No one has failed to notice there’s a building boom in Palo Alto. And there are several projects with two levels of underground construction already started or in the pipeline. So what is unique or different about the Marriott hotels proposed for San Antonio Road and why should we be concerned?
Marriott proposes to open two hotels with a two level garage on a 1.9-acre site at 744-750 San Antonio Road (between Leghorn and Middlefield). The Courtyard by Marriott and AC by Marriott Hotels would total 294 rooms and each would be five stories high. The neighborhood is primarily residential and one-story businesses such as Summerwinds Nursery. The proposed underground parking garages fill the property and allow little room for trees, shrubs or landscaping.
Save Palo Alto’s Groundwater is specifically concerned about the plan to build two levels of underground garage – a total of 82,660 ft² – in an area where the groundwater level is 7 – 11 feet below ground surface, according to their geotechnical report. Last year a single-level residential basement of 3, 500 ft² with a similar groundwater level pumped out more than 30 million gallons during construction. This area is more than twenty times larger, and part of the underground construction is twice as deep. Maybe they’ll be extra careful when pumping and not discharge 600+ million gallons of groundwater but it’s still going to be a lot of water. At the same time over a million cubic feet of soil will be removed to accommodate the two-level garage. The Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) does not quantitatively analyze the impacts on groundwater at all, but rather summarily dismisses such concerns as “no significant impact.”
We believe that this project requires much more careful vetting of its underground construction plans than it has received thus far. The amount of soil and groundwater to be removed under the proposed construction is significantly large enough to impact our aquifer, infrastructure, neighboring properties and the amount of soil available for future storm water mitigation.
City Council will discuss and decide whether to approve the Final Environmental Impact Report for 744-748 San Antonio Road on Monday, June 12, 6 pm at City Hall, 250 Hamilton Ave. We plan to be there and voice our concerns. Please join us and the neighbors from Greenhouse One and Greenhouse Two and let City Council know your opinion about this project. If you can’t attend, you can contact the City Council at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The City has updated the online map of dewatering sites. You can easily find the location of Palo Alto’s 2017 dewatering sites by clicking the Maps link on the right-hand side of this page. As of May 31st, yellow marks indicate pending, green indicates pumping, red indicates completed.
Note that dewatering impacts can extend 200 – 400 feet (about 1 city block) from the dewatering site. See the graph on our Feb. 5, 2017 blog, “Building basements without wasting water”. Neighbors have mentioned cracked walls, cracked windows and cracked walkways, doors that stick, trees that died a few months after dewatering ended, etc. If you notice any such impacts on your property, please let us know by entering a reply/comment at the bottom of this page, or send us an e-mail at email@example.com.
Also, we consider dewatering to be “localized drought” for the neighboring properties. This article in the Mercury News and this article in the Business Insider explain drought mitigation for properties. Caveat emptor!
Palo Alto’s new dewatering policy takes effect on May 4, 2017. The stated goal for this new policy is to minimize the discharge of groundwater from construction dewatering; it applies to projects that do not have their building permits as of May 4th. Application forms and information for applicants and contractors are available in the section titled “Construction Dewatering Plan Guidelines” on the City’s website. You can see the City’s map of pending dewatering sites for 2017 here. The new dewatering policy is summarized below.
Save Palo Alto’s Groundwater will have a table at this year’s “Earth Day and Great Race to Save Water” at the Palo Alto Baylands Athletic Center on Saturday, April 22nd, 9 am – 3 pm. We’ve joined this event because we’re very committed to saving water and want to encourage neighbors who are building basements to think of the environment and use local area dewatering instead of broad area dewatering in areas where the water table is high.
This event is also registered as a satellite March for Science
event. In addition to a 5K run/walk there will be activities such as art, live music, prizes, zoo animals, bike tours, bird walks, and food – we’ll have some fun in the sun while doing something positive for the environment.
You can find out more information about this event at the City’s website
or check out the new promotional video
being displayed on the digital wall in Palo Alto’s City Hall. Please join us on April 22nd for a fun and educational event.
On Monday, March 20th, 2017 the City Council will discuss and give direction to Staff regarding the organization of the Comprehensive Plan. This discussion is wide-ranging and is scheduled from 7 to 10 pm.
We encourage you to attend the March 20th City Council meeting at 7 pm to urge the City Council to respect eight years of work by numerous individuals including the current Citizens’ Advisory Committee (CAC). The City Council should re-think their Jan. 30th decision to “gut” the Comprehensive Plan by separating Programs from Policies. In many cases, the Policies without the Programs are too vague to be meaningful.
Save Palo Alto’s Groundwater members and supporters attended various CAC meetings and provided input on the value of groundwater and soils, their importance on mitigating floods and droughts, groundwater and climate change and safety issues regarding dewatering and construction in areas with high water tables. The CAC, Staff and consultants listened and incorporated some of our input into Palo Alto’s draft Comprehensive Plan. All this input is lost and the Policies greatly weakened when we have the Programs that would support the Policies relegated to at-will appendices.
If you can’t attend, please email the City Council, firstname.lastname@example.org, and let them know their decision, without discussion on Jan. 30th broke the community’s trust by not valuing the time and effort of the former and current members of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee, Staff and consultants plus the input of many residents, including Save Palo Alto’s Groundwater.
Thank you for your support!