Saturday, March 4, 2023

Goleta's Old Town Flood


Designing a New City Center

    Many of us believed that a re-design of Old Town Goleta
would be an ideal location to practice some of the precepts of
True Urbanism, or Smart Planning, that could aid in the design
for a new city. These were labels attached to what is now a
worldwide movement.

    Flooding was also a major concern, despite periodic
droughts. Santa Barbara and the South Coast had suffered
several devastating floods during the 1990s that ended a prior
8-year drought.

    The flood that broke the drought was called the March
Miracle: in March 1991, 23 inches of rain fell, even flooding the
Santa Barbara Municipal Airport and closing it for several days.

    A second flood in 1995 caused another flooding of Old
Town Goleta’s main street. A three-foot deep stream of water from a
torrential rainfall overflowed San Jose creek at one end of Old
Town’s boundaries adjacent to a Nissan car dealer’s lot.

    More than 40 cars parked in the lot were swamped with several thrown into a culvert that diverted the flood waters onto Old Town’s main street.

    A climate scientist later said that the creek
would no longer be adequate for containing flooding because
the hard paved streets and roof surfaces in the surrounding
neighborhoods had replaced the soil that had absorbed excess

    Now the creek carried almost all of the rain’s runoff.
Hence flood control improvements, such as an enlarged
creek bed to carry the increased runoff, were required in the
CEQA report as the first step in any redevelopment effort.

    The droughts and consequential flooding also made everyone
aware of the limited water supplies in California, as well as the
potentially devastating drought/flood cycle. In fact, California’s
latest six-year drought ended (in 2017) with the greatest rainfall totals for Northern California since the 1880s.

Harlan Green © 2023

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