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Ahead of Rainy Season, City Leaders Outline Comprehensive Flood Resilience Strategy for San Francisco
Officials Urge San Franciscans to Get Rain Ready
Posted Date: 10/31/2017 2:30 PM
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Commision President Ike Kwan addressing attendees at press event 

San Francisco, CA— City leaders, led by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) outlined a comprehensive flood resilience strategy today as the City prepares for the start of the Bay Area’s traditional rainy season. The strategy, known as RainReadySF, is a combination of planned infrastructure improvements, coordinated City services and innovative programs that provide residents and businesses with the resources they need to reduce the risk of flooding during a major rainstorm.

Watch Video: City Leaders Outline Comprehensive Flood Resilience Strategy for SF

“Now more than ever, we are getting a hint of what climate change may bring in cities across the country, with extremely intense rain events devastating entire communities,” said SFPUC General Manager Harlan Kelly. “There are no easy or inexpensive solutions. While we can’t stop the rain, we can work together and take steps to reduce the impact of these events. Our flood resilience strategy is a partnership between City government and San Francisco residents. Together, we must do everything we can to adapt to the changing climate and be Rain Ready.”

At the direction of Mayor Ed Lee, and in partnership with the Board of Supervisors, more than a dozen City agencies collaborated on the RainReadySF strategy. The plan addresses the challenge of flooding that can occur during large rainstorms.

“Every few years, residents and businesses in this neighborhood are severely impacted by flooding. This community has been continually asking us as a city to help them address this by working together to better prepare for large rainstorms,” said District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen. “While there is no easy solution, RainReadySF is one important way that we can do more to support communities impacted by flooding. It's this kind of strong partnership between neighbors and the city that will help protect these homes and businesses that were built overtop the Mission creek bed.”

Planned Infrastructure Investments
The SFPUC has done comprehensive work identifying the neighborhoods in San Francisco with the greatest flood risk and identifying which priority projects to upgrade the collection system are needed first. While no sewer system can be designed to handle storms of all strengths and sizes, the agency will be proposing over $700M of flooding work to be included in the Sewer System Improvement Program over the next 15 years, after which additional flood projects will continue to be implemented over time.

Coordinated City Services
In addition to capital projects, the SFPUC coordinates with a variety of City agencies to prepare for storms. Throughout the year, City crews clean pipes and clear catch basins, perform targeted tree trimming, and sweep streets across the city. And before, during and after a major storm, the agency increases staffing and prioritizes locations in low-lying neighborhoods to respond to SF311 calls reporting things like clogged storm drains. The SFPUC installs temporary plastic barriers at 17th and Folsum prior to heavy rains to help minimize floodwater intrusion into properties that are at risk of especially deep flooding.

In addition, SFPUC and San Francisco Public Works team up to provide free sandbags every year. Residents and businesses can receive up to 10 free sandbags at San Francisco the Public Works Operations Yard Monday–Saturday, 7 a.m.–3 p.m. at the Marin and Kansas streets gate. Public Works also prunes street trees to help prevent potentially dangerous limbs from breaking off during storms. Crews also are on the ground before and during storms to clean storm drains.

“City departments are geared up for the coming winter rains, and it’s always great when residents and business and property owners do their part, too. Please sweep up leaves from the sidewalk to keep them from clogging the catch basins; have sandbags on hand if your property is prone to flooding and contact 311 if you see a hanging tree limb,”  said Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru. “The better the teamwork, the more Rain Ready we’ll be.”

Innovative Programs to Reduce Flood Risk
To help make it easier for residents and business owners to get involved, the City has developed new, innovative programs with distinct measures that community members can take. These strategies will not change the capacity of the collection system, but are intended to complement longer-term capital improvement projects because there is no one solution that fits all circumstances.

  • Adopt-A-Drain—SFPUC provides residents training and equipment to keep storm drains clear of debris. Volunteers have adopted more than 1700 drains across the city since the program launched in 2016.
  • Flood Insurance—Talk to your insurance agent about buying flood insurance, or contact the National Flood Insurance Program for information at 1-800-427-4661 or online at Over the past two years, the number of flood insurance policies in San Francisco has tripled.
  • Floodwater Grant—the SFPUC reimburses improvements made by property owners to help protect against flooding. Based on community feedback and suggestions, the SFPUC is proposing a major overhaul of the program to:
    • Increase funding –the SFPUC approved a $2M program funding increase on October 24, 2017;
    • Expand the list of flood-proofing project concepts;
    • Significantly streamline the grant application process;
    • Provide more technical and administrative assistance for grant applicants;
    • Include special assistance for low income applicants through partial upfront payments of grant funds; and
    • Make it easier for applicants to identify a suitable contractor.

In addition to these voluntary programs, the SFPUC also wants to develop requirements to incorporate flood resilience into San Francisco neighborhoods over time, such as:

    • Better flood maps so property owners are aware of potential flood risks;
    • New construction standards in flood areas.
    • Flood-protection requirements for property sales and renovations.

The SFPUC has already done targeted outreach to those residents who are directly impacted by flooding in low-lying areas. That community engagement will continue over the next several months to ensure residents and businesses are educated on how they can become RainReady.
“True flood resilience is a partnership and we all have a role to play in making sure San Francisco is Rain Ready,” added Kelly

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