The San Diego River is overflowing as it churns through Mission Valley. Fashion Valley shops are open, but their parking lots are closed. Crews are rushing to pump water out of Qualcomm Stadium, where the field is underwater a day before the Poinsettia Bowl. Tourists are stranded in their rooms in Hotel Circle as the water rises around them.

This December storm, which has dumped 4.2 inches of rain in the last week, is wreaking havoc in Mission Valley, and it’s got us remembering a 2006 investigative series our former colleague Will Carless wrote on the pitfalls of haphazard planning in Mission Valley. In one of those, he explored Mission Valley’s susceptibility to flooding during large storms.

Mission Valley has had catastrophic floods before. It is built on a major flood plain, with the San Diego River running through it before dumping most of the city’s storm water into the Pacific at Ocean Beach. The development boom that in recent decades transformed Mission Valley from pasture land into a concrete community of condos and shopping malls has left the neighborhood even more vulnerable to calamitous flooding.

Will explained why:

The increase in the amount of concrete and asphalt covering what was once porous arable land means less and less rainwater can now seep into the ground. More drains, roads and roofs in the areas around the river also means rainwater now finds its way more quickly from storm clouds through neighborhoods into the river’s flood plain.

Whether the measures that quell the river are a match for the factors that swell it is anybody’s guess.

This week’s flooding in Mission Valley does not foretell a happy answer to that question. Residents, planners, and advocates worry about what a truly big storm could mean for the neighborhood, which continues growing but lacks emergency plans for dealing with floods.

More from Will’s story:

Jim Peugh, a local environmentalist who works to conserve the San Diego River, said history is bound to repeat itself in Mission Valley.

“The dams will hold it up to a certain point, then they won’t hold it any more and we’ll have another flood like 1916, and our city will face another economic loss,” he said.

“That will probably be billions of dollars, and then we’ll be surprised again,” he added.

Here’s footage of the flooding from our media partners at NBC7/39.

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Please contact Adrian Florido directly at or at 619.325.0528 and follow him on Twitter:

Adrian Florido is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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