Council approves Annex flood basin


A controversial flood basin was approved for the Cuesta Annex Tuesday night, despite strong opposition from park users.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District will now build a Permanente Creek flood basin at the Annex that is 12 feet deep in some parts, with gentle slopes and a capacity of 32 acre-feet of water. To put that in perspective, an Olympic-size pool uses only 2 acre-feet of water.

The City Council voted 4-2 in favor of the flood basin, with council members Laura Macias and John Inks opposed. Member Jac Siegel recused himself because he owns property nearby.

The council made its decision despite a flood of skepticism from the community that it would be needed. Of almost two dozen public speakers, only two supported the project.

To me it's obvious flooding is getting worse, it's getting worse all over the country," said council member Ronit Bryant, expressing concern about climate change. "I don't know why we would be the one place where flooding doesn't occur."

Whether such a change would ruin the Annex, a largely unkempt former orchard on 12 acres owned by the city next to Cuesta Park, is something residents have disagreed about.

"It's kind of an anarchist park," said Lex Nakashima on Monday as he threw a Frisbee to his two border collies, who were also sticking their noses into the area's many gopher holes. "The city sees it as an eyesore, everyone else sees it as a place to get away from everything."

Nakashima said he was concerned that additional landscaping done for the basin, costing the city $10,000 a year to maintain, would make it a place where "they wouldn't like dogs digging around."

At the meeting Mayor Mike Kasperzak said a main reason he supports the basin was because it "forever protects the area from any future development. Who knows if in 10 to 20 years the community doesn't come out and say, 'We need more ball fields, let's put them at the Annex.'"

Another frequent Annex user and dog owner, Sandra Barnett-Brook, said Monday that she might be OK with a flood basin in the front of the Annex, but she objected to further development of the Annex with a History Museum at the rear, a concept the council has supported.

The museum project, however, is off the table. It was announced at Tuesday's meeting that the Mountain View Historical Association has stopped its effort to build a history museum in the Annex, citing financial difficulties in a letter to the city manager.

Larger flood protection plans

Along with basins at nearby McKelvey Park and upstream at the Rancho San Antonio open space preserve, the project is said to prevent a rare 100-year-flood from damaging 2,750 properties in Mountain View. The Water District passed on other alternatives, including a dam near Lehigh Cement Quarry which would have had larger environmental impacts. City staff said it would remove the need for flood insurance for those with federally backed mortgages in Mountain View's FEMA flood zone.

The Water District came up with the smaller flood basin at the Annex after Los Altos school district officials rejected plans for a fourth flood basin at Blach Middle School, causing engineers to re-examine water flows near Lehigh Cement Quarry. They found 230 acres that did not flow into the creek as originally thought. That reduced creek flows from 2,700 cubic feet per second to 2,400 cubic feet per second, which was enough to allow the Blach school basin to be removed and cut the size of the Annex flood basin in half from its original size of 65 acre-feet.

The city commissioned an independent study of the Water District's hydrology that concurred with its findings, though it estimated less water flowing along Permanente in a 100-year-flood -- 2,317 cubic feet per second -- versus the 2,400 cubic feet per second estimated by the Water District.

Local resident Mike Hayden said that if the 5-percent margin of error the Water District had given itself were applied to the 2,317 cubic feet per second, "It's quite likely that there won't be any need for improvements at all."

City staff recommended the flood basin because the alternative, a 4-foot pipe under Cuesta Drive to catch flood waters, could leave 400 Mountain View properties subject to flooding. Under that alternative, the Water District reports that flood waters would overflow the Permanente Creek diversion channel, which flows to Stevens Creek, and flood north towards the El Camino Hospital area. Water District modeling shows flood waters of mostly 1-foot deep around the hospital, with 2-foot waters on portions of South Drive and North Drive, "restricting" ambulance access to the hospital's emergency room entrance at the rear of the building, while the hospital's buildings stay dry.

Hayden said that scenario was unlikely because "there's been no flooding in the diversion channel since it was built, except in 1983 because of "an anomalous event at the cement plant" which sent water rushing down the creek.

While council member Laura Macias said the hospital could find other ways to deal with the potential problem, most council members were concerned. The hospital sent a letter of support for the Annex basin option, city staff said.

"I don't want to be the member of the council who decided that access to the hospital was really not important, that doesn't fit with my sense of responsibility," Bryant said.

While flood waters in a 100-year-flood might only be 1 to 2 feet deep, council member Tom Means said that was high enough during the 1998 flooding of Palo Alto's San Francisquito creek to render his friend's kitchen "effectively destroyed."

The Water District also plans to build flood walls along Permanente Creek north of Highway 101 to protect Google and other nearby businesses, remove cement channeling along portions of Permanente Creek, replace two bridges where Mountain View Avenue crosses the creek and widen portions of Hale Creek, which meets Permanente Creek south of Mountain View.


Like this comment
Posted by Cuesta resident
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 17, 2012 at 2:27 pm

The City is still trying to ram this down our throats! I can't believe that they are completing ignoring the wishes of the residents!

Like this comment
Posted by Doug Pearson
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jan 17, 2012 at 2:54 pm

I thought the original plan (very large, deep basin) was fine and I like the new proposal as well.

I admit I'm not enthusiastic about the History Museum. I think the fake train station, the fake (not really that old) adobe building, and any of several old buildings in the 100 block of Castro St would make better History Museums.

Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jan 17, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Sounds like somebody has money they need to spend!

Like this comment
Posted by Jim Cochran
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jan 17, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Ruin the annex? I don't think so. it is a good time to get some worthy use out of the annex other than being a dog park.
It will be costly to maintain, but if we just leave it natural it won't be worse than the present maintenance.
Museum on site? Only if the money can be found outside city funds.

Like this comment
Posted by Cuesta Neighbor
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 17, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Sounds like a good plan to me. As I understand it, the new landscaping will still be wild and seasonal, so Lex and his dog can still play there. The gophers will ensure it doesn't get too neat.

Like this comment
Posted by BD
a resident of North Whisman
on Jan 17, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Whether you agree or not complaining here won't help! Get on down to the council chambers and let your voice be heard (for 3 minutes anyway)
See you there!

Like this comment
Posted by Chris
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jan 17, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Judging by the article more and more dog owners do not want to use the city dog park, but have their own off leash area in the annex. No wonder the heron has disappeared.
I like both designs a lot, the second one obviously leaves a lot more area for dogs (and kids) to play. The history museum should have never been considered for the Annex, the city has more than one alternate location, I fully agree with Doug Pearson. And Cuesta, looking at the brown unkempt plot of land is really an eye sore most of the year, the water district plan at least puts some thoughts into the natural appearance.

Like this comment
Posted by mimi
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 17, 2012 at 7:00 pm

We have a beautiful area on Shoreline park. It is a walking hazard with geese poop. Dogs are not allowed and geese have taken over . They continue to multiply and very soon there will be more geese than people in the park. My solution to the problem would be to provide homeless, hungry people with recipes for geese that could be simply prepared. There should be no penalty for catching them and dogs definitely should be allowed. I am sure the golfers would approve.

Like this comment
Posted by Next
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 18, 2012 at 2:48 pm

mimi, if we allow off leash dogs to chase geese around, then by default we allow dogs to chase burrowing owls, clapper rails, etc. Besides, they already tried this approached with dogs trained specifically for this task. As you already know, it didn't work.

Now back to the discussion about the annex.

Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jan 18, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Forget discussing the annex, let's look closer at our rubber-stamp city council. Where there's money to be spent, they seem compelled to spend it.

Like this comment
Posted by Brent
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 18, 2012 at 3:55 pm

A wise community plans for the long term.
There's little short-term benefit in a flood basin,
but a huge long-term benefit if it has the potential
to save thousands of Mountain View properties.

And if it continues to be a pleasant piece of parkland,
that's a bonus.

Like this comment
Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 18, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Thankfully the museum is dead.

It is a perverse logic that the basin will stop future development, but at least there is a benefit.

Like this comment
Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 18, 2012 at 5:06 pm

Were the details of the landscaping discussed?

Hopefully it will be low-maintenance, native plants which are our true natural heritage.

Like this comment
Posted by PlsRuinMyBackyard
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 19, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Once again, the council has chosen to ruin yet another piece of untouched land in Mountain View. Ronit probably would prefer to pave the whole thing over, but unfortunately not able to get that moving.
When will the residents of Mountain View wake up and realize that certain council members want to turn the town into an ultra-high density concrete jungle?
Next election, vote to keep Mountain View beautiful--open space and reasonable density levels.

Like this comment
Posted by YahYahYah
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 19, 2012 at 3:00 pm

PlsRuinMyBackyard, just some thoughts: a flood basin and ultra-high density concrete jungles are quite different (no really, they are)
Just because some people in MV don't share your same views does not mean they are asleep. People with axes to grind seldom make rational arguments.

Brent: great post.

Like this comment
Posted by Political Insider
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 19, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Congrats to council. Surprised to see such strong council support for rational thought when opposed by an irrational group.

The annex is not untouched earth. It was an orchard that has been allowed to decay. The few users think this is their own private park. They will now have to share it with the the rest of us.

As to the basin, it will be landscaped and look beautiful. Glad to see no history museum.

Like this comment
Posted by father
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 19, 2012 at 5:14 pm

I have to agree with Jim Cochran, whose home might be protected downstream? I live near the Park and have not found the vacant lot that important a recreation area for my family. For several decades - it has been an Investment with little Return. ROI is very low. As the Mayor mentioned - this will allow use as a field in the future (but the real city need is 'north of the tracks').

Like this comment
Posted by Ned
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 19, 2012 at 6:08 pm

"To me it's obvious flooding is getting worse, it's getting worse all over the country," said council member Ronit Bryant, expressing concern about climate change. "I don't know why we would be the one place where flooding doesn't occur."

Some one please tell me she didn't actually say that! If she did, what are her sources?

Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Jan 19, 2012 at 7:35 pm

I grew up near the annex, i found it to be a open bit of ground with dead or dying trees, kinda of remember trees had fruits I remember stuff that going to built, homes, schools, swimming pool with diving boards, tennis studium, community center and library, a few others i forgot. The Big Lake was something that was kinda of nice that it wasn't build. But this about the annex, large piece of ground, good use as a flood basin, But we neen places for our history, someone walking their do on what I don't know the acres of this ground. I am sure the histroy center doesn't need to build a great big house with halls and etc. A little house closer to the parking lot next to the tennis courts, entry on the side, restroom, place for poop scope bags, water for dogs, dogs can find new stuff to sniff. Not everyone want to walk a dogs, fix some of orchards or have a garden some people will see that and then walk around
Knowing the dogs they would love the attenion that people will give their dogs and the dogs themselfs would love it too

Like this comment
Posted by Rondo
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 20, 2012 at 9:06 am

It's time to vote for somebody for City Counsel who actually lives here for longer than ten years and maybe even grew up here. The trend is to convert Mtn. View into a developers dream and pave over any natural landscape. That's why Mtn. View residents are a bunch of carpet baggers or Palo Alto wannabe who can't affortd Palo Alto.

Like this comment
Posted by Ann
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jan 20, 2012 at 8:56 pm

Congrats and thanks to the 5 council members who voted to plan for the future of more weather extremes, including flooding. The annex is the place for a basin to prevent or reduce damage caused by too much raining coming in too fast. Years ago I attended the early planning design meeting in the event of flooding and was and am a strong supporter for building the basin at the annex.

I was a staffer with the City of San Jose and worked on cleaning up the city after severe flooding back in the early 1990s. That deluge created huge property losses and waste from floodwaters. And had huge financial costs to the city of San Jose and to the people who lived in the way of the flood waters. It is far better to prepare for flooding that to pay money to clean up waterlogged buldings and possessions after a flood. That is a waste of our tax dollars.

Good work and thanks to the Council. This was a long time in coming. Now get it built.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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