San Anselmo Pursues Grant for Memorial Park Flood Detention Basin

What do you think of using San Anselmo's Memorial Park, Fairfax's Lefty Gomez Field and Loma Alta in Fairfax as flood detention basins? Tell us in the comments.


Efforts are moving forward to turn San Anselmo’s Memorial Park into a flood detention basin.

The project will involve lowering the field at Memorial Park and building berms around the edges, so the park – which would continue to consist of athletic fields and open space – could be filled with water to prevent flooding. See examples of sports fields in Bay Area community parks that Mill Valley-based firm Royston Hanamoto Alley & Abey turned into detention basins in the photos at the right.

The Memorial Park basin is part of efforts to avoid another “100-year” flood similar to what drowned the area twice in 30 years. Officials don’t know exactly what the basin would look like yet, but the public can see preliminary designs by San Rafael-based landscape firm Abey Arnold Associates at a Dec. 3 meeting in San Anselmo (see more details about the meeting below).

The San Anselmo Town Council approved a funding agreement for the project between the town and County Flood Control District Zone 9 at its Nov. 13 meeting and gave Town Manager Debbie Stutsman the green light to submit a grant application to the California Department of Water Resources. A staff report is attached at the right. 

The council also OK’d Stutsman authorizing an $89,200 contract with the San Rafael-based Stetson Engineers to help the town apply for the grant, which is due Jan. 18.

Stutsman said that since the grant would fund half of the project – rough estimates say it could cost $7 million – town officials are planning on picking up the speed for the funds.

But the project is still in a preliminary stage, Stutsman told Patch.

“There is much, much, much work to do. We’re getting started because this grant opportunity is a big one and we don’t want to miss it,” she said. “We have a lot to do with the community and we want to be sure we address all the issues that the community brings up and that we have answers to all the questions.”

More than 30 people attended a stakeholders meeting on Nov. 3, according to Stutsman. The entire community was invited, with special emphasis on the park stakeholders, which includes; San Francisco Blvd. residents; Parkside Apartments residents; those who use the Log Cabin or playground; and sports groups, including tennis, baseball, soccer and softball athletes.

At the meeting, some residents asked why the town couldn’t enlarge San Anselmo Creek or rebuild bridges instead of having a basin. Another question revolved around how the detention basin would be designed for an earthquake and flood happening at the same time.

“Work done between now and the grant application deadline of January is only the first step and doesn’t set a design in stone,” Stutsman wrote in her regular column on Patch.

The Marin County Department of Public Works has put six monitoring wells (small holes that are roughly one inch in diameter) in the park that will let officials study the amount of groundwater in the park throughout the winter.

Stutsman said the monitoring wells will let officials know if a detention basin is even feasible at the site – there could already be too much groundwater or the soil may not be right. 



The basin is one of the four detention locations that have been marked as top priority projects in county’s 10-year work program. They are part of a $130 million effort.

Work is already underway on another flood detention basin at Phoenix Lake, Stutsman said, which will involve increasing the lake’s capacity.

The other two proposed locations for basins are Lefty Gomez Field at White Hill Middle School and Loma Alta, an open space above White Hill Middle School.

The county flood control district will reimburse some of the funds the town uses on the Memorial Park project.

The efforts started after the flood of Dec. 31, 2005. In June 2007, Ross Valley property owners voted for a fee that will raise roughly $2.2 million for 20 years.



Earlier this year, FEMA announced it is creating new flood maps, which may impact how much San Anselmo and Fairfax residents can build on their property. 

The new maps may also change flood insurance rates and requirements for homeowners.

We created a guide to help you read the maps and see how it may impact you.


The 411: Community members can see preliminary ideas of proposed basins at a meeting on Monday Dec. 3, at 7 p.m., in the San Anselmo Town Hall Council Chambers.


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Doug Kelly December 18, 2012 at 06:09 PM
One last note is that here in the Ross Valley our ground is heavy with clay, not true in all area's of the country. After a series of rainy days our ground becomes saturated faster than it may in some other parts of the country and that is when we see these some of the worst flood events, the ground is not taking any more water, so we may not get quite the results from these methods as they achieve in locations with less clay. Nonetheless as a regional solution to floods we do need to find every area where these methods will help. When we can have the earth absorb more rainfall our entire eco system is more natural and healthier for all
Warren K December 18, 2012 at 06:10 PM
Dispersing water coming off pavement (large parking lots, roads, sidewalks) with medians that have soil, natural drainage and are planted with appropriate vegetation would reduce flood risks: take a look at Good Earth in Fairfax along south side of their parking lot and along Broadway on each side of street. Also, residential (and commercial) raingardens, for which San Anselmo has been developing draft guidelines, would help. Draining large roofs into such areas reduces flood impacts as well. Washington State and Oregon are implementing codes for new Low-Impact Development as well that would help guide new construction: http://esassoc.com/news/proposed-changes-washington-state-municipal-stormwater-permits-may-have-far-reaching-impacts.
Bob Hunter December 18, 2012 at 06:56 PM
There's a big parking lot behind U.S. Bank that is crumbling. Could this be our first dwontown permeable parking lot?
Bob Hunter December 18, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Do we have any city owned lots that are near term candidates for a permeable surface? Eventually it would be nice to see them all with permeable surfaces.
Bob Hunter December 18, 2012 at 07:06 PM
http://www.uni-groupusa.org/whatsnew.htm Here's a link to a commercial site with several completed permeable projects, including a beautiful street in a small town. Makes me wonder why this summer's street resurfacings were all old tech?


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