Mountain View Voice

Opinion - June 25, 2010

Cuesta Annex basin a done deal

Somehow, the upset residents who showed up last week to protest certification of an environmental report on installing a flood basin at Cuesta Annex missed the wide-ranging debate about this project that was held more than two years ago.

Last Thursday, June 17, the board of the Santa Clara Valley Water District, as expected, approved the EIR to move ahead with the project. The plan is to lower the front four acres of the annex by 20 to 25 feet so it can act as a relief valve in a potential 100-year flood. At the same time, the project will wipe out the requirement for more than 1,600 Mountain View homeowners to carry flood insurance.

But regardless of the project's higher purpose, opponents of the Cuesta Annex basin want to turn back the clock on a project that was authorized by county voters in 2000, and approved in concept by the City Council in June 2008. A master plan, including the flood basin, received the okay from the council in December of that year, and ever since then the project has been percolating in the background.

In the year or so leading up to the 2008 council approval, numerous hearings about the plan were held, and reports of these meetings were published in the Voice. Anyone who had even a modest interest in city affairs could not have missed the wide-ranging discussion about the pros and cons of turning portions of Cuesta Annex and McKelvey Park into flood basins.

The water district chose the parks due to their proximity to Permanente Creek. In flooding conditions, the basins could hold enough water to protect surrounding homes, district officials believe.

During the initial debate about the plan, many residents — particularly those who live near the parks — were opposed. But in a surprise announcement at a February 2008 meeting council meeting, advocates for Cuesta Park who had strongly opposed the plan announced they were in support.

"It might actually add to the beauty of the Annex," said Kevin McBride of Save Open Space, a local group that was involved in saving the 12-acre undeveloped Annex adjacent to Cuesta Park.

At another meeting in September 2008 that was attended by almost 100 people, nearly all of the dozen residents who spoke supported the Cuesta basin project. Backers of the history museum and community gardens, and environmentalists all spoke in favor of the conversion, which will feature gently sloping walls around the basin's perimeter, as well as landscaping in various places on the basin floor.

Certainly, there are some drawbacks to the water district's plans, including the loss of an heirloom tree and the roar of gravel trucks that for a limited time must haul away material excavated from the park. But after careful consideration, the City Council found these impacts were not deal-breakers and voted to approve the project. Now it is time to move ahead and stop wishing for what might have been.

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