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When federal, state and local officials warn our region that a strong series of winter storms is approaching and San Diegans should prepare for possible flooding, most homeowners do their part.
Residents should, in turn, be able to trust that the city is doing everything it can to ensure city-owned assets and infrastructure that may pose danger in heavy rains are operational and not jeopardizing local families.
On Jan. 5 and 6, eight homes in the San Carlos neighborhood were completely decimated by our first strong El Niño event of the year in flooding that resulted from a broken storm water drain in one homeowner’s backyard.
The Sunday following the storm, I was able to meet with the homeowner Cabaret Street whose backyard was the site of the broken drain. As I pulled up onto the street, a row of houses had new mobile storage units in their front yards as families attempted to salvage their personal belongings and memories on what should have been a relaxing three-day weekend.
The homeowner showed me where the repairs were made after the fact, and reiterated several times how the city had been out, looked at the damage and yet nothing was done until it was too late. Now these eight families are being told by the city to save their repair receipts.
Most working families do not have tens of thousands of dollars in disposable income to make the repairs, and a good majority of homeowners do not have flood insurance. After their savings are drained, affected families will be forced to go through the long process of trying to recoup their money from a city that will have to claim liability.
If the city was not aware of an impending flooding problem on someone’s property, it would be hard to place blame. In this situation; however, the city was well aware — and that is a problem.
Anyone who has ever had a plumbing malfunction at their home knows that problems are cheaper and easier to fix before they occur. If these storm water drains continue to go overlooked, and you factor in lawsuits by homeowners who claim the city has liability due to knowledge of the problems, that bill jumps very quickly.
Another San Carlos family, this one on Whelan Drive, is facing the same situation. A sink hole is developing on their property, and while the city has the home “prioritized,” the family is forced to wait and hope their home is not ruined as well.
The city says fixing as sinkhole will cost between $130,000 and $150,000. That is a lot of money, and these Band-Aid cures will continue throughout the year. San Diego will face another year like this again in the future, and we cannot afford, financially or morally, to make repairs after the fact.
With an estimated billion-dollar infrastructure gap, and an estimated $200 million needed to repair flood-risk infrastructure concerns, something has to be done to try and mitigate more problems before they arise.
Our best way to fix this problem is to first understand that we need to find new revenue that makes the probability of fixing these repairs more likely in the short term, to stop trying to play bait and switch with city services to look like a financial savior of the city, and get down to actually fixing real, tangible problems.
It’s time we stop kicking the can down the road.
Our city officials spend plenty of time posing arguments as to why a taxpayer-funded stadium for the Chargers is the best use of their time and resources.
It may not be as popular or newsworthy, but I think finding ways to spend our tax dollars on protecting the lives of those who live, work and raise their families in our city should be our priority.
San Diego deserves a responsive government. Residents deserve a municipality whose first priority is focusing on fixing community concerns, whether that be helping find a new location for a senior center, or continuing to put pressure on the various city departments involved in ensuring San Diegans are living in safe and well cared-for neighborhoods, when they are made aware of them, not just when they are responding to a media crisis.
Justin DeCesare is a real estate broker and president of the Tierrasanta Community Council and Planning Group. He served for eight years in the United States Navy and is a candidate for San Diego City Council’s 7th District.