Eroding backyards alarm Foothill Road residents

Zone 7 board to weigh options for assistance Wednesday

There are signs of the wet winter visible everywhere in Pleasanton, from the tarps and bulldozers drivers on Interstate 680 can see along the Arroyo de la Laguna to the sandbags and signage warning of flooding on Foothill Road, still out in case they're needed again.

But the impacts of this year's record rainy season are being seen and felt perhaps most starkly in Verona Reach, a swath of Pleasanton along the Arroyo de la Laguna between the Castlewood Drive bridge and Verona Road bridge where several property owners have experienced erosion in their backyards over the past few months.

Among them are the Belshe and Raun families, next-door neighbors in the 7800 block of Foothill Road who say they're in a race against time to save their homes -- a scenario they believe could have been avoided.

They will seek help from Zone 7 Water Agency this Wednesday as its board of directors considers resolutions that would provide affected homeowners with some financial assistance for emergency repairs.

"It's clearly their responsibility," says Dave Raun. "(Zone 7) shouldn't have let this happen."

Significant storms this winter have caused flooding, erosion and mudslides throughout the Tri-Valley and California, prompting Gov. Jerry Brown and President Donald Trump to issue state of emergency and disaster declarations to free up funding for recovery.

Locally, storms have caused millions in damages to stream banks, representatives of Zone 7 Water Agency recently reported.

The heavy rain began taking its toll on the Foothill families' backyards last month as chunks of dirt, grass and vegetation started to fall into the creek below.

Homeowner Dave Raun estimates that in the last few weeks, his backyard has lost 20 feet and the Belshe's 40 feet.

On Friday, he and his wife Lori surveyed the creek from their backyard, which Dave called "the war zone."

The fast-moving creek has pounded against the slope, eroding the ground away and taking with it several trees the Rauns planted to help protect the slope when they moved in 20 years ago.

Now the slope is a cliff, with foreboding cracks in the ground not far from the edge.

At the Belshes' backyard, a pool sits mere feet from the edge of the slope, surrounded by caution tape. Sprinkler lines dangle limply over the creek, and a trampoline teeters close to falling in.

"If we get no rain, (the edge) will probably be at their pool within two to three weeks," Dave Raun said Friday. "If we get rain, probably the first time it rains."

Over the last two decades, the Rauns have watched a slope across the creek deteriorate, recalling rainy nights where a large chunk of dirt would fall and cause their house to shake.

They say development upstream over time has taxed and reshaped the creek, creating an s-turn that propelled water toward the Raun's and their neighbors' properties instead of going by them.

"The s-turn made it a firehouse shooting right at us," Raun said.

Now, the Raun's and their neighbors are weighing their options and reaching out to local agencies for support.

The situation is complicated by the fact that this part of the creek within Verona Reach is owned by the residents themselves. Zone 7 owns and maintains about a third of the Tri-Valley's channels and creeks as part of its flood management work, but not this particular area, according to general manager Jill Duerig.

But Zone 7 has an easement over nine parcels, including the Raun and Belshe properties, which gives them the right to "construct, maintain, operate, inspect, and repair flood control facilities and appurtenances." To date, the agency has never undertaken any projects in that area, Duerig said.

To Eddie Belshe, one of the affected homeowners, the easement shows that Zone 7 is responsible for what's occurred.

"They are responsible for this issue and the overall maintenance of the watershed," Belshe said in an email Monday. "In no way do I feel this is an 'act of God,' and it's frustrating to read such comments being made. From my perspective there is no question that part of Zone 7's charter and existence is to prevent and fix issues such as this."

"What I want is the immediate repairs to protect our homes and restore the bank, and a long-term solution for all homeowners so that nobody ever has to go through this ordeal," he added.

Duerig said Friday that although the easement gives Zone 7 the right to maintain and repair flood control facilities within the area, it also does not expressly bar homeowners from doing the same.

"Neighbors of theirs were doing work to reinforce their banks," Duerig said. "I think residents would be disingenuous to say they thought they weren't allowed to do anything."

Asked about development as a potential cause of the creek's reconfiguring, Duerig said it was "a hypothesis that needs to be tested."

"We'd have to look at a ton of stuff -- what's happening in the area, what's happening upstream, whether it was an act of God because it was one of those winters where everything was giving away," she said.

In the meantime, the agency's board will weigh a formal response Wednesday night.

The board will consider two options for helping homeowners. The first would be to establish a local emergency grant program for Verona Reach that "could focus on construction improvements and improvement of the bank stability."

Zone 7 started a similar pilot assistance program for Verona Reach landowners in 2010 to educate them about grant opportunities to abate erosion and flooding concerns, according to a staff report.

As part of that effort, Zone 7 sought support on a preliminary design for laying back the existing slopes and providing toe-of-slope protection in the area. But the majority of landowners weren't interested in moving forward because laying back the slope would significantly reduce their usable land, according to Zone 7.

The Zone 7 board will also consider making the agency a local sponsor for federal funding for repairs available through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program.

That program offers immediate financial assistance when life or property could be threatened by flooding and erosion. However, it requires a local agency sponsor to request assistance on the landowner's behalf.

Although the program can provide up to 75% of construction costs, all other costs must be covered by the local sponsor or landowner, including ongoing maintenance. Some of these costs could be reimbursed, but there is no guarantee, according to Zone 7 staff.

If Zone 7 became the local sponsor, it would amend existing design and construction contracts to incorporate spending $1.7 million for temporary emergency repairs to the slope fronting the Belshe and Raun properties. Up to $690,000 could be reimbursed through the federal program.

Should Zone 7 not become the local sponsor, the only other agency that could is the city of Pleasanton, according to Duerig. City engineer Steve Kirkpatrick has not responded to requests for comment on the matter.

Assuming a local sponsor would be found between the two, Zone 7 staff has begun seeking permits for emergency repairs from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The temporary fix would likely consist of dumping large rocks, known as riprap, at the bottom of the cliff to protect it against onrushing water, Duerig said.

But before the Army Corps will grant the needed permits, it is asking for more information that Zone 7 consultants are gathering through surveying. Duerig says it's hard to predict how long the process could take.

"Part of the Army Corps' job is to make sure they don't approve an emergency project that's going to cause damage elsewhere," she said.

Even if a temporary fix is implemented, Zone 7 anticipates the Army Corps would require it to eventually be replaced with a more permanent solution. Should that be the case, the project could cost as much as $5 million.

Moreover, an additional larger solution could be required for the Verona Reach to try to straighten out the creek, which could cost in excess of $10 million on top of the $5 million for the more localized work, according to Zone 7 staff.

Meanwhile, Dave Raun is hoping for a positive outcome. He's concerned that another storm could condemn his home and his neighbors', and his homeowner's insurance does not cover this type of situation.

"I'm hoping these government agencies that we pay all this money to take ownership of this," he said. "If they don't do anything, we can't do anything. We'll have to sit and watch our homes go away."

While it weighs aid for Pleasanton homeowners impacted by recent storms, the board will also be asked Wednesday to declare a local state of flood emergency within the Zone 7 service area. That would allow Zone 7 to seek financial assistance from the state for recovery efforts.

Wednesday's Zone 7 board meeting will get underway at 7 p.m. in the agency's administration building at 100 North Canyons Parkway in Livermore.


5 people like this
Posted by Grumpy
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2017 at 9:23 am

I'm afraid that these owners may only have a claim against the owner of 3 Verona Rd for letting the creek make that S curve on their land. Most likely, given that that property was just sold, they might not end up with much besides that parcel and a shovel to go straighten it themselves. However, it's worth looking into that property's insurance to see if these owners are covered by it, given that they are downstream of the curve.

32 people like this
Posted by Sam
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2017 at 9:44 am

It's not Zone 7's fault. This is nothing but an attempt by the homeowners to avoid their own responsibilities and to get a government agency to compensate them for their damages.

The homeowners knew that their properties were near the creek and in a flood zone when they purchased their properties.

My own house is in a 100-year flood zone and that fact was clearly stated when we made the purchase. We knew what we were potentially getting into. The homeowners around Verona Rd. of course knew about Arroyo de la Laguna, but they purchased anyway, and now they want you and I to pay for their misfortune.

This reminds me of people that buy houses near airports and then complain about the airplane noise.

23 people like this
Posted by Walt
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2017 at 10:20 am

While I feel for these residents, Sam is probably right.

32 people like this
Posted by RU Kiddingmii
a resident of Valley Trails
on Mar 14, 2017 at 11:03 am

RU Kiddingmii is a registered user.

I feel for the residents too. However ... it states in the article that they were aware of these types of issues over the last 20 years. One resident states that parts of the bank had fallen into the creek previously and shook the house! It's not like this happened suddenly without warning. Why didn't they purchase flood insurance or other types of insurance; or better yet, take some sort of measures to protect their land??

Even more provoking is the fact that Zone 7 offered mitigation efforts previously, but the homeowners refused, due to cost and the likelihood that some of their land would not be useable.

I say "too bad so sad". You should have been more responsible sooner. Now, you enjoy a multi-milliton dollar house and you expect us taxpayers to foot the bill to help you out when you didn't even take the simplest measure to protect yourself. No!

8 people like this
Posted by Hotslide
a resident of Oak Tree Acres
on Mar 14, 2017 at 11:17 am

I believe I saw a statement above regarding the incredible run-off in the canal that said that overbuilding may be the cause is "a hypotheses that needs to be tested". It is obviously the real cause. Pleasanton proper used to be a wetland, bird sanctuary and valuable flyway, as well as the important lowland where water settled into the ground to replenish the source for our wells. Now the low lying area is all but bricked-in with housing, cement, buildings and shopping centers. Uncontrolled growth and mandates by the governor concerning housing were priorities. Where was the EPA that beats a farmer over the head when he wants a pond for his animals or the powerful Sierra Club when this wetland was built out? It is not just the homes on Foothill that are affected, there is incredible land erosion all the way to the bay. I believe the city and the governor (with his "train to nowhere bucks") deserve a good bit of responsibility.

27 people like this
Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2017 at 11:21 am

@Sam, I would tend to agree with you. I see figures of $5M to $10M to fix this (per recent comments from Zone 7), and although the homeowners provided an easement (any government entity can enforce an easement, btw, when access is necessary), it's still their private property.

Yes, as one of the affected homeowners pointed out, they do pay taxes, and feel they deserve reciprocity, but so do all of us with respect to how our collective tax dollars are spent, including Zone 7 taxes and fees related to our collective water service.

In reading some of the affected homeowners' comments, I noted how they related enjoying their private access to their private backyards and lovely little creek over the years. That's great--you lived with your little private slice of heaven, and now that it's turned into a slice of hell, you're looking for all of us (i.e., the public) to bail you out.

Zone 7 price hikes related to the drought have been substantial and frequent since the drought began a few years ago. If they now decide to fork out $5-10M to fix these private backyards and private creek access, guess who they'll be hitting up to pay for it? The rest of us who've never enjoyed these private slices of heaven.

This isn't a public disaster. It's a small, private disaster for less than a handful of homeowners.

I also read comments that Zone 7 encouraged these property owners to address this issue years ago (the creek and the possibility of bank erosion affecting their properties).

Bailing these folks out sets a really bad precedent should an issue like this involving private property emerge again.

I don't blame Zone 7 and the City of Pleasanton for proceeding with caution on this. That's the prudent thing to do.

13 people like this
Posted by Jack
a resident of Downtown
on Mar 14, 2017 at 11:38 am

Maintenance of the canal is Zone 7's responsibility, plain and simple. The City should step up and be the sponsor and get this dammed thing fixed!

25 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown
on Mar 14, 2017 at 11:39 am

(removed_ NO to anyone other than the homeowners paying to fix this. They refused to do it earlier due to cost and the fear that they might lose the use of some of their private property. (removed) the time to prevent this was years ago. Not one dime of taxpayer, or zone 7, money should be spent here.

11 people like this
Posted by justwondering
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2017 at 12:11 pm

Jack, you state that Zone 7 is responsible for maintenance of the canal plain and simple, which I agree with. But then you go on to state that the city should step up and get it fixed. If Zone 7 is responsible why should the city be involved other than to see that Zone 7 lives up to their responsibility? I do agree that the residents need to take some responsibility here as this didn't just start overnight.

14 people like this
Posted by Sam
a resident of Oak Hill
on Mar 14, 2017 at 12:40 pm

"The situation is complicated by the fact that this part of the creek within Verona Reach is owned by the residents themselves. Zone 7 owns and maintains about a third of the Tri-Valley's channels and creeks as part of its flood management work, but not this particular area, according to general manager Jill Duerig."

It seems pretty apparent that the owners are going to have to accept ownership responsibility and get this fixed. As for Zone 7's easement, it appears that that easement is in place so that Zone 7 can step in to take action, if necessary, for the purpose of insuring proper overall flood control for the benefit of the entire Pleasanton community, not for the purpose of protecting individual homeowners living next to the creek from having some of their land washed away in heavy rains.

16 people like this
Posted by Eric
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Mar 14, 2017 at 1:40 pm

Do I feel bad for the people that are losing their property or being evacuated because they are next to a stream, creek, river, below a dam or on a hillside? Yes. Would I ever buy a property in one of those locations? Uh, nooooo. Because Mother Nature will do her thing eventually. She will change the course of water ways and all hillsides will eventually end up at the bottom, it is a fact of nature that can be slowed but not stopped. Yeah, I did buy into earthquake territory but am taking all the necessary precautions like seismic upgrading etc to minimize my exposure. Can the Mother knock my house down? Yes she can and if she does we'll do it again. When we buy and build in these places we are intentionally putting ourselves and our homes in harms way, it's just how it is.

2 people like this
Posted by Part of the City
a resident of Amador Estates
on Mar 14, 2017 at 4:24 pm

According to Google Maps kml Verona Reach may not be in the City of Pleasanton boundary. Could be Alameda County just like Castlewood and parts of Foothill Road.

86 people like this
Posted by Zack
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2017 at 6:52 pm

Although I understand and respect all the comments, let me share with you some facts:
1. These homeowners do have flood insurance. It is required by loans.
2. Flood insurance does not cover your home if it falls into the creek.
3. No insurance overs this.
4. It is stated all over Zone 7 documents that the Arroyo is being impacted (deeper, wider, sediment issues, etc). Many documents state something needs to be done.
5. Building Safeway is not "an act of God"
6. Most of Foothill is County. The homes near Verona Bridge are City.
7. These homes all have Zone 7 easements covering approx. 50% of their yards
8. These easements state "...the perpetual watercourse easement and right a way to construct, maintain, operate, and repair.."
9. These homes were told they could not build or block any of these easements at any time so Zone 7 could get access especially in an emergency
10. There is nothing that states the repair of the creek is the responsibility of the homeowner. Infact, it is not allowed.
11. No homeowner will be allowed to make fixes as the permitting agencies will worry about the impact to other property. It is not an isolated situation.
12. They are not experiencing normal erosion, I have been at the site. The water is not flowing past their homes but rather running directly at it. Think of a pressure hose spraying at dirt.
13. There are multiple logs making it worse by driving the water toward the cliff. The homeowners were told they could be arrested if they tried to move them.
14. The statements made about the homeowners turning down solutions is not accurate. Ask to see the documentation or formal proposal. Only brief discussion. It never happened.
15. Development over the 700 square miles that dump into this "creek" all pay large permit fees. One of the uses of these permits is to support the required different than roads, pipes, water, sewer.
16. Zone 7 has $45M in the bank form these and other fees
17. Other agencies have already recognized the issue and are willing to put up 75% of the funds per the Zone 7 public documents.
18. This becomes available if Zone 7 is the sponsor.
19. The bottom line is that this problem is not going away. It will only get more severe. Something will need to be done in any case eventually for all of the Arroyo with surrounding homes. No way around it.
20. It is an unfortunate situation that will need a short term and long term solution. It is not going away.

Thank you

45 people like this
Posted by TR
a resident of Bonde Ranch
on Mar 14, 2017 at 7:22 pm

Zack is right....flood insurance is required and it does not cover this type of damage. Saw the drone video on TV....really bad.

53 people like this
Posted by Gwen
a resident of Castlewood
on Mar 14, 2017 at 7:32 pm

I really can't believe some of these comments - the truth is Zone 7 knew about this many years ago(BEFORE THE HOMEOWNERS BOUGHT)Did ANYONE ever disclose this could happen? NO! Flood, yes possible and that's why the homeowners HAVE flood Ins. But guess what? Flood Ins. means nothing along with homeowners ins. - Zone 7 has been collecting impervious surface fees for many years for this purpose. By the end of 2017(in one year) they are projected to have $37.14 million capital reserve - FOR THIS PURPOSE.
You might think differently when Ace train derails because of this - and very likely 100's of lives will be lost. It's not far from the tracks maybe 15-20 feet - homeowners lost 25-40 feet in one day. And when it gets to Foothill Rd. then what? I don't believe for one minute these homeowners are just thinking of themselves. By the way these properties ARE in the City limits!

51 people like this
Posted by Tax Payer 2
a resident of Castlewood
on Mar 14, 2017 at 7:49 pm

For these homes it appears they have easements. If so, not a discussion. Zone 7 is obligated even if it is "an act of God" or the Safeway :)

For the rest on Foothill without easements, this issue is not going away. We have agencies like this and we pay tax dollars (way more than I like) to take care of large scale matters like this. Unless we are going to pump water over the hill, we will have to fix all of the Arroyo on Foothill soon.

Just my opinion.

53 people like this
Posted by TM
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2017 at 7:57 pm

I would have to agree with Zack and TR. Each of the lots does have an easement required by Zone 7 which states the easement is for Zone 7 to have access to construct, maintain, repair etc. the Arroyo and its banks (stated in public documents).

What would be the purpose of requiring the easement if not for the purpose stated?

At no time were the residents presented with any type of solution in 2010 or otherwise - to say so is a false statement.

These homeowners pay taxes and are assessed by Zone 7 as stated on everyone's property tax bill.

How in all good conscience can Zone 7 even remotely assume this is not their responsibility? To put this on the homeowners is unconscionable. Homeowners have asked if they could make repairs and have been told they would be arrested for doing so. What then is the alternative?

My heart goes out to these homeowners. I cannot even imagine what it would be like to have to watch your home threatened and have your hands tied by bureaucrats who are not willing to step up and take action.

I only hope a resolution is reached to save these homes and others that will eventually be threatened.

57 people like this
Posted by PD
a resident of Stoneridge
on Mar 14, 2017 at 8:08 pm

I am taken back by many of the comments on this page. Not a surprise most unsupportive comments come from anonymous posters.
Take a step back and look at the facts please. These homeowners were not permitted to take "all of the necessary precautions" to prevent an event like this from occurring. There is absolutely no kind of insurance that covers an event of this sort.
Many of you say that because these homeowners bought property near the river they are at fault for what is happening.... Were the victims of hurricane Katrina at fault for living in New Orleans? Really think about what you are saying here.
We have residents of Pleasanton who are loosing not only value in their home every day the erosion continues but they are also prevented from attempting to reconcile the catastrophe at hand. Something has to be done.

At the end of the day ask yourself the simple question? What if it was you? Would you want to see your peers posting about how this is your fault? Or would you want support for you and your family in probably one of the most traumatic time in your life. Please show some compassion to these families. They are suffering enough.

Thank you

47 people like this
Posted by Tim K
a resident of Castlewood
on Mar 14, 2017 at 8:20 pm

Fix the river. It is a mess. I looked down the river from the Castlewood bridge. Things are falling in left and right. War zone. Please don't wash your car unless you think about where it goes....

My friend lives about 1/2 way down Foothill. He is tired of all the BS and talk without action by Zone 7. He has these nice Zone 7 guys come by and they tell them they are going to help....but nothing happens. He also told me there have been no proposals to fix this other than low level people coming by with ideas. Nice guys but the high paid bosses must be shutting it down.

Good luck to my friend and others. Let's fix it!!!

14 people like this
Posted by Sam
a resident of Oak Hill
on Mar 14, 2017 at 8:21 pm


Even IF we assume that what you say is true about homeowners not being permitted to make repairs without approval, I still fail to see how this is a Zone 7 problem rather than a homeowner problem. The homeowners knew that they had a creek running past their backyards. The homeowners knew that rainy seasons can sometimes bring large amounts of rain which result in a lot of water rushing down the creek. The homeowners knew that large volumes of rushing crreek water could erode away their backyards. The homeowners walked into this with eyes wide open when they bought their houses. They knew the risks and when they decided to buy their houses on this creek anyway, they were basically announcing that they accepted the risks and conditions, including the Zone 7 easements as well as any restrictions that there might be on their being able to individually repair their creek bank. If they didn't like the Zone 7 easements and the restrictions on creek bank repair, they could have walked away from their house purchase and bought a house somewhere else in Pleasanton.

43 people like this
Posted by Don
a resident of Castlewood
on Mar 14, 2017 at 8:37 pm

Fortunately I'm not one of the homes involved but like them we live along the creek and who knows we could be in the same situation in a few years from know. When we purchased our home we were very concerned about potential erosion so as part of our due diligence we received in writing from Zone 7 the assurance they would be responsible for the maintenance of the creek if erosion should occur. It seems to me this is the situation here and that Zone 7 should fulfill their obligations to maintain the waterways in their district so not to impact the property and safety of others. For those who suggest that homeowners should do it, sorry to inform you we are not allowed to touch that creek regardless if it's on our property. Zone 7 is the only people allowed work on the creek.

38 people like this
Posted by Mark S.
a resident of Valley Trails
on Mar 14, 2017 at 8:37 pm

@Zack this was on the news last week and my take away is that eventually the government or these other agencies are going to have to step in regardless of the residence being sandwiched between the 'creek' and Foothill road.

The statement made from Deurig, when she states that the change in the creek is a "a hypothesis that needs to be tested" is concerning. What is happening to these residents yards? Is this the experiment?

The 'act of God' response from Deurig is ridiculous. She is the GM of Zone 7 Water, I hope...I hope...with her years of experience she could have a better understanding of the watershed. That response could be provided by my daughter for a school project, but the GM of Zone 7, common Jill.

35 people like this
Posted by Reena
a resident of Las Positas
on Mar 14, 2017 at 8:51 pm

One of the home owners used to coach my sons basketball team. He had the team over at the end of the season. I didn't even realize there was a creek there! All the vegetation in the images has been wiped out.

Mother Nature or not as we globalize and build the natural water cycle is changed. If the families lived in a rural county with little developement the "act of God" comment could be more appropriate. These homes are at the bottom of a funnel being filled with run off from all reaches of Pleasanton's deveoplment.

24 people like this
Posted by Bill A
a resident of Country Fair
on Mar 14, 2017 at 9:57 pm

Bill A is a registered user.

Here is another data point. I used to live across from the Arroyo on the West side of Foothill. Still technically a part of Castlewood, but North on Foothill from where these issues are occurring now. I bought the house around 2000 and sold around 2012. The house had a creek that ran between several properties and drained into the Arroyo. At the time of purchase this creek was about 5 feet wide and maybe six to twelve inches deep. The house was brand new. Over the course of the twelve years that I lived there, there was significant building that occurred up the hill from me. In Golden Eagle and in Castlewood. I spent a great deal of time with my kids exploring up the creek and observing changes to the creek that occurred as a result of drainage into the creek from VERY large surface areas made up of streets and properties placed up hill from me. By the time I moved out, this creek was 8-10 feet deep and had carved a 20 foot wide swath of land with it. The land came from both sides of the creek as various S terms formed and reformed. During heavy storms the erosion was enormous. This increase in erosion was ABSOLUTELY caused by the increased water flow caused intentionally by the builders of the streets and homes up hill from me. I spent significant sums of money moving rocks and building defenses against the increased water flow. The point here is that the planning department, the City and/or County did not consider the impact of draining all of that water into this tiny creek. If this is just a single tributary to the Arroyo, the influence of the building is absolutely a contributing factor. The fact that zone 7 chooses certain areas of the Arroyo to be responsible for and then others where they are choosing to not be responsible for is not acceptable...and then to tie the homeowners hands (if this happened) is also not acceptable. The City and County collect a huge amount of taxes from these buildings...both residential and commercial...therefore they should be stewards around these issues. I fully support the Rauns and hope and pray that this issue is resolved quickly.

17 people like this
Posted by JCC
a resident of Happy Valley
on Mar 14, 2017 at 10:25 pm

JCC is a registered user.

I agree with Zack. This erosion affects not only these houses on Foothill Rd, but also the rail road tracks and eventually foothill rd itself. It each homeowner only takes care of their own bank, the water will just flow to other houses or lots not currently affected. We all pay taxes and this is the time the government or agencies should step in to take care of the issues for the entire stretch of the arroyo.

11 people like this
Posted by Bob M
a resident of Castlewood
on Mar 15, 2017 at 10:39 am

Bob M is a registered user.

Zone 7 claims they "have begun seeking permits for emergency repairs from the Army Corps of Engineers" at the same time they make the case that individual residents have had the ability to make changes/repairs on their own at any time.

If a governing agency chartered with the stewardship of the creek, with the resources of an army of surveyors, full time administrative staff, and a war chest of tax payer funds is caught in a bureaucratic eddy preventing them from taking remedial actions, we are still to believe that each individual along the Arroyo has the responsibility and wherewithal to perform "micro remedies" for their respective individual property?????

Triage is required here! Zone 7 and Pleasanton City need to step up and provide the plan, funding, and execution of the emergency remedial actions required to save these homes. Once the immediate danger of the loss of residential property has been addressed, the longer term plan to protect the tax paying residents needs to be created and enacted.

Regulatory bodies can't have it both ways: we own jurisdiction on any activities that may have potential impact to our watershed, but we don't have responsibility if lack of management and planning leads to loss of personal property.

Step up! Your constituents are watching.

Bob M

12 people like this
Posted by Registered Joe
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2017 at 12:48 pm

Registered Joe is a registered user.

This just doesn't pass the sniff test for me. Anybody that buys a property close to a river has to understand that that river might flood. Any lender will require flood insurance before they underwrite a mortgage. If there is a distinction between insuring the property grounds (e.g., backyards) and the dwelling, that was a contract term that was determined and agreed to at the time of the original mortgage. If the owners paid cash and neglected to get flood insurance that included their property grounds, that was their call.

But you can't come back asking for relief from Zone 7 or the City when it was in your power to either (a) not buy the property in the first place, because of the potential for loss, or (b) make sure you have adequate insurance.

7 people like this
Posted by David801
a resident of Oak Tree Acres
on Mar 15, 2017 at 1:48 pm

David801 is a registered user.

Hi Registered Joe,

Understand your perspective but let me fill you in on a couple key points.

As Zack outlined accurately above, these homes do all have flood insurance. Flood Insurance does not cover this type of loss. No insurance does. The home owners were told they had easements to maintain and take care of emergencies. This is in writing.

If that was not the case, do you think banks would allow big loans to be taken out to buy these? They requires flood, homeowners, etc.



7 people like this
Posted by HappyK
a resident of Happy Valley
on Mar 15, 2017 at 2:08 pm

HappyK is a registered user.

I have known the Raun Family for most of the 20 years they have lived in their Foothill home. They are the most detail oriented people I know . I assure you that they thought of everything Joe mentioned and more before they bought their property. They bought their home knowing that there was a clause in their deed that Zone 7 would at any time enter their property/easement. The sole purpose of Zone 7 was to "construct, maintain, operate, inspect, and repair life and property" along the Arroyo de la Laguna. They NEVER once in 20 years entered the Raun's backyard to monitor anything at all. It is very clear the devastation that this "creek" has caused needs to be addressed immediately and before more damage is done.

5 people like this
Posted by Franco
a resident of Vineyard Hills
on Mar 15, 2017 at 5:16 pm

Franco is a registered user.

I find this discussion interesting and have now done a little bit of research.

Go to the Zone 7 website and find their meeting minutes for 2010 and open in particular 4-21-10_minutes and 4-21-10_packet. Read about Friends of Verona Reach and their support for "Arroyo de la Laguna Design Grant Request From Local Landowners" lead by Zone 7. I was quite surprised to read above: "At no time were the residents presented with any type of solution in 2010 or otherwise - to say so is a false statement".

Google around a bit and you will find there was a 2006 bank erosion mitigation project across from the Pleasanton Ridge park entrance on Arroyo de la Laguna land owned by SFPUC and later a similar project in 2011 also on SFPUC land for the 1000 feet of stream just south of the Verona Bridge. You can view both of these areas. On the Verona bridge there is a sign explaining the project.

I shot some video on Sunday at the Verona bridge and the banks are still intact after six years. I also shot some video just south of the Castlewood bridge and saw only a bit of bank erosion and cave-in, the rest of the banks still maintaining their slope. As a result, this comment above also surprised me: "I looked down the river from the Castlewood bridge. Things are falling in left and right."

I'll probably post my videos on youtube and then you can see for yourself.

I have no opinion regarding who should pay for bank erosion projects. I noted some reporting in the minutes cited above that suggests that owners of the arroyo are considered to be responsible.

"Ownership is a patchwork quilt: we have some channels that we own, some that are owned by cities, some that are owned by park districts, and those sections of creeks that are April 21, 2010 5 privately owned. In looking at where we needed projects for flood protection and other benefits to the community, one of those areas is the Arroyo de la Laguna, one of the major exits to the valley.

Back in 2005 we had discussed with the Administrative Committee how we could facilitate projects on privately-owned creeks. One of the challenges Zone 7 faced is that we thought we would then have to acquire that property. In the SMMP there are approximately 16 projects that contain costs for land acquisition and not all are privately owned, but there may be portions of that project that are privately owned. Private landowners tend to be resistant to the idea of having a large government agency come in and purchase the fronts or backs of their yards and are not happy about easements. There is a level of discomfort: what is it going to look like, what kind of restrictions am I going to have, can I go into my backyard? Concerns that have been heard in the past. Options were discussed on the committee level, such as offering a grant
program to see if we could help some of these landowners facilitate projects on their property without having to do the acquisition, were explored along with maintenance responsibilities....."

4 people like this
Posted by Tom N (a 50 year resident)
a resident of Ironwood
on Mar 17, 2017 at 1:28 am

Tom N (a 50 year resident) is a registered user.

While we were traveling, a former neighbor of ours informed us that some homes had suffered severe damage during the February rain storms. We called our onetime neighbor on Foothill and then it was that we learned that it was the home we owned between 1997 and 2005 that was the the most seriously damaged. IT WAS A SHOCK TO SAY THE LEAST!

During the eight years we lived there, we experienced some very big storms far more vicious than the ones we had this past February, I remember in particular several storms that filled the canal on Highway 680 and came within 6 feet of the top of the arroyo. Yet there was no noticeable erosion. During those years the arroyo ran straight and had not developed the snake curves that are now depicted in the done pictures. I guess the real question is : where was Zone 7 all this time.

When we bought, we were emphatically told that there was a staked out easement on our property and that we were to keep this clear so that the water district could drive their trucks through so that they could inspect ,construct,maintain ,operate ,and repair.
During the eight years we were there, we did just that. NEVER ONCE DID THEY USE OUR EASEMENT!

If they didn't INSPECT; how could they CONSTRUCT?
If they didn't INSPECT; how could they MAINTAIN?
If they didn't INSPECT; how could they OPERATE?
If they didn't INSPECT; how could they REPAIR?

We all need to recognize that much of what we have seen in these very vivid drone pictures with the creation of dramatic snake curves has occurred during fairly dry years. What do you think will happen if we have several more wet years ? Unless action is taken now, it it is only a matter of time when the railroad tracks will be threatened; Foothill Road from Castlewood to Sunol will be compromised; let alone , how about other entities further downstream. If any of us think what has happened to date might be expensive, this is nothing compared to future lawsuit costs,railroad repair cost and associated legal fees , road rebuilding and engineering cost reimbursement. How about if a train goes off the tracks and passengers die due to zone 7's negligence or a car goes into the arroyo due to a road washout. WHAT THEN! Why is it that nothing gets done until it's too late ? Why is that nothing was done on highway 580 at the Altamont until the potholes flattened tires and bent car frames? Why is it that the Oroville dam emergency spillway had to fail before we acted?

On the current Arroyo de Laguna situation, zone 7 needs to step up and do what is right. They need to make it right by the effected homeowners.

Fifty years ago the population of Pleasanton was a little over 6,000. There was no Stoneridge mall . There was no Hacienda Business Park. There was no Foothill Highschool. The only shopping center was Safeway at Santa Rita. The city as so small , we had one stop sign and no stop lights. The Arroyo which probably served the local Native Americans had no problems.

Whether we like to admit it or not, it is water runoff from our driveways, our roofs,our sidewalks,streets and yards coupled with the fact that our homes,apartments,schools, shopping centers sit on ground that used to absorb the heavy rains.

Zone 7 has reserve funds ; now is time to use them. I'm sure Zone 7 charges developers hefty fees ; now is time to use them to correct this situation and reverse what has happened to these homeowners, protect the rail tracks and road plus guard against other failures downstream.

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

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