Outside the Rite Spot on Folsom and 17th.

Anxiety ran high today as more than 50 people in the low-lying flood zone of 17th and Folsom prepared for tonight’s storm.  Most were still in the midst of  cleaning up the mess created from the December 3 flooding.

“We’re preparing, we’ve had floods in the past. I can’t even talk. Adiós!”, said a man from the SH Frank & Co. House-Leather at 3077 17th Streets as he was stepping back inside a space where he had set up fans to dry out the floors and walls.

Nearby, someone working with the Emergency Response Team Service pulled out sheetrock wall from the mortuary and crematory on the corner of 17th and Folsom and just south on Folsom, workers were midway through tearing out The Stable Café’s floor.

The cafe has been closed since the last floods.  The floor has to be replaced, but right now the concern is for the next 48 hours.  Rains could start as early as 8 p.m. and are expected to continue through much of Thursday.

When they come, the city’s drains are unable to deal with the rain and the sewage so that both back up.

Mission Local wrote earlier about the problem:   The area between 14th to 18th Streets between Folsom and Harrison Streets, once a marsh, was filled in 1860-1870.  But it has settled,  Greg Braswell, sewer information system manager for the Department of Public Works, told Mission Local earlier, and “If you’re standing in the outdoor patio in the back [of Stable Café], in 1870-80 you would have been 24 inches taller,” he said.

He said then that the buildings built before the 1930s have the worst time with the flooding because they were never raised.

On Wednesday businesses were most worried about water backing up indoor drains, which in turn floods the businesses with sewer water that creates damage from the bacteria infested water.

“Water backs up through the drain; there’s nothing to do about that,” said David Silverman, pricing specialist at the Book Donation Center on Treat and 17th Streets.

Sandbags have been piled up at the main entrances and rooms where there are indoor drains at all of the businesses.

Once the rain stops and the city drains are cleared out, businesses are prepared with pumps the City has given them.  The pumps help clear out the water from the inside.

On Treat, ActivSpace’s businesses were the most affected by last week’s rains. The businesses on the ground floor had fans inside to dry the walls and emergency workers were tearing down sheetrock and taking the debris out in sealed bags.

Joe Espinoza, the owner of Taqueria El Tepa on Folsom and 18th, said that this is his third time dealing with the floods since he acquired the business from his aunt three years ago.

With four indoor drains, he said,  it’s difficult to prevent the water from backing up through the sinks and the toilet. Water also comes in through the entryway, the walls and half-way into the dining area. Espinoza said that the City brought a pallet of sandbags yesterday, and most of the businesses rushed to get as many as they could. He was worried about getting only two.

Espinoza said the worst is yet to come.  Once the rain comes, it turns Folsom into a river. “The water is so strong, the manhole cover just shoots up in the air,” he said.

Where to get free sandbags:

  • Free sandbag pick up available at 2323 Cesar Chavez Street, entrance at Kansas and Marin streets.
  • Both filled and unfilled sandbags are available at no cost.
  • There is a limit of 10 sandbags per address.
  • Additional sandbags can be made available under special circumstances if approved by the Deputy Director of Operations.
  • Sandbags distributed by Public Works are not for resale.
  • Residents must show a valid ID with San Francisco residence.
  • Residents must load their own filled sandbags.


WINTER RAINY SEASON ONLY: Monday – Friday between 7:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.

  • Bring your vehicle to the Public Works Corporation Yard.
  • 2323 Cesar Chavez Street, entrance at Kansas and Marin streets.
  • No prior notice is required.

All other hours

  • Phone 3-1-1 and tell the dispatcher you need sandbags.
  • Be prepared to leave a callback number so that we can coordinate an immediate pickup at the Public Works yard.
  • When instructed, bring your vehicle to the Public Works Corporation Yard.

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Andrea hails from Mexico City and lives in the Mission where she works as a community interpreter. She has been involved with Mission Local since 2009 working as a translator and reporter.

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