City shells out $1.7M in flood settlement

It’s recent history, but most likely has been forgotten by those who were unaffected by the failure of The City’s storm drains in December 2003 and January 2004.

For 46 homeowners and businesses whose properties were flooded with rain and sewage during that winter storm, it’s been hard to forget. But their almost decade-long legal battle for compensation has finally come to fruition, with San Francisco ready to shell out $1.7 million.

The lawsuit, first filed in 2005, alleged that The City was at fault for the flooding in the South of Market, Inner Mission, Excelsior, Mission Terrace and Outer Mission neighborhoods.

Their fault goes underground, to The City’s “dual-design” sewer system, which carries both wastewater and storm runoff. During an intense storm with heavy rain, the system can obviously get dangerously close to or actually go over capacity.

The lawsuit alleges that city work crews caused the 2003 and 2004 flooding by paving over storm drains and allowing the sewer system to fill with dirt, sediment and other debris that reduced its drainage capacity by more than 50 percent, according to the San Francisco Examiner.

A trial court in 2007 actually held The City responsible, sparking several settlement agreements, including a $500,000 check made out to an art gallery on 16th Street.

The final $1.7 million has to be approved by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

In the meantime, The City is trying to rebuild. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission has been replacing old pipes and drains and is in the  initial planning and review phase of a new $2.7 billion Sewer System Improvement Program that was launched the same year the flooding lawsuit was filed.

The last “Master Plan” created to examine and revamp The City’s sewer system (which has remained largely untouched since it was built in the mid-1800s) was in the 1970s.

The cost to replace San Francisco’s 900 miles of sewers and storm drain – an estimated $6.9 billion – makes the flooding lawsuit settlement look like child’s play. Here’s hoping, San Francisco.