Whenever it rains significantly, the parking lot at Mission Bay High School gets flooded due to sediment-filled concrete drainage ditches nearby.
It’s a vexing and recurring problem that Pacific Beach Planning Group board member Scott Chipman has been working for years to try and resolve.
“The issue of regular flooding at MBHS goes back at least 15 years, maybe even longer,” Chipman told PBPG during a recent presentation. “So far, the area ditches have been cleaned out twice. And it’s taken a borderline act of Congress to get them cleaned out each time. To me, the goal is not only to get these ditches cleaned out now but to have a permanent solution.”
But, it turns out, there’s a “catch” to finding a permanent solution to cleaning out MBHS drainage ditches. Under current environmental law, filled-in ditches are considered to be wetlands, which means cleaning them out comes at a price.
“City land-use planners told me, the way the law is written, cleaning out the ditches requires mitigation,” said Chipman. “That means, you have to buy land or have some land set aside, whenever you take away vegetation from the ditch. And it (vegetation) is regenerating itself every time we don’t clean it.”
Pointed out Chipman, “What happens when the ditches are not kept clean is vegetation starts to grow and debris collects and that slows the water down, so when you get a quarter-inch of rain, the parking lot at MBHS, and the bus drop-off zone, is flooded to depths as much as two feet.”
And, according to Chipman, it also doesn’t help that the City has a stormwater priorities waiting list. “They only clean about 10 ditches per year,” he said, adding the waiting list can exceed 100 ditches.
“MBHS is grateful for the City’s attention to the storm drain on the west side of our campus,” said principal Ernest S. Remillard. “During my time as principal, the City has come out a few times to address the overgrowth causing the flooding issue. When the appropriate care is given to the drain, we see fewer bugs around campus, no impacts on parking and campus access, as well as less homeless encampments in the overgrowth.”
The long-term solution Chipman has proposed includes:
– Continuing to pursue drainage ditch cleanout ASAP.
– After cleaning create a volunteer cleaning crew of PB Town Council/residents so the concrete ditch cannot be considered freshwater.
– Ask for assistance from the Pacific Beach Town Council and Friends of Pacific Beach Secondary Schools for a community plan to keep the concrete ditch clean.
– Request assistance from District 2 Councilmember Jen Campbell’s office to pursue PB Drive realignment and drainage undergrounding.
Chipman contends cleaning out the ditch, realigning the road and undergrounding, drainage would resolve the problem.
“It would eliminate flooding of MBHS and significantly reduce mosquito problems while providing a grade-separated bike/pedestrian path for two blocks,” he concluded.