San Anselmo wary, but not worried

January 18, 2010 7:10:39 PM PST
It takes a considerable amount of rain to impress the small business owners of San Anselmo Avenue, but only the threat of considerable rain to push them into action.

"I'm afraid of Tuesday and Wednesday, but not tonight," said Staysea Colteaux, who owns a pet boutique called Dogville. "If you look at the history, we get four floods here every 100 years, and we just had one in 2005, so I think we're safe for a little longer."

But, such optimism did not keep Staysea from filling sandbags and keeping them at the ready, just inside her doorway. Dogville survived the last big flood on December 31, 2005. "The creek is right out back of my shop. If it goes over, it's coming in. We had five feet of water, last time," she said.

There is irony in the fact that floods have helped put San Anselmo on the map, while also nearly washing it away.

"It's devastating to downtown," said Chris DeSilva of Hilda's Café.

"What's more devastating?" ABC7 asked. "The floods, or the reputation?"

"Both. The last one flooded out the tables, barstools, everything," she said. "The owners are still paying off on those loans. But there is plenty more going on, here, than floods."

It is the same up and down the normally quiet, boutique-heavy street.

"San Anselmo cannot afford another of these events," said Darren Foti, who manages Seawood Photo. He pointed to commemorative high water marks outside the store's door. "We would be standing waste-deep."

Flood mitigation remains a big issue in the Ross Valley. A movement to clear and widen San Anselmo Creek contributed to a turn-over in the Town Council in last November's election. The fire department updates flood levels 24/7 on a website.

Town Manager Debbie Stutsman sends weekly e-mail blasts to local residents. The latest urges 'flood proofing,' and includes a link to the town website for a sample design.

All that, in preparation for a flood that San Anselmo hopes never happens again.