Storm Drainage & Flood Protection Fee
Stormwater System: Protecting the Bay's Water, San Bruno Homes, Property & Emergency Response
At present, San Bruno's Stormwater System is subject to flooding during intense heavy rainfall events. The City Council adopted a Storm Drain Master Plan (PDF) in 2014, which analyzed the storm system to determine current and future problem areas. To learn more, view information about the City's current Stormwater Program and Unfunded Stormwater Priorities (PDF).
Storm Drainage & Flood Protection Fee
San Bruno property owners opted not to adopt a proposed Storm Drainage and Flood Protection fee. The proposed fee aimed to provide additional funds to address health and safety upgrades to San Bruno's aging Stormwater System and fund operating expenses for the system. With much of the City's Stormwater System dating back to the early 1900s, a recent infrastructure study showed the System is inadequate and cannot be effectively managed by the fees currently paid by property owners, which has not increased in nearly 30 years. Upgrading and properly maintaining the System ensures efficient drainage, prevents property damage from flooding and sinkholes, and minimizes pollution into the San Bruno Channel, the San Francisco Bay, and local water supplies. The proposed fee was intended to provide a fair, equitable and uniquely calculated fee so that each individual fee assessment would be based on the impact each property has on the City's Stormwater System
Over 12,000 ballots were mailed to all San Bruno property owners, with 5,143 ballots returned. A total of 3,310 property owners selected not to support the updated Storm Drainage and Flood Protection fee, resulting in a 64.4% no vote.
If the proposed fee structure had been approved, it would have provided funding to upgrade and maintain San Bruno's local Stormwater System to further reduce the risk of flooding to homes and businesses, maintain unobstructed emergency response, and prevent system failures, soil erosion and sinkholes while protecting local waterways from pollution.
City Manager & Council Comments
"San Bruno's Stormwater System is subject to flooding during heavy rainfall events that can cause flooding and property damage. Unfortunately, for the foreseeable future, this reality will continue," commented City Manager Jovan D. Grogan. The San Bruno City Council has expressed a commitment to debrief recent efforts to educate property owners on the risks posed by a failing Stormwater System and discern if amendments to the proposed fee would have had a different result.
"The City is committed to identifying a solution. While the proposed fee failed, failure is not an option. We've studied San Bruno's Stormwater System, we've identified the needed health and safety repairs, and we'll redouble our efforts to secure the funds to make the improvements," said City Manager Grogan.
Stormwater System Inadequate
As we all continue to address more extreme, unpredictable climates, and rainy seasons, San Bruno is committed to ensuring we are doing our part to maintain clean water in our region while minimizing flooding property damage to our local residents and businesses.
Unfortunately, the City's most recent stormwater system assessment found the system is inadequate, and requires that the City upgrade and properly maintain the system long-term to ensure efficient drainage, prevent property damage from flooding and minimize the risk of pollution into San Bruno Creek, the San Francisco Bay, and local water supplies.
In our recent community outreach efforts about San Bruno's aging stormwater system, we received over 700 responses to our invitation to hear your input and priorities for our local system - thank you! This feedback is greatly appreciated. San Bruno is committed to responsibly addressing stormwater system needs on a timely basis and for future generations.
How Does the Proposed Storm Drainage & Flood Protection Fee Affect My Property?
The proposed fee methodology calculation that was included in the Storm Drainage and Flood Protection Fee report can be viewed by entering your 9-digit Assessor Parcel Number (APN) without spaces or dashes on the Stormwater Fees page.
Additional Stormwater Documents
- Water, Sewer, and Stormwater Utility Update from the February 2021 City Manager's eNewsletter
- Notice of Public Hearing Regarding a Proposed Storm Drainage and Flood Protection Fee (March 23, 2021) (PDF)
- Notice of Public Hearing Regarding a Proposed Storm Drainage and Flood Protection Fee (April 6, 2021) (PDF)
- Staff Report to City Council: Adopt a Resolution Initiating Proceedings to Establish a Revised Storm Drainage and Flood Protection Fee (PDF)
- Staff Report to City Council: Hold Public Hearing to Consider Protests
- Staff Report to City Council: Hold Public Hearing to Consider Protests Regarding the Storm Drainage and Flood Protection Fee and Continue Public Hearing until April 6, 2021 to Conclude the Required 45 Notice Period for All Properties (PDF)
- Proposed Storm Drainage and Flood Protection Fee Presentation - March 23, 2021 (PDF)
- Staff Report to City Council: Hold Continued Hearing to Consider Protests
- Staff Report to City Council: Hold Continued Hearing to Consider Protests and Testimony Regarding the Storm Drainage and Flood Protection Fee and Consider Resolution Submitting Storm Drainage and Flood Protection Fee to Property Owner Mail Ballot Election (PDF)
- Proposed Storm Drainage and Flood Protection Fee Presentation - April 6, 2021 (PDF)
- January 2021 Presentation to City Council (PDF)
- What is the issue?
As we all continue to address more extreme, unpredictable climates and rainy seasons, San Bruno is committed to ensuring we are doing our part to maintain clean water in our region while minimizing flooding property damage to our local residents and businesses.
A properly maintained and functioning storm drain system is necessary to meeting these needs, yet a recent stormwater infrastructure analysis show the City's storm drain system is inadequate. During the rainy season, we are at risk of hillside erosion and overflow of our storm drain system citywide - which can pollute Bay waters - and puts our homes and businesses at risk of flooding that damages property and obstructs residents, police and emergency response.
- How is the stormwater system connected to health and safety issues?
Properly maintained stormwater infrastructure protects local properties from expensive flooding and water damage while also protecting the San Bruno Channel, the San Francisco Bay, and local water supplies from contamination. To prevent obstruction of local emergency response, it is critical that long-term repairs to our stormwater system continue to be made on a timely basis.
- How old is San Bruno's stormwater system?
Much of San Bruno's aging stormwater system has been in use since the early 1900s. Upgrading and properly maintaining our local system will prevent public safety hazards caused by system failure, landslides, sinkholes and flooding while protecting local waterways and property.
- What has the community said about local stormwater system needs?
We have received over 700 responses to our recent invitation to hear community input about our local stormwater issues. Below are the top priorities we have heard to date:
- Repair deteriorating pipes and infrastructure to prevent system failure and sinkholes
- Protect water quality in local creeks and reservoirs
- Reduce pollutants flowing into the Bay and soil erosion
- Prevent flooding that obstructs residents, police, and emergency response
- How does the proposed Storm Drainage and Flood Protection Fee affect my property?
The proposed fee methodology calculation that was included in the Storm Drainage and Flood Protection Fee report can be viewed by entering your 9-digit Assessor Parcel Number (APN) without spaces or dashes on our Stormwater Fees page.
If you don't know your APN, you can easily obtain it through the County of San Mateo Planning and Building Map Viewer.
- How can these stormwater system needs be addressed?
Unfortunately, the City is able to make only emergency repairs without adequate funding to address critical upgrades to the aging stormwater system. We also know now is the time to live within our means. To that end, the City Council has canceled a planned water and sewer rate increase and unanimously voted to propose an updated stormwater fee structure uniquely calculated so that each property pays its share based on the impact each property has on the stormwater system to address stormwater system needs.
Each property owner received a notification of their estimated fee under the proposed Storm Drain and Flood Protection Fee to address health and safety upgrades and better protect local waterways and property.
- Why are names and addresses printed on the ballot and why do I have to provide my name and sign the ballot?
This election is not a secret ballot election. However, that is not due to a policy choice made by the City, but due to a requirement of California law.
Under California law, when a city conducts a property-owner mail ballot election for this sort of property-related fee, the ballot in the election is required to include:
- A place where the property-owner can indicate support or opposition to the proposed fee
- A place where the person returning the ballot can "indicate his or her name"
- A place where the person returning the ballot can provide "a reasonable identification of the parcel" (Government Code Section 53755.5(b)(2))
Some residents have asked why their name and property address is on the ballot. The current stormwater fee has not been adjusted for the past 27 years, state laws regarding this sort of election have changed in the last decade, and many of our residents are used to participating in elections where every registered voter can cast a ballot. However, as noted above, the City cannot conduct a property-owner mail ballot election as a secret ballot election.
- Are the ballots public documents and subject to a Public Records Act request?
State law requires that ballots must remain sealed until the commencement of tabulation. (Government Code Section 53755.5(b)(2)). State law also requires that:
During and after the tabulation, the ballots and, if applicable, the information used to determine the weight of each ballot, shall be treated as public records, as defined in [the California Public Records Act], subject to public disclosure and made available for inspection by any interested person. (Government Code Section 53755.5(b)(4)).
While property-owner mail ballot election for property-related fees are less common than registered voter elections, the California Supreme Court has specifically held that the California Constitution does not require secret ballots for this sort of property-owner mail ballot election. The City was aware of the election procedure required by State law, and flagged for property-owners the unusual aspect of this type of election in an effort to be transparent. The City printed on every ballot:
To ensure the privacy of your ballot prior to tabulation, please return it in the Ballot Return Envelope that was included with this ballot. This ballot becomes a public record once it is opened during tabulation.
It's worth noting that in 2014, the state adopted additional transparency practices for these types of elections due to some agencies abusing the process by trying to keep property owner ballot results secret. The result was amendments to the government code to require that these ballots be public records.