A: No. There is no silver bullet to stop flooding in the Ross Valley. The low-lying areas of the Ross Valley are in a flood plain. Flooding is a geographical reality. Even the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has replaced its efforts at flood prevention with flood mitigation, which features raising buildings, constructing flood barriers around buildings, replacing hard-scape with permeable surfaces and keeping creeks clear. FEMA has helped to rebuild flood-damaged towns if the town is rebuilt away from the flood plain.

A: No. The FZ9 plan to demolish Creek Park Plaza does not stop flooding. San Anselmo Creek does not have the capacity to contain a 100-year flood because there is inadequate space to expand the creek bed to meet that need. At best, demolishing Creek Park Plaza MIGHT lower flooding in some parts of San Anselmo while adding new flooding to other areas in San Anselmo and Ross.

Ask the County to provide specific information for your parcel. Remember that Computer models are “best guess” estimates and cannot be relied upon with absolute certainty.

A: Marin County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, founded in 1953, is the special district for flood management in Marin County. Flood Zone 9 (FZ9) is the Ross Valley portion of the district encompassing Fairfax, San Anselmo, Ross, Larkspur, Corte Madera and parts of Greenbrae. FZ9 was created to address the specific flooding problems in this portion of the Ross Valley watershed.

San Anselmo withdrew from FZ9 in 1971 because the Town Council deemed that “as presently conceived Zone 9’s construction to date and plan does not benefit the taxpayers of the City of San Anselmo ….” That was 52 years ago and the concrete channel (visible today behind College of Marin) was under construction in the Creek downstream of San Anselmo.

San Anselmo rejoined FZ9 in 2007 after a contentious election and the narrow passage, by 65 votes, of the Ross Valley Annual Storm Drainage Fee, implementing the current fee on each property in the Ross Valley.

A: Excellent question! After the 100-year flood event of 2005, County officials and local organizations created a plan to stop flooding in the Ross Valley — a plan that proved undoable in reality. Marin County FZ9 was empowered to levy a 20-year flood fee on Ross Valley property owners through 2027 in exchange for promised flood control. In the 15 years since implementation of the flood fee, County District FZ9 has spent $52.1 million dollars of taxpayer money, and has achieved very little to no flood control. (See answer #6 below and the accompanying chart.)

Originally, the Ross Valley Watershed Flood Risk Reduction Program envisioned multiple flood diversion and storage basins and construction such as bridge replacements. The flood diversion and storage basins would have provided a minimal percentage of flood control at tremendous expense and the chosen locations, publicly owned sites like Phoenix Lake, Memorial Park and Lefty Gomez Field, are unique, irreplaceable community assets that are part of the reason people move to the Ross Valley. The County’s plan would have irretrievably damaged the character and function of these sites. Legal and political challenges to the County’s actions were upheld. The Phoenix Lake project was the first to be discarded as both ineffective in terms of flood control and too expensive. The Millennial Playground/Memorial Park and Lefty Gomez Field projects were overwhelmingly rejected by voters.

Should any new flooding be caused by proposed flood projects, impacted residents were assured that the County would protect their properties. Marin towns and the County adopted “Do No Harm” policies stating that improving flood risk in one area would not increase flooding in other areas. These policies were in addition to Federal FEMA ‘no-rise’ regulations that safeguard home owners from increased flooding caused by projects in federally regulated waterways.

A: NO — in the 15-year interval since the enactment of the flood fee, FZ9 spent $52.1 Million and achieved no flood control. If the plan could have succeeded, it would have by now. (See Answer #6 and the chart below.)

A: The $52.1 Million* has not resulted in flood remediation for the Town of San Anselmo, but instead largely went to consultants, studies, and planning, instead of construction costs and tangible results. The chart above comes from the Ross Valley Flood Protection and Watershed Program Update, December 7, 2022, page 3.

Only a few costs can be verified. The County is not completely transparent about money spent by FZ9. Costs include purchase of Building Bridge 2 (BB2) at 634-636 San Anselmo Avenue and demolition of the buildings for $120,000; Construction of Sunnyside Detention Basin $4.5 Million plus a 5% contingency of $470,000 for a total of $5.09 Million. The amount spent on real estate acquisitions are: 634-636 San Anselmo Avenue for $1.75 Million later increased to $1.8 Million* and Sunnyside Property $3.8 for a total of $5.5 Million. The design of Building Bridge 2 cost $1.5 Million, and Tenant Relocation for affected downtown San Anselmo businesses: L’Appart Resto, San Anselmo Optometry, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, and The Ranch Salon cost $330,000.

In summary, known costs are $5.09 Million spent on Construction Costs, $5.5 Million* on Real Estate Acquisitions, and $330,000 for a Grand Total of $12.42 Million. The $52.1 Million also shows Creek Maintenance Funding: Town and County at $1 Million, as shown on the Ross Valley Program – Flood Zone 9 Fee Revenue and Project Expenses through 2022.

*The County used the $1.75 Million figure in the Ross Valley Flood Protection and Watershed Update Dec. 7, 2022. The total of $5.5 Million is based on $1.75 Million not the actual $1.8 Million.

The District is responsible for providing a detailed accounting, and their failure to do so adds to the frustration of taxpayers who have been paying a flood control fee on their property taxes for more than 15 years and want to know what has been done with their money.

Here is an example of County flood planning and fiscal strategy: the County purchased the Great Acorn building, saying the structure had to be removed to control flooding. Instead of being torn down, the building was used to house the Ross Valley Fire Prevention Bureau and now stands vacant.

At a 3/28/23 Town Council meeting, San Anselmo Councilperson Eileen Burke asked Marin Public Works director Rosemarie Gaglione how, in case of an apparent funding shortfall, the County planned to pay for FEMA-required downstream mitigation. In response, Ms. Gaglione stated that the County could sell the Great Acorn Building. (https://sananselmo-ca.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_ id=1&clip_id=916).

A: If you are a property owner in the Ross Valley, you pay a flood fee identified as FCZ9 on your property tax bill.

A: The San Anselmo Flood Risk Reduction (SAFRR) project is a three-phase County project meant to reduce the severity of flooding in FZ9. (https://ceqanet.opr.ca.gov/2017042041/3))

In September 2018, the Marin County Flood Control and Water Conservation District’s administrative board (the County Board of Supervisors) certified the Final Environmental Impact Report for the SAFRR Project with the aim of reducing the extent and severity of flooding along San Anselmo and Corte Madera Creeks.

The first phase of the SAFRR project entailed purchase of the Sunnyside Growing Grounds and the subsequent construction of the unfinished Sunnyside Flood Diversion and Storage Basin. Floodwater in central San Anselmo is not impacted by the Sunnyside Flood Diversion and Storage Basin.

The second phase of the SAFRR project included purchase and demolition of the concrete structure known as Building Bridge 2 (BB2) and the business structures at 634 – 636 San Anselmo Avenue, and follow up creek restoration in downtown San Anselmo.

The third phase is the implementation of flood mitigation measures on three downstream private properties that may see a rise in surface water due to the removal of BB2 in San Anselmo.

A: Creek Park Plaza/Building Bridge 2 is still standing because the County currently has neither a full plan nor the funds to complete the FEMA-mandated downstream mitigation that is required by federal regulations.

Building Bridge 2 was labeled a choke point that adds to the flood water in downtown San Anselmo. BB2 holds back water in a flood, some of which escapes into downtown while additional flood water is prevented from surging downstream. Demolishing Creek Park Plaza/BB2 creates a water rise for downstream San Anselmo and Ross property owners. This would be new flooding caused by the SAFRR project described above. Since 2014, the County has been aware that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will not permit any project in a regulated floodway that creates any increase in base flood elevation (BFE). So downstream flooding remains unmitigated. BB2 removal will cause new flooding for local residents.

Why the County did not plan for funding mitigation is not clear. The County, unable to proceed as planned, now proposes to recreate an identical flow constriction using a “Baffle” (see FAQ #23 below). The Baffle would merely serve as a placeholder until, and if, the County can figure out a way to make their initial flood plan work. The Baffle provides NO FLOOD RELIEF.

The latest Environmental Impact Report (EIR) addendum removes some funding for mitigation while placing the burden of protecting their property from flooding on the affected property owners. So while some may benefit, others will suffer new damage from flooding.

A: Again, see the chart from the Ross Valley Flood Protection and Watershed Program Update, December 7, 2022, page 3 (see Question #6, above.)

A: Yes. The Plaza structure is sturdy, as documented in the attached engineering reports, including the report prepared for the Town of San Anselmo by structural engineer Sunny Jhutti, who is senior in terms of qualification to the other engineers submitting reports on BB2. His report indicates that BB2 is structurally sound and is in no eminent danger of collapse. Read the Jhutti report at the link below.

Is it possible that Creek Park Plaza/BB2 could collapse in a major earthquake? Of course, along with many buildings and bridges in the area. The bottom line is that the Plaza can be safely repaired for much less than the cost of removal. Estimates vary from $15,000 for short term repairs to approximately $350,000 for permanent repairs. That is only 8.3% of the SAFFR’s estimated $4,200,000 cost of demolition and removal.

Engineer Michael Watkins, who provided the engineering report cited by the County, was asked by the Marin Independent Journal (IJ) if he thought BB2 could be safely repaired. “Yeah, I think it can be repaired to make it adequately safe,” Watkins told the IJ. (https://www.marinij.com/2022/09/22/san-anselmo-seeks-plaza-reopening-amid-bridge-controversy/)

A: The County shut down the Plaza in an attempt to force the Town of San Anselmo to go along with removal. The Plaza/BB2 is in no imminent danger of collapse.

“The bridge was closed by the Marin County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, which is overseen by the Marin County Board of Supervisors and operated by the County’s Department of Public Works.

The flood district purchased the concrete structure for $1.75 million in 2018 as part of an effort to pre- vent flooding in the Ross Valley. The plan was to tear the bridge down because it impedes the flow of San Anselmo Creek, increasing the risk of flooding.

The public works department sought San Anselmo’s cooperation in closing public access to the plaza, and when the town rejected the request, it cordoned off the area using a chain link fence.” (https://www.marinij.com/2022/09/22/san-anselmo-seeks-plaza-reopening-amid-bridge-controversy/)

*For a good overview of the Creek Park Plaza/BB2 closure/removal issue, read Richard Halsted’s 9/22/22 Marin Independent Journal article, “San Anselmo Seeks Plaza Reopening amid Bridge Controversy” (https://www.marinij.com/2022/09/22/san-anselmo-seeks-plaza-reopening-amid-bridge-controversy/)

A: Correct. There is only the “perpetual emergency” of living in an earthquake zone. Most structures, like BB2, risk collapse in a major earthquake. Yes, BB2 has some cracks, but it has been determined to be structurally sound and the cracks can be reinforced and repaired at a reasonable cost. See Structural Engineer’s Sunny Jhutti’s report.

A: YES. The Town was responsive and held a special Town Hall meeting on 9/21/22 to hear public concerns and to explore resolutions to the closure. 188 citizens attended via Zoom. Here are PDFs of staff reports, pertinent engineering reports and evaluations, and emailed comments from the meeting.

A: On January 13, 2023, San Anselmo Town Manager Dave Donery sent a letter to County Adminis- trator Matthew Hymel, outlining THREE PROPOSALS from the Town to restore public use of Creek Park Plaza. (Read the letter here: https://townofsananselmo.org/DocumentCenter/View/29554/TOSA-Letter-to-Matthew-Hymel—Jan-13-2023—Building-Bridge-2))

The Options for Consideration suggested by the Town to the County are:

  1. The County Repair and Town Lease: Consider making repairs to the BB2 structure to allow for public use and lease the property to the
  2. Town Repair and Town Lease: Consider allowing the Town to make agreed-upon repairs to the BB2 structure and lease the space back to the Town for public use. If the County is willing to pursue this potential approach, Town Staff would seek the Town Council’s support for funding the repairs and indemnifying the County for liabilities related to the use of the property.
  3. Sell the property to Consider the potential sale of property to the Town with the agreement that the Town sell the property back to the County once construction of the SAFRR is imminent. If the County is willing to entertain this possible approach, Town Staff would seek input from the full Town Council before pursuing a purchase.

A: No. Marin County Public Works Director Rosemarie Gaglione responded to Dave Donery in a letter dated March 22, 2023 and declined to pursue any of the Town’s proposed options.

A: There have been no divergence between our Town Council representatives and the County’s position. It is still unknown to the public if there was any serious discussion of implementing Town Staff’s proposals to reopen the Plaza.

A: The Reimagination Park design, unlike the current Plaza/BB2, offers no central gathering place. The now-shut Creek Park Plaza/BB2 provided a well-used and popular gathering space during the Covid19 pandemic that proved to be revitalizing for downtown San Anselmo. The Reimagination design does not offer that.

The Reimagine Creek Park design necessarily piggybacks on the demolition of Creek Park Plaza, largely adding landscaped features with private donors footing the bill. Officials pushing Reimagine Creek Park know that without providing mitigation for downstream properties flooded by the removal of BB2, Reimagine Creek Park will never be built. Officials know the County cannot demolish BB2 unless the County provides millions of dollars in flood mitigation as required by federal regulations, and the County does not presently have the funds for mitigation.

The existing Creek Park provides a natural sloping amphitheater ideal for outdoor music and movies. Assuming the demolition of the Plaza/BB2, the “Reimagining” of Creek Park would daylight San Anselmo Creek, returning it to its pre-BB2 state. That is, each side of the creek embankment would be exposed with added landscaping changes. The creek, full or empty, becomes the central area of the Park. A wide foot bridge (narrow deck), running along the side of the park next to Creekside Pizza and able to accommodate, at most, four tables, is the only structure in the Reimagination proposal to span the creek. In contrast, keeping the existing Plaza doubles the useful size of the Park, extending it with a large flat area providing direct access to downtown businesses.

The Reimagination project would destroy the linkage the Plaza provides between the amphitheater and downtown. The Reimagination project would eliminate the central gathering place that features picnic tables and umbrellas that can be used for dining/picnicking and many other activities, from kids’ performances and birthdays to family picnics. Over the last few years, it has proven to be a great place to meet friends and family, share a beer and pizza or simply sit and read or meditate quietly alone and watch San Anselmo go by.

A: YES. The proposed Reimagine Park engineering changes near the edge of the creek endanger the heritage redwoods in Creek Park.

The County’s engineering drawings show regrading of the existing slope near the heritage redwood trees. During demolition of the Plaza, the removal of the concrete pavement and the concrete footings will begin the disturbance of the redwood’s interconnected water-seeking root mass. In the next phase of the work, the excavation and compaction of the regraded slope will further remove or damage the existing redwood roots. In a rain storm, the rain saturated slope and high winds could easily prove too much for the weakened root mass and topple the redwood trees.

A: The Baffle is a concrete structure meant to replicate the existing water flow constraints of Building Bridge 2. The County would build the Baffle in San Anselmo Creek, abut- ting Creekside Pizza, in approximately the spot where BB2 now stands. The Baffle is solely a placeholder for the demolished BB2 structure. The Baffle offers NO flood relief or remediation. The purpose is to buy time for the County to recalibrate planning failures. The cost of BB2 removal and the Baffle project together is $4.2 million to $9 million/$9.9 million. (The following chart comes from the Ross Valley Flood Protection and Watershed Program Update, December 7, 2022, page 7.)

That’s $4.2 million, at least, to tear out an existing structure said to cause flooding and then to replace that structure with an functionally identical structure—without achieving any flood control.

County Public Work’s Berenice Davison herself said that she didn’t want to spend funds on a BB2 baffle “because installing the Baffle brings no reduction in flood risk. It simply mimics the existing flows that are there now.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uc4LHekgoU4a

A: If the County does not deliver the project by the time the allocated Department of Water Resources grant money expires, the County must PAY BACK THE GRANT MONEY migrated from the voter-rejected Memorial Park Diversion and Storage Basin plan.

Since County FZ9 administrators and public officials failed to follow FEMA criteria regarding the No Rise rule, the County is currently unable to implement their original plan before the grant money runs out. The County has neither the funds nor completed plans to provide FEMA-required mitigation for the downstream water rise created by the demolition/removal of Creek Park Plaza/BB2. The “Baffle Plan” is a Hail Mary — a plug in the Creek that delivers no flood relief.

A: This is Unproven.

Removal of Creek Park Plaza shifts flood impacts from one area to another area, which violates both FEMA regulations and the Do No Harm agreement signed by the Marin County Board of Supervisors, the Flood District and the individual towns comprising the District. The number of properties the County claims may benefit is changeable and remains unproven. Individual site surveys, which provide the elevations of each at-risk parcel and structure, must be compared with the project-caused increased Floodwater Surface Elevations to understand flood impacts.

A: No. A “Yes on F” vote will not impact flood insurance availability or price. Your insurance will continue to go through FEMA as before.

A: Okay, no judgment. You should care if removing BB2 causes flooding in Ross because then, Ross has grounds to sue San Anselmo and FZ9 to stop the BB2 removal project, leaving us with a) a big ugly hole in the middle of our downtown with a Stop Work order flapping on a fence and b) a huge messy lawsuit.

Legally, damage caused downstream, by increased water rise for example, as a result of work done upstream in a water way is generally considered to be the fault of the party doing the upstream work. In this instance, San Anselmo and FZ9 hold the liability. Ross property owners need to protect their assets and have repeatedly made it clear that they will sue to save their homes.

A: County Flood Zone 9 has spent $52.1 Million of our tax payer dollars, including our yearly flood fees, and delivered no flood control to San Anselmo. Instead, the current San Anselmo Flood Risk Reduction Plan (SAFRR), which includes the removal of Creek Park Plaza/BB2, creates increased flooding downstream.

BB2 removal not only destroys the newfound heart of San Anselmo and the attendant downtown renaissance; Plaza demolition leaves the Town of San Anselmo open to litigation by impacted downstream property owners.

Withdrawing from FZ9 will ensure we take on no additional financial liability for ineffective County projects. There is a possibility that, after withdrawing from the Flood District, San Anselmo could be required to pay maintenance fees on FZ9 projects that have been completed. The Sunnyside Flood Detention Basin in Fairfax is almost but not yet complete. That’s it so far. Creek Park Plaza/BB2 is stalled.

The County has also said that San Anselmo may be liable to pay for contractual obligations already undertaken by the County for flood control in the flood zone, dating to the day of withdrawing from the flood zone. We have contacted the County twice asking for clarification on this matter and have received no reply.

Excerpted from the impartial analysis of Measure F by San Anselmo Town Attorney Megan Acevedo: Under State law, a majority of Town voters voting on the measure can approve the Town’s withdrawal from the District. State law specifies that withdrawal will not release land so withdrawn from the duty to pay fees to fund debts and obligations the District becomes responsible for before the withdrawal. Accordingly, withdrawal from the District is unlikely to release property owners in the Town from having to pay the Flood Fee to fund projects to which the District is already committed. However, withdrawal can protect Town property owners from having to fund any projects the District initiates after withdrawal.

State law also provides that parcels of land withdrawn from the District remain subject to taxes for the maintenance of improvements constructed within the flood zone before the withdrawal. Maintenance of improvements within Flood Zone 9 is funded with a portion of the 1 percent property tax collected on properties in Town under Proposition 13. This property tax will continue to be collected and a portion will continue to be allocated to maintenance of improvements in Flood Zone 9, regardless of the Town’s withdrawal from the District. The Town’s presence in, or withdrawal from, the District will not affect the amount of the 1 percent property tax, but may affect distribution of tax proceeds to the agencies which benefit from it.

A: Yes! Thank you for signing the Initiative and giving a policy voice to San Anselmo voters. The Initiative met with overwhelming public support, garnering hundreds more signatures than were required for ballot qualification. The Initiative is (thanks to you) on the upcoming March 5 election ballot as Measure F. A Yes vote on Measure F withdraws San Anselmo from Flood Zone 9. Look to this website and to our Facebook page, Sensible San Anselmo, and to our Instagram, Sensible San Anselmo 2024 for updates and information. Mail in ballots arrive in early February 2024. Don’t forget to vote Yes on F in 2024!

A: The language of the Flood District code states that a public vote is required to decide if a town can “Withdraw” from the Flood District.

Signing this Initiative tells your Town Council members that the issues of effective flood remediation, fiscal responsibility, good governance, accountability and transparency matter to you.

Your Town Council is charged to act in the best interest of the community. Council members are people, after all, with their own interests and agendas. The Initiative process is the remedy for questionable governance.

If you have concerns about the arbitrary closure of Creek Park Plaza and the derailing of the downtown business revival, sign this Initiative. If you are concerned about the lawsuits from property owners in Ross triggered by work done in the creek without prior downstream mitigation, sign this Initiative. If you feel County Supervisors and Town Council members must be transparent and honest about issues that impact their constituents, sign this Initiative. If you think that local governments should adhere to Federal regulations, sign this Initiative. If you think that $52.1 Million of your tax dollars is a lot to waste on practically nothing, sign this Initiative.

A: YOU CAN VOTE YES ON MEASURE F! Election Day is March 5; mail in voting starts early February 2024. Get a yard sign, get the word out!

Speak up at San Anselmo Town Council Meetings on the second and the fourth Tuesdays every month at 7 pm (https://www.townofsananselmo.org/88/Town-Council). Comments can be made during the Open Comment Period at the start of the meeting. Comments may not be longer than 3 minutes.