduled to go out to bid in the next couple of months, should help Daly City determine which of three routes new arterial drainage conduits might take from the area between John Muir Drive and John Daly Boulevard.

» With total improvement costs ranging from $118 million to $165 million, a new drainage conduit could take one of three routes, running along John Muir to north of Fort Funston, cutting under the Olympic Golf Club and emptying south of Fort Funston or following John Daly Boulevard emptying at Thornton State Beach.

» A new 5.5-acre wetland might also be created parallel to the golf course, from which Lake Merced could draw water when needed.

» An estimated drainage capacity of 1,300 cubic feet per second is needed in the area, according to preliminary studies. Right now, drainage capacity for the Vista Grande basin is less than 700 cubic feet per second.

Source: Daly City Director of Water and Wastewater Resources Patrick Sweetland

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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