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San Anselmo in a State of Local Emergency

Storm left town scrambling to recover from expensive damage.

After the , residents in San Anselmo and Fairfax breathed a sigh of relief – thinking they had escaped any serious damage.

But, not so fast.

Nearly two weeks after the worst rains have passed, the San Anselmo Town Council ratified an April 5 declaration of a state of local emergency in town. 

“Hopefully, it will help us with the state of California and funding for some of the road repairs, because we don’t really have the funding for it,” said Town Manager Debbie Stutsman.

Residents may not see an emergency outside their front door or down their street, but the town is facing a mounting bill to repair the rain damage from March 20-24. The main problem left for town engineers is the collapse of Redwood Road, near 390 Redwood Rd, and cracks near 460 Scenic Ave. that have continued to grow even as the weather turned dry.

Stutsman estimates that these two remaining issues will cost between $120,000 and $150,000, though specific recommendations for the fixes haven’t been made yet.

Declaring a state of local emergency is, in essence, a simple process of filling out a form that is filed with the county’s Office of Emergency Services. It is then forwarded to the state and allows the town to possibly receive state or federal disaster-relief funding through reimbursements to the town. No actual funding has yet been secured.

San Anselmo has already spent close to $30,000 on storm-related fixes.

On March 24, San Anselmo experienced localized flooding throughout the town as stormdrains became overwhelmed by the deluge of water. Interim Public Works Director Sean Condry said that even with the drain covers off, many of the storm drains didn’t have the capacity to deal with the heavy rain.

“Luckily, it stopped in time,” said Condry, before the creek overflowed.

Public works staff addressed a number of issues during the storm. Mudslides at 437 Scenic Ave. and 29 Summit Ave. were shored up with k-rail – the slide on Scenic was in fact temporarily fixed even before March 24. A small slide at 50 Woodruff Rd. was also cleared during the day of March 24.

There were also some large trees felled, including one at the Madrone Bridge that required removal by a crane and 65,000-pound oak tree on Florence that destroyed a parked car.

Condry told the town council that letters were sent to the property owners about work completed during the storm and bills will be sent to them as well. He noted that most of the property owners have been cooperative and understanding that they have some responsibility to pay the costs of repairing that damage.

Fairfax also did extensive work during the storm, though they feel less optimistic about recovering much of those costs.

A major landslide at 120 Tamalpais, where a retaining wall collapsed, cost the town between $15,000 and $20,000 to repair a few days after the storm and clear the roadway. But, the house was condemned nearly 30 years ago and short of a nuisance abatement process, said Town Attorney Jim Karpiak, the town doesn’t have many options for reimbursement. “It depends on the ultimate cause of the slide,” said Karpiak.

Fairfax also experienced minor slides on Cascade Drive and Madrone Road. And a garbage can stuck in the storm drain – which crews were unable to removed because of the heavy water flow – caused large amounts of flooding on Hickory Road and Willis Lane.

Fairfax, though, doesn’t have the two large road issues that remain to be addressed in San Anselmo.

In San Anselmo, upper Redwood Road partially collapsed due to erosion and remains closed in that section. Upper Scenic Road also had large cracks that have continued to increase in size and number as the roadway and soil continues to shift. Recommended repairs for these two problems will come before the council at its next meeting and are expected to be expensive, said Stutsman.

Both councils commended their staff, residents, and public works departments for their hard work during the rains.

“A huge thank you,” said Fairfax Council Member Pam Hartwell-Herrero.

“Thank you, you were everywhere. Things happened and they were taken care of and cleaned up,” said San Anselmo Council Member Barbara Thornton

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