Mountain View Voice

Opinion - January 27, 2012

Flood basins pass final hurdle

The scary scenario of huge storm water overflows racing down Permanente Creek created enough concern for county voters to approve a flood control measure in 2000 designed to protect more than 1,300 Mountain View homes from a 100-year flood. Since that $40 million measure passed, the Santa Clara Valley Water District has been planning how to reduce the chances of such a catastrophe ever happening, and in the process reduce the flood insurance costs for more than a thousand local homeowners.

Last week, the City Council finally approved the water district's latest plan, which will lower parts of Cuesta Park Annex by 12 feet, leaving gently sloping walls and landscaped areas behind. It adds the final piece to a plan that also includes lowering McKelvey Park by 15 feet with new baseball facilities. It is a plan the City Council has endorsed throughout the process, although diehard opponents continued to reject the idea at last week's council meeting. But early on, a study conducted by the city to confirm the Water District's calculations came to the same conclusion — that the project is necessary to guard against the worst case scenario and reduce the need for flood insurance for homeowners.

It is not difficult to understand why some residents continue to oppose carving a flood basin out of the rustic Cuesta Annex, which will give the park a more polished look than it has today. But when you couple a slightly remodeled Annex with Cuesta Park next door, residents will continue to have a major open space asset in the heart of the city. At McKelvey, which has been home to two playing fields for some 50 years, the lower elevation should not change the nature of the playing fields, which will be rebuilt to the latest specifications and will continue to serve many young baseball and softball players. In addition, the park remodel will include a .7-acre mini-park for neighbors who said they had little use for the two playing fields.

Also last week, the council found out that the Mountain View Historical Association's plans to build a history museum in the Annex have been disbanded. The committee said it lacked the funds to build a museum, in part due to the council's decision to turn down developer Roger Burnell's proposal to move the 1880s Pearson House from its downtown location to the park. Burnell's effort to restore the home in return for being permitted to build a 20,000-square-foot office building at 902 Villa St. would have enabled the History Association to meet the fund-raising goal required by the city.

Unlike many of its neighbors, Mountain View has yet to develop a building to house its historical documents. It is sad to lose the commitment for a museum at Cuesta, but in our view, the council was correct in turning down the Pearson House. Other opportunities are certain to show up in the years ahead that eventually will lead to a permanent home for Mountain View's historic archives and artifacts, some of which are stored in the library's Pioneer Room.

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