The City of San Diego may have to fork over yet another hefty settlement over its crumbling and inadequate storm-water system.
On December 13, the Chicano Federation of San Diego County filed a lawsuit against the city for extensive property damage to an apartment complex the nonprofit owns in City Heights.
The lawsuit comes less than a year after the city paid $1 million to settle claims from two San Carlos residents whose homes were flooded after a storm drain clogged.
The City Heights incident occurred on January 5, 2016, when storm drains located at the intersection of 52nd Street and Trojan Avenue failed to accommodate the heavy flow of storm water. The backed-up drain caused the rushing water to flood a 50-unit apartment complex that the Chicano Federation of San Diego County owns and manages.
The water damaged the exterior and interior of the apartment building. According to the lawsuit, city officials were aware of the overburdened storm drains in the area.
"The design, maintenance and operation of the system were deliberate choices made by the city which have benefitted the public with reduced maintenance costs," reads the lawsuit. "The property damage caused by the city's maintenance and operational decisions has been disproportionately allocated to the [Chicano Federation of San Diego County]."
City staff have long been aware of the need to reinvest in San Diego's storm water system. In 2013, San Diego's Independent Budget Analyst released a report urging officials to increase funding in order to keep up with new state regulations and to try and avoid dipping into the city's general fund to recover the costs to improve the system.
According to the report, "continuing to defer these activities creates a higher risk of asset failure, potentially resulting in sinkholes and/or damage to private property when pipes fail. According to staff, when delayed projects become emergencies, construction repair costs are approximately 25 percent higher than the cost to proactively address the replacement and repair of these assets."
The nonprofit is asking that a judge award costs for repairs, displacement of tenants, among other damages.