Where’s the protection for residents’ homes?

This evening, Oct. 23rd at City Hall, 250 Hamilton Ave., City Council will discuss and likely certify the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for our City’s Comprehensive Plan. This topic is scheduled for 7:45 pm but may start earlier or later depending on length of discussion of earlier topics.

The FEIR is a very lengthy document that covers many important topics such as housing, noise, transportation, etc. If any of those topics are very important to you, we encourage you to read and comment on the relevant sections of the FEIR.

We took a quick peek at the Hydrology section (FEIR Vol. 1, page 3-14, Adobe page 76) and while protection for groundwater is included, we are dismayed at the following paragraph.  Note: Cross-outs mean that the original language is dropped. 

“Mitigation Measure HYD-2: To reduce potential impacts associated with construction dewatering the proposed [Comprehensive] Plan shall include policies that address achieve the following topics:

  • Impacts Avoidance of the impacts of basement construction for single-family homes on adjacent properties, public resources, and the natural environment and safety.”

Notice that avoidance of dewatering impacts on “adjacent properties and public resources” is eliminated!

Yes, we want groundwater to be considered a resource and the FEIR addresses that. But last week we visited a homeowner whose property only three months ago was fine and now has extensive, and probably expensive, damage (see photo below). He is researching his options so we are withholding his name and address.

Public infrastructure and basement owners, old and new, are not immune from damage either. People with old utility basements and newer basement construction alike tell us of replacing basement drywall and insulation during or shortly after nearby dewatering due to water damage.  Some owners just repair and sell.  This is a matter of public record since City permits are required for this work.  It is important to note that not everyone near a dewatering site will be impacted.  There are many factors involved including types of soils, location (on an old stream bed?), construction type, etc.

We know your time is valuable and we will be asking you to attend the City Council meeting on dewatering that will probably be scheduled in November. However, if protection of all private and public property from dewatering impacts is important to you please attend this evening’s City Council meeting or write to City Council at city.council@cityofpaloalto.org and let them know.

We all expect increased inconveniences from nearby construction:  noise, traffic, parking, etc.  Homeowners shouldn’t be expected to pay thousands, and in some cases, tens of thousands of dollars for impacts from dewatering.  Even if your house is not impacted, we all pay for damaged infrastructure including broken water mains, sewers lines, etc.

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