Thursday, January 27, 2011

Why I voted to kill the Water District project

Voting against a public works project is hard to do- esp. when it doesn't come out of your budget, and it is as important as a flood control project is. Thousands of families could be impacted by this decision. It wasn't something I did lightly.

Some quick background: The Santa Clara Valley Watter District proposed lowering the athletic fields at Blach by 10 feet to create a flood basin. In the event of a major flood, the basin would slowly fill with water, which would protect about 3,000 homes downstream. The funding was already approved by voters in a bond passed several years ago. The district would have received upgraded sports facilities, and the Water District would have borne the cost of any cleanup in the event of a flood.

Shortly after the vote, someone said to me that we might have been playing politics with the vote. Although this has been a multi-year journey to get this far, neighbors around Blach school recently stepped forward to voice their opposition to the project. I have to admit, their arguments did not sway me. I heard people say things like "the protected people are mostly Mountain View, so let Mountain View figure it out." I heard a lot of unscientific debate about the artificial turf the Water District was willing to install. Folks were concerned about the inconvenience of the trucks during the construction project.

All up, those arguments felt like a lot of NIMBY to me, which was disappointing. I genuinely believe we have a duty to help protect our neighbors. The same folks who felt this was a "Mountain View problem" would not be happy if the SCVWD suddenly didn't provide Los Altos with drinking water.

What it really came down to for me was space. The Los Altos School District is facing unprecedented pressures on our campuses. Enrollment this year has already grown at twice the pace predicted by our demographer. Each year, our campuses seem to be bursting at the seams. To me, it just wasn't prudent to tie up 7 acres of land in a long term agreement that we couldn't change. The District doesn't have enough property as it is. Locking up 7 acres in a water project just wasn't responsible to the students of our community.

I sincerely hope that the Water District finds another way to complete this project. There were several other alternatives that have been studied that might also be feasible. With a bit of work, I believe one of those other options would allow them to fulfill the project goals and help them protect additional homes from flooding. In the meanwhile, it's back to the job o educating our kids...

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