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SFPUC Announces Completion of Wawona Area Stormwater Improvement Project as Part of Critical Flood Resiliency Work

SFPUC Announces Completion of Wawona Area Stormwater Improvement Project as Part of Critical Flood Resiliency Work

Mayor’s Office of Communications

Monday, February 26, 2024

SFPUC Announces Completion of Wawona Area Stormwater Improvement Project as Part of Critical Flood Resiliency Work

$29 million project boosts flood resilience through upgraded sewer pipes along 25 blocks, replacing water pipes on 22 blocks, and adding a major stormwater tunnel 

SAN FRANCISCO– Mayor London Breed and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) announced today the completion of the Wawona Area Stormwater Improvement and Vicente Street Water Main Replacement Project, a crucial step in San Francisco's concerted efforts to minimize storm-related flood risk for local residents and businesses in low-lying areas.  

Since the stormwater improvement components of the project were put into service in late 2022, the covered area has not experienced flooding, including during the historic storms in January 2023.

The $29 million project made major upgrades to San Francisco’s combined sewer system across 25 city blocks in the West Portal and Parkside neighborhoods to help address naturally occurring flooding in low-lying areas.  Through strategic planning, the City also maximized community benefit and minimized neighborhood disruption by using the stormwater construction as an opportunity to simultaneously upgrade 22 blocks of aging drinking water pipelines and six blocks of the Emergency Firefighting Water System.

“This project to support resilience on the west side of San Francisco represents just one part of the work we are doing to make the necessary investments in our neighborhoods to protect them from flooding and other storm impacts,” said Mayor London Breed. “San Franciscans are experiencing firsthand the effects from climate change, from prolonged droughts to unprecedented storms, but we are continuing to invest in infrastructure to adapt to these changes. Through multibillion-dollar investments from the SFPUC to the Port’s recent partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to confront sea level rise, San Francisco is leading the nation on how cities can build a more resilient future.”

“This is a three-for-one for these westside neighborhoods,” said SFPUC General Manager Dennis Herrera. “We upgraded three different systems at once. We made a better sewer system, better drinking water system, and better emergency firefighting system – all at the same time. We know construction is disruptive. We do it only when it’s important, and when we dig, we make it count. The new infrastructure is working as designed, and we’re proud of the inter-agency cooperation and innovative engineering that made this a reality."

Key elements of the completed project include: 

  • Construction of large diameter sewer on Vicente Street from Wawona Street to 34th Avenue, consisting of 54-inch, 48-inch and 36-inch diameter sewer pipes. 
  • A 48-inch diameter tunnel pipe under Vicente from 14th to 20th avenues via a micro tunnel boring machine 
  • 6,457 linear feet of sewer pipes replaced over 25 blocks.  
  • Side sewer laterals replaced for 102 homes.  
  • 9,310 linear feet of water pipes replaced over 22 blocks. 
  • 1,773 linear feet of large, 36-inch diameter Emergency Firefighting Water System pipes replaced over 6 blocks. 
  • 4 catch basins (storm drains) replaced. 
  • 18 stormwater inlets installed on streets under the jurisdiction of Caltrans, the state transportation agency.  
  • 7 concrete junction structures and 24 concrete manholes constructed.  

The Wawona area project is the first of three-neighborhood flood-resilience infrastructure projects the City is completing in San Francisco. It was finished in late 2023 and marked with a community celebration on February 23, 2024.  

“I am grateful for the patience of West Portal’s neighbors and the SFPUC's investment and hard work to benefit future generations of Westsiders,” said Supervisor Myrna Melgar.

San Francisco is investing $634 million in capital projects in three key low-lying neighborhoods to help reduce the risk of flooding. The Wawona area project is the first one to be completed. The second project, in the 17th and Folsom neighborhood broke ground in the fall of 2023, with completion estimated by mid-2027. The third project, in the Lower Alemany area near the Alemany Farmers Market, is in the planning phase.  

Investing in San Francisco Workers

The Wawona project far exceeded San Francisco’s local hire requirements, ensuring that the people who live and work in the City continue to participate in the major upgrades taking place in their communities. The requirements are for 30% of overall hours worked on the project, and 50% of apprentice hours, to be completed by local workers.  

By the end of 2023, the project had employed 108 San Francisco residents who collectively earned $4.2 million in wages and benefits. They worked 61,663 hours on it, or 88.6% of the total, exceeding the 30% requirement. San Francisco apprentices, which are entry-level workers, have worked 8,204 of the apprentice hours on the project, which was 99.9% of the total, exceeding the City’s requirement of 50%.

Further Investments

In addition to the three neighborhood-specific projects, the SFPUC’s Wastewater Capital Improvement Plan continues to invest in the City’s combined sewage and stormwater collection system across San Francisco with:

  •  $243 million for projects that reduce the volume of stormwater in the SFPUC’s combined collection system (including Yosemite Creek Daylighting, Green Infrastructure Grants, and more) 
  • $555 million for collection system upgrades (to improve and maintain the collection system) 
  • $54.5 million allocated to this fiscal year's rehabilitation and renewal collection system upgrades (for repairing high-priority portions of the collection system) 

The City is also investing in green infrastructure on the public right-of-way that captures stormwater, slows it down, and allows it to soak into the ground.  Launched in 2019, the Green Infrastructure Grant Program has awarded 20 properties with a total of $20 million. Once complete, these projects will divert nearly 13 million gallons of stormwater from the collection system each year – enough to fill more than 19 Olympic-size swimming pools. Recent awardees include public schools, arts organizations, and San Francisco parks.

Multi-Pronged Approach

With the pace of climate change, extreme and heavy rains are increasingly becoming part of life. Improvements to the network of drains and pipes are underway, but increasing flood resilience cannot depend solely on collection systems. Building pipes, pump stations and storage vaults large enough to prevent flooding in extremely large storms would be prohibitively expensive for ratepayers.  
Improved stormwater resilience relies on a multi-pronged approach. That includes designing the surface of our city to be more flood resilient. As a city, we need to be thoughtful about what we build, where we build it, and how we build it. That is why the SFPUC is working with partner agencies to propose a flood-resilient building code and strategies for flood-resilient design.

“We are making major investments in infrastructure to minimize the effects of increasingly intense storms on our communities,” Herrera said. “But the climate is changing faster than infrastructure can be upgraded. These investments are important, but they’re not a cure-all. The flooding we have seen in recent years up and down California and across the country tells us that different approaches are needed. As we face ever-more powerful storms, it’s critical that residents and businesses partner with us and take steps to protect their properties. We have resources to help, and together we can make a difference.”

Resources for San Franciscans

A key SFPUC initiative encourages residents and property owners to do their part in supporting the City’s growing efforts to prepare for more intense storms. The SFPUC encourages both residential and commercial property owners to sign up for flood insurance. San Francisco is a member of the National Flood Insurance Program, which subsidizes flood insurance, bringing down the cost of insurance premiums and covering flood damage to buildings and building contents.

The SFPUC also urges property owners who have previously experienced damage due to storms to take advantage of the Floodwater Grant Program, which reimburses eligible residential and commercial property owners up to $100,000 for implementing flood resiliency projects on their properties. Examples include backwater valves, flood barriers on doorsteps or driveways, water-resistant seals, sump pumps, and regrading driveways to reduce the risk of damage from flooding.

Details on these and other resources can be found at

Besides green infrastructure grants for larger properties, the City and SFPUC is also piloting a program for green infrastructure grants for residential properties and plans to expand that in the future.