As you’ve no doubt been noticing, Glen Park streets are being torn up thither and yon. Workers from the San Francisco Department of Public Works (SFDPW) can be spotted in deep holes and trenches, replacing old water mains, as reported previously in the Glen Park News.
Supervisor Mandelman arranged for a community meeting to update residents on the routine replacement of water mains—scheduled to last in the neighborhood through December 2024—as well as clarifying details of the July and August incidents.
Although it was a seemingly straightforward agenda, the meeting was not without drama.
But first Alison Kastama of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) gave some facts and figures on the city’s water main system, which originates 160 miles from the city at Hetch Hetchy reservoir in Yosemite National Park.
Water travels to the city via gravity into a system of tanks and reservoirs which stores around 415 million gallons for use by the city and distributed to homes by 1,200 miles of water main pipes.
Maintenance of the pipes is prioritized by a risk score that accounts for the age and material of the pipe, the breaks that have occurred on that type of pipe, and the consequences of failure of the pipe. About 320 miles of pipe are identified as priority for replacement and 15 to 20 miles are replaced per year in the city.
The July 23 break, reported at 2:00 a.m., was a natural one due to age that occurred at Sussex and Castro in a 63-year-old, eight-inch pipe placed in 1960, said Kastama. It took PG&E four hours to arrive on site and mark their utilities. They did not mark them properly and while SFPUC was working on the pipe they hit a gas line at 10:30 a.m. Residents were ordered to evacuate. PG&E restored the gas service at 4 p.m. and the water main was repaired around 5 p.m.
In the meantime several adjacent homes were flooded, including those of a family of five and a 92-year-old man.
The August 20 incident at Chenery and Castro was entirely different. SFPUC was performing routine maintenance on a water main that had many complex connections. There was a product failure of a jumper cable, meant to keep the water supplied to residents of a wider area while the work was being done on one block. That created a break in the existing pipe. Other locations experienced a large reduction in water pressure.
Another possibly related flood on August 21 at Chenery near Diamond resulted in a dramatic outpouring.(This incident was not addressed at the meeting.)
SFPUC is planning a proactive notification system to push communication of incidents out by phone or email to customers based on their billing information. They’re also looking into tying in to AlertSF, an opt-in texting system for notification of emergencies.
Kastama gave an update on the current Laidley Street Water Main Replacement Project (which actually encompasses many more streets in Glen Park). Sewer work is nearly finished and the water work is 30% complete. Related work to be done involves curb repainting and pavement restoration.
Brian Cauley of the City Attorney Claims Office gave an overview of submitting and processing claims for property damage caused by utility work or other damage for which the city is responsible.
A claim form and explanations about time frames, information required, investigation, and the settlement or denial process is available on the San Francisco City Attorney claims page. Note that the claim form is online; however, the completed form must be printed out and either mailed or hand-delivered to 1390 Market Street, 7th Floor.
In answer to a question about the repair of damage, Cauley said that the claims team has standing contracts with six remediation companies. If a claimant uses one of these companies, the company would be eligible for direct reimbursement by the claims team in the city attorney’s office.
At this point someone in the audience broke in with a story of their travails of trying to get help from the city.
The family of five ranging in age from 4 to 85, whose home on the unit block of Sussex Street was damaged in the July 23 incident, has been living in Daly City since that time. The couple, Joe Fong and Soon Kang, who were at the meeting, said their first floor was unlivable, had mold, a family member has asthma, and it wasn’t feasible for them all to live on the floor above. The city told them that since their kitchen and bathroom were in working order it was deemed livable. They said they were told by the city that no expenses will be reimbursed due to “inconvenience.”
Furthermore, they claimed they and the other two families affected were never told about the city contracts with remediation companies and were advised to “Go on Google or Yelp” to find a company. As a result, they’ve gone into debt, $60K so far on a credit card, waiting for their claim to be processed.
Cauley said the city attorney’s office would do an internal review and see what could have been done better or if anything was done wrong and move forward from there.
“Yes, it was pretty tough,” said Fong, “because we did not feel that there was support. Home insurance won’t cover water damage because it’s flood insurance issues. So for us as the people that were affected, we’re on our own.”
To see if any action has been taken as a result of the meeting, the Glen Park News reached out to the SFPUC who replied that they could not give out any details. We are following up with Joe Fong and Soon Kang and will report any further information that becomes available.