A San Francisco Public Utility Commission Wastewater employee fills flood barriers along Folsom Street near the intersection with 17th Street ahead of a forecasted strong storm. The area is one of several around The City with persistent flooding problems. (Kevin N. Hume/2018 S.F. Examiner)

SFPUC expands grant program for homeowners preparing for winter rains

City now offers upfront funding to some homeowners for flood protection installation

In preparation for the rainy season, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) on Thursday announced an update to its Flood Water Management Grant Assistance Program making it more accessible for residential and commercial property owners.

The grant program, established in 2013, is designed to reimburse qualified applicants up to $100,000 for installing flood protection projects on their property. With the new modifications, property owners who demonstrate financial hardship and eligible small businesses and non-profit organizations can now receive an up-front grant payment of up to $1,000 for contractor deposits to secure work, and reimbursement for the final installment grant payment based on submission only of an invoice—as opposed to proof of payment.

“With weather patterns becoming increasingly more uncertain due to climate change, it is essential that the SFPUC works closely with our residents and businesses to prepare for the rainy season,” said SFPUC General Manager Harlan L. Kelly, Jr. “By making this grant program easier to access, we are empowering the public to make the changes necessary to protect their homes and businesses. By working together, we can adapt to the challenges presented by climate change.”

Additionally, the grantee cost-share for projects has been reduced from 20% to 0% for eligible small businesses and non-profit organizations with a maximum of 50 full-time employees. The grant also covers the installation of flood barriers on the doorsteps or driveways, water-resistant seals, sump pumps, or other projects that could benefit the property based on its characteristics.

SFPUC spokesman Will Reisman said the program allows 6 months for the duration of the construction and up to 2 months after that to request reimbursement of payment. Once approved, homeowners can anticipate their reimbursement within 2-4 weeks. Since its launch, 20 San Francisco residents have already completed the program with two more projects currently under construction.

According to the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s 2016 assessment of San Francisco’s vulnerability to flooding and extreme storms, an atmospheric river event in on Dec. 11, 2014, resulted in high winds, 18 inches of storm surge, and about 3.4 inches of rain. During the storm, trees and power lines went down, waves crashed over the Embarcadero and sewers, roadways, and storefronts flooded. The storm resulted in nearly 300 flood inundation-related 311 calls.

“Preparing for climate change requires a combined effort from both the public and the City government,” Reisman told the Examiner. “So, the improvements taken by homeowners in this regard makes San Francisco a more resilient place to live.”

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