Zone 7 completes bank stabilization project for creek off Foothill Road

Work initiated after erosion threatened Verona Reach homes last winter

Zone 7 Water Agency has completed a bank stabilization project in the 7800 block of Foothill Road (shown here at the end of December). (Zone 7)

Roughly three months and $4.55 million later, Zone 7 Water Agency has completed a bank stabilization project in the 7800 block of Foothill Road where homes were threatened by significant erosion last winter.

Crews wrapped up the project in mid-December when the final plants were installed on the rebuilt slope, according to Carol Mahoney, Zone 7 manager of integrated water resources.

"It's really nice to see that we were able to come together with the regulatory agencies and come up with a plan that did not involve really hardscape types of solutions," Mahoney said in a recent interview. "We were able to see how we can create a more natural slope in the area and encourage the stream to react more like a natural stream in that area as opposed to using things like steel piles or concrete."

The bank stabilization work began late last summer.

Crews cut away a portion of the slope at 3 Verona Way -- a vacant parcel that Zone 7 used eminent domain to acquire, arguing it was necessary for the project -- and pushed the slope back to divert water flow away from homes. Water was also diverted downstream through pipes while heavy equipment operated in the creek.

Soil and rock was put inside geotextile fabric that was then wrapped up and placed against the eroding slope, one layer stacked on top of the next.

Construction finished around Nov. 1. The slope was then planted and seeded so grass can grow on top.

Crews continue to visit the site for monitoring and maintenance.

Asked how the new design has done in stormy weather this winter, Mahoney said, "so far so good."

"We've seen the site holding up well and directing the water exactly where we want it to," she said.

Zone 7 opted for the geotextile fabric slope after initial design options proposed for a permanent repair, including ones that involved supports made from large rocks or metal beams, were rejected by regulators who give out construction permits.

The geotextile fabric design also proved to be more expensive. In August, the Zone 7 Board of Directors authorized spending an additional $2.85 million on the project -- on top of $1.7 million approved in March -- bringing the total cost to approximately $4.55 million including contingency.

Crews initiated an interim repair in March to guide the majority of the water toward the center of the channel and away from the eroded bank while Zone 7 staff worked on a design for a permanent repair.

The erosion was first brought to the agency's attention by the Belshe and Raun families, next-door neighbors in the 7800 block of Foothill who lost much of their creekside backyards amid heavy rains last winter. A gradual change in the configuration of the Arroyo de la Laguna -- which homeowners have asserted is a result of development upstream -- created an s-turn that was propelling water toward their properties and caused ground to erode away.

Zone 7 holds an easement for the Belshe and Raun properties, along with seven other parcels on Foothill Road and the arroyo, which gives them the right to "construct, maintain, operate, inspect, and repair flood control facilities and appurtenances." Up until March, the agency had never undertaken projects there. The creek within that area is owned by the residents themselves.

Homeowner Dave Raun said in an email Tuesday that he thought Zone 7 "did a nice job" with the bank stabilization work.

"I believe this should protect homes in this area," Raun said.

He continued, "I do believe with the continued growth upstream, Zone 7 and the other agencies must come up with a solution for the entire arroyo that is next to homes. Individual homeowners are helpless with this and only an agency like Zone 7 can make this work. It is just a matter of time before we have a disaster impacting many people."

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15 people like this
Posted by Buc Lau
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2018 at 8:23 pm

How nice these wealthy homeowners got a free gift to the tune of $4.55 MILLION of our taxpayer money. Meanwhile, vast stretches of the Arroyo Mocho bordering the Valley Trails and Val Vista developments with just as much damage remain un-repaired for the third year in a row. Must be nice to be able to buy one of these riverfront properties, not maintain it, then get someone else to foot the bill after giving the press some sob story.

This is what Sullivan should be putting his efforts behind.

2 people like this
Posted by Grumpy
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Feb 1, 2018 at 9:03 am

It’s reasonable that upstream development could have caused this, in which case the blame lay on whoever signed off on that development.

But even if this was purely natural, eventual downstream damage from this area would have made this project necessary. The public foots the bill if Foothill were to again fall into the river. So Zone 7 certainly had a right, if not duty, to do some mitigation here?

Was this the right mitigation? I have no idea. I do wonder why these houses didn’t have insurance for this. Most likely that too would have been some form of public insurance, as private insurance companies don’t write those policies just like the don’t write earthquake insurance.

But I don’t think this was entirely a bailout. Expensive, yes. Strangely protective of a few rich people’s houses? Yes. But this was probably cheaper than letting it all go to court, where those millions would go to lawyers’ new yachts and Zone 7 would still have to do these repairs.

I’m not happy, because someone clearly dropped the ball. Maybe they all did. And now we paid for it. But I don’t see another way out.

8 people like this
Posted by Buc Lau
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2018 at 10:00 am

@Grumpy. You make very good points and I agree. However there is a backstory. The property owners were advised years ago to take action to prevent this (the meeting minutes are on record with Z7). Zone 7 even went so far as to suggest a design to mitigate damage. The property owners chose to ignore the recommendations and take no action whatsoever.

Because the property owners knew and then chose to do nothing, that is where I take offense in using my tax dollars to repair their private property. I also take offense that there are still huge fissures in the Arroyo Mocho that border Val Vista and Valley Trails.

Many of these failures are much closer to homes than the homes on Foothill. If we would have had another winter like last year, I can guarantee that one or more homes would have collapsed into the arroyo. One out of approximately eight major failures were repaired in the last three years.

It seems that the more wealth you have, the more attention and taxpayer money is spent.

1 person likes this
Posted by Balance
a resident of Oak Tree Acres
on Feb 1, 2018 at 10:50 am

Although I can understand the perspective of some of the comments above and it sounds like Zone 7 needs to do some additional work, some of the facts are incorrect above.

1. Zone 7 had easements on this property. This was required by the city when they approved this land for homes 25 years ago. They wanted to make sure if homes were built that Zone 7 would be responsible for this. It is clearly stated in the deeds, etc. Please note it is also stated the homeowners are NOT allowed to do anything about it. They required access to fix things. Never once in 25 years did they use it.

2. The statements about recommendations to the homeowners is a myth or at least a white lie. The fact is that home owners are not allowed to make changes to the land in the easement....only Zone 7 can. There was not formal proposal presented to homeowners.

3. The cost is a total shame....agreed. The issue here is that the plan by Zone 7 was to use rock like used throughout California for this type of issue including in Pleasanton and even in the Arroyo. The other government agencies like Fish and Game and others said rocks were not natural (odd) so instead they used layers of dirt, wire mesh, plastic and material that looks like burlap sacks to recreate the slope that use to be there. I hope the frogs like this better than the rocks. Very odd.

4. The entire Arroyo and other places need attention. The cost is only going to go up and there is no way the individual homeowners can do anything about it. Between all the agencies and permits...can't happen. Even if someone just did it then they risk that the neighbor next door claims that it caused more damage. This can only be addressed by government agencies....that is why we have them and we pay lots of taxes.

5. Please understand that the way land upstream gets approved is with all the permit fees and additional fees like the ones that go to Zone 7. These fees are to take care of issues downstream. I can assure you if you look into this there is plenty of money to take care of this if properly managed. This should not only be Zone 7 but also the City and County. They need to work together to address this. We had a 20/40 year event last year. If we have a 100 year event, the disaster will be so costly and 100X the cost to address all these waterways today.

Balance...trying to apply some with facts.

2 people like this
Posted by Grumpy
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Feb 1, 2018 at 2:42 pm

I suspect you are both correct. I don’t know the specific restrictions of the easement so I can’t say whether the homeowner was precluded from doing work or merely shared that right with Zone 7. Even if the homeowners could have done the work, usually the Army Corp of Engineers and other agencies are required to cooperate if not take the lead.

So the whole thing sounds like a mess. Yes, the wealthy do get more attention. It’s not good. But money often talks in capitalistic systems. Even though the government people will not directly benefit, it’s no good to fight the wealthy this way as that can come back to haunt them in an election.

My thoughts about Foohill collapsing referred to the actual street, south on county land. It did collapse half way in the storms. It could have collapsed completely in a later storm. I just hope that’s enough justification.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Mohr Park

on Feb 1, 2018 at 5:38 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

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Posted by keeknlinda
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Feb 2, 2018 at 4:21 pm

keeknlinda is a registered user.

I believe the Army Corps of Engineers was the entity which demanded no riprap, aka rock retaining material, be used. It was considered too hazardous to try to stabilize the equipment needed to place multi-ton boulders safely, and Zone 7 Directors and staff were less than thrilled, but given the real possibility that more homes were likely going to be jeopardized soon, didn't have much choice. I also believe, because it was deemed an emergency repair, both state and federal funds were made available for part of the cost.
Bear in mind one man's pool had already been rendered useless, and was in real danger of collapsing the bank even further.
Regarding Val Vista and Valley Trails, I suggest you mark Feb 13 at 6:00 on your calendar and attend the public forum being held by Zone 7 to discuss the Arroyo project. Better yet, write the person in charge, Emily Mosier, <> and voice your concerns. Make sure you tell friends and neighbors to do the same. Zone 7's original mission was flood control, with potable water delivery added a bit later. They need to know somebody is watching, and to understand we need them to fix things before, not after the rains come.

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Posted by zill
a resident of Carriage Gardens
on Feb 3, 2018 at 2:59 am

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3 people like this
Posted by Buc Lau
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2018 at 10:24 am

@keeknlinda - the use or availability of state and federal funds are still my taxpayer dollars. It doesn’t lessen the fact that these peroperty owners got a huge free gift.

Regarding the Zone 7 meeting later this month. I attended last years meeting. Someone stood up and spoke about the huge fissures and bank failures along the arroyo by Valley Trails and Val Vista. In fact he even held up pictures of the damage. The director (looking dazed and confused as usual) commented that they have a 6 month window (from April until October) and they did not receive their permit from the Army Corps of Eng until early October (2016) and there was too little time to do the work.

She committed that all repairs would be done during the 2017 window. That did not happen and now, here we sit again with collapsing banks very close to homes. Her commitments, just like the arroyos banks, don’t hold water. Thankfully she is retiring this year and we have the chance to get someone with more experience and competence in place.

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

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