Photo by Brian Rinker

Business owners and residents at 17th and Folsom streets are piling up sandbags and preparing for the continuation of an afternoon downpour that they fear could bring on flooding.

The area, which sits in a natural topographical basin, is often troubled by flooding – to the point where residents have sued the city over its inability to contend with the problem. Any potential fix would cost the city millions.

Adam Holm has had his business at 17th and Folsom streets for six years. He didn’t know about the recurring flooding that first year, and didn’t prepare. He has built a dam every year since, using various materials – first he tried sand bags, then sand bags with plastic and wood, then wooden planks 3 feet high covered with plastic.

This year, Holm has an orange Floodgate he bought on Amazon. Another business tenant in the building, Blackbird Guitar and Ukeleles, provided a homemade carbon dam for the garage.

Over the years, Holm estimates the tenants have spent more than $7,000 on building dams.

“I’m not a professional damn builder,” he said.

In past years, when the rain was heavy, their drains and toilets burst, pouring out sewage. Holm and the other tenants had jammed the toilets to keep them from blowing this year.

Brian Henderson, with the Public Utilities Commission was there with his crew, which has been in place since last night. The city is also currently dealing with a king tide, which Henderson said is the worst time for rain because high tides prevent discharge of storm water.

“We’re making sure we are doing everything we can to make sure the people here don’t suffer anymore,” Henderson said.

Crews have put in place interlocking plastic flood barriers known as Floodgates. The city has had the flood barriers for a little more than year now, but they’ve never been tested, Henderson said.

“If they work, we’ll deploy them all over the city at places below sea level,” he said.

As of 3:30 p.m., rain was coming down, but so far, the floods had been kept at bay.

Follow Us

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

Please keep your comments short and civil. We will zap comments that fail to adhere to these short and very easy-to-follow rules.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. The issue of sewer flooding is not confined to the Mission. Alemany at Folsom, the first seven blocks of Cayuga Ave in Mission Terrace, Ingleside Terrace and 15th Ave & Wawona are also grappling with the lack of a serious response from the City and the SFPUC. Instead of addressing the causes of the sewer flooding and acknowledging its liability, the SFPUC drops off pallets of sandbags, shows up for photo ops and calls it a day.
    Visit for the real story