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City, Nonprofit Unite To Stave Off Flood-Prone Chollas Creek

Water flowing through Chollas Creek at 54th Street on a rainy day on Dec. 4, 2019.
Matthew Bowler
Water flowing through Chollas Creek at 54th Street on a rainy day on Dec. 4, 2019.

Steady rain means potential flooding for some vulnerable San Diego communities.

Chollas Creek flows through a number of low-lying neighborhoods such as City Heights before draining into the San Diego Bay. City officials say it is one of the areas monitored closely during moderate to heavy rainfalls.

At 54th Street and Chollas Parkway in City Heights during storms, water rapidly flows through Chollas Creek and sometimes into the neighborhood. Leslie Reynolds, a former environment attorney and the executive director of local nonprofit Groundwork San Diego — Chollas Creek, is working with the city to address the frequent flooding that has troubled residents and business owners in the area.


"Sometimes underserved communities are the last to get the resources they need,” said Reynolds, though she noted the city has been working to make progress.

Video: Rain Falls As Chollas Creak Swells

Groundwork research shows that Chollas Creek affects some of San Diego's poorest communities where people may have little to no insurance and can not afford to replace property damaged by flooding.

The city noted in a statement that Chollas Creek passes over its banks nearly every time there's heavy rain, and as a result residents and businesses have reported flooding. Now the city is working with Groundwork to come up with long term solutions.

In the meantime, city officials city crews will continue clear drains in critical areas near Chollas Creek.

The creek has long been a concern. A 2017 city report highlights deficient pipes, erosion and stormwater toxicity. Reynolds said one of the challenges the city faces is that the creek crosses both public and private land, which limits when and where the city can perform maintenance as the creek passes through backyards.


Another challenge Reynolds noted, for the environment, is the creek’s dated concrete channels infrastructure.

“Concrete means that there’s not natural filtration for pollution. It means that the water moves at a higher velocity, and causes flooding,” she said.

Groundwork has a longterm watershed rehabilitation plan, which includes the creation of trails and parks to link communities.

City, Nonprofit Unite To Stave Off Flood-Prone Chollas Creek
Listen to this story by Ebone Monet.