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By Tim Hunt

A tale of two creeks

Uploaded: Nov 14, 2017

Pleasanton residents living along creeks should have taken notice of an action taken by the San Ramon City Council.
The city had been trying to sell the former Mudd’s restaurant site and its gardens on Crow Canyon Road to a private party after the state eliminated redevelopment agencies. The city had a deal, but it fell apart because the buyer could not afford the estimated $2 million it would take to restore and reinforce the banks of San Catanio Creek.
The city’s redevelopment agency purchased the former Mudd’s site in 2008, but it went into limbo and had to be sold after the state eliminated the agencies in 2011. Although an appraiser put the value of the site at $1.29 million, that fell apart when compared to the $2 million it would cost to shore up the banks. There are 40-foot cliffs at the edge of the property that invite raging winter waters to continue to undercut the banks and cause land to fall into the creek.
The city bought the land for $1 and plans to connect it with a park it owns next door.
Consider that same situation as it applies to my neighbors along the Arroyo de la Laguna south of Castlewood Drive. The arroyo that is in our backyards drains more than 400 square miles of watershed. For decades, it was a quiet creek that many of us could walk down into from our yards.
That all changed in the heavy rains of 1997 when the creek chewed away many feet of bank. It has continued, in winters with heavy rains, so we now have lost the barn where I raised cattle as a 4-H member in the 1960s. We estimate we have lost 30-40 feet of land across the back of our property.
It's the same for many neighbors, but much worse for some. Zone 7, the valley’s flood control and water wholesale agency, just spent more than $6 million restoring banks of two homes that were threatened by the heavy creek flows this winter. The arroyo had turned east and then flowed back west right into the bank below their homes. It got as close as 50 feet from the home of one family.
Zone 7 has an easement to maintain and repair those banks, which likely is an underlying reason that the directors invested that chunk of money to protect those homes.
For my neighbor to the north, Scott Alcaide, he’s praying for moderate storms for the foreseeable future. He had a backyard with a gentle slope and mature trees leading down to the creek. The raging waters of February wiped it all out. He now has a cliff in his backyard and it’s 50 feet from the edge of his home.
The Zone 7 directors’ solution for him: pass a resolution that allocates staff time for consulting and to help line up grants. Any matching share on grants is up to the homeowner as is ongoing maintenance. The nut: high six or seven figures—money that most homeowners do not have sitting around to invest in creek bank maintenance.
We have long maintained, with sadly little success, that private landowners along the arroyo have been negatively affected by upstream development and Zone 7 has a responsibility to do for all of us what it did for those two homeowners on the south. We supported that action.
I attended the meeting where this policy was adopted and supported improvements for the upstream banks. The directors had no answer when asked what was the difference.
I can infer that it had to do with the easement that Zone 7 held down stream. That may provide some legal responsibility/coverage, but it does nothing to deal with the moral obligation. My neighbors and I are all in the same situation and need as well as deserve substantial government help because we are the neck of the funnel. Creek flows in our backyards are completely beyond our control and Zone 7 has the responsibility for flood control in the entire valley.