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San Francisquito Creek Flood Protection: Bay to Highway 101

About This Project

The Santa Clara Valley Water District is a member agency of the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority (SFCJPA), which is leading a project to protect East Palo Alto and Palo Alto from flooding along San Francisquito Creek between San Francisco Bay and U.S. Highway 101. These communities are at high risk of severe flooding from flows coming down the creek, particularly during high tides. Improving this stretch of about one and a half miles of San Francisquito Creek constitutes the necessary first step in an overall plan to provide more than 5,700 homes and businesses with creek flood protection during extreme tides and after sea levels rise two feet. Visit for comprehensive information on the project and adjoining projects related to the creek and Bay shoreline protection, restoration and trail enhancement.

On Target
Palo Alto
Start FY 2010/ Finish FY 2019
Safe, Clean Water Fund ($28 million for the District share only)
News and UpdatesNews and Updates
Reports and DocumentsReports and Documents
Environmental and Community BenefitsEnvironmental and Community Benefits
History and BackgroundHistory and Background
News & Updates

Construction progress

The construction of flood protection features along San Francisquito Creek that began in 2016 continues with major work elements installed, including floodwalls and a significantly wider creek marsh plain. We are continuing work outside the creek channel near Friendship Bridge. Construction activities within the creek channel will take place from June through October 2018, with construction completion scheduled for early 2019.

Trail and bridge reopened through early May

The San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority (SFCJPA) and its member agencies are happy to announce an agreement to temporarily reopen Friendship Bridge and the trails leading north, towards the Bay, and to O'Connor Street. The agreement was made possible with the leadership of Greg Scharff, Palo Alto Council member and SFCJPA Board member; Gary Kremen, Santa Clara Valley Water District Board Director and SFCJPA Board Chair; and staff from the SFCJPA member agencies. 

This key recreational and commute trail was reopened on February 12 and will remain open until at least early May, during which time no work is planned in the area due to permit requirements to protect the federally endangered Ridgway's Rail bird. The trails on both sides of the creek from East Bayshore Road to the Friendship Bridge then will remain closed as shown below for the duration of construction, which is scheduled to conclude at the end of 2018.

Friendship Bridge: Open through approx. early May 2018

Palo Alto trails:

  • East Bayshore Road to Friendship Bridge: Closed through December 28, 2018
  • Friendship Bridge to the Bay: Open through approx. early May 2018

East Palo Alto trails:

  • East Bayshore Road to Friendship Bridge: Closed through December 28, 2018
  • North of Friendship Bridge along marshes and O'Connor Street access: Open through approx. early May 2018

Any trail closures are continuous and the trails will not be reopened after the construction work day or on the weekends. Please follow all trail closure signage and fencing. The closures are for your safety while the contractor operates heavy machinery and moves equipment along the creek. Only authorized construction personnel are allowed on site.

The alternate routes are designated by the cities of Palo Alto and East Palo Alto. Map is not to scale.


Note: This closure information based on construction activity is current as of February 2018. As new information becomes available, we will send additional updates.

What to expect during construction 

The SFCJPA and Water District are working to minimize construction impacts as much as practical and in accordance with permit requirements and city ordinances. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation as we construct this important flood protection project.

  • Construction work hours are Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and occasional Saturday work only if needed. 

  • Majority of construction work will be conducted in and along the creek, within the project’s right of way.

  • No road closures are expected, but may occur only if needed and as minimal as possible.

  • Expect typical construction noise during work hours from heavy equipment, such as sheet pile installation rig, excavators, concrete trucks and hauling trucks.

  • A water truck will spray the work area to control any dust from construction activities.

  • Generators may be used to pump water around the project site and back into the creek further downstream.

  • The contractor will store equipment and materials at the O’Connor Pump Station, next to the creek at Verbena Drive and next to the Palo Alto Golf Course at Geng Road.

Traffic impacts and access

  • On the East Palo Alto side of the creek near the O’Connor Pump Station, the Bay Trail/San Francisquito Creek Trail will be intermittently closed as needed during construction. The trail between East Bayshore Road and O’Connor Street will be closed through December 28, 2018.

  • On the Palo Alto side, the Bay Trail/San Francisquito Creek Trail will be closed from East Bayshore Road to Friendship Bridge through December 28, 2018.

  • Signs will be posted in advance of a trail closure and alternate routes will be offered whenever possible.

The contractor will access the creek work areas at various locations. Some street parking may be restricted intermittently along the designated access routes.

  • On the Palo Alto side, the access locations are at East Bayshore Road, Laura Lane and Geng Road.

  • On the East Palo Alto side, the access locations are at Verbena Drive, Daphne Way and O’Connor Street.

Safety first

The safety of the community and our employees is our priority. Only construction personnel are authorized in the construction areas. Clear and prominent construction site signs are installed around the project work area. Traffic control or flaggers may be needed at times during work for safety. Water District inspectors will be on site to monitor the contractors and ensure all protocols and ordinances are followed.

For more information:

Reports & Documents

Project fact sheets

Construction phase public meetings and notices

Date Meeting or notice
February 13, 2018 Email update: Trail & bridge reopened through early May 
January 31, 2018 Email update: Trail & bridge closures update 
December 20, 2017 Email update: Trail & bridge closures now to Feb 2018 
July 12, 2017

Construction notice: Friendship Bridge closure and night work (English/Spanish)

Email update: Friendship Bridge closure and night work starting mid-July 

May 17, 2017

Email update: New trail closures start May 22 and June 1

May 17, 2017 Construction notice mailed to surrounding properties (English/Spanish)
April 21, 2017 Email update: Trail closures start April 24
October 17, 2016 Email update: Trails closed on 10/18
September 29, 2016 Email update: Trails open on Thurs 9/29
September 20, 2016 Email update: Trails closed on Thurs 9/22
September 15, 2016 Email update: Trails reopen on Fri 9/16
September 12, 2016 Email update: Trail closures during the week of 9/12
September 1, 2016 Email update: Construction underway and trail closures 
August 5, 2016

Groundbreaking ceremony at Friendship Bridge, East Palo Alto (Event program)

July 14, 2016

Pre-construction meeting at East Palo Alto City Hall (Presentation slides)  

June 30, 2016 Email update: Construction begins in June 2016
June 29, 2016 Pre-construction neighborhood notice mailed to surrounding properties (English/Spanish)
June 22, 2016 Presentation to the Crescent Park Neighborhood Association 


Environmental & Community Benefits

The San Francisquito Creek Flood Protection Project is being implemented in two segments: from the Bay to Highway 101 (downstream), and upstream of Highway 101 (upstream). Once both segments are completed, the project will provide the following benefits.

Key Performance Indicators for the Safe, Clean Water Program

  1. Preferred project with federal, state and local funding: Protect more than 3,000 parcels by providing 1% flood protection.

  2. With state and local funding only: Protect approximately 3,000 parcels from flooding (100-year protection downstream of Highway 101, and approximately 30-year protection upstream of Highway 101).


  • Provides 1% flood protection for approximately 3,000 homes and businesses in Palo Alto

  • Reduces bank erosion and sedimentation-related impacts along San Francisquito Creek

  • Provides new or improved habitats for endangered species

  • Improves water quality

  • Enhances recreational opportunities for the community

  • Leverages dollars via cost-shares and grants from the state Department of Water Resources and the California Department of Transportation

Geographic Area of Benefit

Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Menlo Park 

History & Background

Project Background

Construction began in June 2016 and is expected to be complete in early 2019, with most of the work limited to June through January to protect endangered species in the area.

The San Francisco Bay to Highway 101 project includes excavating decades of sediment build up in the channel, new floodwalls where private property constrains the channel, widening the channel by building a new levee through the Palo Alto Golf Course, and rebuilding the existing levee adjacent to East Palo Alto homes. 

The following activities have been or are nearing completion:

  • Install approximately 2,800 feet of steel sheet pile floodwall along the south side of the creek between Geng Road and East Bayshore Road in Palo Alto.

  • Install approximately 2,000 feet of steel sheet pile floodwall along the north side of the creek between Daphne Way and East Bayshore Road in East Palo Alto.

  • Increase the creek flow capacity by widening the creek and creating new marshland, and excavate sediment within the creek channel

  • Construct a new, safer PG&E gas transmission pipeline and East Palo Alto Sanitary District sewer line under the creek

The following activities are in progress and upcoming:

  • Import soil and build portions of the new levees.

  • Work on the Friendship Bridge extension.

  • Install environmental enhancements within Faber Marsh.

  • Plan for the in-channel work that will begin in June 2018.

*Note: These are the projected activities based on the contractor's current schedule and may change throughout the course of the year.

Flooding History 

San Francisquito Creek is one of the last continuous riparian corridors on the San Francisco Peninsula, and is also home to 1 of the few remaining viable steelhead trout runs. The creek can cause severe flood damage with very little warning and has overflowed 7 times since 1910.

During the February 1998 El Niño event, record flooding caused an estimated $28 million in damages in Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and Menlo Park. More than 1,100 homes were flooded in Palo Alto, and Highway 101 was closed, as were numerous other roadways. The largest flood on record prior to 1998 occurred in December of 1955 when the creek overtopped its banks in several locations, inundating about 1,200 acres of commercial and residential property. Damages were estimated at nearly $2 million in 1956 dollars. Total damages from a 1% flood event are estimated at $300 million in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, as calculated by the USACE in 2011.

About the Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program

In November 2012 the voters of Santa Clara County overwhelmingly approved Measure B, the Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program, as a countywide special parcel tax for 15 years with a sunset date of June 30, 2028. This Program replaced the Clean, Safe Creeks and Natural Flood Protection Plan, which voters approved in November 2000.

The Safe, Clean Water Program was developed with input from more than 16,000 residents and stakeholders and was created to match the community’s needs and values. The voters of Santa Clara County identified five priorities:

Priority A: Ensure a Safe, Reliable Water Supply

Priority B: Reduce Toxins, Hazards and Contaminants in our Waterways

Priority C: Protect our Water Supply from Earthquakes and Natural Disasters

Priority D: Restore Wildlife Habitat and Provide Open Space

Priority E: Provide Flood Protection to Homes, Businesses, Schools and Highways

Each year, the District prepares a report providing a progress update for each of these Program priorities, along with fiscal year accomplishments.

To ensure transparency and accountability to the voters, the ballot measure also created an Independent Monitoring Committee, appointed by the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors. The Independent Monitoring Committee [link to IMC page] annually reviews the Program’s progress to ensure the outcomes are achieved in a cost-efficient manner and reports its findings to the Board.

In addition, the Program requires three independent audits, the first of which was conducted in FY 2017.

View the Safe, Clean Water Program’s annual reports, annual IMC audit reports, and independent audits, including a staff response, on the District website.