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FW: Former Mayor Gail Slocum's Comments on Pope/Chaucer Street Bridge and Related Projects

From: Slocum, Gail (Law) <"Slocum,>
Date: Thu, 13 Feb 2014 19:46:43 +0000

I'm submitting email comments in lieu of the comment card I was given at the January 29 community meeting.

Date: February 12, 2014
Name: Gail Slocum
Address: 205 Pope Street, Menlo Park, CA 94025 (1 block from bridge)
Home Phone: 650 325-4367
Cell Phone: 415 515 2892 (preferred)
Email: gail.slocum_at_(domainremoved)
Organization or Affiliation:
26 year homeowner at 205 Pope Street; former City Councilmember and Mayor of Menlo Park in early 1990s; recently served on San Mateo County Planning Commission for 7 years.

Thank you for providing the recent community meeting and handout materials to help educate our neighborhoods on this important matter. As I stated during the meeting, it seems that this project did not ask the right question as a matter of prioritizing what steps should come first and what values should guide the overall design objective.

The question the engineers and planners should have been asked to answer from the beginning here is: how can we both minimize or manage future potential flood damage AND do so in a way that keeps the creek as natural as possible.

Instead, it seems the question that was asked was: What is the maximum flood management that can be gained from a bridge replacement, without trying other measures either first or in tandem.

It also seemed to be a presupposition that the bridge had to be done first (apparently driven by linkage to Measure B funding?), and other measures would only be pursued later. When seen from the lens of trying to keep the creek as natural as possible this approach clearly gets the order backwards.

As the presentations and materials made clear, if the upstream catchment approaches and the flat-lands under-street culvert type diversion projects were pursued first, the relief in the volume and velocity of water flow in the creek from doing those things first would certainly allow a change in the type of bridge that would need to be put into place, reducing the damage. For example, it was stated that the degree and nature of upstream detention/catchments and flat-land underground (under-street) diversion bypass culverts would determine what type/size of flood walls along the creek might be associated with each bridge alternative. While I recognize that under street culverts will require significant funding, why can't some or all of the funding for the bridge be used for this purpose? Even if that funding is earmarked exclusively for the bridge, citizens who legitimately care about (and whose property values benefit from) the creek remaining as natural as possible deserve to be given an chance to make such alternatives happen. Funding both from individuals in the surrounding neighborhoods and from other sources dedicated to environmental preservation, etc. should be fully explored now. It would be legally deficient and unacceptable as a matter of policy if you were planning in the DEIR to just assume that these projects have to be considered in more detail in the future, or worse yet, effectively waved off as being "financially infeasible" without really trying. Heck, Mark Zuckerberg lives in the affected area and owns multiple properties in the flood zone, and there are many other very well-heeled people in these same neighborhoods who care very deeply about preserving the creek to the maximum extent possible

Alternative 1 (Raised Bridge): I strongly oppose this proposal as being engineering overkill that does too much harm to the surrounding neighborhood as well as the creek itself. It appears to include significant stretches of rip rap that would take our beloved, mostly natural creek (one of the last naturalistic riparian corridors on the Peninsula) and remove its natural character both along the creek banks as well as removal of way too many trees on its banks. Also, Alternative 1 is clearly linked with creating the need for flood walls that are completely unacceptable as they would result in even more tree removals and represent too harsh a change to the creek environment (both banks and interior) that seems likely to have unintended consequences (such as greater erosion that could cause us to chase our tails doing ever more hardscaping until we lose the creek environment we love and which provides economic value to all of our properties as it is.

Alternative 2 (at-grade Bridge): I also oppose this proposed alternative as engineering overkill. While the at-grade approach would do somewhat less damage to the neighborhood's look and feel, the design still does too much hard-scaping of the creek itself. Even worse, it is clearly linked with creating the need for even higher flood walls that are completely unacceptable, as it would result in the largest number of tree removals and would represent and even harsher change to the creek environment (both banks and interior) that seems likely to have significant unintended consequences (such as greater erosion that could precipitate later remedial changes as we "chase our tails" doing ever more hardscaping until we lose the creek environment we love and which provides economic value to all of our properties as it is.

Alternative 3:
I would support: (a) *immediate* and concerted pursuit of and decisions supporting the strongest possible upstream detention projects AND underground/understreet bypass culverts in as many places as possible, and then (b) design a much less hardscaped type of at-grade bridge design, similar to the one posted by Jim Wiley on his BlogSpot, after the reduction in volume and velocity that is afforded by the upstream detention and underground/understreet bypass culverts is determined, as this can reduce the level of creek disturbance needed for the bridge design.

Your project seems likely to be embroiled in many, many years of litigation and continued public opposition if you continue to proceed with any type of bridge design (such as options 1 and 2) that include substantial hardscaping/denuding of the creek banks and is linked with any floodwalls extending upstream and downstream from the Pope/Chaucer bridge. Proceeding with any such designs without doing all you can NOW to pursue the other elements in your project EIR (rather than shunting them off as only being "Potential Future" projects for 110-year flood protection) seems completely backwards, and represents old "Army Corps of Engineering" template style design that treats nature as the enemy to be managed, rather than seeking to maximize natural preservation as a core value.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment. It sounded like you all might be willing to rethink the approach. Please contact me once you get a sense of how you are going to regroup and reframe this. I will help as well as I possibly can on solutions that make sense. I believe you can turn this around.

Gail Slocum
PG&E Law Department
415 973-6583
415 515 2892 cell

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Received on Thu Feb 13 2014 - 11:47:10 PST

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