Dreading the rain
Westsider has watched her landscaping float away 3 times, but will city help be enough?

       When there's a good rainfall, most homeowners are pleased, because it will nurture their landscaping.
       Not C.J. Hendrickson. That's because at her corner-lot house, 1504 W. Cucharras St., good rainfalls wash away much of her landscaping.
       The schoolteacher discovered this fact in mid-August 2004, a few months after she bought the house. “It was the first rain since I moved here,” she said. “I was inside working. I took a break to look outside, and when I did, I said, 'Oh, my God.'”
       She has documented her situation - including two washed-out replanting efforts - since that time. According to her reports, the chief losses have been to her parkway area (between the sidewalk and curb), as well as the front yard at times. Photos she took during a rain in August 2005 show three railroad ties she had placed between the sidewalk and the yard being washed away.
       “The water was flowing hard enough to knock an adult down,” Hendrickson told a meeting of the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) late last year. “My yard was totally under water.”
       She believes the recurring problems result, at least in part, from the city having paved the street too high over the years, leaving her corner as the low point at the intersection of 15th and Cucharras.
       Another problem appears to be the storm-drain inlet at her corner, which has proven unable to carry the water away fast enough - even though the city cleaned out the drain after her first incident. Steve Bodette, a City Engineering inspector supervisor, said in an interview late last month he was unable to find city records stating the size of the pipe from the drain, but he believes it is no more than 12 inches wide.
       The city so far has not done any street or sidewalk work that might help her situation. A sidewalk upgrade at her property is due to happen “soon,” Bodette said, but he was not sure how much it would help her flooding issues.
       The upgrade will be funded through a city program that fixes sidewalks that are broken up by tree roots. “There are rather large trees out there,” Bodette said.
       Still, he is going to try to maximize the project's drainage-control potential. When the sidewalk goes in, he said he plans to ensure that it is situated with the maximum allowable rise from the curb (2 percent); also, that the sidewalk itself has a “cross-slope” of 2 percent. The idea, he explained, is to make as much water as much as possible run off her property and back onto the street when it rains.
       Last week, after the Pioneer's interview with Bodette, City Engineer Cam McNair contacted Hendrickson, pledging additional work at her property. In an e-mail, he said the city “will work with you to develop a landscaping treatment for the areas between the sidewalks and the streets that is easy for you to maintain” and to “clean out the inlets and storm drain pipes again.”
       How-ever, McNair nixed Hen-drickson's hope that the city might mill down the center of the intersection. In his interview with the Pioneer, Bodette had noted that the center line of the road was “higher than the top back of the curb,” which was a cause of ponding at her corner.
       McNair's e-mail states, “the street pavements on both Cucharras and 15th in your area are in pretty good condition. I would not want to mill and repave these streets until they need the repairs and until we are prepared to also fix the drainage system. So this too will likely not occur for several years.”
       Asked what she thinks of the city's plans, Hendrickson said she appreciates the city's sidewalk and parkway landscaping offers, but believes they are just partial solutions and that the city will have to fix the rest of it later “at a much higher cost because of poor planning.” She specifically questioned the effectiveness of landscaping the parkway.
       “Once the parkway area washes away after the city has fixed it, what are they going to say?” she asked. “I will simply take photos of it, but at least they will have fixed half of the problem… After they've completed that, then I'll go ahead and work on the rest.”
       Before the responses from Bodette and then McNair, Hendrickson said she had talked to various other city officials since August 2004 who would not concede that the city had any design issues affecting her property. On one occasion, she said she was told that the city had never previously received a flooding complaint at the property.
       Adding to her woes, her insurance carrier has informed her that it will not pay for her damages. This is because she has reported her problems to the city, her carrier has told her; thus, she needs to sue the city if she wants to collect any damages.
       Summing up her feelings, “I'm very frustrated,” Hendrickson said. What she'd really like to do at this point is sell the house and move elsewhere. However, she said, “No one's going to buy this house until this problem is taken care of.”
       After her presentation, OWN board members agreed to write a letter on her behalf. Hendrickson said she also is thinking about taking her case before City Council.

Westside Pioneer article