Baykeeper Update

Controlling Pollution from East Palo Alto Redevelopment

Plans for a redeveloped business district in East Palo Alto need to include more storm water pollution prevention measures and take into account future sea level rise, Baykeeper recently told regulators.

We urged the city of East Palo Alto to redraft the environmental impact report for this large-scale redevelopment, the Ravenswood/4 Corners project. The plans call for new housing, offices, light industrial buildings, public facilities and parks on approximately 115 acres.

As currently envisioned, the Ravenswood/4 Corners project doesn’t meet new requirements for Bay Area cities to keep polluted rainwater out of San Francisco Bay.

Baykeeper recommended that planners require Ravenswood/4 Corners developers to build in Low Impact Development features that minimize polluted rainwater runoff and capture rain on site. These features mimic nature’s way of processing rainwater, by letting it percolate, filter and gradually flow into the ground.

Our specific recommendations for Ravenswood/4 Corners include permeable pavement, green roofs with living plants that absorb rainwater, and bioswales—gently sloping drainage areas, sometimes planted with vegetation, that trap and filter silt and pollutants.

In addition to needing improvement on storm water pollution controls, the current plans for Ravenswood/4 Corners also don’t comply with the current Bay Plan, which guides development around San Francisco Bay.

The Bay Plan requires all development projects to consider the impact of expected sea level rise from global climate change over the entire life of the project. However, Ravenswood/4 Corners planners are relying on outdated maps that don’t accurately reflect where future flooding might occur. Baykeeper recommended that the plans be changed to conform with the updated requirements of the Bay Plan.

Baykeeper helped secure both the regulations that require developers to reduce rainy-season runoff pollution and the Bay Plan amendment requiring developers to consider future sea level rise. Now we are working to make sure these controls are implemented in a way that protects the Bay.

Construction at the Ravenswood/4 Corners project may be slowed, but not stopped, by the recent end of state government funding for local redevelopment efforts. Baykeeper’s goal is that whatever the pace of construction, this redevelopment should not harm San Francisco Bay’s water quality.