Storm causes flooding concerns in SF's West Portal

Flood damage in San Francisco's West Portal neighborhood.
March 5, 2013 7:41:21 PM PST
You might think the approaching rainstorm would be a major problem for a San Francisco neighborhood plagued by sinkholes, but the city insists it is not enough rain to worry about. Those living in the West Portal neighborhood have a lot on their minds after a water main broke last week.

The city says it won't know if the three red-tagged homes can be saved for another three to six months. For now, they all share one large, unpredictable sinkhole.

"At this point in time, we have one large one that extends underneath the back foundations of those three red-tagged homes. The two yellow-tagged homes on Wawona are adjacent to that in their rear yards, so that is considered one large one," said Alison Kastama from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

This all started when a 16 inch underground cast iron water pipe dating from 1951 broke last Wednesday just before 3 a.m. Two feet of water went rushing down the streets and 23 homes were damaged. Days later, water logged soil started to give way underneath homes.

Residents of three homes won't be allowed back in for three to six months, while soil engineers wait and watch.

"We're watching the soil settle as they dry out, so we'll see more cracking of some, we have some interior cracking of walls, things of that nature. So we're just here to watch that, make sure there's not significant settlement that affects structural," said Kastama.

In the meantime, there's at least a month's worth of projects at the intersection, including replacing six damaged sewer connection pipes and replacing 400 feet of the water main that broke.

Flood victim Marina Simonian has lived in here for 50 years. When we asked her how she is doing, she said, "Well, OK. You know, day to day, we know that things can change in a minute, so we're kind of hanging in there. Haven't been tagged, but we know it could happen."

With rain on the way, the city inspected and repaired some roofs on water damaged homes, but the PUC says the storm is not expected to bring enough rain to worry about.

"The rain is not expected to have any adverse effect on the soils here or cause any further problem with settlement," said Kastama.

Mayor Ed Lee will meet with residents on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. at a restaurant at West Portal Avenue. Some residents said that will be tough for them trying to get away from work, but in any case, that meeting will be taking place.

While the city is saying it might be three to six months before it can be determined what happens with some of these houses that have structural damage, we spoke with a resident who said they are actually being advised to make plans for temporary housing for a year.


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