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Menlo Park OKs countywide plan for natural disaster prep

Among other projects to protect Menlo Park's shoreline (above) against sea level rise, the city seeks federal funding to build part of the SAFER Bay project. A number of other projects to boost the city's resiliency to natural disasters are detailed in San Mateo County's recently-approved Local Hazard Mitigation Plan. Photo by Michelle Le.

Led by San Mateo County's Department of Emergency Management, a group of 36 county departments, cities, towns and special districts partnered to develop a plan to fight sea level rise, among other things.

The Menlo Park City Council voted 4-0 on Nov. 15 to approve the city's portion of the countywide plan, with Councilwoman Jen Wolosin absent.

The council's approval means that the city remains eligible to continue to apply for funding from FEMA's hazard mitigation assistance program. Menlo Park has received $5 million to improve a pump station on Chrysler Drive near the Bay and has applied for $50 million in funding as part of the SAFER Bay project to protect the community from sea level rise.

Each jurisdiction created its own "annex" to the countywide plan, laying out specific long-, medium- and short-term actions to reduce high-risk hazards within city boundaries; in Menlo Park, those hazards include floods, earthquakes and sea level rise/climate change.

A number of those actions in Menlo Park's piece of the plan are already underway, including updating the pump station on Chrysler Drive, making a map that considers the risk of flooding due to climate change, updating the city's stormwater master plan and implementing the city's water system master plan and climate action plan, according to Public Works Director Nikki Nagaya.

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While the city of Menlo Park has been affected by a number of environmental and natural disasters in recent decades, the city reports that the financial impacts of those disasters are unknown for all but the El Niño event of December 2012, which caused $3 million in damage to private properties in creek bank erosion and $820,000 in damage to homes and businesses, according to plan documents.

The financial costs to the city from the Loma Prieta earthquake in October 1989, the infamous El Niño flooding event of February 1998, the severe winter storms of February 2017, the COVID-19 pandemic and the poor air quality from wildfires from mid-August to the end of September last year all remain unknown, according to the report.

Of the likely natural hazards to strike Menlo Park, flood, earthquake and sea level rise/climate change ranked highest, with flood ranking as the highest-risk hazard citywide.

In the City Council's discussion of the plan, Councilwoman Cecilia Taylor expressed her interest in the city adopting the state's "CalEnviroScreen" tool in its future plan updates and to evaluate environmental justice. The CalEnviroScreen is a recently updated system showing cumulative environmental impacts in California communities by census tract.

The fourth version of that map was recently released and shows that most of Menlo Park, Atherton, Woodside and Portola Valley are in the 10% for the least environmentally burdened districts, while those in Belle Haven, East Palo Alto and North Fair Oaks range between being in the 60% to 90% most environmentally burdened census tracts statewide. The city is in the process of creating its first environmental justice "element," or citywide plan for how to work toward a more fair and healthy environment throughout the community.

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Nagaya said the county developed its plan using a similar tool, called the Social Vulnerability Index. The local hazard mitigation plan will be updated annually.

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Menlo Park OKs countywide plan for natural disaster prep

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Wed, Nov 24, 2021, 9:56 am

Led by San Mateo County's Department of Emergency Management, a group of 36 county departments, cities, towns and special districts partnered to develop a plan to fight sea level rise, among other things.

The Menlo Park City Council voted 4-0 on Nov. 15 to approve the city's portion of the countywide plan, with Councilwoman Jen Wolosin absent.

The council's approval means that the city remains eligible to continue to apply for funding from FEMA's hazard mitigation assistance program. Menlo Park has received $5 million to improve a pump station on Chrysler Drive near the Bay and has applied for $50 million in funding as part of the SAFER Bay project to protect the community from sea level rise.

Each jurisdiction created its own "annex" to the countywide plan, laying out specific long-, medium- and short-term actions to reduce high-risk hazards within city boundaries; in Menlo Park, those hazards include floods, earthquakes and sea level rise/climate change.

A number of those actions in Menlo Park's piece of the plan are already underway, including updating the pump station on Chrysler Drive, making a map that considers the risk of flooding due to climate change, updating the city's stormwater master plan and implementing the city's water system master plan and climate action plan, according to Public Works Director Nikki Nagaya.

While the city of Menlo Park has been affected by a number of environmental and natural disasters in recent decades, the city reports that the financial impacts of those disasters are unknown for all but the El Niño event of December 2012, which caused $3 million in damage to private properties in creek bank erosion and $820,000 in damage to homes and businesses, according to plan documents.

The financial costs to the city from the Loma Prieta earthquake in October 1989, the infamous El Niño flooding event of February 1998, the severe winter storms of February 2017, the COVID-19 pandemic and the poor air quality from wildfires from mid-August to the end of September last year all remain unknown, according to the report.

Of the likely natural hazards to strike Menlo Park, flood, earthquake and sea level rise/climate change ranked highest, with flood ranking as the highest-risk hazard citywide.

In the City Council's discussion of the plan, Councilwoman Cecilia Taylor expressed her interest in the city adopting the state's "CalEnviroScreen" tool in its future plan updates and to evaluate environmental justice. The CalEnviroScreen is a recently updated system showing cumulative environmental impacts in California communities by census tract.

The fourth version of that map was recently released and shows that most of Menlo Park, Atherton, Woodside and Portola Valley are in the 10% for the least environmentally burdened districts, while those in Belle Haven, East Palo Alto and North Fair Oaks range between being in the 60% to 90% most environmentally burdened census tracts statewide. The city is in the process of creating its first environmental justice "element," or citywide plan for how to work toward a more fair and healthy environment throughout the community.

Nagaya said the county developed its plan using a similar tool, called the Social Vulnerability Index. The local hazard mitigation plan will be updated annually.

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